No, this is not the bottom of the Top 20 2009 fantasy baseball rankings barrel.  No, next we’re not going to do the Top 20 Guys Who Will Have The Most Balks.  Chillax.  It’s one post.  The only fantasy baseballers (<–my Mom’s phrase) that seem to pay attention to Middle Relievers are those that play in a Holds league.  This is wrong, I tell ya.  A great way to balance out your ratios is by carrying a few middle relievers on your staff.  (BTW, Ron Jeremy can carry three middle relievers on his staff.)  Say you had Aaron Harang last year and he mistook your team’s ERA for his toilet, but you also had Waking Joey Devine.  With just Harang, you had the unsightly dump of a 4.78 ERA.  With Devine and his brand new toilet brush, you had a 3.95 ERA.  Voila, snitches!  If you also carried Brad Ziegler, you had a combined 3.36 ERA.  Not to mention, you had saves when Ziegler took over for Street.  Middle relievers can also help balance out your junky closers.  Okay, school’s out, Alice Cooper.  Anyway, here’s the top 20 middle relievers for 2009 fantasy baseball:

1. Carlos Marmol – It should be Marmol closing, but I wouldn’t count on it.  Five virtual dollars say Piniella pulls the ol’ “Gregg has closer experience” card.  All Mr. B’s will be smiling.  2009 projections can be found at the top 20 closers for 2009 fantasy baseball post.

2. Joey Devine – If he becomes the closer, which he should, Ziegler doesn’t replace him at the number two spot.  I’d place Ziegler further down the list.  Devine’s 2009 projections can also be found at the top 20 closers for 2009 fantasy baseball post.

3. Jose Arredondo –  I don’t think Arredondo is a necessary handcuff for Fuentes owners.  I think Fuentes will be fine and I think Shields might step in for him even if he’s not fine.  Arredondo can be worthwhile to own anyway.  2009 Projections:  5-2/2.25/1.00/60, 20 Holds

4. J.J. Putz – He didn’t rank higher for me because I have no idea how he’ll react to being a setup man instead of a reliever.  I think he’ll be fine, but we shall see.  2009 Projections:  6-2/3.00/1.20/75, 15 Holds and 7 Saves

5. Hideki Okajima – Since the Japanese have their last names first, does that mean there’s a better chance Hideki Okajima and Hideki Matsui are related than Hideki and Kaz Matsui?  2009 Projections:  5-1/2.75/1.15/60, 24 Holds

6. Scott Downs – A lefty that can get out righties equals a guy who can find work even in a recession.  (Speaking of the recession, it feels like yesterday that everyone was randomly buying stocks simply because they started with an “e” — eToys, eTrade, eBay. The stock symbol is ERR?  That sounds wonderful!  Give me 500 shares!  Then, I got to the point where I bought shares just because I was hungry.  Give me 1000 shares of Boston Market and a breast and a thigh!  The moral of this story?  Don’t buy stocks on an empty stomach.  But I detour.)  2009 Projections:  4-5/2.50/1.20/60, 25 Holds

7. Scot Shields – Any true connoisseurs of middle relievers have owned Shields at least once in their fantasy baseball playing days.  His ranking now is more dependent on consistency, Ks and Holds than on his ratios helping you as much. 2009 Projections:  4-3/4.00/1.30/70, 27 Holds

8. Rafael Perez – Something happens to Wood, Perez might fall into the closing job.  2009 Projections:  3-3/3.50/1.15/70, 22 Holds

9. Matt Thornton – His K/9 rate is purdy.  2009 Projections:  4-2/3.15/1.10/75, 17 Holds

10. Dan Wheeler – When Percival accidentally steps on his glasses like Burgess Meredith in that Twilight Zone episode, Wheeler will step in.  He’s a good MR and a very good handcuff.  2009 Projections:  3-2/3.50/1.05/50, 12 Holds and 15 Saves

11. Grant Balfour – Don’t think Balfour steps in for Percy as often as Wheeler.  2009 Projections:  5-2/3.00/1.15/75, 22 Holds

12. Octavio Dotel – Strikes out a lot hitters and gives up a lot of home runs.  It’s like he only pitches to Dunn or Cust.  Hey, if Dunn and Cust are dining together and neither wants the reservation under their name they can leave it under K. Dunnst.  2009 Projections:  2-5/3.95/1.20/90, 20 Holds

