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Strat-O-Matic: How To Build a Bullpen from Nothing...

     Going into this year's draft in one of my Strat leagues my bullpen consisted of Aaron Heilman and Hong Chi-Kuo. Coming off a championship the previous season the offensive pieces were in place to make another run at the playoffs. But my starting pitching was shaky at best so I knew I would need a strong bullpen to compete. Lucky for me that putting together a bullpen is one of the easiest things to do in many Strat leagues. Why? Because there are always those anomalies of  an older player putting together that unexpected year out of the pen or some journeyman scrub figures out a new pitch or a young kid finally figures out how to pitch or a failed starter was sent to the bullpen for good. These are not long-term bets for the most part but they can be essential cogs in a winning team.

     The league I was drafting for is a 20-team mixed league that allows you to add up to three uncarded players to your roster. For that reason, the players you might normally expect to be there in the first round of the draft are typically gone. I tend to leave the uncarded's until late and pickup cards to help me win now. In this draft I did not have a 2nd and 3rd round pick and spent my first round pick on a starting pitcher. I did though have multiple 4th and 5th round picks, giving me a great shot to re-build my bullpen on the fly.  Here is who I would up with in my later picks:

Round 4: RP - Sean White (4.6/10.6/8.7 vs. L | 14.5/23.5/17.5 vs. R). White came out of nowhere last year to post a tiny WHIP and ERA for the Mariners. The card, while lacking in K's, will perform quite nicely in a hitters park like mine (Coors Field). He is only 28 years old and in a good pitchers park in MLB. He might put up a useable card next year as well, but for now you get 64 premium innings.

Round 4: RP - Juan Gutierrez (20/36/25.2 vs. L | 10.1/13.1/16.6 vs. R). Gutierrez was converted from a starting pitcher to a reliever last year and did quite well. He was solid as a late-inning setup man for Arizona and might be given a shot to take over as the closer at some point. Only 26-years old and a hard-thrower he might have the best chance of producing several good cards in the future and he gives you 71 very good innings right away.

Round 4: RP - CJ Wilson (8.9/23.9/9.9 vs. L | 16.6/25.6/25.1 vs. R). Every pen needs a lefty to come in and shutdown those power-hitting left-handed batters. Wilson has put up decent cards in the past but coming off a shaky year he will be available in most drafts. At 29 he is not going to make any giant leaps, but with 74 very good innings he is not just a LOOGY either. All of three of the relievers taken so far also have no HR's or BP HR's vs. Left or Right. That is another key to them being effective in my park.

Round 5: RP - Brian Sanches (13.8/14.8/16.1 vs. L | 8.1/16.1/15.3 vs. R). At 30 years of age we are now rolling into the journeyman area of the draft. Sanches has a very nice card, similar to Sean White in that he doesn't give up many hits but he will slip due to age and lack of prior success. He only has 56 innings too, so that will push him down a round or two over the guys above.

Round 6: RP - Sean Green (6.8/32.8/17.4 vs. L | 17.4/21.5/25.4 vs. R). Another journeyman here, but this card is great for a back of the bullpen guy. No HR's or BP HR's vs. R  and only 1.4/2|STAR| vs. Left. He is a perfect mop-up man who will keep your team in it while your offense tries to chip away at your opponents lead.

So in five picks in the middle of our draft I was able to put together an entire bullpen. Add Heilman as a reverse Righty and Kuo as a second lefty (albeit with only 30 innings) and that is an above average pen. Another method I will use is to see how teams are doing and if they are not playoff contenders go after them for their current bullpen aces who may be hurt or having off-years in MLB. This will allow you to pick them up cheaper than if you tried to trade for them right now.

Other RP's to keep an eye on that could be available in your draft: David Aardsma, Kiko Calero, Jeremy Affeldt, Darren O'Day, Mike Wuertz, Craig Breslow, Ryan Franklin, Nick Masset.