Relief Pitchers with Starting Pitcher Eligibility (2021 Fantasy Baseball)
Positional versatility is obviously valuable to gamers in regards to hitters, but it can have value for pitchers, too. Being able to slot a reliever into a starting-pitcher spot is especially helpful in leagues with daily lineup changes. Gamers can utilize an extra reliever — or multiple relievers — for help with ratios, holds, or saves when the starting pitcher spots aren’t all in use for probable pitchers on a given day.
My five favorite SP-eligible relievers include four who could save games for their respective clubs and a possible multi-inning relief ace who will likely be squeezed from his team’s rotation despite posting stats worthy of a spot. Note that some may only be SP-eligible in Yahoo leagues.
Average Draft Position (ADP) referenced is using FantasyPros consensus ADP.
Tony Gonsolin (LAD): 202.3 ADP
Gonsolin was in a three-way battle for two rotation spots before the Dodgers inked Trevor Bauer to a deal. Now, only one spot is presumably up for grabs. Bauer, Walker Buehler, and Clayton Kershaw are rotation locks. David Price joins the mix after opting out of the 2020 season, leaving Gonsolin, Dustin May, and Julio Urias competing for the last spot.
Gonsolin is unlikely to make the rotation, but his skills will play in any role. He recorded a 2.33 ERA, 4.09 SIERA, 0.89 WHIP, 5.9 BB%, 24.9 K%, and 13,0 SwStr% in 14 starts spanning 69.2 innings since debuting in 2019, according to FanGraphs. Gonsolin also tallied a 3.71 ERA, 4.21 SIERA, 1.06 WHIP, 8.6 BB%, 22.9 K%, and 12.9 SwStr% in six relief appearances totaling 17.0 innings. The young righty was lights out last year, building on a promising debut in 2019. His skills look legit.
The most substantial risk is Gonsolin opening the year in the minors to stay stretched out. As long as he makes the team, he has value in leagues as shallow as 12-team mixers as a multi-inning reliever. He should also be awarded spot starts to limit the innings of the other members of the rotation. Further, he could be promoted to the rotation during the season if injuries strike or others are ineffective.
Gonsolin’s average draft position (ADP) is already slipping, and gamers should be all over him at a depressed cost as it slides further.
Drew Pomeranz (SD): 204.8 ADP
Pomeranz has been a beast since getting yanked from the Giants’ rotation in the middle of July in 2019. He twirled a 1.79 ERA, 2.42 SIERA, 0.89 WHIP, 10.1 BB%, 43.4 K%, and 15.5 SwStr% in 50.1 innings, recording 21 holds and six saves.
The veteran lefty’s value gets a bump in leagues that use holds or holds-plus-saves instead of using only saves. He saved four games last year, but, as Jeff Zimmerman pointed out, Dennis Lin of The Athletic said Emilio Pagan could get the majority of save opportunities in a closing tandem. The Padres have also since signed Mark Melancon. Regardless of his role, Pomeranz should net some saves and contribute positively to strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP, making him worth a selection in the vicinity of his ADP.
Diego Castillo (TB): 277.8 ADP
Castillo’s upside for saves is undervalued. Nick Anderson led the team in the regular season with six saves, and he was nothing short of spectacular. However, he imploded in the postseason.
Conversely, Castillo finished second on the team with four saves. He tallied a 1.66 ERA, 4.06 SIERA, 1.06 WHIP, 12.4 BB%, 25.8 K%, and 60.4 GB%, and he pitched at a high level in the postseason, too. Tampa Bay’s willingness to mix and match relievers at the end of games bodes well for Castillo saving games, but it’s also possible he could net a larger share of the pie if Anderson’s postseason struggles carry over to this year. Castillo is worth reaching a couple of rounds earlier than his ADP to secure.
Lucas Sims (CIN): 352.8 ADP
The Reds dealt closer Raisel Iglesias to the Angels this offseason, opening the door for a competition for saves in 2021. The club signed former closer Sean Doolittle, but he is not a lock to close. He tallied a 5.87 ERA In 11 appearances spanning 7.2 innings last year and a 4.05 ERA in 63 appearances totaling 60.0 innings in 2019.
Sims is a viable candidate for saves this year. His spring will reportedly be delayed due to elbow tightness, but Sims said he shouldn’t miss any time.
– C. Trent Rosecrans (@ctrent) February 8, 2021
To clear this up, it was precautionary and I’ll be ready for opening day. All good!
– Lucas Sims (@LSims_) February 8, 2021
The 26-year-old righty is coming off of a 2020 campaign in which he spun a 2.45 ERA, 3.34 SIERA, 0.94 WHIP, 10.7 BB%, 33.0 K%, and 12.7 SwStr%. His batted-ball data was also dreamy. His .224 xwOBA was the ninth-lowest mark among qualified pitchers last season, according to Baseball Savant. Gamers rummaging around the bargain bin for potential closers could do much worse than taking a chance on Sims.
Gregory Soto (DET): 525.5 ADP
Soto is inexplicably falling outside the top-100 relievers. The 26-year-old lefty worked in a full-time reliever capacity last year following development as a starter and after splitting his time between starting and relieving in 2019.
Two saves, a 53.7 GB%, 29.6 K%, and 3.89 SIERA were intriguing nuggets in his statistical profile. He underperformed his advanced metrics with a 4.30 ERA, though, and his 13.3 BB% was high. All in all, it wasn’t a bad first year in the bullpen.
Also of note, his slider was crazy hard to hit with a 30.0 SwStr. He only threw the pitch 80 times, but he’s spent the offseason working on it to have the confidence to throw it in “any situation.” There isn’t a locked-in closer, and Soto’s in the mix for saves, making him a steal at his ADP.
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