13. Cory Wade – In the most random prediction of the 2009 preseason, I’m going to say Wade leads the NL in Holds.  How’s dem apples?  Delicious!  2009 Projections:  5-4/3.15/1.10/55, 30 Holds

14. Tony Pena – Pena always ranks up the Holds and might be a challenger for Cory Wade in the race for the most boring preseason prediction of NL Holds leader.  2009 Projections: 5-3/3.50/1.25/55, 25 Holds

15. Jon Rauch – I like Qualls for cheap saves in 2009, but you just never know when a guy gets the job for the first time.  His leash is usually a lot shorter.  I think Rauch would be his handcuff over Pena.  2009 Projections:  2-2/3.50/1.20/65, 20 Holds

16. Hong-Chih Kuo – If Broxton proves to be a Cuddle Boy then Kuo may end up with some saves too.  I don’t think Broxton will end up that way.  It’s a Cust Kayin’ scenario.  2009 projections:  4-2/3.25/1.15/65, 15 Holds

17. Damaso Marte – My favorite title I wrote last year?  Glad you asked.  I like this one.  Feel free to search the site and find your own favorite.  Anyway, I wouldn’t own Marte outside of Holds leagues, but in Holds leagues he’s in a good spot to accumulate some.  2009 Projections: 4-5/4.15/1.24/65, 25 Holds

18. Joel Zumaya – His walks and Guitar Hero skills worry me.  2009 Projections:  4-2/3.75/1.35/55, 15 Holds

19. Rafael BetancourtCuddle Boy.  2009 Projections:  Great MR numbers,

20. Kyle McClellan – He’s only here because he recorded 30 Holds last year.  I don’t think he approaches that number this year, but LaRussa always manages to get some “6th starter” a lot of Holds.  Pay close attention to who LaRussa’s abusing this year.  2009 Projections:   Holds, dawg.

After the top 20 middle relievers for 2009 fantasy baseball, there’s lots of names, but two stand out:

Taylor Buchholz – I have my doubts about his breakout in two-oh-oh-eight and this is one MR I worry about  (that’s not worrying about an MRI, for those quick readers).  2009 Projections:  2-3/3.25/1.18/50, 20 Holds

J.P. Howell – Really came into his own out of the bullpen.  If only Thurston and Lovey lived long enough to see their son’s success.  2009 Projections:  3-1/3.25/1.18/80, 17 Holds

  1. Freak says:

    Interesting that you bring up holds…The guys in my main league have informed me they will quit if I put holds as a stat again. Any good suggestions for a 6th pitching cat?

  2. Moonlight's Grahams says:

    I run a league with holds and just popped a Mr. B boner. Thanks for the write up, i think Saito should get some love, he will be a great addition to the Sox and swoop on some of those sweet sweet holds.

  3. 101 M.P.H. says:

    Grey, I’m hoping you might be able to offer your thoughts (projections?) on Brad Ziegler. I notice that he didn’t crack your top 20 list of middle relievers, nor is he identified within the top 20 closers.

    I’ve been wondering for a while now whether his outstanding counting stats from last season are sustainable, or if there are underlying peripherals that scream “FLUKE!!”.

  4. Tony says:

    @Freak: Freak I play in a H2H league 10 pitching stats, 10 hitting stats…. A little unorthodox but fun. One of our pitching stats is CG SHO’s, which yeah it rarely happens, but when your guy throws a Complete Game SHO, you pretty much win an extra point that week, which is BONUS LAND. Now what sucks is when the fantasy gods hate you and you throw a CH SHO and then the guy you’re facing throws a CG SHO in the same week!!! WHAT ARE THE ODDS! It happens…. In your league i dont know if that cat would fly tho. Let me know what you think?

  5. AZ Bobblehead says:

    @Freak: We use Quality Starts as our 6th pitching category in my main league. That way you don’t get completely hosed if your pitcher has a great outing but craptastic run support cost him the W.

  6. AZ Bobblehead says:

    @AZ Bobblehead: I should mention that my leauge is a 12 team, 6×6 with Quality Starts and OPS as the 6th categories. We’ve been doing that set up for years and works great.

