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JB's Bullpen Method Redux 2023: Making FrankenAces Out of Relief Pitchers

Andres Munoz fantasy baseball rankings draft sleepers closers saves relief pitchers waiver wire

Three years ago, I finally published an article breaking down my favorite fantasy baseball strategy I have been using for over a decade. It's really less of a strategy and more of a state of mind. No, the Bullpen Method is a lifestyle. I always speak about the importance of balance on a fantasy team. For your pitching staff, I find this even more important.

You need steady and consistent balance, and to be frank with you, that is not possible with a bunch of starting pitchers on your roster. Sure, you can attack wins and strikeouts, but your ERA and WHIP have no chance at survival. There are only around 20 starting pitchers in all of baseball that I would trust with my team's ERA and WHIP, and people want to fill their roster with them.

When your draft day arrives before the start of the 2023 MLB season, I encourage you to try my bullpen method for roster construction.


Breaking Down JB's Bullpen Method

In a standard league, I will roster ~13 pitchers. Of the 13 pitchers I draft, six will be starters, and that usually drops to five during the season. That means the other seven or eight are relief pitchers, and I don't care if they are closers right now or not. For years, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller were anchors, then Josh Hader emerged before taking the closer role, and every year, a new crop of setup studs emerges like Devin Williams in 2020, Jonathan Loaisiga in 2021, or Jhoan Duran in 2022.

This is the Bullpen mentality, realizing that starting pitchers are heavily overrated in fantasy and subsequently, relief pitchers (especially setup men) are heavily underrated. Once you come to this epiphany, you can immediately take advantage of the common industry mistake and instantly witness improvement in your teams.

*Disclaimer - Please do not attempt this method in Points Leagues. Points leagues are made for heavy-volume starters and elite closers. This method absolutely crushes Roto leagues, where balance is king - and in H2H leagues where you can easily beat your opponent in 3 of 5 pitching categories (5 out of 5 if you are a talented SP streamer). 


Past Examples

Daily Roto

Example 1 is the 2019 RotoBaller Expert Roto League. Now, this was a daily roster-move league, not weekly. Daily leagues almost make it unfairly easy to use this method. Replacing non-starting starters with relievers every day maximizes your IP and puts you much higher in the standings for W and K than you would in weekly leagues.

I finished the season with 13 pitchers on the roster. As is custom, five of those were starters: Homer Bailey, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Ryan Yarbrough, Tyler Glasnow, and Dylan Bundy. Typically in a vacuum with that rotation, I should have had no business being in even the top half of the league's standings, right? What if I told you I won the league with over 100 roto points? Bullpen Method to the rescue! Since I told you just five of my 13 pitchers were starters, that means the other eight were obviously relievers. The eight RP on my roster were:

How hard do you think it was to draft this group of relievers in 2019? It's extremely easy and very cheap. All of them have an ERA below 2.80 and a WHIP below 1.09. Sprinkle in all the saves you pick up along the way as they change roles in the bullpen and you've just won three of five pitching categories handily.

Daily H2H

Let's look at another daily lineup-winning example from 2019 - this time in an H2H league. This time, my five starters looked much better with Gerrit Cole, Clayton Kershaw, Charlie Morton, Robbie Ray, and Ryan Yarbrough. Again, I went with 13 total pitchers, meaning I had eight relievers once again. Those eight relievers were:

  • Alex Colome (Four W, 30 SV, 55 K, 2.80 ERA, 1.07 WHIP)
  • Trevor May (Five W, Two SV, 79 K, 2.94 ERA, 1.07 WHIP)
  • Drew Pomeranz (Second half - 57 K, 1.96 ERA, 0.82 WHIP)
  • Chad Green (Second half - 55 K, 2.89 ERA, 0.96 WHIP)
  • Taylor Rogers (Two W, 30 SV, 90 K, 2.61 ERA, 1.00 WHIP)
  • Keone Kela (29.2 IP - Two W, One SV, 33 K, 2.12 ERA, 1.01 WHIP)
  • Ross Stripling (Four W, 93 K, 3.47 ERA, 1.15 WHIP)
  • Julio Urias (Four W, Four SV, 85 K, 2.49 ERA, 1.08 WHIP)

As you can see with the added boost I had at SP and it being an H2H league, I cared even less about finding Saves and focused more on the extra K from my bullpen while still nailing down the ERA and WHIP categories on a weekly basis. This is why I said earlier that the Bullpen Method is more of a mentality than an actual black-and-white strategy - you can tweak it based on the league and your roster build. We will look at some of the different drafting techniques within the method a little later.

