The fantasy crew runs down the relievers it expects to beat their PECOTA projections in saves.
One of the fun ways we all try to outsmart our opponents in fantasy is by searching for hidden value in players who, for one reason or another, we suspect have the ability to outpace their projections (and, relatedly, their draft cost). Our Darkhorses series features staff picks for players who could very well outpace their PECOTA projections for the year and provide the top overall production in one of the standard five-by-five categories. We’ve all picked one player currently projected by PECOTA to fall outside of the top 10 and one longer-shot player currently projected outside of the top 25. We’re taking a look at pitching this week, following our run on offense a week ago. To read the earlier editions in this series, click below:
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How the Pirates have become a contender with the help of other teams' cast-off parts.
The Pirates blueprint to building the bullpen that has become one of baseball’s best is no longer a guarded secret on the North Shore. While Neil Huntington was away at the All-Star break, an anonymous source who’s not generally much of a talker handed over the plan of how the Pirates did it in five easy steps that will leave the rest of baseball shaking their heads.
1. Trade your best reliever
2. Let a 36-year-old journeyman close
3. Get a bunch of starters who can't go six innings
5. Sports Illustrated cover
Jason Grilli leads the league in saves. Across the state, Jonathan Papelbon has only 10. Few could have foreseen these, and other early closer outcomes, on draft day.
“Don’t pay for saves!” is an adage that ESPN’s Matthew Berry may have printed on his tombstone when he leaves this life. But while it has been uttered by many a pundit, from Berry to industry stalwart Lenny Melnick, we still see significant money spent on closers even in expert auctions each season. In the 2013 15-team mixed Tout Wars league, nine percent of the overall draft dollars went to players that have saved at least one game this season.
The current leader in saves in 2013, Jason Grilli, is a former fourth-overall pick in the 1997 amateur draft. In his career, he has been traded twice, released twice, purchased once, and granted free agency three different times before finding a home in Pittsburgh, where he has been nothing short of amazing since 2011. Last season, Grilli was drafted as a setup guy to Joel Hanrahan, and this season, the Mixed League Touts paid more for 12 other closers before setting on Grilli at $12. He is not the only story in the latest chapter of the unpredictability of saves in fantasy baseball.
The Pirates and Red Sox closer situations get the first Reaper treatment of 2013.
Jason Grilli| Pirates Shallow (30 Keepers): No Medium (60 Keepers): No Deep (90 Keepers): No NL-only (60 Keepers): No Super Deep (200 Keepers): Fringe
So much has happened since our last installment of Keeper Reaper: Relievers. Christmas and New Year’s came and went. The fiscal cliff was (sort of) avoided. And, of equal importance to all of that, the Pirates traded their closer and named a new one.
Investing in top non-closers now could save you loads of money next draft day.
For the past five years, as the season winds down, I’ve made it a habit of discussing one of my favorite keeper league strategies: stashing potential closers. This, of course, isn’t viable in every single keeper league based on format, depth, and rule quirks, but in leagues where it is, it can be a powerful way of accruing cheap value for your 2013 squad before the 2012 season even ends.
As I discussed the strategy in detail last season, I’ll simply repost for those who are new to BP:
When there are no good starters in your league, the bullpen can offer you the wins you need.
It may sound strange, but one of my absolute favorite parts of running a fantasy team is finding undervalued relievers. Having Matt Kemp fall to me in the middle of the first round and getting 10 home runs through the first three weeks? Eh. Having my 24th-round pick throw a perfect game? Color me mildly elated. But grabbing Jason Grilli for $1 in Tout Wars? I’m throwing a parade in my mother’s basement!
Middle relievers can be an underappreciated source of value, especially in AL/NL-only leagues and in leagues with innings caps. Not only are they capable of producing elite ratios, but they can also match near-elite starters in wins on a per-inning basis, which is incredibly important in leagues with innings caps. Even if your league doesn’t have an innings cap and is simply deep, these relievers can be worth several dollars. Your pitchers are going to get injured, and when you find out that Michael Pineda is done for the season, there aren’t exactly a lot of options out on the waiver wire. In a lot of leagues, there may not be a single starter available at all, even of the Adam Wilk variety.