My general philosophy on relievers lines up with how I feel about pitchers in general. Relievers are fragile and even more volatile than starters. On top of this, any closer can lose their job. A bad month, or maybe even a bad week, can lead to a role change. And don’t even get me started on injuries. Due to all of this, I tend not to spend too much on these guys.
That said, there are times when value smacks you in the face, and their value is too good for even me to ignore. Here are a few of the closers who continue to find their way on to my teams in early drafts, both mock and real.
The “Cuban Missile” is coming at a bit of a discount this year after suffering through some troubles last year. He was bad enough that he lost his job for a while. The stacked Yankee pen does make that a bit of a scary proposition as well. They have four other pitchers with closer level stuff, including one former Bronx closer. In spite of all this, I am excited to draft him this year.
Chapman averaged 100.1 MPH on the gun so gas is still there. If he had lost a tick or two then I might be a little more worried. Chapman was great again at the end of the year and in the playoffs. He had been arguably the best closer of the last 5 or so years coming into last year. I don’t think much has changed. Kimbrel came at a discount last year and bounced back huge, and I expect the same with Chapman. He’s coming off the board 20-30 spots later than Jansen and Kimbrel. This is a nice enough discount for me to pull the trigger on him. He will obviously help you in saves, but he should also help you with Ks, ERA, and WHIP more than all but a few relievers.
Herrera was reasonably popular coming into 2017. I was certainly on board with that. He had a history of being an ace type setup man for both Greg Holland and Wade Davis. Herrera paid me back for my faith by having the worst year of his career. He also lost the job for parts of 2017. Yes, I’m a stubborn Irishman and I’m going back to the well.
Much like Chapman, Herrera still throws gas. He averaged 97.5 MPH last year. Herrera lost a few points on his swinging strike rate, which likely led to his overall K rate going down a bit. He went from 15.6% to 11.6% on the swinging strike rate. This likely contributed to his overall K rate dropping from 30.4% to 21.6%. I think that was a bit unlucky. Herrera has a track record as a really good reliever and doesn’t seem to be declining physically.
The Royals are unlikely to win a ton of games, but I do think they will play enough close games to give Herrera a shot at 30+ saves. A nice chunk of saves mixed with the fact that he can be an elite reliever makes me want to target him. His cost is extremely deflated as well considering he is the 23rd reliever off the board at an ADP of 203 with NFBC. I’ll take that all day long.
I was a huge Doolittle guy when he was beasting out in Oakland a few years back. He was an elite closer before being slowed down by some injuries, and he wasn’t the same guy when he came back. It’s taken a few years, but his profile now looks like that guy I once fawned all over..
Doolittle isn’t quite the level of flamethrower Chapman or Herrera are, but he does average a smidge under 95MPH. If you have ever seen him pitch, you’ll also notice that his fastball has a lot of movement. His 15.4% swinging strike rate helped lead to an attractive 31.5% K rate. He also keeps the walks manageable with a 5.1% walk rate. This is the profile of an ace closer. Oh yea, he’s the closer for the Nats as well. The Nats are as likely as any team to win 100 games so there’s incredible upside for saves here.
There are only two worries here. First, the Nats could be brand whores and seek out a closer from another team with a sexier name. Secondly, there are a couple of former closers behind Doolittle in the pen in Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler. Doolittle is better than anyone in his pen, though, and is better than a majority of guys closing for other teams. I feel really safe about Doolittle being on par with other top ten RP options and even think he has top five potential. That’s pretty good for the 15th RP coming off at an ADP of 133 in NFBC.
Familia was a top 5 closer in fantasy in back-to-back years. Last year he had a really scary medical condition that stole most of his season. He also had a few really terrible outings that hurt his full-season lines. I imagine this paired with the acquisition of A.J. Ramos has severely deflated his draft stock, but that hasn’t turned me away from targeting him.
Sticking with the same format, Familia is still throwing quite hard with an average MPH of just below 96. Familia has had a bit less control than I’d like, but he has been able to get the job done at an elite level in the past in spite of that. I know it’s not generally good practice to cherry pick outings that you want to disqualify when doing fantasy analysis. That said, I think it’s fair to do it with Familia given that he was mostly bad when he had a blood clot in his shoulder. If you take out the handful of blow ups before he went on medical leave, Familia’s numbers look a good bit like his previous two seasons.
Just to keep it simple, in his final month of appearances Familia had a 3.00 ERA, 2.42 FIP, and 12Ks over 12 innings pitched. That’s not quite vintage, but not far off. There is also early chatter saying that Familia will be getting most of the save opportunities. I wouldn’t reach for Familia, but he’s coming at a really nice price in NFBC ADP so far. He’s the 20th RP coming off the board at an ADP of 173. Not bad for someone with Familia’s kind of upside.
These are a few relievers that jump out at me as values based on their potential and current price. Some other guys who didn’t quite make the cut for the article but are certainly worth considering would be Mark Melancon, Blake Treinen, Shane Greene, and Brad Brach.
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