RELIEVERS: 2017 Non-roster invitees

This column brings up just a couple players for your consideration from the list of non-roster invitees (NRIs) in bullpens. These are the lowest of the low in terms of odds of making a team and value to a fantasy roster. Every year, the vast majority of these folks washout by April and don't get any major league time until far later in the year, if at all. But some do, and some contribute nicely. So here are those couple of players who could add value to you at some point in 2017. 


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The Tigers have incumbent Francisco Rodriguez (RHP, DET) who has enjoyed something of a renaissance the past couple of years. They also have elite lefty Justin Wilson (LHP, DET) in set-up and have used Shane Greene (RHP, DET), who is a bit overqualified to pitch in middle relief, and a bit underqualified to start games. Bruce Rondon (RHP, DET) has stalled out somewhat as the closer-in-waiting. Mark Lowe (RHP, DET) has been a middle-inning vet. Enter non-roster invitee Joe Jimenez (RHP, DET):

       
DET              G  IP  xERA WHIP  DOM  CMD HR/9  G/F  BPV ADP
=============== == ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ===== === ===
Fr.Rodriguez    68  65  3.48 1.09  8.3  2.7  1.1 50/31  95 133
Ju.Wilson (L)   71  65  3.28 1.23  9.7  3.2  0.7 51/31 121 648
S.Greene        38  73  3.69 1.30  8.5  2.8  0.7 47/31  95 676
B.Rondon        62  58  3.96 1.41 10.6  2.3  0.9 38/41  80 512
M.Lowe          58  58  4.14 1.36  8.4  2.3  1.1 39/36  67 n/a
Joe Jimenez     46  44  3.12 1.00 10.2  3.3  0.2 44/36 123 624 [NRI]

Jimenez dominated all levels in the minors in 2016 as a reliever. His 204 strikeouts against 40 walks in just 141.1 minor league innings is just ridiculous. He had 1.51 era in 2016. But it remains to be seen how and when the Tigers intend to deploy the 22-year-old. Jimenez may need to blow away major hitters in March to make the Opening Day roster. But even if he doesn't, he could force his way in sooner than later, and sooner if this pen needs a spark. The projected BPIs suggest that he could get into leverage quickly if he can prove early success. Jimenez is one NRI reliever worth tucking away for future profit.

Kansas City has Chris Withrow (RHP, KC) in camp. Withrow was superb in 2013 and 2014 for the Dodgers before injuring his elbow and missing 2015. Withrow returned with Atlanta in 2016 and was serviceable in 37.2 innings (3.58 ERA, 1.22 WHIP). If Withrow can return to full 2013/2014 form, the Royals' thin pen presents an opportunity:

           
KC               G  IP  xERA WHIP  DOM  CMD HR/9  G/F  BPV ADP
=============== == ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ===== === ===
K.Herrera       72  73  3.14 1.05  9.3  4.0  0.6 46/31 127 112
J.Soria         77  73  3.54 1.29  9.1  3.2  1.0 46/33 111 585
B.Flynn (L)     23  58  4.14 1.40  6.7  1.9  0.6 55/27  57 642
Withrow         14  15  4.24 1.27  7.8  2.2  1.2 43/41  64 n/a [NRI]

Closer Kelvin Herrera (RHP, KC) is likely set, as is Joakim Soria (RHP, KC). The Royals just added Travis Wood (LHP, KC) to be a swingman.  After that, it is anyone's game. Withrow was not as good as his 3.58 ERA might suggest in 2016, but if he can get back to the sub-3.00 days of 2013 and 2014, he could earn his way into leverage. Withrow is someone worth watching in March to see if he can recall that ability or if it is gone for good.

The Angels pen was dire in 2016. Judging from the available projected arms, it will be again in 2017. Behind projected closer Cam Bedrosian (RHP, LAA), Huston Street (RHP, LAA) has fallen far and fast. Andrew Bailey (RHP, LAA) could not make the Phillies pen in 2016 and the projected BPIs show why. J.C. Ramirez (RHP, LAA) has a live arm, but he was cut by Cincinnati in 2016. His BPIs are projected to be lousy in 2017, too. Only Michael Morin (RHP, LAA) is projected to be above average from the right side in 2017 behind Bedrosian. Enter Yusmeiro Petit (RHP, LAA):

