I will admit, I don’t dig to deep when sizing up potential fantasy relievers. Saves are not something I invest in heavily. I mean one of the more universal fantasy adages is that you don’t pay for saves and I would agree. Take a look at last year’s saves leaders. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Just kidding, I won’t give you work to do, my faithful reader! So, anyways, let’s take a look at the ol’ saves leaderboard together. Well, kind of. I’m just gonna write about it and you can follow along.
In 2014, there were 17 closers that amassed at least 30 saves. At least 32 saves truth be told. So, in theory, more than half of major league teams had a closer who had 32 or more saves. That’s what I am using as the number to measure fantasy decentness at the closer position. Of those 17, 10 of them accomplished that feat in 2013. I guess that is not super telling, but I think it is enough to give one pause if, say, you are contemplating keeping a closer or, ya know, if you are looking to invest heavily in a closer come draft day. Now, according to my leading correspondent, General Obvious (little brother of Captain Obvious), saves are the primary reason you draft a closer. Thanks General Obvious. The thing is, it always seems like the closer position is a fickle mistress, but there are a few consistent guys out there. Nevertheless, it is still hard for me to reach or overpay for a closer more than any other position. What I look to do is find some mid-range closers, some guys who have good numbers and, more importantly, closer potential. Enter Dellin Betances.
It’s a new era in baseball, with more specialized role-playing, matchup relievers and setup guys. Okay, so the era’s not so new, but you get what I am saying. The back ends of bullpens are darned good and we’re not just talking closers. No, no, we now have bullpens (the Royals, anyone?) with legit dominant pitchers for the 7th, 8th and 9th innings. Mr. Betances falls right into one of those categories. With just one save, and for our purposes let’s talk leagues without holds, in 2014, Betances still managed to be the 13th best reliever on ESPN’s player rater. Really, I’ll say he was 11th, since Garrett Richards and Tanner Roark had RP eligibility and popped up ahead of him in the rankings. Betances was higher ranked than Fernando Rodney for crying out loud! (Rodney led the majors in saves in 2014) Now, I think saves, like wins or batting average, are not great stats, but if Betances gets a closer role and has a chance at saves, he could hover around the top five fantasy relief pitchers. But is a closer role in Betances’ near future? If not, will Dellin keep his value? Well, let’s take a look, shall we?
As of now, Betances is not going to be a closer in 2014, but the guy is still quite nasty. Pitching-wise, anyways, as I can’t speak to the nastiness of his lifestyle or general being. Anyways, back to Dellin’s pitching nastiness. Betances had the fourth highest K% amongst major league relievers in 2014, higher than Craig Kimbrel, Greg Holland and Kenley Jansen to name a few. In fact the only closer who had a higher K rate than Betances was Aroldis Chapman. The BB% was fine too, as his K-BB% of 32.6% was good for fifth amongst relievers. What, did I tell you? Nasty. Not only is Betances hard to hit, but when folks do manage to make contact? Well, it’s ain’t great. Only 20% (20.1% if you wanna be all technical and such) of his batted balls were line drives. Now, there are good deal of relievers with a better number than Dellin in that column, but it is still a very decent number and it is down drastically from 2013’s 35.7%.
So, let’s review a bit here. High strikeout rate, decent walk rate, more than decent line drive and ground ball rates. Nasty. Look, if you strikeout a ton of guys, you can wiggle out of jams a bit easier and if when they make contact, it is not hard contact, you can also avoid getting into jams. I am not saying Betances is the next Mariano Rivera or anything but he certainly bears monitoring and, although I am mostly in leagues with holds, I still think this is a guy to watch. The recent signing of Andrew Miller will affect Dellin’s usage a bit, but I don think it will cut into too many of his innings. Even though I am a fan of Andrew Miller I think Betances is a better pitcher, right now. To me Betances is still the main guy in the 8th and, maybe it’s just me, but I think he is first in line for the pinstripes, if something happens to MIller. Personally, I’d rather have Betances than some lower end closers who, quite frankly, could very easily lose their jobs as the finisher. In fact, once the top, I don’t now, ten closers are off the board, that’s where I’d start queuing up Betances. You can thank me later.