There have been many discussions about what to do with pitching in your shortened, if it happens, fantasy baseball league. Do you wait on starting pitching? Do you grab one or two reliable closers early?  How are relievers going to be used this year? Will the expanded rosters change their roles? The three-batter minimum is supposed to start this season and what type of effect will that have on the shortened season role of the relief pitcher? This year, more than any, may be a total crap shoot, but let’s examine ADP from the MDA and the NFBC, and see if there have been any changes in how people are drafting closers as compared to before the pandemic put a huge dent into the season.

Let’s start with something that hasn’t changed. Josh Hader is the first reliever off the board and the mock on Wednesday had Hader taken at 5.03 (ADP 51). Since April first his ADP has been 55.62 which is a few spots earlier than his overall ADP since Nov 1st of 59.59. If we look at the ADP on March 1st before we thought we would have a stoppage, it was 61.83. This illustrates the trend we think we are going to find. As the work stoppage became apparent and the expectation of a shortened season progressed, Hader’s ADP dropped a full ½ round and the MDA took him about a round earlier than he would have gone in early March.

Another consistent pick has been Kirby Yates as the second reliever off the board. Yates’ ADP has gone from 78 to 76 to 72. Again, this represents a half round move up the draft board and although it’s not a huge move, it shows that the general trend is up for relievers. We’ll look at some other relievers then discuss the worthiness of these moves up the ladder.





MDA This Week

Aroldis Chapman





Ken Giles





Héctor Neris





Alex Colomé





Archie Bradley





Nick Anderson





Ian Kennedy





In this sample we see the change in ADP is reflected throughout the range of closers. Nick Anderson has seen one of the biggest changes in ADP and has shot up the draft board. Ivar Anderson took him as early as the 11th round this week and his NFBC ADP has him going 5 rounds earlier than he was on March 1st. Héctor Neris saw the second biggest change moving almost 2 rounds from the last pick of the 12th round in 12 team leagues to the middle of the 10th round in the post pandemic drafts. The Mock Draft Army has taken it to a new height this week as they have driven the price for all closers through the roof. Chapman has become a late 5th round pick compared to the mid-7th round he’s been taken in NFBC drafts since April 1st.

So, we see the trend but is it going to help your team during the shortened season?  I’ve recently had this discussion about the value of closers in a roto format. Relievers in this format contribute mainly in saves, but also contribute to ERA, WHIP, and K’s to a lesser extent due to their limited innings. Over a long season, combining several relievers with low ERA and WHIP and high strikeout rates, can be advantageous as they can be, in congruent, a better option than most SP 5s and 6s. This is especially true in leagues with daily moves and in head to head leagues. It is more difficult in leagues with weekly moves to predict the use of a reliever over a week versus the use of a scheduled starter. Will this be true over a shortened season? 

On one of the Fantasy Alarm TV shows this week, Adam Ronis discussed why you should take two closers early. It wasn’t due to the fact that having closers was better than having starters, it was so that you locked up two DEPENDABLE closers who wouldn’t be platooned or rotated out with expanded rosters. Saves are being distributed to more players more and more each season, and to have two reliable ones is the advantage. INNINGS will be to your advantage this year. Why do I say that as it seems to go against what everyone is saying?

It’s actually simple. The more quality innings you have, the less the bad ones will hurt your ERA and WHIP. If you stick to mostly relievers, the blow ups will hurt you more. You will also have less of a chance to accumulate strikeouts. Wins are so unpredictable that you cannot plan on them in any scenario (see Jacob deGrom ’s 2018 season).

Another reason relievers are being touted is the fact that the starters are going to have little time to prepare for the season and they won’t be expected to go deep into the game early on. I agree that this will be true, but I will still target at least two top end starters as they will be the most likely to go deep into games early on as they are the most likely to get through 5 innings with the fewest number of pitches. Middle relievers can be targeted, especially in head to head and roto leagues with daily moves as they can be moved in and out of your lineups. If that is the case, load up on guys like Seth Lugo and Ryan Pressly and potential “6th” starters like Ross Stripling and Josh James . They can all be had in the late rounds of your drafts.

In conclusion the recommendation of grabbing relievers earlier is a valid one and the trend shows that it is being followed by those who have drafted since April 1st as the need for reliability in the short season is paramount. In turn, my take is this. The rising ADP of relievers is giving value to some offensive players and starters. I will look for value in the 5th to 10th rounds and go after that second tier of closers that will PROBABLY be reliable but have some risk. As always, stay safe and am always available on Twitter @gasdoc_spit. Join the Mock Draft Army and get ready for the MLB season, well if there is one….