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Best NL Fantasy Baseball Middle Relievers for 2014
The following is a list of the best National League fantasy baseball middle relievers for the 2014 season. Middle reliever is typically an unpredictable, volatile position in fantasy baseball. There are about five solid, dependable names out there, and the rest are questionable as bullpens often don't sort themselves out until May or June and studs from previous seasons fall by the wayside due to tired arms or overuse injuries. Some fantasy baseball leagues actually have scoring categories such as holds that make middle relievers valuable and important contributors. If this is the case then this article is just for you. The list will be updated periodically as the opening day approaches to incorporate any trades or free agent signings.
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Tyler Clippard "Mr. Hold"
1. Tyler Clippard, Washington Nationals
The 29 year old Clippard has been a bullpen workhorse since 2010, appearing in over 72 games and 71 innings each season. In 2013 he appeared in 72 games and went 6-3 in 71 innings with 83 strike outs and a microscopic 0.859 WHIP. He has had hold totals of 23, 38, 13 (with 32 saves), and 33 the last four years. He is safely entrenched as the set-up man in Washington and with the Nationals stellar starting staff there should be plenty of hold opportunities again for Clippard in 2014.
2. Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals
The 23 year old Rosenthal may end up in the closer role depending on how Edward Mujica performs in spring training. Mujica was worn out at the end of 2013 and Rosenthal had to step in for him as closer at the end of the season, so their roles are up in the air going in to spring training. If Rosenthal ends up in the set-up role he should be a potent source of holds in 2014 with the Cardinals winning ways and his overpowering arm. In 2013 Trevor pitched in 74 games and 75 1/3 innings and had a 2.63 ERA, 1.102 WHIP, 108 strike outs, 29 holds, and 3 saves. Invest with confidence.
2013 NL Hold Leaders
1. Tyler Clippard, 33
2. Trevor Rosenthal, 29,
3. Luis Avilan, 27
3. Brandon Kintzler, 27
5. Mark Melancon, 26
6. Drew Storen, 24
6. Matt Belisle, 24
8. Santiago Casilla, 23
9. Tony Watson, 22
10. Paco Rodriguez, 20
2. Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates
Melancon was one of the key fish in the famous Pirates' shark tank bullpen. He had an outstanding 2013 in both the set-up and closer role appearing in 72 games and going 3-2 with a 1.39 ERA in 71 innings with 26 holds, 16 saves, 70 strike outs and a 0.958 WHIP. With Jason Grilli healthy for 2014 this should put Melancon back in the set-up role for which he appears to be best suited. The primary concerns with Melancon are the age and health of the closer Grilli. Any problems with Jason could put Melancon back into the closer role. Either way, Mark will be a great investment on draft day.
4. Jordan Walden, Atlanta Braves
Walden found himself in the role of primary set-up man in the Braves' bullpen with injuries to both Venters and O'Flaherty. He dealt with a shoulder injury himself but still managed to pitch well and finished the season with 50 appearances, 47 innings, 54 strike outs, 3.45 ERA, 1.128 WHIP, 14 holds, and 1 save. The 26 year old Walden should start 2014 as the primary set-up man with the Braves and should see an abundance of hold opportunities pitching behind a strong starting staff.
Fear The Beard
5. Brian Wilson, Los Angeles Dodgers
Looks like it is time to "fear the Beard" again. The once great Wilson has made it back from elbow surgery and pitched well for the Dodgers at the end of last season. With the wicked Kenley Jansen entrenched as the closer Wilson should work his way into the primary set-up role and should be a steady source of holds with the Dodgers contending for a title again in 2014. Last season the 31 year old Wilson pitched in 18 games and 13 2/3 innings with 13 strike outs, 0.66 ERA, 0.878 WHIP, and 3 holds.
6. Brandon Kintzler, Milwaukee Brewers
It was like a bomb went off in the Brewers bullpen when the season started. It was chaos for several months and when the smoke finally cleared Kintzler had become one of the go to set-up men. The 29 year old right hander appeared in 71 games and 77 innings with a 2.69 ERA, 58 strike outs, 1.065 WHIP, and 26 holds. He should again be a key arm this season for the Brew Crew as they look to put 2013 behind them.
