Drafting relievers can be a frustrating, daunting task – stressful even. But that is only true if you play in a traditional 5 X 5 league and are the type of owner who wants to draft three good closers and then not have to worry about the position all season. That strategy is insidious. First, it is hard enough to find three closers who will make it through a full season because of the volatility of the position and injuries. Plus, to assemble such a pen would require you to draft three closers among your first 10-12 picks, a fool’s errand to be sure. You may win the league in the saves cat, but at what cost?
We’ve all heard the saying “Don’t pay for saves”. Some say that because they are fearless internet warriors who know they can get to the wire before anyone else to grab the newest closers. Some say that because they know they’ll stumble on or trade for saves as the season goes on, so no sense doing stress over it. I say that because I’d rather play in a league with a progressive scoring scheme that does not weigh the save as highly as it does in a 5 X 5 standard scoring scheme.
There is one other reason though as well. Don’t pay for saves because you can get them later in the draft while you load up on offense early. A save is a save is a save. Aroldis Chapman, Blake Treinen, and Brad Hand all had about the same number of saves, strikeouts, and similar enough Ratios. Treinen and Hand are going pretty high this season, but can anyone remember how late you were able to draft them last season compared to Chapman? Right, many rounds later. So, lets see if we can wait till later in the draft, rounds 12 through 24, to fill a competent bullpen without drafting one of the top 10 closers in the early rounds.
For perspective, top closers and their current ADP in parenthesis (All ADP’s are courtesy of Fantrax): Edwin Diaz (56.76 mid 5th round in a 12 team league), Blake Treinen (74.69, early 7th), Kenley Jansen (84, mid 8th), Craig Kimbrel (85, mid 8th), Aroldis Chapman (89, mid 8th), Raisel Iglesias (129, 11th). So, we are not going to pick a closer until round 12 and we will still be picking relievers with our last several picks. We’ll also talk about some tandems worth owning, sprinkle in a few CLEWS (Closers en Waiting), and, um, not have to worry about saves all season.
This week’s trivia question: Here are four closers and their 2018 stat lines. Two were drafted far sooner than the other two. Can you name them? Answer Below:
Reliever 1: 32 Saves, 106 K’s in 72 IP, 2.75 ERA
Reliever 2: 37 Saves, 89 K’s in 70 IP, 2.70 ERA
Reliever 3: 32 Saves, 93 K in 51.1 IP, 2.45 ERA
Reliever 4: 38 Saves, 82 K in 71.2 IP, 3.01 ERA
Reliever ADP Gems:
Wade Davis, COL, CL, 136 12th – Need saves? Wade Davis led the NL in saves in 2018, and was 2nd in all of baseball behind Edwin Diaz. Davis had 43 saves in 2018, and he surely had an off-year for him. He pitched half his games in the mountains and lost a tick or so of velocity too. But he is still Wade Davis, and “closers close”. Maybe he will not have as many K’s as the top closers, nor as sparkling an ERA/WHIP. but at 65 innings pitched how much effect will he have anyway on those cats? So, yeah, 7th/8th round saves in the 12th sounds like a deal to me. His wife Katelyn thinks so too.
Jose Leclerc, TEX, CL 139 12th – A 13.4 K/9 makes Leclerc worth an own no matter what, but the fact he is undoubtedly the Rangers closer this coming season makes him special. He did log 12 saves late in the season after Keone Kela was traded, and now has very little competition for the closer spot. So, drafting Leclerc may not guarantee success, but you are drafting Jansen/Kimbrel/Chapman quality several rounds later.
Ken Giles, TOR, CL 153 13th – I know, he is erratic. He got boo’ed out of Houston. But what did he do in Toronto? He again was the man in the 9th. Will it continue into 2019? Possibly not, probably will. When Giles is off his game you don’t want him in your lineup. Most of the runs he gave up in 2018 came in four games, three with Houston and his first with Toronto. After that, he was lights out. His K/9 did take a dip under the 10.0 mark, but did you notice that for all his troubles in 2018 he only walked seven batters. That is a 53/7 K/BB. His ERA was 4.65, which certainly caused pain and suffering but when you realize it was caused by four games it gives one hope. If I started my season with Leclerc, Giles and one of the guys below, I’d be happy.
Kirby Yates, SD, CL 153 13th – Get him now before it is too late. After 2019, Yates may be in the conversation with Jansen, Treinen, etc. I won’t be able to afford him then. But this season is the season to snag him in the 13th round when he still has a few question marks. He has no such question marks for me, and I’m sure the Padres will play enough close games to make his save chances plentiful. Besides nailing 12 saves after Brad Hand was traded, Yates contributed a K/9 near 13.0, only 17 walks and a 2.14 ERA, & .914 WHIP. He’s been on my radar for two years, he better be on yours now.