Weekly Roto Overall

Okay, enough living in the past, even though they are beautiful examples. And enough with the low-hanging fruit daily roster-move leagues. Now, let's look at 2022 The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational.

This league is an overall contest, with weekly lineups and 15-team leagues. There were 450+ total teams in this contest. Now, weekly lineups do change the strategy a bit with the Bullpen Method. It becomes all about your RATIO. When I refer to the ratio, I am talking about how many starters versus how many relievers you have in your weekly lineup. There is no set answer for the optimal ratio, unfortunately. It takes some focus and hard work to determine your weekly ratio based on two things: your standings in each pitching category and your pitchers' schedules/upcoming matchups.

If you fell a few spots in W and K last week, you might go six SP, and three RP for the next week. After your 6:3 week, if you fell a few spots in ERA and WHIP, then you might go 5:4 next week. Say you have a 5:4 setup but pull up your SP's matchups and one of them has a one-start week in Coors, and one of them has a one-start week against Toronto. You might even benefit by a 3:6 ratio for a week. You will often find yourself comparing the possible effects of a starter's ~five IP, six K, 5.40 ERA, and 1.40 WHIP week versus a reliever's ~three IP, five K, 3.00 ERA, and 1.00 WHIP week. Again, it is a LOT of work, but man is it fun.

Okay, so back to my 2022 TGFBI team. Since we can not benefit from daily RP swaps into the lineup in a weekly league, I carry slightly fewer RP on my roster. I finished the season with five SPs and five RP. The five SPs were Justin Verlander, Sean Manaea, Kyle Wright, Carlos Carrasco, and Tyler Wells.  The five relievers were:

Verlander (seventh), Manaea (10th), and Barlow (11th) were my only pitchers drafted in the first 13 rounds. Needless to say, the offense was rowdy. I drafted six relievers, and only Scott Barlow and Tanner Houck remained all season, while Andrew Kittredge hurt me deeply in every league. But once again, fluidity.

Helsley, Holmes, and Sewald were all scooped up off of FAAB well before they had secured any saves for their team and easily replaced my "whiffs" like Kittredge, Lucas Sims, and Cole Sulser. So I drafted one successful "Closer" and still finished with 92 Saves (15 Roto Points).

As far as the results, I finished 60th overall out of 450+ teams and second in my league. My pitching roto points were as follows: W (14- with only five SP), SV (15), K (Two- would have hustled more to catch up in this category but accidentally blew all my FAAB on Vaughn Grissom), ERA (12), and WHIP (12). And of course, as is the way of the Bullpen Method, the offense results were also tasty: R (nine), HR (13), RBI (15), SB (14), and BA (Two- womp, womp, never again will that happen). All in all, I did pretty awful with my Bullpen draft selections, messed up badly on my FAAB management, and still finished fairly safely in second with 108 Roto Points and inside the top 75 overall.

That is basically how I explain the Bullpen Method to people when inquiring about its effectiveness in the big NFBC Overall contests. The floor will always be extremely high, even if you botch aspects of it like I did last year. But due to the weekly lineups and the fact that you are competing against many more teams than just those in your league, you would have to execute it flawlessly in order to dink an overall.

Full disclaimer and honesty, I have yet to do so - which is more of a testament to my management errors than the method, but nevertheless, if you are doing a handful of entries into an overall, I would still highly recommend you utilize this method for at least one of them. But if you are taking your one lotto ticket shot, do what you are most comfortable with instead and save the FrankenAces to win your single-league drafts.


Building FrankenAce Relievers

The first question most people ask when they see my drafts is - "How can you win without drafting aces?" Well, there are two answers. First, draft the sleepers that become aces. Like the 2019 example above, I was able to get Glasnow for very cheap. In 2020, I got Lance Lynn for a good value. In 2021, I got Wheeler and Gausman at draft spots they blew out of the water. Last season, people let me get Justin Verlander in the seventh-eighth round! That certainly helps. But the second and most important answer is YOU BUILD THEM WITH RELIEVERS.

