Using Our MLB Power Rankings to Evaluate the Average Draft Position of Relief Pitchers
You know that tight feeling you get in the back side of your shoulder when you're stressed out? That didn't exist before relief pitchers were included in fantasy baseball.
There are few things more maddening about fantasy baseball than choosing relievers. You could pick the sickest, most deceptive dude on the planet, but if his team is donkey doo, his fantasy value will be as well. More than almost any other position, a reliever's real-world value is drastically different than his fake value.
This makes it important to know the expectations of a team heading into the season. You can get a good grasp of these using numberFire's power rankings. They have full win-loss projections as well as playoff and World Series odds. Dopeness.
I wanted to see how these power rankings lined up with the average draft positions (ADP) of relievers. The ADPs I used were from ESPN's draft results over the past seven days. The two obviously aren't going to totally line up. You also have to take into account skill, job security and health. But if there's a huge discrepancy between a team's outlook and a player's ADP, then your value spidey senses should be tingling. Here are a few guys that raised some eyebrows.
Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
ADP: 44.6 (RP No. 1) | Team Ranking: 22nd
Don't get it twisted. Aroldis Chapman is disgustingly good, and I would be so ready to have him on my real-life team. But when it comes to fantasy, I can't say the same at his current price.
numberFire's projections have the Reds winning 77 games this year. This is partially because they, themselves, don't have an entirely optimistic outlook. It's also because they have to play 38 games between the Pirates and the Cardinals, the teams that enter the season ranked fourth and fifth in the power rankings. That can make it tough sledding.
Chapman is going to get you, relatively, a huge number of strikeouts, and you know he's not going to jack your ERA up. Even last year, when he missed the first month and a half with a broken face, Chapman had 36 saves. That's the encouraging thing with the Reds staring at another potentially disappointing season. But is all of that enough to justify being the 45th overall pick? I would answer with an emphatic, though unfortunate, no.
Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
ADP: 49 (RP No. 2) | Team Ranking: 21st
It's the same song, different verse for Craig Kimbrel. Yeah, he's a baller, but his team is decidedly less so.
In a thoroughly "meh" N.L. East, the Braves are only projected to win 79 games. This is after an offseason of swaying violently back and forth between "We're buyers!!" and "Just kidding, yo, sell hard" for Atlanta. This leaves plenty of uncertainty when it comes to Kimbrel.
The chart below shows the number of saves Kimbrel has recorded over the past four years compared to the number of wins the team has recorded. The percentage column shows in what percentage of the team's victories Kimbrel got the save.
It seems as though last year's 47-save performance was a bit of an outlier, and that would be true. The Braves as a team had the second most saves last year with 54. The second highest number of saves by a team with fewer than 80 wins would be Chapman's Reds in 14th place with 44. Basically, unless the Braves outperform their win projection by a decent amount, expecting Kimbrel to duplicate his 2014 numbers would be unrealistic.
Drew Storen, Washington Nationals
ADP: 152.1 (RP No. 17) | Team Ranking: 2nd
Storen showed last year that his vomit-worthy 2013 was in his past by posting a 1.12 ERA in 56.1 innings. That number is unsustainable in almost every way (low opposing BABIP and home run per fly ball rate with a high strand percentage), but you're not paying for a low ERA. You're paying for save opportunities, and he should have plenty of those.
Because they've already done it once, there's always the possibility the Nats could take Storen's closer role away. That's part of the risk you inherit with waiting on saves. But the upside of a potential save number in the 40's should help quiet those concerns enough to pull the trigger on Storen in the later rounds.
Fernando Rodney, Seattle Mariners
ADP: 130 (RP No. 12) | Team Ranking: 6th
On its face, the 2015 season seems like the season for the young guns. The defending A.L. MVP is 23 in Mike Trout, and Kris Bryant is the most talked-about player of the spring. But don't sleep on the old hustlers. Bartolo Colon is the Mets' opening day starter, David Ortiz is coming off his largest home run output since 2007, and Torii Hunter is making over $10 million. Time to let Fernando Rodney eat!
Yeah, Rodney's 38 years old. Yeah, Trevor Hoffman is the only player 38 years or older to record at least 45 saves in a season since 1990. So what? Rodney is still a pretty good pitcher in a friendly park, and his team is projected to be a big-time postseason contender.
Over the past two seasons, Rodney has recorded 11.07 and 10.31 strikeouts per nine, respectively. numberFire's projections see that dropping slightly to 9.61 this year, but even that is higher than some of the closers being selected before him. A high-volume strikeout closer on a team that could win 90 games is more than worthy of a selection in the 130s.