We aren’t here to discuss the moral implications of the allegations against Chapman, whether or not the suspension was fair, too short, or too long. We’re going to discuss the fantasy implications of the Yankees acquisition of Aroldis Chapman and what type of numbers and seasons we can expect from him, Miller and Betances.
In 2015 the Yankees had a formidable eighth and ninth inning combo in Miller and Betances. Miller ended the year with a 2.04 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 36 saves and a 14.59 K/9 which was good for 100 strikeouts on the year. Betances on the other hand finished with a 1.50 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 9 saves, 28 holds and a 14.04 K/9 which gave him 131 strikeouts in the season. This led to the Yankees bullpen having not only having the highest K/9 in the majors in 2015, but also the league lead for strikeouts. To this dominant back-end they added a closer who finished the season with a 1.63 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 33 saves and a league leading 15.74 K/9 (116 strikeouts).
Miller spent most of last season as the teams closer with Betances replacing him during his DL trip along with filling in on occasion. Even with missing just over a month Miller finished the year in the top 10 for saves and ended the year ranked in the top three on ESPN’s player rater – Chapman finished sixth. While Betances finished at number 16, a very respectable number for a non-closer, that ranking can be a little deceiving. In Yahoo Betances ranked in the top 10 (7th overall) for relief pitchers – a much better ranking than ESPN, but on CBS he finished at number 32 (26th once you remove the RP eligible starters). While closer values tend to stay constant across sites, the value of those that do not accumulate saves across sites can vary – something to keep in mind.
For 2016, what we are interested in is how will the bullpen shake out, and how we can expect the players to perform and finish for fantasy purposes.
Chapman is going to miss the first 30 days of the season to a suspension. When he is back with the team he can again be expected to be one of the game’s elite closers. As for how we can project his performance, both Chapman and Miller have missed a months time in the past so we can use both of their absences as a baseline. Last season Miller missed nearly a months time, yet he still racked up saves (36-top 10) and strikeouts (100-3rd among relievers) along with an excellent ERA and WHIP. In 2014 Chapman was beaned in the head with a line drive off the bat of Salvador Perez during a spring training game. Chapman miraculously returned on May 10 and finished the season in typical Chapman form with 36 saves, 106 strikeouts and an ERA and WHIP almost identical to Miller’s.
If history is any example I think it’s safe to pencil Chapman in for 30-35 saves, an ERA around 2, and around a 15 k/9. He is still an elite option as a reliever and the potential for a top 5 finish is there; however I would not draft him as such. With two elite options behind him, his margin for error is low. There is the potential that the Yankees do no lean on him as heavy as a typical closer and could go to Miller (or Betances on occasion) based upon workload. This could take a few saves off of his projected total, and because of this I would draft him in the 8-12 closer range and not sooner. Unfortunately Chapman won’t slip that far in average drafts and is being taken as one of the top 5 options. If you want him you will have to pay full price, so weigh the risk versus the reward and use your best judgement here.
Andrew Miller will be the closer for the first 30 days of the season, after which he’ll return to the setup role that Betances held last season. Betances finished the 2015 season with 9 saves and 28 holds so that is a nice baseline when contemplating Miller’s value in 2016.
You have to take into consideration though that Miller was quite successful as the teams closer last season. Like I stated under Chapman, there is the possibility that the Yankees don’t lean too heavily on Chapman. Normal teams may only use their backup closer if their regular closer goes several nights in a row, but the Yankees could use Miller slightly more than that leading to a few extra save opportunities throughout the year. While this scenario may lead to a lower finish for Chapman in the rankings, it increases the value of Miller.
While a final line similar to what Betances had in 2015 is what should be expected, it is possible Miller finishes with 10-15 saves and 15-20 holds along with his typical ERA, WHIP and strikeout totals. Miller should finish as a top 20 fantasy closer and I would draft him as such, especially in holds leagues.
The biggest loser in this deal will be Betances. There is the potential that during the first month he may vulture a save opportunity or two from Miller, but other than that his save chances will be non-existent. For leagues that count holds he is an elite options, but for everyone else his main asset will be ERA, WHIP and strikeouts.
The strikeouts alone can be useful in any format. In roto leagues, Betances’ innings total assure his ERA and WHIP can help lower your ratios a few points. If you draft Betances it might be in your best interest to pair him with another top setup man as their combined totals could be extremely beneficial. In 2015 if you rostered both Betances and say, Darren O’Day, their combined line would have looked like this:
The ERA and WHIP are right in line with Jake Arrieta, the top pitcher in the league last season. The strikeout total ranks 11th among starting pitchers in 2015 – 10th in 2014. Only 34 starting pitchers finished with more than 12 wins in 2015 which means you’re getting a total just above average, but with elite ratios and K’s. Any saves you get are just an added bonus at this point, and using a combination like this is a better alternative to drafting guys like Fernando Rodney or a great substitute as a back-end starting pitcher.
Betances should be one of the first non-closer relief pitchers off the board and could finish the season with a few saves, 18-20 holds, a 2.2-2.5 ERA, and around a 13.5-14.5 K/9. I calculated the ERA slightly higher than what we’ve seen in past seasons due to his spike in walks. Last season Betances saw his walk rate go from 2.40 to 4.29. That combined with a small increase in his HR/FB% could lead to a few more runs. You’ll still get elite numbers here, but I don’t see an ERA below 2.0 for a third straight season.
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