David Robertson, PHI, CL/RP, 253 22nd Seranthony Dominguez, PHI, CL/RP, 190 16th – People often ask me, “What is a good handcuffed pair to try to draft?” Well, these two would be ideal. Even though Hector Neris and Pat Neshek are in the pen, I can’t see anyone but these two getting saves. Dominguez is the young flame thrower who still needs some harnessing. Robertson is the wily veteran who may not have the blazing fastball he once had, but knows how to get guys out when it is needed. If I was a betting man, I’d say draft Robertson in the 22nd round and get better value than Dominguez in the 16th. But to get the handcuff you’d have to take Dominguez first. I’m not taking that chance. Robertson in the 22nd is my man. I bet their year-end K’s and ratios are similar, but Robertson is the one with 30 saves. And the family approved the new contract.
Alex Colome, CHW, CL 286 24th Kelvin Hererra, RP, CHW 333 28th – In this case, I think the younger, harder throwing ex closer gets the girl. I think Colome is more advanced than Dominguez above, but I also think Kelvin Herrera is not half the closer candidate David Robertson is. Colome in the 24th round could give you similar stats to Seranthony Dominguez in the 19th. Just saying, the longer you can hold out. Hererra had some pretty good seasons as the KC closer, and is still worth drafting as a CLEW, but I think Colome has the best shot at 30 saves.
A. J. Minter, ATL, CLEW 285 24th, Arodys Vizcaino, AT, CL 201 16th – In this case, I think the young stud flame thrower overtakes the incumbent closer. Whether it is in April, May or June is hard to gauge. Vizcaino is a good pitcher. But not a great closer. Unless he shows a major skill improvement, I see Minter overtaking him in the first half of the season. So, yeah, I’d rather draft Minter in the 24th or one of my last picks in other words, than to grab the lame duck Vizcaino in the 16th. Now if circumstance allows you to get both, go for it, but don’t reach for Vizcaino to do it.
Jordan Hicks, STL, CL/RP 241 21st, Andrew Miller, CLE, RP/CL 246.81 21st – This scenario is a win, win, win. If you can find a way to draft both Hicks and Miller in the same draft your are a magician, or a lucky guy. Both are high K rate pitchers. Both will probably give you good ratios. Miller has excelled often as the best pitcher in a pen where he was not the closer, so that could be the case here, making Hicks the man for saves. Then again, a contending manager may want to hand the ball in the ninth to someone with experience getting the last few outs. This would be ideal if you were drafting on the turn in a snake draft. Both guys are still there in the 21st and you grab them both on the turn. You’ll own two of the best relievers in baseball and likely the Cards closer by default.
Get a CLEW:
Delin Betances, NYY, CLEW (268 23rd) vs Josh Hader, MIL, CLEW (108 9th) – This year’s darling is Josh Hader and rightfully so. He was the highest rated reliever in baseball last season, including closers, on Fantrax. But he is being drafted in the 9th round, ahead of most of the closers. I don’t care what your scoring scheme is, drafting a middle reliever in the 9th instead of your 2nd OF’er or your third baseman is a guaranteed drop in the standings. Betances was that same guy for a couple of seasons, but had an off-year in 2018. I think he will be his old dominant self in 2019. If you can wait for the 23rd round to grab the “Killer B” you will have gotten far more value than Hader in the 9th. Unless something is wrong with Delin, you will get similar stats though Hader might have a better shot at saves.
Adam Ottavino, NYY, RP 401 34th – I don’t know about you, but I’ve not been in too many drafts that go 34 rounds. The good news about that is that Ottavino may be sitting there in the last round of your draft. I cannot think of a better last pick. Did you see what Ottavino did in 2018, his first year back from Tommy John? 2.43 ERA and 0.991 WHIP, 112 K’s to 36 walks over 77 IP, six saves and 34 holds. That line made him one of the most valuable relief pitchers to own in all of 2018. So, he is coming down from the mountain and entering a band box division. To me, that means everything is the same externally. This is a dude to own. He’ll make your team that much more valuable. Go ahead and make him your last pick. He’ll do more for you than a replacement level backup on the bench will. I know I don’t need to explain that picture to the left.
Answer to this week’s trivia question:
Reliever 1: Brad Hand
Reliever 2: Felipe Vazquez
Reliever 3: Aroldis Chapman
Reliever 4: Kenley Jansen
Where would you have drafted them in 2018? You don’t need to pay for saves.
Have fun the next two weeks, I know I will. Thanks for reading and as always I’ll be on Reddit all day Sunday talking relievers and all things fantasy. Below is my email if you want to reach me directly and my Twitter.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Cole Freel live on Sunday March 10th, 2019 from 8-9:45pm EST for episode #144 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. Our topic this week is the Outfield for fantasy purposes.
Our guests this week are Joe Iannone and Bilal Chaudry. Joe is a writer for majorleaguefantasysports.com and his articles publish every Sunday. Bilal is the 2-time defending MLFBC champion and a frequent radio guest.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday March 17th, 2019 from 8-9:45pm EST for episode #145 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. Our topic this week is Bullpens and Catchers.