As we dig further into the relief pitcher rankings, it becomes increasing clear that chasing saves down here could get ugly fast. I tend to value high strikeout rates out of relievers more than almost any other skill, with the logic that if given the closer's role, they could provide quite a bit of value. I also have come to the conclusion that if you wanted to mix up the rankings as we get further down, I wouldn't have too much of an issue. With that, here's relievers #26 through 50.
26. Frank Francisco - Mets
Francisco signed with the Mets to be their closer, and he should hold onto that role for the most part. However, he is a bit homer prone, and with the team moving the fences in, I'm a bit concerned what that will translate to for Francisco. Throw in that the team also has Jon Rauch and Bobby Parnell in the bullpen, and I don't feel very like his role is very secure at this time.
27. Jonny Venters - Braves
Venters has almost no chance to get more than a handful of save opportunities, but nearly every other category shows him as an elite level pitcher. The biggest concern with Venters to me remains the walk rate, but it has not hurt him to this point.
28. Kenley Jansen - Dodgers
96 strikeouts. 53 innings pitched. The walk rate is a bit concerning (4.36/9), but with that kind of strikeout rate I'll take it. Jansen could end up as the closer in LA at some point, and if he does he could vault into the top 10 pretty easily.
29. Kyle Farnsworth - Rays
Farnsworth was signed by the Rays before last season to be the closer, and he surprised a lot of people by not only holding onto the role throughout the season, but also pitching extremely well. He posted a career low walk rate as well as a career best ground-ball rate. He comes into the season with a pretty firm grip on the job, and seems like he should be a solid candidate for 25 saves again. The strand rate is slightly concerning, but nothing that would scare me a lot.
30. Matt Capps - Twins
The Twins brought back Capps on a 1 year deal, with the intent on him being the closer for the Twins. However, it's a bit concerning that his strikeout rate dropped from around 7 in previous seasons to 4.7 in 2011. His control numbers were in line with his career line though, so hopefully his strikeout rate will return to normal.
31. David Robertson - Yankees
Robertson had one of the best seasons for a non-closing reliever last year, striking out 100 in 66 innings and a 1.08 ERA. While his strand rate was a career best (89%), it should show some regression which could lead to a slightly higher ERA. He will be a leader in holds again in 2011, and I think he could be groomed to replace Mariano Rivera eventually.
32. Mike Adams - Rangers
While Adams is not likely to get a lot of save opportunities with Joe Nathan now in Texas, he will still be in line for a bunch of holds and also showed that he could provide excellent ratios there as well. He should still be good for an ERA around 2 and a WHIP around 1 along with his excellent strikeout rate.
33. Sergio Romo - Giants
Romo threw just 48 innings last year in 65 appearances, but they were extremely productive. 70 strikeouts, 23 holds, a sub 2.00 ERA, and a sub 1.00 WHIP, and his FIP and xFIP both pointed to even better numbers. If Wilson has any more injury problems, Romo should be in line for the save opportunities as well.
34. Tyler Clippard - Nationals
Clippard would probably close for a lot of other teams, but he provides a lot of value to both the Nationals and fantasy owners as a potential long-relief arm. While the strand rate will regress some (95% last year), the strikeouts are legitimate, and he should be among the league leaders in holds again this year.
35. Mark Melancon - Astros
Melancon is the closer in Houston, but there's a very distinct possibility that the Astros will be at least as bad as last year, and could possibly be worse. He's worth drafting if you need saves, but I wouldn't count on a lot of them.
36. David Hernandez - Diamondbacks
Hernandez was called on to fill in when J.J. Putz was injured during last season, and I imagine that he'll have a similar role in 2012. If not, he will still likely be the 8th inning guy and should be in line for a lot of holds.
37. Sean Marshall - Cubs
Marshall was given the opportunity to close while Carlos Marmol recovered from one of his meltdown blown-saves, and I could see him getting that opportunity again this season. Marshall would probably be closing on a fair amount of other teams right now.
