2010 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Relief Pitchers

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When it comes to drafting relief pitchers, keep in mind that the only thing you care about is saves. Sure, drafting a closer like Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon or Jonathan Broxton will also net you value in other categories such as ERA and/or WHIP, but if saves are your main objective than why overpay?

Chances are, you’ll have the opportunity to draft a starter or decent bat (at least one that will contribute to your team on a regular basis) in the same rounds that Rivera, Papelbon and Broxton are selected in. If you’re head over heels for those guys and want a sure thing, then don’t let us stop you from drafting them. But in the end, we think you’ll get more value in passing on those top closers and targeting the guys that we have listed below. Just remember to nab another pitcher that will get you saves later in your draft or else you will regret not taking Rivera/Papelbon/Broxton when you had the chance.

Heath Bell, Padres
Bell pitches for a team that will be in a lot of close games and that plays in a spacious park. What’s not to like? The Padres also don’t have a quality set-up man to pitch in front of Bell, so owners can draft him in confidence knowing that San Diego will have to use him in later innings if they want wins.

Joakim Soria, Royals
Be careful with Soria, because he’s being overvalued on draft day. He’s a great closer, but he battled shoulder issues last season and he plays on a team that won’t offer him a ton of save opportunities. Draft him with confidence, but don’t reach for him.

Brian Wilson, Giants
The scary thing about Wilson is that he often takes the worst imaginable path to rack up saves. If he’s not loading the bases with less than two outs and threatening to blow a lead before finally getting the final batters out then he’s not trying. That said, Wilson is solid and his 1.64 ERA in the second half last year paints a pretty picture for 2010. Plus, with the Giants’ outstanding starting pitching and horrid offense, he should have plenty of save opportunities again this year.

Huston Street, Rockies
Street turned out to be an excellent value on draft day last year, racking up 35 saves and a 0.91 WHIP to go along with his 3.06 ERA. Injuries are always a concern with him, but he should be in line for another 30-plus saves if he stays healthy.

Carlos Marmol, Cubs
Chicago fans are eagerly waiting for this kid to put it all together, as are fantasy owners. We happen to think this is the year he will and we’re banking on Marmol racking up 35-plus saves and 100-plus strikeouts. Don’t fall asleep on him on draft day.

Below is our official ranking of relief pitchers. You’ll notice that one name is absence from our list and that’s Joe Nathan, who could miss the entire 2010 season if he decides to have Tommy John surgery. Even if he avoids the surgery, his fantasy status is in major doubt so keep tabs on him leading up to your draft.

1. Mariano Rivera, NYY
2. Jonathan Papelbon, BOS
3. Jonathan Broxton, LAD
4. Francisco Rodriguez, NYM
5. Heath Bell, SD
6. Joakim Soria, KC
7. Brian Wilson, SF
8. Huston Street, COL
9. Carlos Marmol, CHC
10. Andrew Bailey, OAK
11. Jose Valverde, DET
12. David Aardsma, SEA
13. Francisco Cordero, CIN
14. Rafael Soriano, TB
15. Brian Fuentes, LAA
16. Ryan Franklin, STL
17. Billy Wagner, Atl
18. Leo Nunez, FLA
19. Trevor Hoffman, MIL
20. Frank Francisco, TEX
21. Matt Capps, WAS
22. Kerry Wood, CLE
23. Chad Qualls, ARI
24. Bobby Jenks, CHW
25. Phil Hughes, NYY

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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