Like Frankenstein, you can put together a stud ace with unwanted scraps you find on the waiver wire or late in the draft. This is the heart of the Bullpen Method. (Aaron Bummer and Drew Pomeranz will always have a place in my heart and on the FrankenAce logo)

Past FrankenAces

Let's do some hindsight FrankenAce building. The FrankenAce I want to point out from the shortened 2020 season was one built by my colleague and long-time friend, Nick Mariano. He is hands down the second-best FrankenAce builder on the planet and we have bounced relief pitcher strategies back and forth for years. He handily won the RotoBaller Expert League in 2020 and he did it with the help of a lethal "Willianthal" FrankenAce built by two undrafted relievers: Devin Williams and Trevor Rosenthal.

When we combine their stats from 2020, we get Five W, 91 K, 1.07 ERA, and a 0.73 WHIP. Now, let's compare the stats of 2020 fantasy golden boy Lucas Giolito: Four W, 97 K, 3.48 ERA, and a 1.04 WHIP. Thanks to Rosenthal's 11 saves, undrafted Willianthal FrankenAce just beat Gioltio in four of five categories, losing strikeouts by only six.

For our 2021 FrankenAce, let's use a guy I drafted at 432 overall in TGFBI, and another that I picked up in FAAB after Aaron Bummer got injured. Chad Green + Tyler Rogers = "Greegers"? Their combined 2021 stats were: 17 W, 19 SV, 154 K, 2.68 ERA, and a 0.97 WHIP. The first SP off the boards, Gerrit Cole, finished with 16 W, 0 SV, 243 K, 3.23 ERA, and a 1.06 WHIP. 

In 2022, I think one of the greatest FrankenAces of all time was created in the TGFBI. Both free agents I scored for a combined FAAB of around $50 (out of 1,000), The "Helmes Deep" combo of Ryan Helsley and Clay Holmes was LETHAL. They combined for 16 W, 39 SV, 159 K, 1.90 ERA, and a 0.88 WHIP. The Cy-Young award winner Justin Verlander balled out to the tune of 18 W, 0 SV, 185 K, 1.75 ERA, and a 0.83 WHIP. He had "Helmes Deep" barely beat, but still fell 39 saves short and cost a seventh-round draft pick versus a 5% FAAB budget.

Pretty simple, no? So we are not only making FrankenAces out of late-round picks/free-agent pickups but at the same time, our offense is STACKED because while the rest of the league was wasting picks on their starting pitchers in the early rounds, we were grabbing the elite bats. That is the soul of the Bullpen Method and why it is so deadly. You are stacking your offensive categories and then winning/catching up on pitching categories on the back end without breaking a sweat.


JBullpen Method Drafting Strategy

As I have said numerous times already in this article, and will probably say a few more times - this is not a black-and-white strategy. You can't say "I drafted Andrew Kittredge because JB said relievers were better than starters and he stunk so I lost." That's why it is more of a state of mind, where names and roles don't really matter. All you care about is numbers. If one guy isn't getting it done, move on, even if he is getting saves.

With that being said, I have noticed over the years that the drafting strategy, specifically how you handle starting pitchers and closers, really doesn't matter with the Bullpen Method, which is what makes it so cool. You can get five true aces as your starting pitchers, you can get one ace and four mid-late round starters, or you can wait until Round 10 to get your first starter. Names don't matter. Those ~five arms are there to get you IP, W, and K to keep you afloat in those categories while your bullpen does the rest.

I ran a mock draft with my most common draft technique to show how little you need to focus on pitching early, especially starting pitchers. *I used FantasyPros for the mock with 12 teams, 5x5 Roto categories, and 29 roster spots: 2C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CIF, MIF, OF x 5, UTIL, P x 9, Bench x 6. Picking from the 12th spot. 


HITTERS (1 x SP, 1 x RP in first 10 Rounds) Picking from the 12th spot. (Click either image to enlarge)

This draft technique is most common with the Bullpen Method. I get one top 100 overall SP after some elite bats, in this case, Kevin Gausman. Then I might grab some stud relievers that happen to fall into my lap for those elite ratios, in this case, Jhoan Duran, David Bednar, and Andres Munoz.

