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March 28, 2013
Fantasy Tier Rankings
Today we wrap up our positional tier rankings. Last offseason, Derek Carty tackled the tiers by himself; this spring, we've decided to attack them as a team. Players at each position will be divided into five tiers, represented by the number of stars.
Five-star players are the studs at their respective position. In general, they are the players that will be nabbed in the first couple of rounds of the draft, and they'll fetch auction bids in excess of $30. Four-star players are a cut below the studs at the position. They will also be earl- round selections, and they're projected to be worth more than $20 in most cases. Three-star players are the last tier in which players are projected to provide double-digit dollar value in auctions, and two-star players are projected to earn single digits in dollar value in auctions. One-star players are late round sleepers and roster placeholders. As was the case with our positional rankings series, the positional tiers aren't simply a regurgitation of the projected PECOTA values.
We retained last year's roster requirements for the positional tier series. Dollar values come from our PFM using a 12-team, standard 5x5 scoring format, with 23-man rosters and the following positions: C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) UT (1) P (9). The minimum bid for players is $1, and, as we did last year, we'll allocate $180 of a $260 budget to hitters. Players needed to play in 20 games at a position to qualify there. The PFM is customizable, so if your league uses a different format, you can adjust it to match your league settings and see how it impacts players’ dollar values.
You can find the previous Fantasy Tier Rankings posts here:
Here are the relievers:
It’s clear that Kimbrel belongs in a tier all his own. The fireballer became the first player in history to strike out over 50 percent of batters faced, a feat he accomplished while reducing his walk rate from 18 percent in his rookie season to just six percent last year. And, he’s shown no signs of slowing, seeing his fastball velocity increase the past three years while also avoiding a trip to the disabled list. In the good sense of the phrase, you get what you pay for.
I understand that Chapman has a higher ceiling than Papelbon , but the latter’s sustained excellence over the past seven years speaks louder to me. Rivera is now 43 and coming off a missed year, but remember, his injury was to his knee, not his arm or shoulder—and, who knows, the rest might prove beneficial.
The move to Texas certainly rejuvenated Nathan, who figures to flourish once again in Arlington. Whether due to magic plantains or actual skill, Rodney managed to compile one of the greatest relief-pitcher seasons in history after many years of mediocrity. I expect plenty of regression, but his success couldn’t have been entirely flukish.
This tier spans a large range, but basically, it’s the non-elite, reasonably talented closers with secure jobs. I’ll comment particularly on the closers that have moved significantly since the Reliever Rankings article was published two weeks ago.
I was a bit too bearish on Romo last time, following news that manager Bruce Bochy wanted to limit his workload. He should still get plenty of saves this year and post elite ratios. On the flip side, Reed’s ranking has taken a significant hit, dropping from 12th to 19th. He was hit hard last year, resulting in a .323 BABIP, a stat in which elite closers tend to excel.
Perez had his status for Opening Day clouded by a shoulder injury at the time of the last article, but with a successful Cactus League debut on Tuesday, he is now on track to be ready for Opening Day. Frieri’s rival, Ryan Madson, has suffered a setback with his elbow and will likely miss all of April. This gives Frieri a significant timeframe in which to establish himself as the Angels’ de facto closer.
Three-Star Value Pick: Grilli doesn’t have the closing experience of the other guys in this tier, but he brings a skillset that is equal or superior to those of the majority of his peers. His strikeout rate of 37 percent was the fourth highest in the majors, and he posted it while maintaining average control. Closing for the Pirates sometimes comes with a stigma attached, which may be responsible for deflating his value. Given Joel Hanrahan’s recent 40- and 36-save seasons as the Buccos closer, however, that sentiment is certainly unwarranted.
No specific timetable has been released for Motte, but I’m assuming he will return sometime in late April or early May from his elbow strain. Until then, Boggs will have the chance to earn a few saves, and there’s always a chance that Motte’s injury will prove more serious than originally thought. Janssen has made solid progress in recent days in his recovery, striking out five of six batters he’s faced. His status as the Blue Jays closer on Opening Day is essentially cemented.
It’s worth noting that League is already struggling this spring, allowing six runs in as many innings. It’s a small sample, and I still rank him over Jansen because you should almost always just favor the guy with the job. This one is as troubling as it gets, though.
The Detroit bullpen is as muddled as it was at the start of spring, thanks to Rondon’s inability to string together more than two uneventful appearances in a row. I suppose he’s still the frontrunner, but it’s a mess best avoided altogether.
Two-Star Value Pick: Janssen’s stock is on the rise, but even as recently as this past weekend, he went for just $9 in the AL Tout Auction and $6 in the Mixed (that yours truly participated in). He was truly dominant last year, with a 9.47 K/9 and a 1.55 BB/9. Even if those regress somewhat, he’s a solid bet to keep the job all year.
This is the tier of relievers either coming off an injury with a chance to reclaim a closing gig when healthy or behind particularly shaky closers. The chance of Madson or Francisco reclaiming closer roles when healthy depends a lot on how Frieri and Parnell are performing at the time. Gregerson is behind the most fragile closer in Huston Street, and he can also provide value with ratios when setting up. Pestano and Santos lost out on the chance to begin the season as their teams’ ninth-inning men when Perez and Janssen returned to the mound.
To close out this article, I will provide a list of the most valuable setup men to own for fantasy baseball. While these players are technically ranked behind the One Star players because they don’t have as clear a path to a closing gig, they can be valued higher if you are looking for ratio help: