Anchored by closer Greg Holland, the Kansas City Royals relief corps features some imposing hurlers. Holland was as good as any of the top 9th innings arms in 2013, Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen included.
Was 2013 just a fluke? A parasitic flatworm, if you will?
With career years from many of the arms, some regression is expected and there were some slight warning signs. But that’s like looking at a sore throat and calling it a cancer epidemic. Truth is, the Royal Relievers will be solid again in 2014 and will provide solid fantasy value.
Let’s look at them one-by-one:
Holland racked up 47 saves, which is music to a fantasy owner’s ears.
He posted the best strikeout and walk rates of his career in his 67 innings pitched, matching his career high. His home runs allowed were similar to his career marks, so there isn’t any concern that he’ll be coughing up the long ball any time soon.
One area of concern LOB rate however. His career LOB rate is around 80% and his LD rate spiked a bit in 2013, meaning when he got hit he got hit hard. Unless he can get some movement to keep hitters from squaring up the ball for line drives, he won’t get lucky again with an 80% of batters left on base.
But Holland is a top tier closer with strong strikeout rates and control, so draft him with full confidence in 2014, expecting him to have another year in the top 5.
Hochevar was removed from the rotation and inserted into the bullpen for 2013. That’s where he flourished.
He showed excellent strikeout and walk rates, which contributed to his success. He’ll again be a solid option for fantasy leagues that counts holds, an option that growing more by the year as holds are now the 7th most popular fantasy pitching category.
Hochevar may not be as good as his 1.92 ERA suggests, but who really is. But even if his numbers correct themselves somewhat, you’re still looking at a fantastic middle relief option.
Collins is only about 5’6″, but he throws hard. Much has been made about his mechanics and how he’s worked on his kick and push off to generate velocity, but the ‘short’ is that Collins may have just been born to throw heat.
Collins 12.01 K/9 in 2012 looks more like an anomaly than anything else as every other year he’s been around a 9. His control is still an issue, so it’s worth monitoring going forward. That can leave him at times as a situational lefty.
But I mention several relievers deep because I’m a strong proponent of the MRI Method. MRI stands for Maximizing Relief Innings and is a strategy where fantasy owners use the 60 excellent innings a middle relievers provides to drive down team ERA and WHIP. I regularly go as far as rostering three $1 middle relievers and combining their stats to turn them into Clayton Kershaw. I call this the $3 Kershaw.
Herrera is an intriguing option because he can flat out bring the heat. In fact, Herrera throws the fastest fastball in baseball. Herrera is learning to harness his 102 mph heater more and more each passing season, adding movement and life.
He posted the best strikeout rate of his career, but did see his walk rate elevate. The major issue in 2013 was the homerun ball. A 1.39 HR/9 and 18% HR/FB will surely correct themselves over time. His groundball rate was down in 2013, but still was a solid number. If he can maintain the strikeouts, improve on his control and keep the ball in the park, he should be one of the better setup men in the majors. Could become the future closer if Holland is traded or departs.
All in all, Kansas City’s relievers are some intriguing fantasy options if you are looking for saves or holds. They are also good if you are a fantasy owner willing to experiment wit home new strategies like the $3 Kershaw.