But other than that, the first half of the draft is really all about the bats. I can get basically whatever hitters I want and really blow the league away offensively. Then, hit the pitching fast and furious in the second half until I filled my six-man rotation. In this one, I went with seven SPs. I got my SP2 in Round 12 in Lance Lynn. Then I filled out the rotation with Drew RasmussenAlex Cobb, Tyler Mahle, Garrett Whitlock, and Zach Eflin. The final bullpen was Duran, Bednar, Munoz, Evan Phillips, Jason Adam, and Daniel Hudson. Let's see how the projections look:

This is the prototypical league roto rankings layout for my teams. My offense is competing for the top spot in all categories because of the number of first-half picks on the stud hitters. Saves, ERA, and WHIP are GRAVY- despite only having two pitchers after Round 10. That is the power of the Bullpen. Some successful SP-streaming throughout the season can vastly improve the K totals for some extra first-place padding, especially in daily-roster move leagues. Wins will take care of themselves as all great RP tend to beat their W projections. It is the way.

2023 Drafts

Mock drafts are fun and all, but computers are not saves-thirsty humans. The RP landscape has changed drastically, you can no longer get top relievers in the middle rounds so easily. So I will now show how I conducted DC150 and TGBFI drafts this season. Unfortunately, my home/fun H2H and Roto league drafts don't occur until the end of the month like most of yours, but you can bet those will be beautiful.


Now we are up to a 15-team league, which obviously increases the level of difficulty in avoiding weaknesses, and for me and my method, it's typically always going to be W and K. In the DC, I had to take three pitchers in the first 10 rounds (absurd, I know): Shane Bieber-fourth, Kevin Gausman-fifth, and Chris Bassitt-10th.

I still avoided missing an elite bat for a top closer, however. Rocking 50-round rosters, I ended up with 11 RPs: Those 11 RPs were as follows: Jhoan Duran (eight), Seranthony Dominguez (18), Daniel Hudson (20), Reynaldo Lopez (23), Andrew Chafin (25), Adbert Alzolay (29), Domingo Acevedo (33), Garrett Cleavinger (38), Zach Jackson (42), Mychal Givens (46), and Robert Stephenson (48).

But would you look at that....only apparent weakness is...SAVES. Oh, the horror! Of course, that is all phooey, as projections can not predict saves nearly as accurately as our brains. Think back to that "Helmes Deep" FrankenAce from 2022. I bet projections had a combined five saves between those two. So this is a great sign that I destroyed the offensive categories with early bats AND caught up in W and K before Round 50.


Once again a 15-team league overall contest, but this time only a 30-man roster instead of the deep 50. I was a little bit heavier on pitchers in the first 10 rounds of the draft this go around because I felt the league was focused more heavily on reaching out for their pitchers and leaving more value at hitter than usual, which I utilized to get more of "my guys" at better than expected prices. So I did have four pitchers through 10 rounds, but through 15 rounds, I was at five pitchers total, which got me back in line for my norm.

I ended the 30-round draft with my usual 13 pitchers - six starters and seven relievers. Dylan Cease (four), Chris Sale (10), Hunter Brown (15), Tyler Anderson (19), Ross Stripling (21), and Matthew Boyd (27) round out my rotation and have a solid mix of strikeout and W potential. The bullpen consists of Jhoan Duran (eight), Andres Munoz (nine), Jason Adam (18), A.J. Puk (24), A.J. Minter (26), Andrew Chafin (28), and Adbert Alzolay (29).

Obviously, I went the whole draft without a certified closer, but I'm confident that at any given time, 2-3 of these guys will be getting saves for their team while also providing excellent ratios and racking up those relief wins.

Say what you want about the offense, I know a lot of these guys have vastly-differing opinions about them on Twitter, but I can honestly say that I was able to get all 15 guys I was aiming for at each position. Mike Zunino doesn't count, since Shea Langeliers will have catcher eligibility shortly into the season and Zunino will be dropped for another arm. But it is a rare occurrence to land all the guys you had circled for each spot, and when you get to spend 10/15 first picks on hitters, anything is possible.


2023 RP Targets

This season, once I reach the second half of the draft and start filling my rotation and bullpen, these are some late-round relievers I'm targeting to build some FrankenAces:

Jhoan Duran, MIN - 145 ADP/ Andres Munoz, SEA - 170 ADP

I paired these two studs together since they are the only sub-200 ADP guys on the list, but also because I usually leave every single draft with at least one of them as my RP1. These are two top SEVEN relievers outside of fantasy based on pure filth and ability. Since neither is currently slotted in as their teams' "closer" on RosterResource, they are being drafted as RP15 and RP17, respectively.

Duran is 25 and was in the top 10% of the league in xBA, xSLG, xwOBA, K%, and xERA. Munoz is 24 and was in the top 3% of the league in xBA, xSLG, xwOBA, K%, and xERA. I simply cannot allow my league-mates to enjoy the fruits of this ADP.

