Middle relievers need some special attribute, performance, or history to garner attention. Here are two that qualify.
Jonathan Venters LH Atlanta
The Braves selected Venters out of a Florida high school in the 30th round of the 2003 draft. Venters started 20 games before undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing the 2006 season. 94 minor league appearances and 71 starts later, Venters’ minor league numbers were mediocre – 6.6 strikeouts per nine and 4.1 walks. The Braves installed him in their pen as the mop-up man this season and the results have been overwhelming. A groundball rate nearing 60% and a swinging strike rate of 14% are reasons enough to catch attention. A mid-90s fastball and occasional curveball have made Venters a pain to lefties, which, not to typecast every failed lefty starter as a potential LOOGY, but Venters would seemingly fit that role if his minor league numbers are indicative.
John Axford RH Milwaukee
Truthfully, Axford’s Triple-A numbers aren’t even the most impressive thing about him – although striking out 11 batters per nine is pretty nifty. This is a special circumstance where it’s more than just the performances that endear a fan base to a player. It extends well beyond his birthday (April 1st), too. Actually, it’s all about the ‘stache. Various agents of propaganda have stated pitchers of now lack the fortitude of their profession’s ancestors. When Axford pitches, it’s the visual mustachio concerto that the game so desperately needs. That thing will never have a down game. Never. Not ever. Not even when Axford’s mug displays a hangdog look after allowing a game-winning home run. Unfortunately no images exist of the masterpiece, yet.