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Dellin Betances: An Ace in Reliever's Clothing?

Dellin Betances has been a top 20 pitcher overall this year, yet his ownership rates remain low. Is he an ace in reliever's clothing, and are we finally seeing him deliver on the promise that made him a top prospect?

Ed Zurga

While pitching has a tendency to be plentiful in many leagues, finding a true anchor for your staff can be very hard if you didn't leave your draft with one. The cost to acquire can be prohibitive in terms of talent, and odds are that you're not going to see a top prospect get called up and have a Jose Fernandez-type season initially. Yet it is possible that in a number of your leagues, an ace level performer is available for you to pick up, and reap the rewards.

We've been reading and hearing about Dellin Betances for years, as he made his first top 100 list after being drafted by the Yankees in the 8th round of the 2006 draft. After a number of attempts to keep him in the rotation, the team moved him to the bullpen, and we saw a glimpse of what he'd do this year in 2013, striking out 10 batters over 5 innings pitched. (The 6 earned runs and 9 hits weren't ideal, but hey, small sample.)

So far this year, the numbers have been amazing:

37% ownership in ESPN
39% ownership in Yahoo
45% ownership in CBS

Oh wait.... those numbers aren't amazing. It's these ones that make them amazing:

4 wins
37.1 innings pitched
19 hits allowed, 10 walks (0.77 WHIP)
1.69 ERA
63 strikeouts

Yes, he has more strikeouts than Justin Verlander (61) and Yovani Gallardo (60). He is currently the leader among all relievers by 17 over Wade Davis, and nearly 20 ahead of both Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel. So how's he doing this, and can it continue?

ERA of 1.69

So far this year, Betances has a HR/FB% of 6.7%, which sits well within an average range. When looking at relievers, each home run can potentially swing that number, so even if it were to jump quickly it may not be a cause for concern. He is limiting his fly balls to just 25% so far this year, and is getting ground balls at an excellent 53% rate. In addition, his strand rate is at 82%, which is a little bit high, but definitely not out of the realm of possibility for a pitcher with his repertoire.

Can this continue? YES

WHIP of 0.77

Betances has been inducing a ton of grounders, and while the infield defense of the Yankees hasn't always been the greatest, it does seem to be keeping him in things as he has a .262 BABIP on the season. Given the number of strikeouts he is getting, coupled with that high groundball rate, and this one looks real also.

Can this continue? YES

63 Strikeouts

Betances relies on a two pitch mix, throwing an excellent fastball and combining it with a devastating slider. He has excellent numbers in terms of swinging strike percentage (13.7%), as well as contact rate on pitches outside the zone (38%), and should those continue near that pace, he should be able to post the most ridiculous total of strikeouts for a reliever in history. At the current pace, he would strike out 161 batters over 92 innings pitched. For reference, 44 pitchers last season struck out at least that many batters. While I would expect somewhat of a slow down, I don't think that 130-140 from him is unlikely.

Can this continue? YES

So what do we have in Betances? We have a reliever who is used to pitch multiple innings at times, records a ridiculously high amount of strikeouts in those innings, and who appears able to control both his ERA and WHIP to elite levels. The only reason he isn't owned in the 95% range in all those leagues is because of one thing and one thing alone:

0 Saves

The closer for the Yankees is David Robertson. This was completely expected, and should be expected to continue for the remainder of the season. Betances provides enough value without notching a single save that he should still be a top 10 reliever the rest of the way, and should absolutely be targeted in dynasty formats as the closer of the future in New York.

Can this continue? Unfortunately, yes

If Betances is still sitting out there on your waiver wire, you should be running to get him. He has been a top 20 pitcher in 5x5 formats this year, even without recording a single save. He may not continue at this rate all season long, but he should still be more valuable than quite a few starting pitchers, and nearly all relievers.