  7. Wombaty says:

    @Grey: Great Post. What do you think of Twins youngster Jose Mijares as an off-the-radar MR pick with upside?

  8. Grey

    Grey says:

    @Freak: I don’t like Holds as a category but its one saving grace is at least you can readily find the stat in newspapers and online. Some other options are K/9 or Walks minus Ks, but those usually steps on Ks’ toes. Or Quality Starts, but that’s another starter category, I’m assuming you want a reliever category. Could try appearances. Honestly, I wouldn’t do anything other then Holds if you want another reliever category. But I wouldn’t do Holds either. Just do 5 x 5.

    @Moonlight’s Grahams: Saito was almost in there but he nearly retired last year so I wouldn’t want to draft him in the top 20 MRs. On the Red Sox though, he could stack up some Holds.

    @101 M.P.H.: He’s Chad Bradford. He wasn’t as good as he looked last year when he went scoreless for however many innings. He’s okay, just not that great. His actual ERA last year was over 3.70.

    @Tony: I member you asking about the Razzball leagues, signups are now taking place.

  9. Grey

    Grey says:

    @Wombaty: I don’t think you necessarily have to draft off the radar MRs unless you are in an extremely deep league. I think he looks like he could be a great MR though, just a little wild.

  10. Tony says:

    @Grey: Cool, I’ll have to get in tonight. And what is the “definition” of a quality start? I’d almost like to swap that with the CG SHO stat we use. Its a neat stat, but it pretty much makes 10 hitting categories and 9 pitching since its so rare.

  11. Fman99 says:

    I am a hardcore Mr. B. In addition to vulture wins and ratio help, 40% of these guys will end up closing games for their team due to injuries and/or ineffectiveness of the guys currently in that 9th inning role.

    I drafted both Broxton and Jon Rauch last year in one league as solid mid-to-late picks and ended up running away in the saves category.

  12. @Fman99: I agree with this strategy, and try to carry one or two high-K, great-ratio middle relievers through the season.

    HOWEVER, I always find when I’m scrambling to grab the latest nookie-quality rookie (>aheahem<) the first guy to get jettisoned from the SS Baron is the middle reliever. So I can never keep them around, despite all my good intentions.

    My league doesn’t count holds, and is shallow enough that, beyond the four or five top MRs, there are plenty to fill in later.

  13. @Baron Von Vulturewins: Somewhere in that weird throat-clearing aside, there should have appeared the name “Jay Bruce.”

    Or maybe not, given how well that worked out last year.

  14. Grey

    Grey says:

    @Baron Von Vulturewins: Yeah, that’s a good point. I love MRs, but they’re also the first ones to go if I need room for a hot pickup or a pickup to fill-in for an injured player.

  15. sean says:

    @grey: any advice for how to deal with Mr. Bs once they are on my roster. I’ve had a tough time in the past of sitting them when they produce and starting them when they sit because their production is so erratic. In holds leagues, it was easy to plug Flash or Oki into a slot and ride them, but in a league without holds what are some guidelines for starting and sitting?

  16. Carl says:

    Great you’re my goto guy when I’m on the fence. I have to keep 8 guys in our NL only league and I need your opinion of these scenerios. We have a cap of $140 according to the NL only salaries from (This is if Manny signs in the NL)

    Braun 38
    Kemp 20
    Upton 16
    Victorino 22
    Doumit 4
    Webb 29
    Molina 4
    Scherzer 1

    Or (replace Upton or Victorino with Manny)


    Manny 26
    Santana 41
    Webb 29
    Braun 38
    Scherzer 1
    Motte 1
    Perez 1
    Hanrahan 1

    I know the first one is more balanced, but with Webb and Santana I dont see anyone competing with me in the pitching (especially when I grab Harang or Gallardo), plus we are only 7 guys and I have the 7th and 8th picks overall, meaning I can grab probably grab Fielder and another power guy. Santana may also get to me if I don’t keep him, but that’s a bit iffy. We contracted 2 teams (losers) and because of that the top 5 to go will be Hanley, Pujols, Wright, Reyes and Howard. After that the top guys will be Santana (if I drop him) and Fielder most likely. Your thoughts are much appreciated. Thanks.

  17. Carl says:

    I called you Great…(freudian slip?) I mean Grey! DOH.

