Fantasy Baseball: How Soon Is Too Soon to Draft Koda Glover?
As an avid hip-hop fan, the words of DJ Khaled are never far from my mind.
"Don't ever play yourself."
Tuesday night, I went against this life-changing creed.
numberFire's baseball writers -- a smart group of gents -- were having our staff fantasy draft, a 16-team, mixed-league affair that got your brain in a tizzy. I entered that draft with one plan: get Koda Glover no matter what.
Glover is currently locked in a battle with Blake Treinen to be the Washington Nationals' closer for 2017. The duel is certainly far from over, but it seems like Glover has the upper hand at the moment.
Koda Glover has made five straight appearances in the 9th. Dusty says he has the stuff to close, the Nats are trying to decide if ready now
— Jamal Collier (@JamalCollier) March 21, 2017
This means entering Tuesday night, we knew Glover was the favorite to be the closer for a team that sits fourth in numberFire's team power rankings. There's insane fantasy value in that, and I knew I couldn't pass it up.
Once we got into the range of the 180th pick, Glover was in my queue. I kept coming across players with higher average draft positions (ADPs) who I knew wouldn't be on the board at my next slot. So, Glover sat there. And kept sitting. And kept sitting.
Finally, my pick at 267 was about to come up, and I was ready to pull the trigger. The opportunity cost of choosing this saucy individual was diminished, and I couldn't let him fall any farther. Then, it happened.
At pick 263 was our Editor in Chief, JJ Zacharison, and he got to Glover before I could. By trying to get too cute with game theory, Glover was in the loving arms of another.
After burning my apartment down and yelling, "Life is meaningless," at random passers by on the street, I eventually recovered and picked Lucas Duda. But even his fly-ball-bangin' ways couldn't erase the fact that I had played myself.
Admittedly, given that I was drafting with a bunch of sharp fellows, I messed up big time in waiting that long to get Glover. He's generating buzz, and people who follow baseball closely are starting to know his name. This was dumb on my part.
So what, exactly, is the right time to get Glover in upcoming fantasy drafts? Let's try to sort through this -- while accounting for the continued ambiguity in the Nationals' closer situation -- so that you all don't make the same mistakes I did.
Balancing Uncertainty and Upside
Again, it's worth reminding ourselves that Glover's not a certainty to snag this role for the Nationals. But if he does, he'd have some sweet upside.
Glover debuted in the majors last year in his age-23 season, throwing 19 2/3 innings in the big show. Over that time, he had a 19.3% strikeout rate, a number that looks due for some upward movement when you see his 11.2% swinging-strike rate. His strikeout rate was 25.0% in Triple-A and 31.2% in Double-A as a reliever, so he shouldn't be a liability in that department.
This means he would be an adequate reliever set to get save opportunities for one of the best teams in the league. Where does this make him slot in as it relates to other relievers?
Assuming no leap in production, Glover has a similar profile to that of Pittsburgh Pirates reliever, Tony Watson. Watson had a 21.3% strikeout rate last year with a 7.4% walk rate, and neither he nor Glover is a ground-ball fiend. Watson's ADP on ESPN is 164.9.
The Nationals are projected to be better than the Pirates, there's uncertainty around Watson with both Daniel Hudson and Felipe Rivero in town, and Watson lacks the upside of youth you can find in Glover. This seems to be the low-end thought for Glover's potential.
Once you get below Watson, it's a good number of players either on bad teams or with limited job security. You could make a pitch that Glover is on par with or more valuable than the options in this range, making him worth somewhere around the 160th pick.
With Glover, there are the concerns that even if he wins the job, he could lose it. Both Treinen and Shawn Kelley are solid relievers, and the team recently signed Joe Blanton, as well. If Glover stumbles out of the gate -- as can always happen in the small samples of relievers -- he could easily wind up sliding down the totem pole.
While that's true with Glover, it's also true with every other starter going in this range. Watson has Hudson and Rivero, Sam Dyson is being pursued by Matt Bush, and even the higher-end David Robertson has to deal with the threat of Nate Jones. The concept of a "safe" closer is a fallacy, and it's one that works in Glover's favor.
Even if the public starts to catch on to Glover, it seems doubtful his ADP is going to spike. He's not a well-known name, and the uncertainty of his situation can help keep things in check. This means we don't need to take him with that 160th pick.
Instead, the best strategy may be to wait on Glover until around the 200th pick. That would put him right near the aforementioned Dyson, who has some similar concerns, and ahead of the Los Angeles Angels' Cam Bedrosian and the Philadelphia Phillies' Hector Neris, who isn't even currently the team's closer.
By drafting Glover in this tier, you're helping account for the legitimate question marks that do still hover around him while taking him well above his slot. There are other acceptable options in this range -- specifically, Neftali Feliz and Greg Holland -- but they don't have the same upside of Glover if he is crowned the team's closer.
Still a Gamble
If you decide to deploy this strategy with Glover, you're definitely taking a risk. It's past the tiers of the game's top closers, meaning one of your leaguemates may roll the dice and snag Glover first. At least if that happens, though, you won't be left out to dry.
By planning around Glover as roughly the 200th pick, you've still got options should you miss out. As mentioned, both Feliz and Holland are talented pitchers who seem likely to close for their respective teams, and they should be available around that same slot. It would be disappointing to miss out on Glover's potential, but you're still not totally left out to dry.
Additionally, by waiting this long, we get a shot at Glover's upside without fretting as much about his risks. Sure, the Nationals could turn to Treinen on April 1st (this is still a Dusty Baker-managed team, after all), but those same risks are present with most relievers in this range, and the market is still comfortable taking them there.
Don't play yourself. I learned this the hard way on Tuesday by rocking the game-theory card way too aggressively, and it cost me this potential fantasy darling. Hopefully, by balancing this waiting game with a reach relative to Glover's ADP, we can account for his downsides without risking arrest for arson or alienating the neighbors.