March 13, 2013
Pre-Season Positional Rankings
Top 40 Fantasy Relievers
The Baseball Prospectus fantasy team has been rolling out its positional rankings over the past couple of weeks, and this edition concludes the process. Each team member assigned to cover a position will create an initial top 15 (more for outfielders, starting pitchers, and relief pitchers) on his own. He will then send that list to the rest of the team for discussion, at which point we will debate the rankings, both in terms of each player’s specific placement and the merits on which he was included in the top 15. This back-and-forth debate will yield the final list, which will be presented by the original author with notes on the pertinent players. We encourage you to bring your opinions into the fray using the comment section below.
Here are the previous rankings lists:
Today, we bring you our top 40 relievers.
Last year was a brutal one for closers: Less than half of the pitchers who began the season as their team’s ninth-inning man were able to keep that role from Opening Day through game 162. From a fantasy standpoint, does this volatility mean that you should avoid overpaying for closers in the draft? Or, conversely, does it suggest that you should pay a premium for the safer ones?
The answer to this question depends on your league setup—specifically the means by which free agents are acquired. In FAAB leagues, buying a newly anointed closer is often very expensive, making the draft price reasonable in comparison. In a first-come, first-serve system, it’s possible to avoid closers in the draft and still pick up enough saves throughout the season, if you remain vigilant about following bullpen changes around the league from beginning to end. You have to know yourself and your league-mates, though, and be willing to put in the required effort during the season. When watching a movie with your girlfriend on a Thursday night, you have to be willing to hit the “pause” button if you hear that Fernando Rodney just left the Rays game clutching his arm.
I generally advocate a quantity approach to drafting closers. It’s not necessary to get a top closer, but in a 12-14 team league, grabbing three closers—or two in 15-20 team leagues—gives you a nice edge in the saves category from the outset. It’s easy to get stuck in the middle rounds (7-15) of a draft, and in those moments, I always have a queue of closers ready to go. They often aren’t the best picks, but drafting one can prevent you from making an ill-advised mistake that could impact the rest of your draft. And, if you get lucky and all of your closer picks work out, ninth-inning men are typically easy to trade during the season to address other needs.