This second part of the series focuses on relief pitchers who quietly improved in the second half and have upside to be great waiver wire pick ups in standard leagues in 2018. If you’re in a league with holds, or a deep league where middle relievers are viable, I’d look to draft any of them.
Edubray Ramos, RP, PHI
Ramos had a good 2017. His 11.71 K/9 is very impressive. His 4.21 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, and 4.37 BB/9? Not so much. A quick scan notes there is already some upside in Ramos as he had a 2.91 FIP and a 3.68 XFIP. Hector Neris has the closer job after pitching well to finish the year, but Ramos needs to be on your radar.
Ramos made some strides in the second half that makes him a fantastic target. He pitched 26.2 innings, and pitched to a 2.70 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP, 12.49 K/9, 2.03 BB/9, with a 28.7 K%-BB%. That’s all supported by a crazy 1.55 FIP and a 2.59 XFIP.
Ramos looks like a breakout elite reliever. He’s got some competition for the closer role currently with Hector Neris. Neris however is not anywhere near as talented as Ramos, and has a 4.21 XFIP over the course of the year, and that number was actually worse in the second half. Ramos is the superior talent and I would expect him to seize the role when Neris falters. If you’re in a league with holds, or a deep league where middle relievers have value, I would pursue Ramos aggressively. If you’re in a standard league, put him on your watchlist and be ready to pounce once Neris shows signs of struggling. Ramos has the upside to sneak in the back half of the top 10 relievers with his significant k and ratio upside.
Jesse Chavez, SP/RP, Free Agent
Chavez has been on the radar for a while now. He was an effective swing man for the Athletics for a number of years. I still remember rostering him during his strong 2014 season and being blown away by his production. It’s been a while since he’s been a usable fantasy asset however. In 2016 he pitched entirely throwing out of the bullpen, finishing with a 4.43 ERA and an 8.46 K/9 in 62 appearances spanning 67 innings, which had no use in standard leagues. This past year he pitched 138 innings for the Angels across 21 starts and 17 relief appearances, starting the season in the rotation and finishing in the bullpen. His finished with a 5.35 ERA and a 7.76 K/9. If he lands in the right situation, he has the chance to shock people and emerge as a very viable fantasy reliever.
After he was bumped from the rotation in LAA, he went to the bullpen to finish the year. In his 16 relief appearances after the all star break he pitched 23.2 innings and his results were not good, as he had a 4.94 ERA. But the underlying numbers portend great upside. In those 23.2 innings he had 11.79 K/9, 1.90 BB/9, a 2.85 FIP, and a 2.45 XFIP. His XFIP in the second half ranked 7th among all relievers with at least 20 innings thrown. As a reliever he struck out 32.4% of batters and walked only 4.9%. Those numbers are impressive. Again he’s not worth drafting right now, but if you’re looking for the next Bud Norris (bad starter turned dominant late inning reliever), Chavez is the best bet to replicate that. Keep an eye on where he signs.
Dominic Leone, RP, TOR
Dominic Leone had a really strong season, appearing 65 times for Toronto and finishing with a 2.56 ERA and a 10.36 K/9, but a 3.68 XFIP suggests he was a tad lucky, and could lead him to being undervalue. He should be on your radar, particularly if Robert Osuna ever gets injured as Leone could emerge as a really strong asset. Leone had a second half that suggests he could be an elite reliever.
In the second half he appeared in 31 games, spanning 30.1 innings, and finished with 11.45 K/9, a 1.47 BB/9, a 2.05 ERA, a 1.95 FIP, and a 2.44 XFIP. That XFIP ranked 6th among all relievers with at least 20 innings in the second half. He also secured his spot as the 2nd best reliever in the Blue Jays bullpen, accumulating all 10 of his holds after the all star break. He has the upside to be a dominant reliever, and be ready to pounce in standard leagues if Osuna ever goes down.