Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide: Fantasy Baseball Relief Pitcher Late Round Targets & Value Plays
Published: Feb 27, 2023
Updated: Feb 27, 2023
Waiting until the later rounds to draft your fantasy baseball closer isn’t for the faint of heart. If you have a low tolerance for risk, this strategy might not be for you. However, if you do your homework and focus on MLB relievers who have a direct path to a closer’s gig, waiting on drafting a potential closer until the later rounds can sometimes work to your advantage. Using this fantasy baseball draft strategy could allow you to invest your earlier round draft capital on players who carry less risk than the typical mid-range closer and who can help you fill positions that don’t have a lot of depth, such as second and third base. Based on their fantasy baseball ADP, the following relievers can typically be drafted in the 14th round or later in 12-team fantasy baseball leagues and are expected to save at least 15 games based on major MLB projections models. The fantasy baseball average draft positions quoted in this article are based on FantasyPros consensus rankings. If you haven't already, check out Fantasy Alarm's FREE Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide to prepare for the season.
2023 MLB Fantasy Baseball Late Round Relief Pitcher Targets
Jhoan Duran, Minnesota Twins
Duran was dominant in his rookie season. He saved eight games, held 18 others and posted a 1.86 ERA and a 0.975 WHIP in 67.2 IP. He exhibited great command over his pitches, walking just 2.1 batters per nine IP and striking out 11.8 batters per nine IP. Duran has a formidable arsenal which generated swings and misses and produced above average ground ball contact (61%). Duran’s pitch repertoire features a 101 MPH fastball, 96 MPH splitter and a 90 MPH curveball which induced a 49.7 Whiff% last season as well as a .120 BAA. In addition, Duran’s chase rate and xERA/xwOBA were both in the 98th percentile last season. When Jorge López slumped last September, Duran took over as the team’s closer. There’s been speculation that he and Lopez might split closer duties to start the season but based on his skillset it’s probably just a matter of time before Duran takes over as the team’s primary ninth inning option.
Alexis Díaz, Cincinnati Reds
Reds manager David Bell is notorious for using a committee approach to managing his closers but that seems to have changed early this preseason. Bell has clearly named Diaz as his closer to start the season but he did mention that he was open to possibly using him in high leverage situations outside of the ninth inning. Diaz had a phenomenal rookie season. He saved 10 games, pitched to a 1.84 ERA, and struck out 11.7 batters per nine innings. According to Statcast, Diaz’s xBA was in the 99th percentile and his fastball’s spin rate was in the 100th percentile. He posted an above average 0.958 WHIP fueled by a 4.0 H/9. Unfortunately, the walk component of his WHIP wasn’t very good (4.7 BB/9). Free passes have been an issue for Diaz throughout his professional career as suggested by his 3.8 BB/9 in five minor league seasons. The Reds aren’t expected to win too many games this season, but some projection models still predict that he’ll save upwards of 25 games. Based on his current ADP he’s been typically available up until the 14th round of 12 team preseason drafts.
Paul Sewald, Seattle Mariners
Sewald led the Mariners with 20 saves last season and posted career bests in ERA (2.67), WHIP (0.766), H/9 (4.5), and BB/9 (2.4). Most major projection models predict that he’ll lead the team in saves once again with upwards of 20 saves. Those models also predict that Andrés Muñoz (ADP 170), who saved four games and held 22 others last season, will have an expanded role in late inning high leverage situations this season. They expect that he’ll save 10 to 14 games. With Mariners’ manager Scott Servais’ tendency to use a closer by committee approach to managing his bullpen, neither of these pitchers should be rostered as your fantasy teams’ primary closer just yet. However, based on their skillset, both are expected to provide fantasy teams with excellent ratios. By seasons end Sewald will probably save slightly more games than Munoz, but with Munoz’s 100 MPH fastball, he should likely out produce Sewald in the strikeout category.
José Leclerc, Texas Rangers
Leclerc finally made his long-awaited return from Tommy John surgery last June and while he got off to a rocky start (five ER in his first three IP) he settled down rather quickly. In his next 36 games Leclerc pitched to a 2.01 ERA and he saved seven games while holding four others. The velocity on his fastball was back to pre-surgery levels and opposing hitters batted just .074 against his changeup, which produced a 45.3 Whiff%. Based on his previous history of closing out games for the Rangers he’s likely to get the first crack at opening the season as the team’s closer. Some projection models expect that he’ll save upwards of 21 games. Control has been an issue in the past and while his 3.97 BB/9 wasn’t pretty, it was better than his career rate. As per his current ADP he should be available up until the 18th round of a typical 12 team draft.
Dylan Floro, Miami Marlins
Floro missed about a month of the season recovering from rotator cuff tendinitis and like Leclerc he got off to a slow start (five earned runs in two IP) but like Leclerc, he also finished the season strong. In the final 54 games of the 2022 season Floro posted a 2.26 ERA, and he saved 10 games while holding six others. He generated above average ground ball contact (45.2 GB%) which helped limit the number of home runs he gave up. Floro only yielded three home runs in those final 54 games and his 0.67 season long HR/9 rate was significantly lower than the 1.09 league average. His 8.0 K/9 was below the league average, but he still got some swing and miss from his slider which produced a 40.3% Whiff rate. With Marlins manager Skip Schumaker recently announcing that he probably wouldn’t be designating a primary closer to start the season, Floro’s overall save opportunities may be limited. However, projection models still predict that he’ll likely produce save totals in the mid-teen range and that he could also hold upwards of 10 games. Based on Schumaker’s comments A.J. Puk, Tanner Scott and Matt Barnes may all see action in late inning high leverage situations based on best matchups.
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Related MLB Links:
- 2023 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide
- 2023 Fantasy Baseball MLB Preseason Projections
- 2023 MLB Fantasy Baseball Rankings
- Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide: Top 5 Fantasy Baseball Closers and Relief Pitchers
- Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide: Fantasy Baseball Relief Pitcher Position Depth
- Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide: 2023 Late-Round Fantasy Baseball ADP Draft Targets