Relief Pitchers and Closers - Overvalued and Undervalued

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Now that the first day of Spring has passed, we are now entering the prime season for fantasy baseball drafts.

Before you enter your draft room this year, it would behoove you to check out our ADP analysis pieces here at RotoBaller. This will ensure you have a good working knowledge of how players are being viewed, when to grab your targeted guys, and when to let your league mates jump on a guy going too early. In the end, you will look like a genius.

I have been obsessed with relief pitchers my whole life, and always end up drafting more than I probably should. But with that being said, I have grown quite a knack for sniffing out value in the late innings. So let's take a look at what relievers are currently going too early and too late in 2017 fantasy drafts.

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Overvalued Relief Pitchers

Mark Melancon, San Francisco Giants          

2017 ADP: 78, RP4

This isn't a huge overvaluation on Melancon, because he certainly is a top five closer in baseball. He has been incredible over the past four years, posting ERA's of 1.64, 2.23, 1.90, and 1.39. But in fantasy, you are trying to win based on specific categories, and drafting the 58th ranked RP in strikeouts as the fourth best RP seems like a stretch. I am not against drafting Melancon at all, as I do love using a heavy RP approach to drag down my ERA and WHIP. But I am not passing up Seung Hwan Oh and Wade Davis (RP5 and RP6) who will also give me elite ERA/WHIP help while assisting my K totals moreso than Melancon. To me, Melancon is more of an RP7 after Oh, Davis, and a player to be named later.

 

David Robertson, Chicago White Sox          

2017 ADP: 134, RP17

Robertson had his worst season since 2010 last year. His ERA rose for the third straight season, finishing at 3.47. He experienced a huge increase in walks and a significant drop in strikeouts. It is popular belief that he will be traded this season, which seems like it would boost his value getting away from a rebuilding roster. But when you see that he owned a 4.73 ERA away from Cellular Field last year, and a 4.57 ERA away the previous season, it seems a bit scary. Then there is Nate Jones, who has been phenomenal the past two years and will be a threat to steal saves from Robertson all year. He is still a good source of strikeouts out of the RP position, but I would rather take all three of my undervalued options listed below instead of DRob in 2017.

 

Adam Ottavino, Colorado Rockies          

2017 ADP: 191, RP24

After his dominant performance returning from Tommy John surgery in 2016, Ottavino seems to be a popular sleeper pick heading into 2017. He boasted a 2.67 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and an 11.67 K/9 last season. With those type of numbers for a closer, he would certainly not be considered overvalued with his 16th round ADP. But the Colorado Rockies went out and signed Greg Holland this offseason, a reliever two years removed from two consecutive campaigns with at least 46 SV and a sub-1.50 ERA for the Kansas City Royals. Holland could be a nice flip at the trade deadline, but the Rockies could be in the thick of a playoff race. Holland should lead the Rockies in saves in 2017. A 10 SV RP at Coors Field doesn't entice me enough to pass up someone like Cam Bedrosian or Hector Neris, both of whom are in similar situations, but much closer to sea level.

 

Undervalued Relief Pitchers

Ken Giles, Houston Astros          

2017 ADP: 107, RP11

Ken Giles will be a top five closer in 2017. After the All-Star break he owned the highest K/9 and swinging strike rate in baseball. A spike in his HR/FB% saw his ERA rise to 4.11, but he had pitched to the tune of a 1.80 and 1.18 ERA in back to back seasons in Philly previously. He is not going to share saves with the likes of Will Harris and Luke Gregerson again, which means the Astros' 44 total saves from 2016 (12th most in the league) could be all his, to go along with over 100 K and an ERA that should drop back down in the 2.00's. Give me that over Mark Melancon all day, every day.

 

Francisco Rodriguez, Detroit Tigers          

2017 ADP: 144, RP19

In this range of RP, job security can play a huge role. Which is why I think it's crazy that A.J. Ramos and David Robertson, two guys who aren't even the best relievers on their own team, are being drafted ahead of KRod. Even at the age of 35, Rodriguez is still getting it done on the mound, and earned 44 SV with a 3.24 ERA in his first season as a Detroit Tiger. He has managed to pitch over 55 innings three straight years, and has no competition for the closing gig in Detroit. He can no longer miss bats like he used to in his prime, but at this point in the draft I will gladly take the decorated veteran pitching in a better situation.

 

Shawn Kelley, Washington Nationals          

2017 ADP: 195, RP25

Shawn Kelley is the Nationals' closer. Joe Blanton and Koda Glover are going to be Holds League sleepers, but I don't see either of the two taking the job away from Kelley. The Nats aren't going to have to sell out for a closer at the deadline either. By then, they will have realized they have a pretty darn good one already. For two consecutive years now, Kelley has owned a sub-3.00 ERA. Last season he cut down his walks, and increased his strikeouts to an impressive 12.41 K/9. Even with a bit of expected regression in the ERA due to a low BABIP and high LOB%, 75 K with a 3.00 ERA out of a closer for a World Series contender should be drafted way before his current ADP. I view Kelley as a RP15 for 2017, in Cody Allen and Alexander Colome territory.

*Since writing this article, Koda Glover has earned a lot of hype due to Dusty Baker repeatedly rolling him out in the ninth. Reportedly, he is testing the youngster to see if he is ready to take on the closer role this year. This obviously would make Kelley far less desirable. So, if any concrete news revolving this bullpen breaks before your fantasy draft, replace Kelley's name with Glover above. But until then, I continue to put my faith in the veteran.

 

Cam Bedrosian, Los Angeles Angels          

2017 ADP: 210, RP27

The son of a legendary closer that won a Cy-Young Award, Cam Bedrosian could very well have the Angels closer gig sealed up by the end of spring training. After his call up last year, he threw 40.1 innings in which he earned a 1.12 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP, along with an 11.38 K/9. Huston Street is still owed salary, but no amount of money should keep a man in a closer role after suffering through a 6.45 ERA and 5.64 K/9 last season. Plus, Street is currently shut down for a lat strain. There is way too much upside here to be going this late. Don't let Bedrosian slide folks.

 

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