What’s quirkier than a relief pitcher? I’ll tell you what: a stubborn 3-legged beagle. Success as a set-up reliever is so overlooked in real life baseball as well as fake life baseball. These guys are weird; they have crazy superstitions, wear bass-ackwards numbers, and have their own theme music. I want a song for every time I’m introduced that makes no sense. I get that numbers dictate who throws where (success rate vs. batter, lefty/righty and workload), but these are the guys that the managers trust to “save” the game for their team in the 6-8th innings. There is no set rule for drafting MRs (umm… last?). The best advice I can give is to pay attention to trends with managers (La Russa, Torre, Black and Gardenhire are very models of modern major middle reliever Generals). Now, will failing to win Holds ruin your fantasy season if your league uses it? Probably not, but don’t go all Ray Guy — these guys still contribute vital fantasy numbers, decent ratios and K’s. I love Ks, kids scream for them, Al Gore says he invented them. Here is a list of middle men for your fantasy baseball team who will be a decent source for holds and other peripherals. Included, you’ll find a theme song for each guy (what they actually warm up to or what I think they should).

(This week, American league. Next Thursday, NL.)

Matt Guerrier – Last year’s leader in Holds and co-winner of the Arthur Rhodes trophy. Appearances were way up last year; bullpen is way deeper this year. Two to three guys from Minnesota could be top 10 in Holds this year. See next middle man. “Leader of the Pack” Shangri-Las

Jon Rauch – Minnesota –> best bullpen in the league for my money. Rauch is also very tall and a good sleeper for rebounds. “Tall Drink of Water” Barbara Mandrell

Pat Neshek – See previous 2 entries. Love this guy, funky delivery — great against lefties. Year back from TJ surgery. Previous Gardenhire favorite. “Living on a Prayer” Bon Jovi

Jose Mijares – The lefty that gets lost in the group of RH monsters. Completes this dominant setup in front Nathan. “Macarena” Los Del Rio

Jim Johnson – Getting some love as a sleeper for saves; young rotation could let him see a lot of leads. Needs to work on location to be effective. “Closer” Nine Inch Nails

Michael Wuertz – Helped a ton of fantasy teams last year that didn’t count Holds. Awesome ratios and source of K’s. “Safety Dance” Men without Hats

Brad Zeigler – Had a closer’s gig, got injured, Bailey steps in and called him Wally Pipp. Funky delivery — absolutely filthy when healthy. “Walk this Way” Run DMC

Daniel Bard – Flame thrower. Great for K’s. Will be Francona’s RH “big dig” to Papelbon. Great dynasty guy for future. “Next in Line” Children of Bodom

Hideki Okajima – Guy doesn’t even need to look where he is throwing — he is that good. The Zakim bridge for Boston bullpen. Anything would be better than his current theme song.  Look it up.

Brandon League – Finally out of the AL Beast. Seattle is going to win 90 plus. Has nasty pitches, and how can you not like a guy who has both arms “sleeved” up?  “Bulls on Parade” Rage Against the Machine

Mark Lowe – Seattle pen is shaping up as long as Aardsma can repeat. Great ratios, high K promise. He teams with League (above) to form — you guessed it “Sweet n Lowe.” “Ah Sugar” The Archies

Matt Thornton – Filthy lefty with great control. Will be an Ozzie fav out of the pen or on his new Twitter account. “Panama” Van Halen

J.J. Putz – Former closer. May get a chance if Jenks falls off the wagon, again. Elbow issues hopefully behind him. “Thunderstruck” AC/DC

Bobby Seay – Lefty specialist. Tons of one and done appearances. Detroit has sleeper potential type bullpen with Seay, the Guitar Hero, and the son of Journey front man, Steve Perry. “Hypnotize” Notorious B.I.G

Jason Bulger – Equally effective against R/L. Anaheim closer situation may be in flux by May. Could give a Guerrier from ‘09 performance. “Californua Love” Tupac

JP Howell – Thurston’s love child. Very steady last year. Now has a semi-proven closer. Could sure up TB pen. Theme from “Gilligan’s Island”

Dan Wheeler – RH compliment to Howell; will set up Soriano nicely. A veteran presence that is used to pitching with game on the line. “Stiff Upper Lip” AC/DC

Damaso Marte – Lefty in front of the GOAT. Will be Girardi’s “Coke” substitute (and I’m not talking about the white pony). “Mambo Number 5” Lou Bega

David Robertson – Last year’s leader in K/9. Unheralded and shined in playoffs. Will lose some gleam from the Hughes/Joba loser. “Sweet Home Alabama” Skynyrd

