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St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays.
One celebrated with a lot of eatin’ and of course A LOT of drinkin’.
I consider myself a traditionalist, following the motto “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke.” And this time of year I always fall back on one of my favorite dishes--Corned Beef and Cabbage.
This classic Irish meal is one filled with both a rich history and flavor, but is one of the most simple to go from the pot to the table. And in a lot of ways, is similar to how to attack the relievers on draft day.
After posting daily bullpen reports each of the last three seasons, it was pretty clear that there is a lot of turnover in the closer role. And I mean A LOT. In 2013, only one closer in all of baseball recorded all the saves for his team. Not Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman, but Addison Reed. You read that correctly. Only ONE. And a mid-tier option at the position nonetheless. To make matters worse, there were 23 teams that finished with four or more pitchers recording saves. That is alarming.
I know what you are thinking. “Should I just wait on closers due to the high turnover?” The answer is NO. And it’s not as complex as you think. It’s simple, just like making my favorite paddy dish.
Today’s Special: Relief Pitcher ADP Report
There are four main ingredients to putting together this festive feast--corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and carrots. For entertainment value, we are going to break down this year’s relievers by importance to the dish based on their most recent average draft positions (ADP). With most standard leagues rolling with nine pitching slots, we are going to figure that at least two of those spots will be used for relief pitchers. With that said, we are only going with three categories:
The Meat and Potatoes--Players with an ADP of 150 or less
Cabbage--Players with an ADP between 150 and 250
Carrots--Players with an ADP above 250
In each group I’m gonna break down a few players that have either taken the jump forward or take a step backwards on their ADP, add some strategy and targets for each category along the way. By the end, you will have the right recipe for cookin’ up your own relief core.
The Meat and Potatoes (Target: 1-2)
It’s pretty clear that corned beef and potatoes are the most vital part of this recipe. The combination of both this salty piece of beef and some starchy spuds is used in countless dishes and cuisines throughout the world. And that paring is also how the pitchers in this tier should be evaluated.
When searching for options to help lout the saves category, a lot of the options are what I like to call one-trick ponies. PLayers who contribute in only one area--Saves. This sometimes comes back to bite owners in the you know what, bloating both ERA and WHIP categories on their way to self destruction. However, the players here not only help out in saves, but also contribute in other areas. So consider the saves category “the meat” and the other categories “the potatoes.” Just realize you will need to pony up if you want to make a serious run this season.
We all know what to expect from Craig Kimbrel (43.34 ADP), Aroldis Chapman (58.86 ADP), Kenley Jansen (63.29 ADP) and Greg Holland (67.78 ADP) so I won’t bore you with their hoopla. They are the cream of the crop. That’s all you need to know. Get one if you can.
Trevor Rosenthal (STL)--82.08 ADP--Arguably the hottest up-in-coming closer in the league, Rosenthal has the making of being an elite closer for many years to come. Rosenthal will enter the 2014 season as the Cardinals closer after performing well in the role during the playoffs. Despite only three career saves, Rosenthal is being drafted as if he has already established himself as a top tier closer, but this triple-digit chucker has the ability to back up the hype. If you aren’t willin’ to use one of your first five picks on a closer, I can’t blame you for that. Just know there is a great second tier option awaiting a few round later that is only a pinch of seasoning away from joining the elite.
Glen Perkins (MIN)--115.77 ADP--I’m not fond on left-handed closers, but apparently the Twins are. Perkins and the Twins agreed on a contract extension last week that guarantees he will be with the club until 2017. Was this smart on the Twins end? Probably not. But at least we know Perkins will be THE GUY for the ninth inning moving forward, barring an absolute tank job. He was 36-for-40 in save chances a season ago, with only five AL pitchers with less blown-saves than Perkins. He is on a terrible team, with poor starting pitching, but there that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be left out of an award winning recipe.
David Robertson (NYY)--121.21 ADP--He will have some big shoes to fill, and I am still not sold he is the right guy for the job. He has had both success and failure in brief ninth inning work the last few seasons, but now that he is the clear-cut closer out of the ‘pen it’s tough to overlook him. He has the stuff to dominate hitters (11.71 career K/9) and the WHIP to back it up (1.04 WHIP in ’13) now all he needs is more seasoning no that it is his job to lose. He will go one of two ways--to the elite class or to the waiver wire. I don’t see the latter happening at any point this season. Who is going to take over? Matt Thornton? Please.
Jim Johnson (OAK)--132.77 ADP--Johnson led all of baseball with 50 saves in 2013, but also led the league in blown-saves with nine. He is one of only two players in baseball history to record consecutive 50-save seasons and will now take his services to the Bay Area. The move is just what Johnson needed, after a midseason meltdown resulting from his lowest ground ball rate since 2010 (1.47 G/F in ‘13). Now that his home games will come in the spacious Oakland Coliseum, he shouldn’t have as much struggles, considering the park will aid his weaknesses. Although he is a borderline top option, at his current ADP you can do worse. A lot worse.
Jonathan Papelbon (PHI)--144.17 ADP--If he was in a starring contest, there is no doubt he would be victorious nine times out of ten, but he’s not. We are talking about closing here. And he just didn’t cut the mustard last year. The 2013 season was Papelbon’s worst season in three years, finishing with his lowest save total (29) since becoming a closer in 2006. Not to mention a drop in velocity that led to his lowest K/9 (8.32) of his career. He is still a guy that could be used as a top closer on a fantasy team. Just be aware that he is on the edge of complete destruction if he keeps trending in this downward direction.
The Cabbage (Target: 1-2)
If you are like me, you are really not a fan of cabbage. But who is. That’s how I feel about the players in this tier. I can take ’em or leave ’em. If you ended up with only one pitcher from the first grouping, it’s not the end of the world. The players here are in need of some seasoning, or even confidence for that matter. Just like the pile of soggy greens we call cabbage.