Paul Sewald and Jorge Lopez are not the dudes to keep these two young top-of-the-league arms at bay. Sure, they may not get the majority of the saves in Minnesota and Seattle, but with the elite ratios and relief wins they rack up, I will gladly accept the ~40% save share that I expect. Filth and faith.

Pete Fairbanks, TBR - 205 ADP/ Jason Adam, TBR - 365 ADP

I love targeting Tampa relievers every year. Not only because they consistently get great results but because they love their committees, which means ADPs are suppressed for amazing relievers. Enter Fairbanks and Adam. Recovery from a torn lat muscle is probably the only thing saving Fairbanks from about a 50+ pick boost in his ADP since he was limited to just 24 innings in 2022.

If he had done what he did over a full season, he very well could be getting taken before the two studs we just talked about above. Across that small sample, he boasted career-best marks with a 1.13 ERA (1.03 xERA, 1.12 xFIP), 0.67 WHIP, 43.7 K%, and a wild 3.4 BB%. Considering he never owned a BB% under 10% in his career, if Fairbanks has really found a way to minimize the walks, the sky is the limit.

After making his 2022 debut on July 17th, he went on to secure eight saves and six holds in the second half. His teammate Jason Adam during that same timeframe nailed down five saves and eight holds, capping off a breakout campaign of his own that finished with eight saves, 1.56 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, and 31.6 K%. Kevin Cash should continue to utilize this beautiful ninth-inning duo to his advantage in 2023.

Evan Phillips, LAD - 280 ADP/ Daniel Hudson, LAD - 390 ADP/ Brusdar Graterol, LAD - 530 ADP

What a fun bullpen this is going to be, and that's after losing Craig Kimbrel this offseason. Addition by subtraction. I love all three of these guys but for three different reasons. Phillips for saves out the gate, Hudson for saves later in the season, and Graterol for the filth ceiling.

As Hudson returns from a torn ACL, Phillips should be the favorite for early ninth-inning opportunities. The 28-year-old broke out in a big way in 2022 and finished in the top 2% in xBA, xSLG, xwOBA, and xERA. His 1.14 ERA led the league. He reduced the usage of his 4-seam, continued to rely heavily on his sweeper, and introduced a shiny new cutter to his arsenal - which he threw almost exclusively to LHB. It is by no means a whiff-inducing pitch, but after its addition, his sweeper and 4-seam saw drastic improvements against LHB, which aided greatly in the breakout.

Unfortunately for Phillips fans, I do believe once Huddy is fully back to 100%, Dave Roberts will lean on his crusty veteran to close out the majority of games going forward. He is the Paul Sewald to our Phillips' Munoz. It's not bad news for Dodgers fans though as despite only throwing 24.1 IP prior to the injury, Hudson was also balling out to the tune of five saves, 2.22 ERA (2.74 xERA), and 0.90 WHIP.

He has been my favorite target of the three this draft season due to the ADP value and Phillips' ever-increasing helium - as deserved as it may be. Graterol is a Draft and Hold, or very deep bench league target late in drafts. I love this kid and am convinced that as soon as 2024, he's a top 10 closer in the league, or at worst, a prime Diego Castillo FrankenAce anchor. If either Phillips or Hudson loses time to injury or has an in-season implosion as many relievers fall victim to, Graterol should be instantly inserted into the ninth-inning conversation. Filth and faith.

Alex Lange, DET - 370 ADP

I am proud to say that I was an Alex Lange owner and fan before 2023. Of course, it was a holds league, but still, I knew this day was coming even if Gregory Soto had remained in Detroit. This brings me to my next point, Soto is gone! Since the Soto trade, Lange's ADP has shot up to ~250 on NFBC. But hopefully, in those fun home leagues, he's still buried on the draft board list.

The 27-year-old had a fairly impressive 2022 campaign, nabbing 24 Holds while sporting a 3.41 ERA, 3.29 xERA, and 30.3 K%. He made some drastic pitch mix changes after a very mediocre start to his MLB career in 2021. Scrapping his 4-seam fastball, he threw his curveball at a league-leading 48.8% rate. His curve's 57.8 Whiff% was the 10th-highest of any pitch in baseball, and replacing his 4-seam with a sinker aided in raising his GB% over 10 points while subsequently dropping his LD%.