           
LAA              G  IP  xERA WHIP  DOM  CMD HR/9  G/F  BPV ADP
=============== == ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ===== === ===
Bedrosian       57  58  3.19 1.21 10.4  2.9  0.5 49/30 118 225
H.Street        54  51  4.51 1.33  7.2  2.2  1.1 37/42  55 374
A.Bailey        57  58  4.58 1.43  7.6  2.0  1.2 40/41  50 553
J.C.Ramirez     67  80  4.15 1.35  6.2  2.0  1.1 55/28  59 n/a
J.Alvarez (L)   50  58  4.08 1.38  7.0  2.8  0.8 45/32  82 n/a
M.Morin         63  58  3.82 1.28  8.5  3.7  0.8 39/40 108 n/a
Y.Petit         12  29  4.13 1.28  7.5  4.0  1.2 34/43  96 n/a [NRI]

Petit has been a swingman for so long, that it remains to be seen what else he can do. But if he gets to pitch in shorter stints, he just might be able to keep runners off base better than any other Angels reliever, save Bedrosian. Petit is mostly interesting for the role (if any) he earns. If he is a swingman again—pass. If he is a starter, also pass. If he gets to go blow hitters up one inning at a time or even four batters at a time, he could find himself in leverage quickly and earn you some unexpected value.

After those three, the interesting NRI relievers in the AL fall off very quickly. There are some starters who could fall into relief. If the role works, they could work out too. It is just too early to tell. The NL NRIs are nothing to write home about, either. Joe Nathan (RHP, WAS) in Washington is interesting because he has a past, and because owners are not quite buying into Shawn Kelley (RHP, WAS) as a closer (but look at the BPIs!) There seems to be an effort by the Nationals to trade for the White Sox' David Robertson (RHP, CHW).

The only NL NRI reliever that is even remotely interesting is a Nationals NRI—just not Nathan. Instead, it is perpetual swingman, Vance Worley (RHP, WAS).

It is more than likely that Worley is here to replace the aforementioned Yusmeiro Petit. Petit was not as good a swingman in Washington as he was in San Francisco. Worley has been pretty tough and durable, but he is not much of a value buy. Washington has Kelley penciled in at closer and the BPIs say "yes of course!" with some solid set-up depth behind in Blake Treinen (RHP, WAS), Kody Glover (RHP, WAS), and then from the left side, Sammy Solis (LHP, WAS) and Oliver Perez (LHP, WAS). This is exactly the kind of match-up depth that carried the Giants to multiple World Series. So whither Worley?

           
WAS              G  IP  xERA WHIP  DOM  CMD HR/9  G/F  BPV ADP
=============== == ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ===== === ===
S.Kelley        80  73  3.00 1.01 11.5  4.9  1.1 37/46 158 233
Treinen         54  65  3.30 1.34  8.6  2.2  0.7 64/18  92 458
K.Glover        45  58  3.75 1.16  8.4  3.4  1.1 42/41 104 648
Solis (L)       38  51  3.83 1.31  9.9  2.2  1.1 44/36  76 n/a
O.Perez (L)     30  29  4.08 1.38  9.9  2.1  0.6 39/41  70 n/a
V. Worley       18  58  4.46 1.34  5.7  2.0  0.9 48/33  50 n/a [NRI]

Worley may make the team. And he may be far more effective in a shorter 3-out role than as a swingman. The BPIs suggest a swingman role, and because that appears to be what the Nationals have in mind, it could start this way. But if the team needs someone to slide into higher leverage for whatever reason, Worley could be that guy. And if he is that guy, he could earn some unexpected value. Not worth speculating on today, but worth noting and watching this spring and in the early season.

Other interesting NRIs are Tim Collins (LHP, WAS), J.J. Hoover (RHP, ARI), Edward Mujica (RHP, DET), Joba Chamberlain (RHP, MIL), Forrest Snow (RHP, MIL), Jed Bradley (LHP, BAL), Al Albuquerque (RHP, KC), and Craig Stammen (RHP, SD). These are not recommended buys—just names to watch for future consideration if they do anything to raise awareness.

Things change rapidly this time of year in bullpens. Pay attention to who pitches, what batters they face, and the K/9 and K/BB. This gives you an inkling about what teams are trying to see. I will see you at First Pitch Chicago in a week if I don't see you on Twitter before then!


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.