Relief pitchers are more valuable today than ever before in the history of the game. Teams have been shelling out millions to secure the backend of their bullpen and shorten the game, allowing their Starters to focus on just finishing the 6th. It started with the Royals during their 2014 World Series run, followed by the Yankees with their trio of Chapman, Miller and Betances. While everyone else clamors over Zach Britton and his ungodly groundball rate plus strikeouts, or Aroldis Chapman with his fireballs, here are a few options that you can (and should) wait to draft later.
- Kelvin Herrera
Kelvin Herrera has patiently waited his turn. After Greg Holland and Wade Davis took turns holding the closer role, Herrera was promoted from 7th inning, to set up, to finally earning the designation as the Royals closer for 2017. Largely ignored in fantasy baseball prior to this year, Herrera only excelled in leagues that awarded points for holds or K/9 ratio. Now as the main man in Kansas City, he’ll show the league exactly what he can do. With a K/9 rate over 10 and a BB/9 under 2, Herrera has the control and power to excel as a closer. He won’t let many runners on base, and when he does he’ll punch them out. He’s shown his composure in the role marking 12 saves in 2016, so the bright lights won’t get to him. Draft with confidence.
Prediction: 38 Saves, 2.42 ERA, 1.03 WHIP
- Shawn Kelley
Another player who is benefitting from the prior closer moving out of town, Shawn Kelley is poised to take over the Capitol city and slam the door closed for the potent Nationals offense. Combining his elite strikeout abilities with control, Kelley is another pitcher who will limit baserunners and still be able to get himself out of trouble if they do reach base. Of all qualifying relief pitchers with at least 11.0 K/9, only Andrew Miller and Kenley Jansen had lower BB/9 ratios. Kelley will be a much better value, allowing you to focus your earlier picks on other positions. His biggest red flag is his high FB rate. An elite closer is no good if he is one pitch away from giving up the lead due to a Home Run. Despite that risk, his upside it too good to ignore. He’ll easily beat out Blake Treinen to win the closer job and won’t look back.
Prediction: 37 Saves, 2.30 ERA, 1.10 WHIP
- Edwin Diaz
When a rookie emerges to dominate MLB hitters one must look at it with a grain of salt. However, the rate at which Edwin Diaz struck out batters for the Mariners was nothing short of amazing. Trailing only Dellin Betances with a 15.33 K/9 rate, Diaz was among the best strike out pitchers in the entire league. Combining that K rate with a BB/9 of 2.61, the rookie has the potential to be the next Craig Kimbrel, taking the league by storm. Pitching in a pitcher friendly ballpark won’t hurt him, and neither will a solid GB% and his ability to keep the ball in the park. His biggest question mark is whether opposing teams will be able to figure him out. However with two solid pitches, he won’t have to worry about too much as long as he can keep his control down.
Prediction: 41 Saves, 1.98 ERA, 0.99 WHIP