Juan Cruz – Great hype entering last year in this role. Injury slowed him; great K potential. Forms a formidable RP core in KC with Rosa in front of Soria. “Eres Tu” Calderon

Others to consider: Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, Kevin Gregg TOR. Darren O’Day, Chris Ray TEX. Chan Ho Park NYY. Jensen Lewis, Rafael Perez, Jess Todd CLE. Fernando Rodney, Kevin Jepsen ANA

  1. royce! says:

    So what is your song for ever time you’re introduced that makes no sense? I vote for Take Me Out To The Ball Game. People will remember you as someone that causes confusion…

    Bee tee dubya, is this list hierarchical? My league is counting holds (as well as k/9) this year, but I doubt anyone will take a MR until the last couple rounds, if at all. If it isn’t hierarchical, what do you think of Guerrier and Wuertz as the top 2?

  2. Frank Rizzo says:

    I understand that Putz has closing experience, but why wouldn’t they give Thornton a run at it? He’s filthy.

  3. jsp2014 says:

    love the Ashy Larry avatar

  4. jsp2014 says:

    hahaha thank you for making me look up the Okajima Oki Doki song

  5. DonSlaught'sOnslaught says:

    Any thoughts about C.J. Wilson? I see you have Ray and O’Day, but they are both righties. Is Wilson going to be in some sort of a closing platoon with Frank Frank?

  6. Whiskey Richard says:

    What, no Mike Adams? dude’s sick like H1N1 and would probably close if Bell gets dealt.

  7. Whiskey Richard says:

    @Whiskey Richard: Yikes, I really need to read better. Sorry, I’ll wait for the NL version next week.

  8. nmdunkel says:

    Man, I love me some pre-closers. I hoard them and wait for injuries or Gagne-rrhea to happen. Always happens. Closers are always easy to ice deals with, or even snag great value on their own.

  9. Grey

    Grey says:

    @Frank Rizzo: I think Thornton will be the first guy the turn to.

    @DonSlaught’sOnslaught: He’ll eb the setup man for Francisco, and Francisco has proven to be fragile.

    @Frank Rizzo: Never saw that video before. Nice. Actually, never saw that show before.

  10. Rollie Fingered Her says:

    People always underestimate middle relief. Constantly playing two guys like Bard and Wuertz yields you the equivalent of one pretty darn good SP (minus the wins). The best part is these guys are all over the wire, so you [usually] don’t have to waste a draft pick on them.

    Projections for middle relief always need to be taken with a huge grain of salt, though. These guys have a high turnover rate, and the ones that are consistently good are… well, named Rivera, Broxton, Papelbon, and Nathan. That’s pretty much it. Everyone else is more than likely just a time bomb waiting to go off, so keep a close eye on them after they make it onto your team.

  11. mrbaseball says:

    hey its cool when a pitcher pumps his fist after a strike out – this is what I say – if you don’t like it – don’t give up the homerun

  12. Grey

    Grey says:

    @mrbaseball: Prince only charges Mounds. Not singular.

  13. mrbaseball says:

    Chris Iannetta
    (Col – C)

    Jarrod Saltalamacchia
    (Tex – C)

    keeper league – pick one grey – I now have Saltamamacchia

  14. HighNOutside says:

    Fernando Rodney and Kevin Jepsen should be up there, too.

    Mike Scioscia is as predictable as they get with his relievers, with setup men assigned 7th and 8th inning duties as a regular gig.

  15. Smokey

    Smokey says:

    @DonSlaught’sOnslaught: cj wilson is bein stretch to try and start.
    @Frank Rizzo: thornton is def the guy to take the closers spot in my mind, but right now for holds thornton is the lefty set up guy

  16. Smokey

    Smokey says:

    @Frank Rizzo: one of m,y favs as well, wish he didnt go crazy and run away from the spotlight.

    @jsp2014: thanks

  17. Smokey

    Smokey says:

    @royce!: not heirarchial by any means just a list of top 20 guys as i see it in the AL. top 2 i’d take Wuertz or Bard.

  18. Tom Reale says:

    @Smokey: anyone who runs from the spotlight is the opposite of crazy

  19. Mikey boy324 says:

    Grey my 12 team 5-5 roto league is approaching and it’s a 30 round draft so it’s pretty deep besides heyward what prospects do you see worth drafting in The later Rounds?

  20. royce! says:

    @Grey: Such a brilliant comment. I haven’t had a Mounds since I was young enough to trick or treat. I wonder if Fielder still trick or treats…

  21. Eddy says:


    Mounds, ha!!!! God that cracked me
    up so hard I think I retwisted my newly sprained ankle!

