FANTASY PLAYS: Relievers better, but don’t chase saves yet


(AP) Never pay for saves. That mantra has been a constant in fantasy baseball circles almost as long as it has been played.Top relievers dominated the saves category, but their dearth of wins and strikeouts limited their value in comparison to starting pitchers. Despite posting elite ratios, relievers just didn’t pitch enough innings to hang with even a mid-level starting pitcher. Add all that onto the relative ease of acquiring saves in-season and it’s easy to see why many people bypassed the top relievers and scavenged the lower rungs of closers for value.Not anymore. Changes in real baseball mean values in fantasy are changing as a result.As MLB managers lean more on their bullpens, the statistical landscape has changed for pitchers. Managers are quicker with the hook and more starters are limited to five or six innings a start. This means once you get past the top few elite starters, the gap in strikeouts and wins is shrinking. As relievers grab an increasing percentage of innings, their ratios mean more to their fantasy owners. You’re not just paying for saves, you’re now getting a much more valuable pitcher behind the big save totals.Predicting which pitcher will get the most saves is a fool’s errand. Tampa Bay’s Alex Colome led baseball in saves last year and no one mistook the Rays for a very good team.Instead we need to look at strikeout rates, low ratios and job security to capitalize on the shifts. A quick breakdown of the closer tiers gives an idea of the pitchers to target at each level.Boston’s Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers and Aroldis Chapman of the Yankees have been elite arms for a while now. Kimbrel and Jansen both had WHIPs under 0.80. Kimbrel struck out 126 batters, while Jansen had 109 strikeouts. Chapman went through a rough stretch in 2017 and spent time on the disabled list. He ended the year as good as ever though and may even come at a value this season. Your confidence can be high with any of the big three but the price may be more than you can stomach.The pitchers in the next tier are generally younger and don’t have the track records of the previous tier. But they may have similar skills, if 2017 is any indication.Corey Knebel didn’t start the season as the closer in Milwaukee, but nobody is doubting him now. In addition to 39 saves, the young righty added 126 strikeouts with a sterling 1.78 ERA. Only a ratio of 4.74 walks per nine innings kept him out of the top tier.Brad Hand doesn’t get much hype in San Diego, but his 2.16 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 104 strikeouts speak for themselves. An improved San Diego team could also lead to a nice increase in saves.Another unheralded closer is Felipe Rivero in Pittsburgh. He got the chance to close and ran with it, posting a 1.67 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and a strong mark of 10.51 strikeouts per nine innings. The Pirates may have dumped salary, but they are still good enough to provide plenty of save chances.The next tier has quality relievers with good track records and great job security. They just lack in one area that prevents them from joining their elite peers.Raisel Iglesias, Roberto Osuna, Edwin Diaz and Cody Allen make great fantasy picks. Diaz and Allen lack the control to post elite WHIPs, while Osuna isn’t quite as dominant as those in the higher tiers. Iglesias could jump up a level, but the Reds use him in a way that limits his saves.Ken Giles, Sean Doolittle and Brandon Morrow could easily climb up a tier or two, but checkered pasts mean we have to buffer expectations a bit.Are there other closers who will get high save totals? Sure, but instead of chasing saves, grab the player who can put up good stats behind those saves and you’ll maximize the value of your picks.TOP 20 RELIEF PITCHERSKenley Jansen, DodgersCraig Kimbrel, Red SoxAroldis Chapman, YankeesCorey Knebel, BrewersRoberto Osuna, Blue JaysCody Allen, IndiansFelipe Rivero, PiratesBrad Hand, PadresRaisel Iglesias, RedsEdwin Diaz, MarinersBrandon Morrow, CubsAlex Colome, RaysKen Giles, AstrosWade Davis, RockiesSean Doolittle, NationalsKelvin Herrera, RoyalsAndrew Miller, IndiansArchie Bradley, DiamondbacksArodys Vizcaino, BravesHector Neris, Phillies___This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network,
Source: MyNews13