Late-Round Relief Targets

I’ve noticed some trends in my drafts. The good closers are going fast – often over 20 picks earlier than their already aggressive ADP. After a handful of elite guys, the warts become extremely noticeable. It’s hard to justify going Sean Doolittle when Luke Voit is staring you in the face.

The correct answer, probably, is to jump aboard the early portion of a closer run. However, that’s not always a choice. I certainly didn’t have an option of participating in either closer run during my TGFBI draft.

My mistakes in closer design have forced me to wade into the ugliest portion of the reliever pool.

“Best” Fugly Build

Brandon Workman (ADP: 168)

Ian Kennedy (ADP: 200)

Mychal Givens (ADP: 333)

One approach to closers is to simply spam volume. This particular collection of spam has serious upside along with a heaping helping of risk.

Workman flashed top 10 closer skills last season while walking way too many hitters. Regression could cut in both directions. Either the quality of his output (especially a nonexistent home run rate) will decline or he might slash his walk rate. Or both. There’s ample risk and reward here.

Kennedy could conceivably improve to via a refinement of his repertoire. He continued to throw fastballs like he was a starting pitcher. A buff to his cutter or curve usage might unlock another level. Even if he’s just a bland 4.00 ERA, 9.00 K/9 guy (roughly his 40th percentile outcome), he has no internal competition for his job.

Givens actively hurt his owners last season, but a peek under the hood reveals what appear to be fluky-bad results coupled with Givens-typical stuff. He’s never been homer prone in the past so I’m inclined to give him a pass on his 1.86 HR/9 (0.95 HR/9 career). He continued to induce one of the lowest hard contact rates in the league – another career-long trend. I’m comfortable penciling in a volatile 10.25 K/9, 3.80 ERA, and 1.15 WHIP with roughly 25 saves.


Mychal Givens (ADP: 333)

Matt Magill (ADP: 407)

Ryan Helsley (ADP: 697 <—lies!)

If you whiffed and want guys penciled into ninth-inning work, this is your trio to target. We covered Givens already. Some think Hunter Harvey could factor into the ninth inning picture. Maybe later in the year if Givens fumbles or gets traded.

I’m not at all convinced Magill will save many games, but he’s the presumptive closer for now in Seattle. He’s battling some shoulder soreness so keep an eye on it. He’s a middle-reliever quality fly ball pitcher who seems to have found the fastball-curve tunnel. There might be platoon issues. Don’t expect help in ERA or WHIP.

Helsley is an extremely overhyped dark horse candidate for the Cardinals closer job. They apparently want Giovanny Gallegos in a more flexible role (a reason why I draft hitters when it’s time to ponder Gallegos). Helsley has gone as early as pick 197 so don’t think you can sleep all day on him. He throws hard (98 mph) with a middling slider and a couple other “show me” offerings. The Cardinals also have him involved in a deep competition for their fifth starter job. St. Louis will be a source of turmoil for fantasy drafters this spring.

Doh I Missed

James Karinchak (ADP: 525)

Kevin Ginkel (ADP: 578)

Aaron Bummer (ADP: 584)

There is no shortage of desirable non-closers to stash. These just happen to be appearing on multiple of my rosters. I’m not especially concerned about Brad Hand. His late-season struggles didn’t seem to be tied to a decline in ability. His decision to throw fewer sinkers in 2019 might have proven costly. The sinker was always his worst pitch, but he might need it to keep batters off his four-seamer and slider.

If Hand continues to struggle, Karinchak may have the filthiest fastball-curve tunnel in the sport. His 97-mph fastball kind of spurts out of his hand as if under pressure. It’s seriously difficult to tell if it’s coming high or low. Paired with a devastating curve, Karinchak might be one of the most uncomfortable opponents for batters to face. He posted just under 22.00 K/9 across 30 minor league innings last year – albeit with some command issues.

Archie Bradley is, frankly, a good volume reliever. He has no business closing games on a contender unless working with a multiple-run lead. Ginkel flashed a more closer-like profile. His double-plus slider will help him to rack up strikeouts. I almost view the 10.36 K/9 he posted last season as a floor. The club might prefer former closer Hector Rondon as the second-string to Bradley so prepare to be patient with Ginkel.

Bummer is kind of a better Zack Britton in that he actually has some offspeed offerings he can turn to for strikeouts. He managed a ferocious 72.1 percent ground ball rate last season, although there is some risk it’ll regress somewhere into the 60 percent range. He also tacked on an addition two mph to his now 95.6 mph sinker. Alex Colome is the definition of a placeholder closer. Now that the White Sox plan to contend, they’re incentivized to be less patient with mediocrity. Plus Bummer is under contract for five years so the Sox won’t be risking arbitration paydays.

You can follow me on twitter @BaseballATeam

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Mike D
Mike D

The last of the last: Alex Vesia and Sam Delaplane