    Anyways, Grey, how much weight do you put into spring performances? What are the main things you look for in spring training when looking at batters and pitchers?

  22. Grey

    Grey says:

    @royce!: Hehe

    @Eddy: I don’t put much weight into it. If a low ranked guy is leading the Grapefruit/Cactus league, maybe I’ll throw him a bone with a pick towards the end of a draft, but Spring Training performances are usually against pitchers who haven’t stretched out or are working on something. I just look to make sure guys are healthy or that they have starting jobs.

  23. Smokey

    Smokey says:

    @Tom Reale: I mean from a show standpoint not personal. I could care less what he does in his own life i just wanted the show to continue.

  24. Terrence Mann says:

    Why no Nick Masset? 20 holds, low WHIP, good SO……..

  25. royce! says:

    The scientific method at work:

    “Two years ago, I played, and I was good,” Bradley said. “I go to Chicago, not good. I’ve been good my whole career. So, obviously, it was something with Chicago, not me.”

    -Milton Bradley

  26. Steve says:

    @Terrence Mann: NL Holds guys are coming next week…

  27. Grey

    Grey says:

    @royce!: As scientific as Carl Everett.

    @GopherDay: That didn’t take long. Great trade.

  28. Terrence Mann says:

    @Steve: Thanks. Was just looking for his name since he wasn’t on the top 20 middle reliever list.

  29. Sammy the Bull says:

    6×5 +OPS, ten team.

    How far would Carlos Pena have to fall before you considered taking him to play Utility (already have a top 5 1b on the roster)?

  30. GopherDay says:

    @Grey: Grey, is drafting Sizemore, Reyes, and Hamilton on one team way too much risk?? Or should I replace one of them with a less risky choice?

  31. Mikey boy324 says:

    Thanks as always I really like Jennings out of every1 besides heyward

  32. GopherDay says:

    @Mikey boy324: Me too, I’m really high on Jennings! I’m drafting him, and I’ll be one happy boy if he makes the team out of spring training!

  33. Mikey boy324 says:

    Ya I agree i think Jennings is for real I hope his adp remains low because I did a mock today and heyward went 3 rounds earlier the he did a few days ago and it’s only a few days into spring training

  34. cubbies299 says:

    Do you trade Brantley for 2 years of Michael Taylor in a minor league system? That’d free up roster slots to grab Hammel and Burrell. I think the flexibility alone makes it worthwhile, but iuno.

  35. Big Mike says:


    Hey guys,

    long time reader. I bring tons of your material to my live draft each year. I think many readers would love it if you put a 1 page cheat sheet together like the folks at the site with the 4 letter acronim do. It’s just hard sifting through 4,5 and 6 pages when your turn to draft is up. Not to mention most of your material has many of the same players on it so it would eliminate the need to make sure you cross off the same player multiple times once they are taken. If you already have something like this I must have missed it. The tiers page is close but in a deep league (12+ teams) that runs out quick. Especially relievers for leagues with holds. Keep up the great work

  36. Grey

    Grey says:

    @cubbies299: Sure, go for it.

    @Big Mike: I would print out my 300 spreadsheet, and the Point Shares that goes with your team league number. For instance, if you were in a 14 team league, print out or have open on your computer the the 14 team Point Shares.

  37. mrbaseball says:

    Big Mike says you put a 1 page cheat sheet together

    all of greys sheets are all in my head – no teleprompter needed for me

  38. Bill Lumbergh says:

    Hey all- Got offered a trade of Wandy & Hawpe for Ian Stewart, LaPorta, and Tillman. 12 team H2H dynasty league. Stewart is my backup for 2B and 3B, as I have Phillips and Wright starting. Only 5 reserve spots and could use the SP help. Should I accept this trade?

  39. mc serch says:

    @GopherDay: Nick Johnson: The Reincarnation of Carl Pavano?

  40. GopherDay says:

    @Grey: Would Reyes and Sizemore be too much? Then draft a safer option than Hamilton?

  41. GopherDay says:

    @Grey: Alright, thanks as always!

  42. BigFatHippo says:


    Insomnia is for bitches like me and you………….

    Sorry, had to get that thought off my head.

  43. Bill Lumbergh says:

    @Grey: Thanks Grey! Much appreciated.

  44. Loving the Children of Bodom shout out.
    Wuertz, Thorton, Bard, Howell, sounds alot like my AL staff last season, LIMA plan is so nice, if no one knows what you’re doing.

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