But as we saw for many seasons in Boston with Matt Barnes, when you live and die by the curveball, finding the strike zone can be quite difficult. Lange was no exception as his 11.4 BB% slightly bloated his ratios (1.23 WHIP). There may be some rough wild stretches along the road, but you will be hard-pressed to find a safer source of saves this late in drafts, especially with a helpful ERA and K%.

A.J. Puk, MIA - 440 ADP

Miami did not trade for Puk to be a starter. They did not trade for him to be a long reliever. The former top pitching prospect was acquired to be a high-leverage reliever, something the Fish desperately need. Dylan Floro, Tanner Scott, and Matt Barnes are great bandaids, but A.J. Puk could become the guy before the season's end.

But for the time being, Skip Schumaker states “our best guys are going to be against their best hitters.” It's hard to argue with anyone, but Puk would be the best guy out of the gate based on his skill set, which leads me to believe that while it won't be all the saves, Puk will get the chance to see some opportunities when the situation arises.

It's easy to write him off after all the letdowns and injuries, but over 91 career innings, he owns a 3.56 ERA, including a 2.23 ERA away from Oakland's Coliseum (good luck making that make sense). I expect the change of scenery and the new role to kickstart the beginning of a great stretch of success for Puk out of Miami's pen.

Reynaldo Lopez, CWS - 505 ADP

Once a starter, now a reliever, instant eyeballs emoji from me. You're telling me there is also a great chance that he starts the season in a closer committee with a 32-year-old fresh off a 1.40 WHIP campaign? Let's upgrade that up to the fire emoji. Unfortunately, there is a void at the top of the White Sox bullpen after it was announced Liam Hendriks is battling Lymphoma (prayers!) and Reynaldo Lopez is fresh off an impressive first season as a full-time reliever.

Across those 65.1 innings, ReyLo rocked a 2.76 ERA and 0.95 WHIP while racking up six wins and 63 punchouts.  The strikeout numbers are a bit meh, but he certainly made up for it with a minuscule 4.0 BB%. The ChiSox also still have former FrankenAce highlight Aaron Bummer and Joe Kelly in the pen, so I'm certainly not banking on Lopez ever seizing the closer role for himself in 2023. But realistically, just give us last year's production (which looks quite sustainable) with even just 6-10 saves and holy value, Batman.

Michael King, NYY - 513 ADP

Chad Green was always one of my favorite RPs to roster in fantasy for the bullpen method. In 2021, he pitched an absurd 83.2 innings and racked up 10 wins and six saves while striking out 99 hitters. If you add in the 3.12 ERA and 0.88 WHIP, you almost have a decent SP by himself - with a saves bonus.

Who is the next reliever in baseball to pitch at that level of volume while still upholding beneficial ratios? Adbert Alzolay is certainly a candidate....but Michael King is the hands-down favorite. I mean, he's even on the same team as prime Green, so it's almost too easy of a comparison. Before fracturing his elbow, promptly ending his season, King had accrued 51 innings through July 22.

That is one hell of a pace. While Green possessed just a two-pitch mix, King boasts a tantalizing four-pitch arsenal with a disgusting strikeout pitch for both sides of the plate. Against RHB, he throws a sinker and sweeper combo. Against LHB, he throws his 4-seam and changeup combo. The sweeper owned a 41.2 Whiff%, .161 xBA, and .194 xSLG. The changeup boasted a 59.5 Whiff%, .122 xBA, and .149 xSLG. Overall, his 2.42 xFIP was the eighth-best among relievers. Not only is this guy my next Chad Green, but I believe he will be even better at it.

Adbert Alzolay, CHC - 530 ADP

There's something about converted starters that really gets my blood pumping, as you have seen from a few other names on this list. Alzolay had some lofty expectations tied to him as a starter earlier in his career, but unfortunately, those never came to fruition. But there is certainly a silver lining here, as the Cubs announced he would be used exclusively as a reliever in 2023.

The sample size isn't huge by any means but Alzolay does have a chunk of time as a reliever under his belt. Across 42.2 innings out of the pen, the 28-year-old boasts a cute 2.32 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 32.9 K%. Compare that to his 5.39 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 24.3 K% across 130 IP as a starter, and it's pretty clear that the Cubs are making the right decision.

