Eno Sarris

Saves and Steals

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Bullpens of The NL Central

Wednesday, March 06, 2013


93 mph (semi-flat) fastball would play up in the pen and that he'd be a late-game reliever if the Brewers decide to move him there. The nice thing for dynasty leaguers is that his fate will probably be decided quickly, and that he has enough upside to be a factor in either role.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates

 

First Up: Jason Grilli

The Pirates must have spotted something with Grilli, because as soon as he joined the team, his whiff rate and strikeouts jumped from okay to closer territory. Now, at 36, it looks like the team has made him their new closer. It could work out grandly. If Grilli retains the strikeouts for a third year in a row, and puts up one of his better walk rates, there's no reason to think he can't keep the role. On the other hand, it's a little rare, even for a converted reliever, to hit a velocity peak at his age. Would he still be as dominant with a 92-mph fastball?

 

Next In Line: Mark Melancon

It's kind of wide open behind Grilli. It could be Pirate-bred Jared Hughes, who uses his sinking fastball almost 90% of the time to get ground balls by the bushel. But -- Brandon League and Jim Johnson aside -- that's not normally the profile of a closer. It's Melancon who gets above-average whiffs, has above-average control, and gets above-average ground balls. You just have to ignore that terrible ERA from last season, which was inflated by an unsustainable home run rate. Melancon has a 93 mph fastball, three or four pitches depending on how you count, and has been bred as a closer. He's more likely.

 

Sleeper: Bryan Morris

The Pirates traded Jason Bay and Bryan Morris might be the only thing they got for it. The former Dodger has blossomed in the bullpen, where he uses a 94-mph fastball and strong control as his backbone. He has a history of getting grounders, too. Watch this 25-year-old. It's also worth keeping an eye on Kyle McPherson, who does have a 93-mph fastball and good control, and might see a bump in velocity and swinging strikes if he gives up on starting for good.

 

St. Louis Cardinals

 

First Up: Jason Motte

Other than his age (turning 31 this season), there's nothing in Jason Motte's statistical profile that suggests that he's in for a decline or is a risky pick this season.  He's shown -- over his career and last year -- excellent control, excellent whiffs, and excellent velocity. Last year, he threw his cutter a little more and got the best strikeout rate of his career. Thanks Dave Duncan! But don't forget the risk inherent with all relievers. You probably could have said all of these things about Joe Nathan the year before he broke down and got Tommy John surgery.

 

Next In Line: Mitchell Boggs

Ever since Mitchell Boggs gave up starting, his numbers have improved across the board. Well, he still doesn't get strikeouts at a rate you'd expect for a late-inning reliever (really, he's below-average for the entire pitching population), but he's no Jim Johnson, and he does get grounders and limit long balls. He's a good reliever.

 

Sleeper: Trevor Rosenthal

Unfortunately for Boggs, there's a great reliever behind him if Trevor Rosenthal moves to the pen for good. As a reliever, the 22-year-old Cardinal has a 98 mph fastball, a good curveball, and above-average control. He really impressed in his debut, and he's never managed more than 120 1/3 innings in a season to date. With the stable of Cardinals' starting pitching prospects full, Rosenthal might end up as St. Louis' next top closer.



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Eno Sarris is an editor and writer at FanGraphs.com. You can find his work gathered in one place at and enosarris.com. Follow his misadventures in writing on Twitter as well.
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