Our fantasy team identifies bullpen arms who might be good value picks this season.
Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians
2016 was the fourth consecutive season that Allen threw at least 68 innings, a stretch during which he’s never struck out fewer than 11.3 batters per nine innings. On top of his regular season excellence, Allen threw 13.2 innings of scoreless ball in the playoffs, striking out 24 of the 55 batters he faced. Andrew Miller’s postseason grabbed most of the headlines because of the creativity with which he was used and the sheer volume of innings he racked up, but Allen’s performance matched the tall lefty’s on a per inning basis. Most importantly for our game, Allen notched six October saves to Miller’s zero, continuing the predominant usage pattern Terry Francona established after Miller’s arrival at the trade deadline. Allen saved 12 games to Miller’s three from August on. You have to take these things with a grain of salt, but Tito affirmatively declared Allen the primary closer recently. Will Miller poach a save here or there? Yeah, sure, but given what saw down the stretch last year, there’s little reason to believe a sea change is coming.
A look at where players at htis position have been selected in drafts held to date.
Welcome to reliever week, which I can only assume is everybody’s favorite week here at Baseball Prospectus. In this space, we’ll be looking at average ADP data from NFBC for the final time. One thing I notice right off the bat is that people are willing to be a bit more aggressive at RP this year. On top of that, there aren’t many fallers at this position, since ineffective relievers are usually rendered irrelevant for fantasy purposes. As always, the average round reflects a 15-team league.
Our fantasy team thinks you'd be better off letting other owners invest in these hurlers in dynasty formats.
Michael Fulmer, Detroit Tigers
Don't get me wrong, I really like Michael Fulmer. He made significant improvements with his changeup last year to give him a strong third pitch to add to his mid-90s fastball and nasty slider. His pure stuff has clearly moved past the "future reliever" tag because of how much his changeup improved last season. He also pitches in a good home park for pitching, and has shown the ability to be difficult to square up when hitters do make contact against him. My main concern with him is in a long-term dynasty format. His delivery is pretty high-effort and violent, and I'm not sure how long he's going to hold up as a starter. Maybe he's conditioned enough and built enough to handle it over the long haul without a problem, but it's enough to give me a little pause before investing in him in a dynasty format. —Tim Finnegan
Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
It feels very weird to say people should be avoiding Justin Verlander is fantasy drafts this year. He is, after all, among the best pitchers of his generation and very likely a future Hall of Famer. Not only that, but he’s also coming off one of the best years of his career and one in which he was a favorite to take home the American League Cy Young. He was the fifth-rated starting pitcher on ESPN’s Player Rater in 2016. After a couple of seasons in which he looked like he was firmly in the decline stage of his career, Verlander came back last season to strike out ten batters per nine innings while keeping his typically strong control.
You might be better off letting someone else invest in these hurlers over the long run.
Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks
Greinke’s first year in the desert likely didn’t go as well as he hoped it would. It definitely didn’t go as well as the Diamondbacks hoped it would. The $200 million man struggled with both injuries and poor performance in 2016, leading to a 4.37 ERA (highest since 2005) and a 1.27 WHIP (highest since 2008). His fastball velocity ticked down, and the strikeouts followed suit, as he fanned only 134 batters in 158 2/3 innings.
Scanning the menu of fantasy rotation options in the junior circuit.
There are league differences between the NL and the AL at every position, but there is arguably no greater paradigm shift than there is among starting pitchers. Where the NL has had four $40+ earners since 2015, in the AL no starting pitcher earned more than $35 for the second season in a row. Some of this is due to a lack of dominance in the qualitative categories. Only four AL starters earned four dollars or more in each ERA and WHIP in 2016: Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, Corey Kluber, and Masahiro Tanaka. Thus, elite performance is difficult to come by, and only six pitchers cracked the modest $25 threshold in AL-only. Not only is it difficult to find value, it is hard to predict who is going to maintain value from season to season.
Table 1: Fifteen Most Expensive AL Starting Pitchers, 2016
Mike unveils his initial bid limits for fantasy auctions this spring.
Welcome to the first installment of Baseball Prospectus’ 2017 bid prices for “standard” Rotisserie-style formats.
In the tables below, you will find my recommended bid limits for AL-only, NL-only, and mixed leagues. For AL and NL-only, the bid limits are designed for 12 teams, $260 budgets per team, 14 hitters, and nine pitchers. For mixed leagues, the bid limits are for 15 teams, $260 budgets per team, 14 hitters, and nine pitchers. The bids are not predictions of what these players will do, but rather suggested prices. While most of what I expect these players to do is based on projected statistics and values, other factors play a role in the bid prices. These factors include:
A deeper dive in search of long-term fantasy contributors on the hill.
Man, there are a lot of pitchers out there, huh? Luckily for you, Bret just ranked the top 175 of ‘em for dynasty league play this morning, and as always I’d strongly advise you to go wade through those waters before you shake your galoshes around in here. And then I’ll reiterate my warning from last week’s column on outfielders that there is any number of additional guys I probably could’ve highlighted here, but in the interest of saving my own and the editorial staff’s collective sanity, I’ve tried to limit the field to guys I find especially interesting or noteworthy for whatever reason. As always, questions on additional players are more than welcome in the comments. Previous pieces in this series can be found here:
Pitching metrics disagree when it comes to the D'backs lefty, but does his Statcast data reveal his true skill level?
Robbie Ray has been much talked about by both fantasy owners and baseball fans. Sam Miller profiled Ray fantastically in this ESPN piece from November. Depending on which pitching stats you place the most emphasis on, Ray’s 2016 season varied anywhere from significantly below average (run prevention) to above average (Fielding Independent Pitching, Deserved Run Average). Ray’s 4.90 ERA ranked fourth-worst among the 64 starting pitchers who threw at least 170 innings last year, and his park-adjusted ERA- of 112 ranked 54th out of 64. His 3.88 DRA ranked 31st. His 3.76 FIP ranked 21st.
This list of pitchers is so big. It's huge. Frankly, it's the biggest list to ever come up in this great country.
We, at Baseball Prospectus, have been talking about starting pitchers for a while now (seven days and change to be exact, depending on when you are reading this) and the party continues to rage on. Yet before we rage, we shall calibrate—since rankings aren’t useful without knowing what you’re reading. The list you are about to read here presupposes a 16-team standard (read: 5x5 roto) dynasty format, in which there are no contracts/salaries, players can be kept forever, and owners have minor-league farm systems in which to hoard prospects. So feel free to adjust this as necessary for your individual league, whether it’s moving non-elite prospects without 2016 ETAs down if you don’t have separate farm teams or moving lower-risk, lower-reward players up in deeper mixed or -only formats.