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Bullpen Busts Due to Bounce Back in 2020

The amount of information available to fantasy baseball managers is almost overwhelming, and it continues to grow each season. Every year, there is a new statistic that pops up showing that Player A should've done this or Player B was unlucky in that. As a group, we are always trying to find where the value is, and one area that is often overlooked is the bounce-back candidate in the bullpen.

There is always a considerable turnover at the top of the reliever rankings in fantasy baseball, and if you fail us, your draft stock for the following season will more than likely plummet. The most recent example is Edwin Diaz. We will write about him more in this article, but at this time last year, he was going as a top-50 pick. Everyone knew it was too high, and then he busted bigger than any reliever in recent memory. But it's just one bad season. Why can't he bounce back and return tremendous value on his 2020 draft pick as a top-120 pick? Well, he can!

Today, I am going to identify Diaz and a couple of other candidates that you can draft to your roster this year and reap a high return on investment for the 2020 fantasy baseball season.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball waiver wire pickups and weekly lineup resources:

 

Edwin Diaz, New York Mets

2020 NFBC ADP: 120.4

2020 Projections: 67.0 IP, 109 K, 26 SV, 3.21 ERA, 1.16 WHIP

Edwin Diaz was nothing short of spectacular in 2018 with the Seattle Mariners and, as a result, was the top closer in baseball with the advanced statistics to back it up. Then he was traded to the New York Mets before the 2019 season and wilted under the brights lights of the big apple.

Year IP Saves K ERA WHIP
2018 73.1 57 124 1.96 0.79
2019 58 26 99 5.59 1.38

Diaz's performance and fantasy value dropped like he fell from the top of the Empire State Building. He was eventually removed from the closer's role in September as the Mets battled for a playoff berth and was one of the biggest busts of the season. There had to be an explanation for this.

Sure, baseball players are human beings and a new city can disrupt a pitcher's flow, but after digging around in Diaz's Statcast profile, I think I've found the culprit of his troubles. His incredible slider was just not as dominant last season. Here are the results and expected results from his slider over the past four seasons.

Year BA xBA SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA
2016 0.141 0.118 0.176 0.148 0.168 0.149
2017 0.144 0.128 0.231 0.191 0.196 0.179
2018 0.129 0.116 0.234 0.185 0.190 0.168
2019 0.297 0.223 0.622 0.403 0.387 0.272

One of those years is not like the other, and it's the 2019 season. The recently-turned 26-year-old had great results with the slider in three of his four major-league seasons but was getting dinged heavily for one lousy season. With a mechanical fix and a few evenings in the tape room, it's not hard to believe that the Puerto Rican can find his form again in 2020.

As a fantasy community, we tend to give a lot of leeway to players with a good track record that have one down year, but that does not seem to be the case with Diaz. His ADP of 120.4 means that you can grab him at the back end of the 10th round in 12-team drafts as your RP1. The upside of this pick is that you draft the No. 1 closer in fantasy baseball with the cost of a top-10 reliever, and the downside is that you guess wrong on a reliever's bounce back and cut him a month into the season and pick up the next hot arm in the league. The low-risk, high-reward picks are where owners can reap significant profits in fantasy baseball and steer them towards a championship in 2020.

 

Mark Melancon, Atlanta Braves

2020 NFBC ADP: 225.2

2020 Projections: 66.0 IP, 65 K, 22 SV, 3.65 ERA, 1.31 WHIP

Mark Melancon seemingly came out of nowhere in 2019 to close 11 games for the Atlanta Braves after his trade from San Francisco but has seemingly been forgotten in 2020 drafts. I understand that the Braves went out and made a splash by acquiring Will Smith this offseason, but manager Brian Snitker has already come out and said that Melancon will be the man he gives the ball to close out games to start this season.

Melancon fell from grace after two injury-plagued seasons in the Bay Area, but fantasy managers shouldn't give up on him just yet. After his trade to the Braves last year, the three-time All-Star admitted that 2019 was the first time he had felt healthy since he signed that massive contract with the Giants. If we take his 2014-2016 seasons along with the 2019 season and compare it to 2017 and 2018, it's easy to see that Melancon's results were affected by the forearm injury.

Seasons K% BB% ERA WHIP
2014-2016, 2019 23.5 4.85 2.32 0.998
2017-2018 19.7 6.57 3.78 1.522

If we take the reliever from the four seasons in the first row, we have a player that posted a sub-3.00 FIP in all four seasons and finished in the top-25th percentile in terms of xwOBA and xSLG, while being in the top one percent of baseball with a 2.0 percent barrel rate in 2019. And all of this is coming at the low price of a pick outside the top-200.

I'm willing to give Melancon a pass for his two injury-hampered seasons on the West Coast and confidently draft him as a rock-solid RP2 for my fantasy teams this season. He has the ceiling of a low-end RP1 as well because the Atlanta Braves have aspirations of playing in the World Series and a Vegas over/under win total of 90.5. This may not return Melancon to his league-leading ways from his Pittsburgh days, but it will not be a surprise to see his name near the top of the saves leaderboard by the end of the season.

 

Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies

2020 NFBC ADP: 322.5

2020 Projections: 63.0 IP, 66 K, 22 SV, 4.26 ERA, 1.40 WHIP

Having Wade Davis in this column may seem absurd after his disastrous 2019, but the chances of him performing better in 2020 are massive. I mean, how much worse can it get for the 34-year old?

Although he had some shaky moments and a few massive blow-ups in his first season in Colorado, he still led the league with 43 saves, and the Rockies made the playoffs. However, 2019 was a very different story.

Season IP SV K ERA WHIP FIP
2018 65.1 43 78 4.13 1.06 3.65
2019 42.2 15 42 8.65 1.88 5.56

All of this negativity would make you think that Davis is not worth a draft pick this season, and I wouldn't blame you. However, it seems that Rockies manager Bud Black has other ideas for his bullpen and believes in a bounce-back for his closer.

"In a perfect world, Wade is our closer and Scotty pitches in front of him in some capacity. That's based on Wade's great track record. That's our best scenario." - Bud Black, Rockies Manager

That may seem wild, but if Davis is getting the role in a shortened season and gets off to a hot start he will return tremendous value compared to his current ADP.

There are only 30 closer jobs in the league, and Davis has one of them. The scarcity of saves makes him worth drafting in roto leagues, especially. If you have done your due diligence and built a solid rotation and bullpen that can absorb his higher-than-we-would-like ratios, the addition of Davis can add some much-needed counting numbers in the saves and strikeout categories to your 2020 fantasy baseball roster.

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