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2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Relief Pitchers

We now round up our 2020 Keeper Value Rankings with the most volatile position of all - relievers. If you haven't been following along, catch up here by reading up on the best keepers at First BaseSecond Base, Third Base, Shortstop, Catcher, Outfield, and Starting Pitcher.

Keeper Value Rankings are intended for Keeper Leagues in which a fantasy owner must forfeit a designated draft pick in order to keep a player into the upcoming season. These rankings are based on Keeper "Values." In the marketing world, Value can be defined as the extent to which a good or service (player) is perceived by its customer (fantasy owner) to meet his/her needs or wants. The Keeper Values are derived from my Keeper Valuation Formula which accounts for age, player cost (ADP), remaining player pool, past performance, future projections, missed playing time, and even position scarcity.

The product is a quantitative depiction of a player's ability to meet/exceed fantasy owners' needs based on the cost they paid for the player in the previous season (2019 ADP) and will subsequently pay for in the current season's draft (2020). The higher the score, the higher the return the fantasy owner will receive from the player keeping him at their associated cost. Approaching Keeper selections with this "value" based attitude will greatly increase the effectiveness of a fantasy owner's draft in a Keeper League. Whereas the main purpose of the Keeper Value Formula is for customization based on specific leagues and keeper costs, I create these yearly rankings with standard 12 team league data, 2019 ADP, and 23rd Round cost for UDFA just as a baseline to help managers get an idea of their options. Let's see which relief pitchers are worth holding this year.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including Best MLB Series, NFL Series, NBA Writer, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

 

JB's Keeper Value System

TIER SCORE DESCRIPTION
1 >100 Finders Keepers! These are the Elite Keeper Values. MUST BE KEPT at all costs.
2 75-99 Great Keeper values. Unless you have a full load of Tier 1 players, these guys need to be kept.
3 50-74 You are gaining good value with these players. A majority of good keepers options tend to fall into this category.
4 25-49 Minimal value. The value exists, but not as much as your opponents are likely receiving with their selections. Consider if your options are limited.
5 0-24 Break-even point. Keeping these players will likely hurt your overall draft, as you are not adding enough value.
6 <0 The associated costs make it impossible to return any value, these players will ruin your draft. Stay far away.

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @RowdyRotoJB to check out your specific league's values.

 

2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Relief Pitchers

POS Rank Keeper Tier Player ADP (Round) Score
1 3 Liam Hendriks OAK 23 66.82
2 3 Josh Hader MIL 9 63.83
3 3 Taylor Rogers MIN 23 58.00
4 3 Hector Neris PHI 23 50.38
5 4 Nick Anderson TBR 23 43.65
6 4 Brandon Workman BOS 23 43.55
7 4 Hansel Robles LAA 23 41.09
8 4 Kirby Yates SDP 9 40.39
9 4 Keone Kela PIT 23 31.00
10 4 Giovanny Gallegos STL 23 26.00
11 5 Ken Giles TOR 12 22.75
12 5 Joe Jimenez DET 23 20.98
13 5 Ian Kennedy KCR 23 19.35
14 5 Will Smith ATL 23 18.91
15 5 Alex Colome CHW 17 13.61
16 5 Roberto Osuna HOU 7 5.21
17 5 Archie Bradley ARI 18 4.66
18 5 Mark Melancon ATL 23 4.57
19 5 Seth Lugo NYM 23 4.39
20 5 Aroldis Chapman NYY 6 3.61

 

Tier Three

Relief pitchers are by far the toughest players to gauge in keeper leagues. For every Blake Treinen kept in the early-mid rounds there is the possibility of an undrafted Liam Hendriks that comes out of nowhere and replaces him. Then there's Edwin Diaz, David Robertson, Jose Leclerc. Not paying for saves is usually a safe bet in the long haul, especially considering 13 of the 20 positive keeper scores among relievers were undrafted or drafted after the 23rd round. Due to the lack of stability of the ever-turning carousel, it is extremely rare to find a keeper score north of 75.0 at this position, but that doesn't mean there aren't good values out there.

Liam Hendriks has been hanging around the American League since being drafted by the Twins in 2007. A starter-turned-reliever, he had some success in the bullpen prior to 2019, such as his 2015 campaign in Toronto where he pitched to a 2.92 ERA across 64.2 IP. But in 2019 we saw a different beast. Enjoying a 1.5 MPH uptick in his fastball velocity, Hendriks rode the pitch hard, throwing the cheese at a 67.9% clip and essentially doing away with his sinker. It resulted in a career-high 37.4 K%.