Injury risks and uncertain situations are usually what keep these players from taking the next step forward.. A great example is Fernando Rodney. Although I like the move from the Rays to the Mariners for Rodney (179.02), there are still questions that need to be answered before he is back in my good graces. Is he going get a lot of save chances? How are the bullpen arms setting him up? Will his walk rate continue trending in the wrong direction? These are the type of players we are dealing with here.
Jim Henderson (MIL)--166.63 ADP--Of all the players in this tier, Henderson is the outlier. He has done nothing but succeed (28-for-32 in save chances) since taking over the closer role in 2013 so the lack of interest in his services is mindboggling. John Axford has since found his way into the Indians closer role, and the only other pitcher with any experience in the Brewers ‘pen is Francisco Rodriguez. His fly ball rate is a bit alarming (0.42 G/F in’13) but as long as he continues to keep the ball in the park (only eight homers) he is a lock for his first 30-save season.
Huston Street (SD)--172.09 ADP--My relationship with Street is bittersweet. And it appears to be getting to that point with the Padres as well. Without a question it is his job to lose, but the presence of Joaquin Benoit indicates that they are preparing themselves for a typical injury-filled season from their ninth inning hurler. What he has going for him is that he has just three blown-saves in his tenure with the Padres, somethin’ you just don’t see these days. There is a reason for everything and draftees just don’t want to deal with the headache this year. Even at this value, I don’t blame ‘em.
Bobby Parnell (NYM)--184.91 ADP--Persistent neck problems led to surgery that cut his season short by two months. He appears to have recovered just fine from the procedure and has already been making appearances in spring games. The uncertainty around his return date has lowered his ADP slightly, but barring any setbacks he will be the closer come Opening Day. Although he doesn’t show much dominance on the mound for a closer (8.20 K/9), he is an extreme ground ball pitcher that could take the next step if his health holds up.
John Axford (CLE)--211.77 ADP--I’m not quite sure what the Indians see in him, but one thing is for sure--I won’t be drafting him this season. Not even this late in drafts. Axford led the NL in blown-saves the last two seasons combined (16). He also allowed 10 home runs in 65.0 innings pitched. Despite some success after being dealt to the Cardinals, it is hard for me to believe he still has what it takes to get the job done. At this point in a draft there isn’t much risk involved, just remember I told you so when he fails.
Nate Jones (CWS)--238.14 ADP--I like this guy. In fact, I like his upside a lot more than some of the others pitchers in this tier. With Matt Lindstrom still sidelined, Jones has pretty much locked up the ninth inning duties on the South Side of Chicago. He posted a 10.27 K/9 a season ago, which was just one of many improvements from his rookie season. There is enough upside here to counter the fact that he has no experience in the role. So hopefully a little seasoning will give him what he needs to go from a happy hour special to a feature of the day.
The Carrots (Target: 0-2)
Carrots are one of the most commonly used root vegetables throughout the world, but there are few instances they are the main course. If it wasn’t for the flavor from other ingredients they would likely be pushed to the side of the plate and be forgotten about. Similar to the carrots in this dish, the players here could never do the job alone. Or even carry their own weight for that matter.
If you choose to continue slacking on late-inning hurlers there is still time to right the ship. While most of these options are either setup men who won’t contribute in the saves category or guys barely holding onto a job, there are ways to make this work. As long as there is enough seasoning to support them, even the blandest of pitchers could be beneficial.
Tommy Hunter (BAL)--261.66 ADP--Hunter is still in a battle for the team’s ninth inning opening, and he hasn’t done much this spring to make the decision any easier. Until there is an official word on who is going to get the job, Hunter’s value should remain very low. Even if he gets the job we can’t expect too much, with a few other options behind him.
LaTroy Hawkins (COL)--267.93 ADP--He may be 41, but Hawkins has landed himself a starting job as a closer. Why not Rex Brothers? I’m not really sure. What I do know is whether you like it or not, Hawkins holds more value than Brothers. He’s like an aged steak. A lot of flavoring, just without the heavy price tag.
Joaquin Benoit (SD)--279.10 ADP--He doesn’t have the closer role (yet), but Benoit makes for a solid addition for those who miss out on landing a second or third closer. Huston Street is going to get injured at some point. It happens every year. And if Benoit performs well in his absence, there is a good chance he will remain the closer after his return. Remember, Benoit didn’t have much experience prior to last season. Now that he has a 20-plus save season under his belt, he has all the ingredients for future success in the ninth inning.
Mark Melancon (PIT)--332.52 ADP--He is arguably the best setup man in all of baseball and despite the fact he doesn’t get too many saves, he can be of major help in other ways. Melancon posted a 1.39 ERA and 0.96 WHIP over 72 appearances in 2013, allowing only one home run and 15 runs in that time frame. Talk about tasty. If something was to happen to Jason Grilli, Melancon would instantly become a top 10 closer. Even if that doesn’t happen, he can help out in the other three areas at the very least.
Jesse Crain (HOU)--363.93 ADP--If you are willing to wait a few weeks into the season for his services, Crain is your guy. The Astros don’t expect him to be ready until the second half of April following both biceps and calf injuries. There aren’t many ninth inning options outside of Crain in the Astros bullpen, so it is hard to believe it won’t be his job upon his return. This late in the draft is worth a stash if you already have a top tier option to carry you for a while.
I laid it out for you. I gave you the ingredients. I gave you the recipe. Now it is up to you to turn into a sound, well-seasoned dish. Follow this recipe and you won’t need to rely on the luck of the Irish on your side come draft day.
Until next time, study hard and eat plenty!
ADP Source: National Fantasy Baseball Championship
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