Previous entries in this series
- First Base
- Second Base
- Third Base
- Starting Pitchers for 2017
- Starting Pitchers for 2018 and Beyond
Dellin Betances was the 29th-best reliever in fantasy last season, per ESPN’s Player Rater. And that’s sort of why I want to stop here.
Let’s say the few (relatively) high-profile reliever prospects in the game pan out. They all reach their 90th or 100th percentiles, all strikeout over a quarter of the guys they face, all post ERAs in the low-2.00s or high-1.00s. Let’s say they stay healthy, stay predictable, keep their “closer of the future” tags.
If they’re not actually closers, it doesn’t really matter. None will be as good as Dellin Betances was last season. Yet because Betances didn’t close, even he was utterly replaceable. Ryan Madson was worth more. Santiago Casilla was worth more. Jeremy Jeffress, who only closed for half a season, was worth more. Such is life when 90% of the fantasy industry remains at the mercy of the save.
Was Betances worth owning last season? Of course. Was he worth punting an MiLB roster spot for a season or two to get his 2016 production for? Not really. And even if you go with the argument that most pitchers who are as good (or 80% as good, really) as Betances do end up closing, most won’t for their whole careers. And oh yeah, most won’t stay healthy, either.
Just don’t do it. Even with the three guys I’ll point out below, unless you’re rostering, like, 250-plus prospects, it’s not worth it. When I tried to do this installment semi-seriously last year, I ended up naming guys like Alex Meyer (yikes), Mychal Givens (ehh), Nick Wittgren (zzz), Kyle Crick (too soon) and Tayron Guerrero. I *literally* don’t even remember who Tayron Guerrero is.
So you just get three (and-a-half) names this year. That’s it. That might make for a foolish article, but investing in relievers is a fool’s game.
Names for 2017
Frankie Montas, Athletics
I have been writing about Frankie Montas and how he’s probably a reliever for what feels like 15 years. Armed with a triple-digit fastball and (limited) MLB exposure, Montas is probably the best fantasy reliever prospect in baseball, which is like being the prettiest Gorgon or the world’s highest-functioning appendix. Even if Montas does spend most of the year in the majors and dominates, the A’s have more veteran relievers than a nursing home bathroom. Montas isn’t gonna close for a bit, which means his ceiling is 90% of 2017 Dellin Betances, which means you should sit this one out.
Joe Jimenez, Tigers
Listen, even I wanted to ignore my own advice when it comes to Jimenez. The strikeout rate. The velocity. The proximity to the majors. There’s so much to like. But then you see that he struggles with command a bit. And then you remember Bruce Rondon and Joel Zumaya and I’m not doing this to be mean to Tigers fans, I swear, I’m just saying. Jimenez might be good enough to own in super deep leagues even if he’s not a closer thanks to his Ks, but are you really gonna take that risk? You shouldn’t, friends. You shouldn’t.
Nick/Zack Burdi, Twins/White Sox
The Burdi brothers throw hard, are close to the majors, have little MLB talent ahead of them in their bullpens (assuming Daniel Robertson is traded) and have the vaunted “Closer of the Future” tags. Yet Nick threw just three innings last season, and Zack walked over a third of the batters he faced. Essentially, they form a Voltron of pitching prospect attributes. Don’t let them break your hearts.
Others: Anyone who throws hard and pitched in Double-A or higher for your favorite team last season
Names for 2018 and Beyond
Don’t worry about them. Or read Wilson Karaman’s Ocean Floor if you must.
We Hardly Knew Ye (Fantasy Value)