So if you are like me and you play in way too many leagues with dynasty or minor league rosters that run deep, then you are always searching for the next bullpen arm to turn into a usable fantasy commodity. Possibly even the team’s closer. Baseball is becoming more reliever centric, and what I mean by that is that there are more and more players that are strictly being drafted and used as relievers in the minors. Yes, you get the usual transient failed starter that catches on in the bullpen, but the numbers are growing for the straight cash homies of the reliever ranks persuasion. So for today, I will look at some of the guys that you most likely have never heard of if you are only playing redraft leagues or DFS. These guys are the future and on a journey to climb the minor league ladder to see who can hang tough and make it to the show as a set-up guy or closer. I will squeeze one more NKOTB reference in there, so stick around and please don’t go you (four) girl readers.
Keone Kela, Rangers – Raise your hand if this scenario makes sense: Near the trade deadline, Papelbon has already been traded to the Blue Jays. Who is the number two trade target out there? For me, it’s easily Neftali Feliz. Relievers with experience are a good commodity to have for contending teams. Now the Rangers will try out Kyuji Fujiwaka there, and will most likely settle on Keone Kela when all is said and done for next year. So what has he done to warrant some consideration? Three straight years above 12 K/9 in minors, and if you are paying attention, he hasn’t ever started a game in the minors. He is a straight strike throwing sex tornado.
Nick Burdi, Twins – A 2014 draftee is going to be green lit to make it to the majors this year. By this time next season, he will be in the discussion as the Twins closer. I get that Perkins is signed through 2017, but when you have a better, cheaper option, that has a K-rate north of 16, you get him the ball when you need to shut things down. The former Louisville closer knows nothing else other than to collect the ball after the 9th from the catcher, and it will continue that way in the future.
Enrique Burgos, Diamondbacks – Silvino Bracho, Kaleb Fleck, Jake Barrett and future set-up ace Jimmy Sherfy form one of the best groups of minor league-only relievers in the MiLB and they all are on one team. Even better Burgos, Bracho, Fleck and Barrett all had over 15 saves and combined for 96 saves last year. Barrett is the first to get to the majors as a highly rated closer for Arizona State, but Burgos has the goods to be really really awesome with a plus fastball that was tops in the AZ Fall league last year (97MPH). He also has a washout slider that gave him a hefty 13 plus K/9 rate last year. All of these guys are going to be a factor in the future with the Diamondbacks. As Addison Reed looks to be darn near out of gas and has been losing MPH off his fastball so much that the difference between his FB/Slider is only three… well, that my friends is never a good mix.
R.J. Alvarez, Angels – Acquired from the bullpen factory known as Jay(Wrong)’s favorite team the Padres… It’s a toss up for me if he or Cam Bedrosian is the future bullpen stopper there. Alvarez has never had a K-rate under 10 at any level, and is a 30% strike-out guy. Which if you translate that to MLB closers, is top-10 type results. Huston Street is going to be looking for David Robertson type money come this offseason. So if Alvarez shows out well enough and they don’t add a veteran to the mix, it could come down to him and Cam as the future save tally guys in the land of Angels
Aaron Barrett, Nationals – The most important piece of info I can give you is Drew Storen is going to be a free agent after this year. Aaron is a bit older then most on this list, but has only had four career starts in his minors career and has been throwing harder since his TJ surgery in 2013. He has a repetoire of a a great mid 90’s sinker and a slider combo that has him at a career SwStr% of 16 plus. Oh, by the way, he’s a pretty good holds guy for arguably the best team in baseball right now.
Steven Okert, Giants – If the D-Backs are reliever rich then, the Giants are at least pulling in CEO type money. They have 3-4 guys including Okert, Ray Black and even a super sleeper this year for saves Hunter Strickland. As far as closer good and make-up go Okert is the man. He has developed into a sinker/change and fastball only pitcher after basically ditching the slider. With Casilla and Romo battling to see who will be older first and fall off the reliever wagon, it will inevitably open the door for Strickland and Okert in the coming years.