  18. Grey

    Grey says:

    @sean: All closers must start unless they are in an extreme funk then all starters who you want starting are in there as well. So that usually leaves one to two spots that are open for MRs. I try to start at least one, sometimes two, at all times depending on if I have room on my staff. I don’t sit them usually, cause if you’re sitting them you may as well drop them for a different MR that’s going well. I usually churn through MRs at a rate of one every two weeks. As mentioned above, they’re the first guy to get the axe if you need room or if they have a few hiccups. Besides the top five guys on this list, they’re all releasable at any time.

    @Carl: Molina who? Bengie? Why can’t you drop him and keep Manny? Other than those questions, I like the first one better. Just grab Santana and Fielder with your first two picks.

  19. Carl says:

    Grey it’s Yadier. He’s only $4 and he hits around .300 on a good team. I’ll have 2 solid catchers that won’t hurt me along with Doumit so I figure I’d keep him.

    With Yadier I am at $131, Manny is $26, remember our cap is $140, I wouldn’t have room for Manny. I might drop Shane Victorino for Manny if he signs and then just redraft Shane and Santana, that would make more sense. I just hope Manny doesn’t tank it after getting a big contract. I hope it’s a 1 year so he’s forced to play hard.

  20. Grey

    Grey says:

    @Carl: Gotcha… Okay, I could see dropping Victorino for Manny then just redrafting him. And redrafting Santana. I like the top list much better.

  21. Carl says:

    If the guy before me takes Santana…whom would you go for next? Off the top of my head there will be:

    Billingsley (how’s his broken leg mending?)
    Zambrano (eegads)

  22. Grey

    Grey says:

    @Carl: I wouldn’t take a pitcher in the first round if those were my choices. re: Billingsley — Word is he’ll be fine.

  23. Carl says:

    But remember we have 8 keepers each, so 56 players are already gone, maybe drafting strong pitchers is not such a bad idea? Technically our first round is *kinda* the 9th round, if you know what I mean.

  24. Steve says:

    @Grey: Small point, but could be useful for someone – Buchholz has lost his SP eligibility (in Yahoo anyway) for this year. As you know, I was relievers-only last year and being able to plug him in at SP was very handy. Kuo (who was also good to me) still has his SP eligibility, though.

    Villanueva and Masterson (assuming he stays in the pen) are a couple of other interesting dual-eligibility options.

  25. Grey

    Grey says:

    @Carl: Let’s hope you get the Santana then. Sorta joking. I would grab Billingsley then if I was super worried about starters not coming back to me. I just figured since Fielder would be there there would be other worthwhile hitters.

    @Steve: Good points. I almost had Villanueva in there but he seems barely draftable outside of Holds leagues. Then he’s just outside the 20.

  26. Steve says:

    @Grey: Yeah – and the way Villanueva was used last year was not always ideal for the MR. B. He seemed to come in a bit when a starter got shelled early and go 2-3 innings before handing over to the real setup guys – inasmuch as the Brewers had any.

    That said, he was a pretty good bet for a couple of scoreless innings even if he came in too early to ‘earn’ a Hold.

  27. sean says:

    @Steve: Masterston strikes me as the typical 6th starter who gets chucked into the pen. Is there any indication that he is going to inherit the 8th inning from Okajima or the save ops when Papelnuts is taking a day off? If not, then I don’t think he has much value save for a spot start if a starter gets injured. Also, he’s probably got extra value for you personally with dual eligibility for your RP-only squad.

    @grey: do you suggest focusing specifically on MRs that handcuff my own shaky closers? Or should I just vulture away?

  28. Grey

    Grey says:

    @sean: Nah, handcuffing’s a waste of time. Just stay near Razzball and I’ll tell you when you need to vulture.

  29. papasmurf says:

    Grey, this has nothing to do with baseball, just a little correction about the Japanese. Even though they do have their last names listed first in Japan, when they come over to the States, they list their first names first. So the Hidekis actually share a first name. The Matsui boyz share a family name. Their ancestors could have been cutting up bellies on the same clan back in the day.

  30. Grey

    Grey says:

    @papasmurf: See, I am ignorant! Cust kiddin’. I knew the above, I was just playing the stupid American.

  31. papasmurf says:

    Haha, I am playing the part of the dense American. Didn’t get it. My bad.

  32. dude says:


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