7. Sam LeCure, Cincinnati Reds
LeCure wasn't on the radar at the beginning of 2013, but he was one of the steadiest performers in the Red's bullpen and ended up as one of the critical arms down the stretch. The 29 year old pitched in 63 games and 61 innings with a 2.66 ERA, 1.213 WHIP, 66 strike outs, 17 holds, and 1 save. He should be one of the cornerstones of the Reds' bullpen in 2014 setting it all up for Cuban Missile.
8. Tony Watson, Pittsburgh Pirates
The hard-throwing left hander was a critical component of the Pirates' success in 2013 and he is poised to be just as valuable in 2014. Last season he appeared in 67 games and 71 2/3 innings with a 2.39 ERA, 0.879 WHIP, 54 strike outs, 22 holds, and 2 saves. He became more valuable as the season progressed and should be the number three man in the Pirates' formidable bullpen this year.
9. Joaquin Benoit, San Diego Padres
The 36 year old Benoit was acquired from Detroit to replace Luke Gregorson as the primary set-up man in the Padres bullpen in 2014. In 2013 for the Tigers he appeared in 66 games and 67 innings and had a 2.01 ERA, 1.030 WHIP, 73 strike outs, 9 holds, and 24 saves. Benoit may also see some save chances with Huston Street's injury tendency.
10. Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants
With their strong starting staff and poor offense there are typically plenty of holds to go around for the Giants' relievers. Casilla was again one of the main beneficiaries in 2013 when he appeared in 57 games and 50 innings with a 2.16 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 22 holds, and 2 saves. He typically has the eighth inning and will fill in for Romo during injuries. He racked up 25 saves in that role in 2012.
11. Luis Avilan, Atlanta Braves
Avilan claimed the 7th inning, left-hander role after season ending injuries to both Venters and O'Flaherty and performed well for Freddy Garcia. The 24 year old appeared in 75 games and 65 innings with a 1.52 ERA, 0.954 WHIP, and 27 holds. With the health of Venters and O'Flaherty still up in the air for 2014 Avlilan should start the season with the 7th inning role again.
12. Matt Belisle, Colorado Rockies
Another bullpen mainstay that has found his niche and keeps getting better with age. The 33 year old appeared in 72 games for the Rockies in 2013 and pitched 73 innings with 62 strike outs, 4.32 ERA, 1.247 WHIP, and 24 holds. The right hander should see plenty of work again in 2014 as the Rockies' starters rarely pitch beyond six innings.
13. LaTroy Hawkins, New York Mets
The 41 year old Hawkins is the ageless wonder. He has been pitching in the major leagues since 1995 and just keeps going on and on and pitching well. He was one of the few steady performers for a moribund Mets team in 2013. He appeared in 72 games and 70 and 2/3 innings with a 2.93 ERA, 1.146 WHIP, 55 strike outs, 13 holds, and 13 saves. Hopefully, the Mets will hang on to him for one more season to add stability to their bullpen. Wherever he goes, however, he should be a steady source of holds.
14. David Hernandez, Arizona Diamondbacks
Hernandez seems to be firmly entrenched as the set-up man in Arizona. He has been given numerous chances to close, but always seems to falter. He should once again be a solid source of holds in 2014 with his clear role and the Diamondbacks in contention again for the Western division title. The 28 year old had 15 holds and 2 saves in 2013 to go along with a 4.48 ERA and 1.187 WHIP. J.J. Putz will also be in the mix for holds in the upcoming season for Arizona.
15. Brad Ziegler, Arizona Diamondbacks
Addison Reed is the new 9th inning sheriff in the desert for the Diamondbacks which means Brad Ziegler will be back in a set-up role. Ziegler has pitched well the last two seasons. In 2013 he appeared in a league-high 78 games and pitched 73 innings with a 2.22 ERA, 1.137 WHIP, 44 strike outs, 11 holds, and 13 saves.
15. Javier Lopez, San Francisco Giants
One of several quality arms in the San Francisco bullpen. The 36 year old left hander is another that appears to get better with age. 2013 may have been his best season as he appeared in 69 games and 39 1/3 innings with a 1.83 ERA, 1.068 WHIP, 15 holds, and 1 save. Expect more of the same in 2014.
16. Dale Thayer, San Diego Padres
Has been the primary right handed set-up man in the Padres bullpen the last two seasons and has quietly become an effective reliever. The 33 year old Thayer pitched in 69 games in 2013 and struck out 64 batters in 65 innings to go along with a 3.32 ERA, 1.246 WHIP, 18 holds, and 1 save. He should be the primary right hander in the Padres bullpen again in 2014.