Emergence of Tom Wilhelmsen Makes Brandon League Expendable

SEATTLE, WA - APRIL 14: Brandon League #43 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates beating the Oakland Athletics at Safeco Field on April 14, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Often, in fantasy baseball, the eighth inning guy or setup man is called a handcuff. If you take the closer, then you most certainly want to grab his eighth inning guy because he is most likely to step in just in case the closer goes down. You also might want to take the eighth inning guy if your league counts Holds as a stat or if you play in a Keeper League and the closer is a free agent at the end of the year.

The last scenario could certainly be played out in Seattle. The Seattle Mariners have a closer in Brandon League, who is set to be a free agent at the end of the 2012 season and they have a very solid eighth inning guy in Tom Wilhelmsen.

However, if you drafted Wilhelmsen in your fantasy league, you might not have to wait until 2013 until he gets some saves because with his emergence, League might find himself in another uniform sooner rather than later.

Wilhelmsen is an amazing story. He was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2002, but he was suspended from baseball after the 2003 season due to testing positive for marijuana multiple times. He retired from baseball in 2005, but attempted a comeback in 2010 with the Mariners.

Wilhelmsen made the Mariners' bullpen coming out of spring training in 2011 and In little over a year, he has established himself as one of the best reliever in baseball, even if 75 percent of America is fast asleep by the time he actually takes the mound in the northwest. In 35 career games, Wilhelmsen has a 9.1 K/9, 34.7 Ground Ball Percentage, and a 2.77 FIP.

The 28-year-old righty is mainly a two-pitch pitcher. He features a power fastball in the 95 mph range and a power curve. Those two pitches are usually the recipe for success for any back of the bullpen pitcher.

In 2012, Wilhelmsen has taken his game to another level. He is striking out 11.3 batters per nine and he has lowered his BB/9 from 3.6 in 2011 to 2.3 in 2012. He's actually having a better season so far than League.

With Wilhelmsen poised to take over the closer spot when needed, the Mariners shouldn't hesitate to trade League given the opportunity. If and when the Mariners drop out of playoff contention in the American League, League's name will be mentioned heavily on the trade market.

League does have value because of his modest $5 million salary for 2012 and I could see plenty of teams being interested in the former Toronto Blue Jay. I could see teams like the Cincinnati Reds (need a righty to compliment Aroldis Chapman and Sean Marshall), Washington Nationals (if Drew Storen suffers a setback), Atlanta Braves (they burnt out Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel last year and acquiring League would ease the burden on them), Tampa Bay Rays (I would trust League more than Kyle Farnsworth or Fernando Rodney late in the game as hard as that is to believe), or the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (the Mariners aren't opposed to trading within the division. See Cliff Lee) making a run at League at some point during this season.

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