Now consider the fact that the Cubs don't have a solidified closer, and we are cooking with hot gas. Yes, Brandon Hughes did well last season, but he's the only LHP currently projected in the bullpen. Yes, they signed Michael Fulmer, but he's just covered in Tigers stench and owns a career 19.7 K%.

Yes, they also acquired Brad Boxberger, but he's 34 and hasn't been trusted as a team's closer since 2018. Okay, so maybe it's an uphill battle to the closer role for Alzolay, but you know what? The closer role won't even be necessary for him to be a fantasy asset. We'll still get a bunch of innings, lots of wins, lots of strikeouts, great ratios, and perhaps a sprinkle of saves for the cherry on top.

Andrew Chafin, ARI - 536 ADP

There is just one man that holds the coveted 100% shares on my NFBC teams this year - and it is Andrew Chafin of all people. Last season, it was Andrew Kittredge, so hopefully this is not the kiss of death. But at this price, with his track record and a chance at leading his team in saves.... how could I not? Over the last five seasons, among all relievers with at least 250 innings, Chafin is tied with Aroldis Chapman and Giovanny Gallegos for the 13th-best ERA (3.05). Unfortunately, he has pitched for the Diamondbacks, Cubs, Athletics, and Tigers during that time frame, so the low W and SV totals have successfully kept him off fantasy radars.

Of course, he is now back with Arizona for 2023, but things are a bit different this time around. Now the only arms he has to compete against to add a load of saves to his resume are Kevin Ginkel, Joe Mantiply, and Mark Melancon. One would assume Ginkel has the best chance at blocking Chafin, but he has just 98 total big-league innings under his belt and half of those were quite ugly. Mantiply is not on Chafin's level and both are southpaws, meaning one will need to be used as a wrong-handed setup man. That leaves Melancon, who of course has enjoyed a very respectable career - but his 14.2 K% last season shows that unfortunately, I don't think there is much left in that tank.

Chafin, on the other hand, still possesses a slider that boasted the eighth-highest Whiff% of any pitch in baseball last season. The Arizona offense should be greatly improved this season, and the rotation depth is looking quite promising with the trio of youngsters (Drey Jameson, Brandon Pfaadt, and Ryne Nelson) chomping at the bit to earn a spot this Spring. Chafin is a nicely wrapped gift awaiting fantasy managers at the end of drafts.

A.J. Minter, ATL - 545 ADP

Minter already has some really good seasons on his resume, but in 2022, he stepped into great territory. Out of the 16 relievers to make it to the coveted 70-inning club, no one came near matching Minter's 34.7 K%. He also finished in the top 4% of the league in xBA, xwOBA, and xERA.

They just don't make them like Minter anymore. Stupid high floor with a silly high ceiling. He lost some favor in his cutter, as it was surpassed by ol' faithful 4-seam as his primary pitch. The hitters actually lucked into a .338 BA against the cutter, despite a lowly .235 xBA - and yet he still put up those stats. As far as his chance at saves with Raisel Iglesias still in town, I look at it quite simply and remember Brian Snitker is a wild man.

Let's look at how Minter was used prior to Iglesias being acquired. When it was Kenley Jansen and A.J. Minter at the top, Minter racked up five saves in the first half. Now, we just replace Kenley Jansen with Raisel and easy multiplication leads us to expect around 10 saves with elite ratios and top five-RP strikeout numbers. Filth and faith.

Erik Swanson, TOR - 610 ADP

I can't quite put my finger on it, but I don't trust Jordan Romano. Maybe it is only having a two-pitch mix. Maybe it's him flip-flopping between those two as his primary each season. Maybe it's the slight decrease in velo or a five-point drop in K% from 2021. Maybe it's the EV numbers he allowed. I think it's a mixture of all of the above. But whatever the reason, this is not a don't draft Jordan Romano article.

By the way, the Teoscar Hernandez trade really has me intrigued with Erik Swanson for 2023. Maybe the Blue Jays are feeling the same way I do. A whole lot of maybes all to say Erik Swanson was a stone-cold killer on the mound last year. Coming out of essentially nowhere, he finished the season with a sparkling 1.74 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, the fifth-highest K-BB%, and a southpaw-neutralizing splitter.

Lefties hit just .154 with a .269 SLG against the splitter and .200 with a .295 SLG overall against Swanson. I'm not going to even attempt to throw out a saves projection for him this season, but I will say that the AL East is no place for long leashes on closers, even ones with great track records. At this price, the gamble is more than worth it in Draft and Holds or deep roster leagues.

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