Ray and I have been providing you with our fantasy prospect rankings for 2012, and you can find the previous positions here:
Relief pitching may be one of the hardest positions to rank in terms of prospects, as relievers tend to be failed starting pitchers more than groomed specifically for relief. That said, there are a few prospects expected to play a major role in bullpens across the majors. The criteria for my relief pitcher prospects are this:
- Less than 50 IP across the last two seasons
- Less than 40 IP in 2011
- Reed seems like he has a very good chance to end up as the closer in Chicago. Realistically, Matt Thornton may be the only other pitcher in that bullpen that keeps him from being the closer.
- Fautino de los Santos seems to me like he has an outside shot at being the closer in Oakland, but his control numbers still seem likely to cause more pain than he might be worth to your fantasy team.
- I don't see Vizcaino being moved back into the rotation simply because there are at least 6 and maybe 7 options for the 5 rotation spots as it stands now.
- The options kind of get ugly fast when you start looking at relievers, as there really have been very few who were groomed specifically for relief from the minors. Pitchers like Huston Street and Jordan Walden come to mind, but even Walden was only converted in 2010. Realistically, I look for a high strikeout rate, and hopefully a scouting report of some kind that will tell you that the pitcher has two solid pitches.
- Overall, I tried to look at relievers who are relatively young, were closing in the minors last season, and had high strikeout rates.
- Tolleson seems like a sleeper to me here, as he had 105 strikeouts across 3 levels in just 69 innings pitched. He could be another flame-throwing arm for the Dodgers' bullpen behind Javy Guerra and Kenley Jansen by the end of 2012.
- Hembree is another high strikeout pitcher (78 in 53 innings pitched), and closed out 38 games between High-A and AA. He could be the heir apparent to Brian Wilson in another year or two in San Francisco.