Fantasy Baseball: Call To The Pen

Relief pitchers are usually more confounding for fantasy players than any other position group. Very few relievers are consistently viable fantasy options and the vast majority of fantasy players will swing and miss at least a couple times on draft day.

Finding waiver wire gems to replace those busts after the season starts can be more time-consuming than an inning pitched by Jonathan Papelbon.  That’s where I come in.

I’ve taken the liberty of doing some of that exhausting research and I found that there are some shutdown pitchers still available in most leagues.

Mark Melancon

Melancon, the Pirates’ eighth-inning man, has been dominant from Opening Day this season, posting a miniscule 0.96 ERA and 0.86 WHIP in 38 appearances. Probable All-Star closer Jason Grilli has overshadowed him, but Melancon (pronounced meh-LAN-sen) has been just as valuable to the Pirates. He leads all of baseball in holds by a wide margin with 22, helping Pittsburgh to their best start since 1990.

Advanced stats say that Melancon’s fast start has been no fluke. He’s only given up one home run the entire season and his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) is just 1.66. Melancon’s current WAR of 1.3 ranks third among all relievers (Grilli is second) and, with the Pirates in contention, he will continue to get opportunities for holds as the season wears on.

Shockingly, Melancon is owned in just 4.5 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues right now, so one of the best setup men in baseball is probably available for the taking. The overall message: pick up Melancon and his incredible 10.0 K/BB ratio as soon as possible.

Jesse Crain

Crain has not allowed an earned run since April 12. That is not a typo. Crain’s streak spans 30 straight appearances, making it more outrageous than a Nik Wallenda walk. That should be enough to convince anyone to snatch Crain off the waiver wire, but in case it’s not, his 0.52 ERA and 11.94 K/9 rate should do the trick.

Crain, the White Sox’s setup man, has the highest WAR of any reliever this season at 2.0 and trails only Melancon in the holds race, tallying 19 for a last-place team. Crain will likely be traded to a contender with the White Sox out of contention, so he could be a closer before the season ends. At worst, his opportunities for holds will increase dramatically with a trade, possibly making him even more valuable than Melancon.

Like Melancon, Crain is strangely undervalued. He is only owned in 3.2 percent of ESPN leagues. The time to make a move for Crain is now, because his value will likely increase dramatically as coverage of his streak increases.

Dylan Sinn is a freelance contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSinn or subscribe at Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.

Photo Credit: Getty

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