Tony Watson and Mark Melancon Rank Among Best Relievers in Baseball

On Thursday night, MLB Network continued their lists of the top ten players at each position in the Majors. The Pittsburgh Pirates had two representatives on the relief pitchers list, with Tony Watson coming in tenth place and Mark Melancon finished seventh.

The show also has personal lists from Brian Kenny and Dan Plesac, plus recaps from a panel of experts that includes Bill James. Surprisingly, only the shows main source(The “Shredder”) ranked the two Pirates players in the top ten. Both Plesac and Kenny gave their complete lists and neither had Watson or Melancon.

During the panel of experts portion, which included James,¬†Mike Petriello from Fangraphs and Vince Gennaro from SABR, neither Pirates players came up in the conversation. The experts didn’t give their lists, but they talked about numerous relievers(15-20), so it doesn’t sound like Melancon or Watson made any top tens.

In earlier episodes, the Pirates had Andrew McCutchen first among center fielders, Starling Marte fourth among left fielders and Jordy Mercer sixth for shortstops.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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This is interesting, I didn’t expect Melancon or Watson to make a top 10 list. Top 25 sure but top 10? Who the heck designed the Shredder? I certainly agree that Melancon and Watson are very good relievers but there are a lot of good relievers in the league and Melancon or Watson don’t finish in the top 10 in any significant category.
Now, if we were only looking at left handed relievers, Watson would be the 6th best left handed reliever behind Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miler, Sean Doolittle, Tony Sipp and Jake McGee.
There are a lot of really good right handed relievers out there like Joaquin Benoit, Dellin Betances, Ken Giles, Brad Boxberger, Wade Davis, Craig Kimbrel, Greg Holland, Koji Uehara, Tyler Clippard and Nick Vincent. Now, Boxberger and Uehara might give up too many home runs to be considered top relievers (although their WHIP and K/9 are really good). So we have 8 top right handed relievers, the next tier of right handers would include Pat Nieshek, Mark Melancon, Darren O’Day, Sergio Romo, Francisco Rodriguez and Joakim Soria. Again, Romo gives up too many home runs. O’Day, Melancon and Nieshek all have very similar numbers.
Even in what I call the third tier there are some really good right handed relievers like Aaron Sanchez, Joe Smith, Michael Pineda, Santiago Casilla, Buddy Carlyle, Jonathan Papelbon, Huston Street, Jean Machi, Drew Storen and Kevin Jepsen.
HOWEVER, if we look at a 2 year period, then things might make sense as Melancon and Watson are 2 of only 14 relievers to put up good numbers in both 2014 and 2013. If we rank the average numbers over two years weighted towards K/9 then the list looks like Chapman, Kimbrel, Holland, Uehara, Doolittle, Benoit, Clippard, Melancon, O’Day, Vincent and then Watson (in 11th). Chapman, Doolittle and Watson are the best left handed relievers in the game (most consistent over a two year period).

Lee Foo Young

It doesn’t matter to me much if they rank them or not. Watson and Melancon are two very good relievers and I am glad they are Pirates.


Foo: I cannot imagine 10 better relievers when both of these guys post sub 2 ERA’s and sub.200 batting averages against. And these two guys were lights out in 2013 also. I do not know who they selected, but I would understand Kimbrel and Chapman, but 8 others?

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