Subsequently, as one would expect, the boost in fastball value also supported his secondary pitch. When throwing his slider Hendriks allowed a .108 BAA while boasting a 56.4 K%, 47.2 O-Swing%, 29.0 SwStr%, and a very much needed 51.6 GB%. The slider is key to sustaining elite fantasy value in 2020. There will without a doubt be more HR this year, there just has to be, but if he keeps throwing the slider to this level of effectiveness the strikeouts will remain and help overcome the ERA regression.

Taylor Rogers was a solid relief pitcher for three seasons in Minnesota heading into 2019, but was finally awarded the ninth-inning keys and responded with the best year of his career. Operating as the Twins Glen Perkins-esque southpaw closer, Rogers rewarded fantasy owners finishing as one of only four RP with 30 SV, 11+ K/9, and an ERA under 3.00. Fun fact, the other three were also LHP - Aroldis Chapman, Josh Hader, and Will Smith. Despite seeing regression in BABIP and HR/FB% from his "breakout" 2018 season, Rogers was still able to lower his ERA due to a career-best 32.4 K%. The secret appears to be a massive increase in his slider usage, 13% in 2018 to 31% in 2019. I see no reason to expect anything different from Rogers in 2020, sitting atop a strong bullpen featuring Trevor MayTyler DuffeySergio Romo, and Tyler Clippard.

 

Tier Four

It's hard to believe Brandon Workman has been with the Red Sox since 2011. He made his first big league appearance in 2013 but really got his feet wet in 2014 with 87 IP and a wild 1-10 record. He then saw 2015-2016 practically erased due to Tommy John surgery. Fast forward to 2019, and he completes a literal 180 flip by going 10-1 with a 13.06 K/9 and 1.88 ERA, while also taking over Boston ninth-inning duties and recording 16 saves. One main factor for his success was increasing the usage of his fantastic curveball, up to damn-near 50%, good for third-highest in baseball but still behind teammate Matt Barnes. Due to the increase in offspeed pitches, his FB value climbed and contributed to a career-low Contact% and career-high SwStr%. To top it all off, Workman's .123 BAA was the lowest in all of baseball.

Coming over from the New York Yankees in exchange for Luke Voit in 2018, Giovanny Gallegos saw his first full season in the bigs last year, and did not disappoint. Like Rogers and Pagan, Gallegos threw a career-high percentage of sliders en route to a 33.3 K% and 16.3 SwStr%. He also boasts impressive command as shown by his 27.6 K-BB%. The best thing Gallegos has going for him in 2020 is opportunity. With Jordan Hicks recovering from TJS and Carlos Martinez supposedly returning to the rotation, Gallegos should be the guy to see the first crack at the ninth-inning role. He is the most talented option in the pen in my opinion, and you never know how/when Jordan Hicks recovers so I am treating Gallegos like the Cardinals closer in my drafts.

 

Tier Five

There is nothing I love more than starters being converted to relievers, even if I stacked my DFS lineups against this starter for the past few seasons. Two seasons ago, Ian Kennedy was giving up two homers per nine innings and dragging around a 5.61 FIP. Fast forward to 2019 and pitching out of the bullpen, Kennedy boasts career-bests 10.37 K/9, 44.4 GB%, and 2.99 FIP. It's almost like even the worst starting pitchers can be great when only facing three batters at a time!

Seriously though, Kennedy was a very serviceable guy in fantasy. He recorded 30 saves for the Royals on his way to finishing as a top-150 player. The WHIP has been an eye-sore since 2012, but he did suffer from a career-worst .343 BABIP last season so I am interested to see if positive regression there can lower the ratios.

The only reliever that posted a positive keeper score without being projected to at least share closing duties for his team is my favorite ratio-RP target, Seth Lugo. If you recall my Top 10 Draft Tips article, in Roto and H2H leagues I operate off the JBullpen Method - meaning I don't put any emphasis on starting pitchers but instead load up on elite set-up men. From 2013-2017, you had Andrew Miller, and 2014-2018 there was Dellin Betances. Now it's Seth Lugo. As a starter, Lugo owns a 4.06 ERA and 7.38 K/9 over 168 IP. As a reliever, he owns a 2.52 ERA and 10.04 K/9 over 178 IP. Last season was the first in which he remained in the bullpen for the whole year, and it paid dividends for fantasy owners like me. 80 IP, 104 K, 2.70 ERA, and 0.90 WHIP which was good for RP12 in fantasy.

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