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Late-Round Closers and Relievers - Fantasy Baseball Draft Values And Targets

Alex Lange - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB Injury News

Welcome officially to the 2023 fantasy baseball season! Late-round picks in fantasy baseball can often be the difference between a mediocre team and a championship contender. While it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of selecting big-name players early in the draft, finding those hidden gems in the later rounds is equally essential. As a fantasy manager, it's crucial to do your due diligence and research these overlooked players' statistics, injury history, and current team situation. While taking a chance on a player based on a hunch or a cool name may seem appealing, making informed decisions that increase your chances of success is the wiser strategy. With careful consideration and some luck, these late-round picks could be the key to unlocking your team's full potential.

Today, we're looking at some late-round relief pitchers for you to consider drafting in your season-long leagues this season. Are their ADPs undervalued? Will they make significant fantasy contributions and become a priority late-round draft target? Read on to see our take.

Our editors have hand-picked these specific MLB players for your draft prep enjoyment. Usually only available to Premium subscribers, the five outlooks below are meant to give you a taste of the in-depth analysis you receive with our industry-leading 2023 Draft Kit. Be sure to subscribe today to start reading all of our in-depth 2023 player outlooks and many other premium articles and tools including Team Sync, the Live Draft Sync assistant, Custom Rankings Service, and so much more – available exclusively in our 2023 Draft Kit.

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Jose Leclerc, Texas Rangers

After throwing just two innings over the last two years, Leclerc returned to the Rangers in late June and showed he could still sling it. He obviously wasn't inserted into high-leverage situations immediately after such a long recovery, but over his last 20 appearances of 2022, he secured seven saves and two holds.

I'd like to say that means something positive in terms of trust from management for the 2023 season, but with Bruce Bochy being hired as the new manager there is some risk. In the past, Bochy has utilized more than one reliever as his closer. But in his most recent season with the Giants in 2019, Will Smith earned 34 out of the team's 41 saves.

With Jonathan Hernandez and Brock Burke also lurking as potential late-game matchup options for Bochy, it is unlikely any Rangers reliever is rocking 30+ saves at the end of the season. But Jose Leclerc is the veteran of the trio with the most closing experience and that should go a long way with his new skipper.

Leclerc finished 2022 with a 27.3 K%, 2.83 ERA (3.17 xERA), and a 1.13 WHIP. At an ADP of ~197, even roughly two-thirds of the save opportunities on the new-look Rangers will make Leclerc well worth the draft pick.

-- JB Branson - RotoBaller


Alex Lange, Detroit Tigers

Before January there wasn't much thought of Alex Lange in early fantasy drafts, as he was rocking a ~465 ADP. But now that Gregory Soto has been traded to Philadelphia, people are starting to look around at the Detroit relievers and realize Lange is the best shot for the ninth inning.

Since the Soto trade, Lange ADP has shot up to ~255. 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 tenth highest of any pitch in baseball, and replacing his 4-seam with a sinker aided in raising his GB% over ten points while subsequently also dropping his LD% by over ten points. 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% bloated his ratios (1.23 WHIP). There will 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.

-- JB Branson - RotoBaller


Kyle Finnegan, Washington Nationals

Washington Nationals relief pitcher Kyle Finnegan had an overall successful season serving in high-leverage situations, particularly after taking over closing duties in the second half of the season.

The 31-year-old went 6-4 with 14 holds and 11 of 15 save opportunities converted with a 3.51 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 26.1% strikeout rate. Finnegan relied heavily on a 97-MPH sinker at 78.8% usage with a slider and split-finger fastball mixed in.

He did get hit hard but kept the ball out of the air with an 8.3-degree launch angle. While the Nationals likely won't be the best source of save opportunities, Finnegan doesn't appear to have a ton of competition for the closer role, with Tanner Rainey (elbow) recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Finnegan is currently being drafted at about pick 267 overall, putting him well behind other speculative bullpen picks. He is well worth a pick at that position in roto leagues given the prospect of him retaining the closer's role throughout the season.

-- Connelly Doan - RotoBaller


Daniel Hudson, Los Angeles Dodgers

It remains to be seen if Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Daniel Hudson (knee) will be ready for the start of the 2023 season after tearing his ACL in June of last year. But when he's ready, he could see a healthy amount of save chances in LA in what is expected to be a committee approach to the ninth inning among Hudson, Evan PhillipsAlex Vesia, and Brusdar Graterol.

The 35-year-old right-hander had allowed only six earned runs on five walks and 30 strikeouts while recording five saves and nine holds in 24 1/3 innings before his season-ending knee injury in 2022.

In 2021 with the Nationals and Padres, Hudson had a solid 3.31 ERA (3.21 FIP), 1.08 WHIP, and a career-high 35.7% strikeout rate. The veteran high-end reliever is getting up there in age, but as long as he's healthy, he could return some very nice late-round fantasy value for those speculating on saves. Don't forget: Hudson pitches for one of the best teams in baseball.

-- Keith Hernandez - RotoBaller


Jorge Lopez, Minnesota Twins

Throughout his first 350 big league innings, Jorge Lopez owned a sweet 6.04 ERA. So despite him being converted into a reliever, it's safe to say he wasn't on many 2022 fantasy radars. But after Baltimore traded both Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott to Miami just before the season, Lopez stepped up in a big way.

After his first 48.1 innings of the season, he owned a sparkling 1.68 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 27.6 K%, and had nailed down 19 saves. Then as one does with an over-performing reliever, Lopez was shipped to Minnesota at the trade deadline. The magic stayed in Baltimore, however. For the rest of the season, the breakout reliever struggled to the tune of a 4.37 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, and a 17.6 K%.

That's the bad news. The good news is nothing changed substantially in his velocity or pitch mix. His primary pitch, the sinker, actually gained more movement as the season went on as his production started to dip. Obviously a tough "break" for a pitcher that had been living on his sinker up in the zone, and understandably a tall order to get it squared away in the thick of the season.

Assuming the six months away is long enough to smooth out the sinker kinks, or skinks, we should expect to see Jorge Lopez seeing the rough majority share of Minnesota save chances in 2023. Jhoan Duran is the superior talent, but it appears Rocco Baldelli prefers to utilize him in a fireman role instead of only in the 9th - which will lead to Jorge Lopez actually being a great safety net for those in need of saves around pick ~252.

-- JB Branson - RotoBaller

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