Josh Hader is unquestionably awesome. He was probably baseball’s best reliever in 2018. In addition to his insane 47% K rate, he posted a 2.43 ERA and 0.81 WHIP in 81.3 IP. For fantasy purposes, his 12 SV and 6 W were instrumental in sustaining his value. However, he’s now going just outside the Top 100 (ADP of 105 in Rotowire Online Championship leagues since 2/1/19) and that’s just too high.
The performance will almost certainly be great again, but the saves and wins will be unpredictable and hard to rely on. Pitching in high leverage will ensure some of each, but that’s a hefty price to pay. Plus, relievers are insanely volatile so there’s always a chance he isn’t quite the superstar on the ratios. At any rate, this is less about being a Hader Hater and more about bypassing him at his cost and picking up another middle relief superstar much later.
This is for non-holds 12-15 team mixers. The ADP is from the Rotowire Online Championship which is a 5×5 12-teamer.
Here are four to consider:
Ryan Pressly | HOU – 332 ADP
The Astros are credited with “discovering” Pressly, but he wasn’t a bum with Minnesota. The talent was there, they just sanded into excellence. Before the trade, he fanned 33% with a 24% K-BB, 3.40 ERA, and 1.36 WHIP in 47.7 IP. Once he arrived in Houston, they dialed up his breaking ball usage from 51% to 65% and it fueled a brilliant 23.3-inning run where he fanned 38%, walked just 4% (the key difference after a 9% mark in MIN), and posted a 0.77 ERA/0.60 WHIP combo.
He’ll enter his age-30 season as the primary setup man to closer Roberto Osuna and could vulture a handful of saves and wins of his own pitching in key 7th/8th inning spots. He also has three seasons of 70-plus innings, so hopefully they aren’t bashful about his usage. He’s going over 200 picks later than Hader and could be just as good in 2019.
Taylor Rogers | MIN – 359 ADP
Once a teammate of Pressly (imagine that 1-2 punch in the back of their bullpen), Rogers enjoyed a breakout season in 2018 with career-bests in strikeout rate (29%), walk rate (6% – tied previous best), ERA (2.63), and WHIP (0.95). A new slider gave a dynamic 1-2 breaking punch similar to Pressly and yielded major dividends. Now the 28-year old southpaw finds himself in a key role for the Twins, setting up Blake Parker and Trevor May.
Neither righty has been anointed the primary closer, but regardless of how that plays out, Rogers will likely be able to nab a few saves when a string of lefties are due up in the ninth. His big season included a sharp improvement against righties, pushing his K-BB rate from 6% to 18%, so a ninth inning featuring a lefty-righty-lefty setup shouldn’t preclude him from the save opportunity. More chances against righties would also push his innings higher and break last year’s 68.3 career record.
Ryan Brasier | BOS – 311 ADP
With Craig Kimbrel still on the block and unlikely to return in Boston, Brasier is actually in the closer mix with Matt Barnes, yet he goes a nice 69 picks later. More on that later. This is your best bet if you just want some save potential. He came up in the second half and stabilized the bridge to Kimbrel and then became a key asset in the World Series run, giving him a combined 83 innings between Triple-A, MLB, and the postseason.
He didn’t have the gaudy strikeout rate of a Hader or Pressly, but his 16% SwStr rate was a top 15 mark among relievers with at least 30 innings and portends many more strikeouts going forward. A toe issue has limited him in spring and likely explains his ADP gap with Barnes, but it creates a buying opportunity as his skills are right in line with Barnes.
Tanner Scott | BAL – Undrafted
The flamethrowing lefty got 53.3 innings with the Orioles last year and had flashes of what could be, but sputtered more often than not en route to a 5.40 ERA/1.56 WHIP combo. I’m keeping an eye on the 97.1 mph fastball, 32% K rate, and 17% SwStr rate as a foundation to greatly improve. Scott tied Blake Treinen for the fourth-most 3+ strikeout games last year at 15 (and you could say it was the third-highest as Ryan Yarbrough is kinda cheating). By the way, Hader – unsurprisingly – came in at the top with an absurd 29.
This is more of a draft-and-hold/AL-Only play right now because he’s not being drafted in Rotowire Online leagues, but if he develops like this stuff suggests he can, he could push Mychal Givens for that closer’s role in Baltimore. He does need to figure out righties before that can happen, though.
There are obviously tons of candidates for something like this. Jordan Hicks is a well-known one which is part of why I didn’t include him, but he even goes 100 picks later than Hader. The loser of the Corbin Burnes/Brandon Woodruff battle for the fifth spot could be a total relief stuff in the mold of Hader and give the Brewers an absurd right/left combo.
A healthy Yankees rotation will leave Doming German and/or Jonathan Loaisiga on the outside looking in and either of them could be an amazing reliever. Not to mention the relievers they already have like Dellin Betances, Chad Green, and Adam Ottavino. Ray Black in San Francisco. Joe Kelly in Los Angeles. Joe Jimenez in Detroit.
Who are some of your favorite up-and-coming middle relievers?