Major League Baseball begins its 60-game sprint to the World Series in just a few days, which means those playing for a fantasy baseball championship this year better have all their ducks in a row.
Whether you are about to draft or looking to make adjustments to the roster you built three months ago, your knowledge of bullpens is going to be vital to your success. It isn’t just about closers, though. Based on what many managers around the league are saying, relief pitchers could be your bread and butter on your trip to the winner’s circle.
Closers, obviously, grab all the attention. In addition to boosting you in the saves category, hoarding a few on your roster will do wonderful things to help your ratios.
The elites such as Josh Hader and Kirby Yates always are costly, and according to recent average-draft-position data, mid-tier guys like Ken Giles and Hector Neris are also climbing up draft boards relatively quickly. However, there is still a wild misconception that closers on bad teams don’t work for fantasy. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Though closers such as Detroit’s Joe Jimenez or Miami’s Brandon Kintzler may not see the same number of save opportunities the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman gets, they can still provide plenty of assistance in fantasy.
First off, they will accrue saves. Maybe the Marlins win just 25 of their 60 games, but there is a strong chance Kintzler ends up saving 15 of them. In a truncated season when everyone is scratching their heads, wondering where they can find a good value, this is where you need to look. You may not win the category outright, but you’ll be competitive and save yourself a bundle with the bargain-shopping. Take those savings and build up that offense.
Setup men and long relievers are also going to have tremendous value this season, as many starters are going to be limited. For example, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has already announced his starters are unlikely to throw more than three or four innings during the first few turns of the rotation.
That means middle relievers such as Ross Stripling and Dustin May will have added value and could even vulture a few wins for you. You can expect Joe Maddon of the Angels and Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash to do the same.
Identifying which bullpens are the best will help you figure out which ponds you need to fish. Aside from the aforementioned teams, you will want to keep a close watch on the bullpens in San Diego, Milwaukee and Cleveland.
How you build your fantasy rotation will be a key factor in your success. A couple of aces at the top, one or two more starters capable of eating innings next then finish it off with the bullpen. Two or three closers and a few setup men or long relievers will put you in a great position this year for your pitching categories. It won’t be the sexiest rotation, but it will be effective.
Howard Bender is the VP of operations and head of content at Fantasy-Alarm.com. Follow him on Twitter @rotobuzzguy and catch him on the award-winning “Fantasy Alarm Radio Show” on the SiriusXM fantasy sports channel weekdays from 5-7 p.m. Go to FantasyAlarm.com for all your fantasy baseball advice.