38. Vinnie Pestano - Indians
Pestano very quietly became one of the top arms in the Indians' bullpen, notching 84 strikeouts in just 62 innings. He also had 23 holds last year, and I believe that he could be in line for saves if the Indians decide to replace Chris Perez at some point during the season.
39. Francisco Rodriguez - Brewers
Rodriguez surprised a bit by accepting arbitration from the Brewers, but he may have measured the closer market out there and determined he either wouldn't get the money he wanted or the role he wanted in the open market. He should be a candidate for holds, and I'm wondering if at some point he might get moved by the Brewers.
40. Fernando Salas - Cardinals
Salas spent a majority of the 2011 season as the closer for the Cardinals, but lost his job by the end of the season to Jason Motte. The peripheral numbers still look good (K/9, BB/9, strand rate), and if Motte struggles, Salas could get another shot.
41. Antonio Bastardo - Phillies
Bastardo filled in at times last year as the closer, and will likely be one of the 8th inning relievers in Philadelphia. His walk rate is a bit high (4.03 last year), but the strikeout rate has been excellent as well, and he was also a main recipient in the Phillies bullpen of holds.
42. Eric O'Flaherty - Braves
O'Flaherty was among the league leaders in holds last year, but he's likely a candidate for some regression for ERA. He posted a 92% strand rate in his innings last year, which seems unsustainable for another full season. His control is better than some of the names above him, but the strikeout rate isn't as good either. Realistically, I think he should give a great amount of holds, solid (but not stunning) ratios, and solid strikeouts.
43. Joaquin Benoit - Tigers
Benoit posted solid numbers across the board last year (29 holds, 9.3 K/9) despite a poor strand rate (74%). He should see some improvement in that number in 2012, which should lead to a slight improvement in his ratios. I doubt that he gets many save opportunities though with Jose Valverde there as well.
44. Joel Peralta - Rays
Peralta filled in a few times for Kyle Farnsworth, and should be good for a few saves again this year. His holds total seems a bit low for what I would have expected, but he should provide solid value across the board.
45. Grant Balfour - Athletics
Balfour may not be the most likely candidate to get a shot at closing if the team trades Andrew Bailey, but Balfour's skills (namely strikeouts/walks) are better than Brian Fuentes, and I'd rather take the chance that the team will realize this as well. Balfour should provide good value in leagues that play holds also.
46. Greg Holland - Royals
Holland was a bit of a surprise for the Royals last year, even getting some saves near the end of the year. I would anticipate him getting the first shot at saves if Soria is out of the role for some reason this year. If not, he should still get a decent amount of holds with numbers that won't kill you for ERA and WHIP.
47. Jose Veras - Brewers
Veras was among the leaders in holds last year, and should be in line for a fair amount again in 2012. His walk rate is a bit concerning to me, as he has always shown a problem with walks. His ERA is generally higher than I would like to see in a reliever, but he should give a great strikeout rate to go with the holds. Just be aware of his potential risks when drafting him. UPDATE: I will probably drop him a bit with the trade, as he will probably be a 7th inning guy in Milwaukee behind K-Rod and Axford.
48. Rex Brothers - Rockies
The long-term answer in Colorado, Brothers is expected to take over the closer's job at some point in the future. Whether that will be some time this year or not remains to be seen. Until he does though, he should be in line for some holds and a lot of strikeouts
49. Aroldis Chapman - Reds
It remains to be seen whether or not Chapman will be converted back to the rotation for 2012, and it is equally as unclear whether or not he will be the closer for the Reds next year either. However, his control numbers make him a high-risk play if he doesn't get that role.
50. Ramon Ramirez - Mets
Ramirez was recently traded to the Mets, and looks like he will be a candidate for holds along with Jon Rauch. I don't see a lot that really makes him a special target to me, but he looks like he should provide value across all the relief pitching categories.