Sam Demel: The latest fantasy sleeper

June 15, 2010

The Arizona Diamondbacks have traded Conor Jackson to the Oakland Athletics for Triple-A reliever Sam Demel.

It's not a trade that will make major ripples in the baseball world. Jackson, a former first round pick who has never lived up to expectations, hasn't been productive since 2008. Baseball America didn't list Demel as one of Oakland's top 30 prospects entering the year and it's safe to say he wasn't on the radar for many people.

While it's been a while since Jackson made much of an impact for Arizona, it may not be long before Demel does.

The Diamondbacks bullpen has been nothing short of awful and that creates plenty of opprotunity.


* Chad Qualls has posted an 4.15 FIP while being hammered for 39 hits in 22.1 innings.

* Juan Gutierrez, once viewed as a potential closer, has been equally horrendous. The righthander has been blasted for 10 homers in only 21.1 innings and has a 8.84 FIP.

* Veteran Bob Howry, acquired from the Chicago Cubs earlier this year, has hardly provided much in the way of relief as he has surrendered 18 hits and 17 runs in 14.1 innings.

* Blaine Boyer has more than twice as many walks (14) than strikeouts (6) and has allowed as many runs (15) as innings pitched.

Demel may be primed to take advantage of a bullpen situation crying out for an effective solution. A third round pick three years ago, the 24-year-old has collected six saves in Triple-A this season while allowing only six runs and 22 hits in 28.2 innings. He has a strong 9/28 BB/K, a clear improvement over the 21/32 ratio he posted in 32.1 innings at Triple-A last year, and shows no drastic platoon splits.

Demel's numbers indicate he is close to being big-league ready and there isn't a lot standing in his way in the Arizona bullpen. His main competition for saves may be Aaron Heilman, who will be getting the majority of save opprotunities in Arizona for the time being. But Heilman isn't someone to bank on. He currently has a 3.92 FIP but he's only 10-for-34 in save opportunities in his career. The Notre Dame product is in his walk year and his presence in the Arizona bullpen may not be a long-term concern.

Arizona wouldn't have traded for Demel if they didn't see something in him. In a release following the trade, Arizona general manager Josh Byrnes called Demel a "quality arm". Adding Demel in deep leagues or long-term leagues as a speculative closer is low-risk move that could pay dividends in the not too distant future. It would not be surprising if Demel comes up in a few weeks and earns a few saves in Arizona by the end of the year. He has the potential to be a long-term option in the role.


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