I’m going to share with you one of my favorite draft strategies – drafting quality relief pitching late. The idea is to grab high-end set up pitchers who will help your ratios while waiting for the inevitable closer carousal to land in their place. I’m much more concerned with grabbing the best arms than looking at their closer competition. Last year I drafted Wade Davis in the last round in one league, and the closer spot opened up unexpectedly just as the league neared the playoffs. The point is, these arms can help with or without a closing opportunity, and one never knows what opportunities may arise.
The other advantage to drafting extra relievers late is the cost savings versus trying to acquire them in-season either via trade or through FAAB. There is a gap between what people are willing to pay for a closer in the draft, where everyone says “never pay for saves”, and the reality as the season goes on that “I need saves”. The better you do in the draft identifying possible RP game-changers, the better your season will unfold.
The key is to identify the right people, and what better way to do that than to look at what the best relievers in baseball are doing. I’m going to give you a sneak preview of my Top 10 relief pitchers for Dynasty Leagues; these are just my rankings so make sure you come back on Sunday to see our teams consolidated report.
Generally speaking, when looking at next year’s draft, I’m going to be looking to target late any relief pitcher with similar attributes to those above. I want high K% rates, low BB rates, low AVG against, and the ability to miss bats. I’ve listed below some relief pitchers with similar peripherals in what will be my early watch list for potential late round steals in 2016.
Notes on some of the more interesting names:
Carter Capps, Miami Marlins: It’s no wonder that Capps was one of the most unhittable pitchers in the majors last year when you look at his ridiculous delivery:
Major League Baseball hasn’t done anything yet to discourage this type of delivery, but they still might before the 2016 season starts. If not, Capps’ fastball comes in at a perceived velocity of over 105 mph, giving hitters very little chance to square up against him. If you can imagine how successful a pitcher with a 49% K rate and a 41% GB rate would be, you’d understand the complete dominance from Carter Capps. What if anything MLB does this offseason, as well as any updates from a late season elbow injury, will determine just how far up my draft board Capps goes. He’s Dellin Betances II if things break right.
Nate Jones, Chicago White Sox: Nate Jones was everybody’s favorite closer-in-waiting heading into 2014, but he got passed over for Matt Lindstrom and then ended up having Tommy John surgery. A year and a half later, Jones returned to the White Sox and pitched 19 innings, allowing 12 hits and 6 walks while striking out 27 batters. He’s behind star closer David Robertson in the pecking order, but can provide a ton of value if he returns to his 2013 form. I wouldn’t expect the Sox to push him too hard, but even 50-55 innings with a 30% K rate would be a nice addition to any fantasy pitching staff.
Brett Cecil, Toronto Blue Jays: Cecil was supposed to be the closer for the Blue Jays last year, but early ineffectiveness caused him to lose his job. However, judging by those final numbers, Cecil certainly righted the ship. In fact, he finished the season with 37 straight appearances without allowing an earned run. I like Osuna an awful lot, and Cecil makes not only a great handcuff for him, but also someone who can help your ratios all year long.
Jake McGee, Tampa Bay Rays: McGee might find himself with a closing role before this article gets to print, but even if he doesn’t, he’ll be one of my favorite targets in 2016. As great as McGee was in 2014, he was just as good last year in limited action. With parts of 6 seasons in the bank, McGee has a career 2.77 ERA (2.88 xFIP) with nearly a 31% K rate and a 23.8 K%-BB%. Those numbers would put him squarely in the top ten closers for dynasty leagues if he was getting saves. With the Rays listening on him and Boxberger, there’s a very good chance he’ll get them.
Will Smith, Milwaukee Brewers: Smith wasn’t as dominant in the second half, and I don’t expect he’ll win the closer’s job despite his great overall numbers. I do think he can still be a solid addition though, with his 32.5% K rate since becoming a reliever in 2013. When coupled with a 44% GB rate, this is a top-tier option for targeting late in next year’s draft. As a set-up man he’ll vulture some wins (7 last year), net you a few saves and help you capture WHIP and ERA.
Carson Smith, Boston Red Sox: There are a couple of red flags with Carson Smith:
- Smith’s road to saves got a lot more difficult in Boston with Craig Kimbrel in the fold versus Joaquin Benoit in Seattle
- Smith’s velocity went south as the season wore on last year.
(chart courtesy of Baseball Savant)
If reports out of spring are good on his velocity, I’ll be all over Smith in my leagues as his career 32.6% K rate and 2.07 ERA mean that he is just one injury away from being one of the game’s best closers. If that injury never comes, I will settle for the ratio help as well as the extra strikeouts from my RP slot.
Shawn Kelley, Free Agent: Kelley should find himself a pretty good deal on the market this year after his excellent performance in 2015. He’s not a one-year wonder though; with a little bit of luck his 2013 and 2014 numbers could have been just as good. Kelley gets a lot of strikeouts and his command has improved significantly since 2010. He has a career 27.1% K rate to go with a 2.98 SIERA. In fact, his SIERA has been below 2.68 since 2012. He’s going to be a great bullpen addition wherever he ends up and is worth watching in spring as a potential late round draft pick.
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