We’re still more than a month away from the start of the MLB season … so how do you approach drafting bullpen arms at this time of year?
Tristan H. Cockcroft: As would be the case with any position, the further ahead of Opening Day that we’re drafting, the more heavily I’m weighing the “skills over roles” axiom when it comes to relief pitchers. It’s simply a more pronounced strategy at that position compared to others, even if that seems odd because fantasy value is more role-oriented there than at any other position.
Saves are the easiest category to fill after the draft, when the least is known about who will be getting them — more saves still up for grabs means more will likely land in the free-agent pool. And the downside of drafting an ordinary (read: no ERA/WHIP/K’s help) reliever who winds up in middle relief, providing you no value whatsoever, is simply too scary at this early stage.
In short, this is a time during draft season when I’m going to pass up Fernando Rodney and his inconsistency and history of poor ratio support, instead grabbing Addison Reed, who has superior skills, in the much later rounds.
It’s a time when I’ll take a chance on Archie Bradley, the most talented of the Arizona Diamondbacks‘ top three closer challengers, or even David Robertson, hoping that maybe the New York Yankees will need to shed his salary in a trade to stay under the luxury-tax threshold.
Worst case: If I end up with no saves coming out of the draft, any saves “dart throws” I took that missed would just end up being my first cuts for the eventual winners of these spring closer battles.
Eric Karabell: In ESPN standard formats, I likely don’t deal with bullpen uncertainty at all. These are shallow leagues, and saves will always be available on free agency in April, May and beyond.
I think, for example, that Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia, wily veteran that he is, will eventually settle on right-hander Blake Parker, who pitched so well in numerous roles last season — including the ninth-inning role — so I might spend a pick in the final round or two on Parker. I probably will not, though, because I do not see much upside there.
After all, don’t we know by this point that nearly a third of closer roles for Opening Day — and we are still a month from that point — will change?
So I am more likely to use precious bench spots on upside options for other statistical categories in case they make their respective MLB rosters or their situation becomes more positive during spring training.
For example, top outfield prospects Ronald Acuna and Victor Robles seem like better initial investments than Parker, Miami Marlins right-hander Brad Ziegler and Texas Rangers lefty Alex Claudio. Same with Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Brent Honeywell and St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Alex Reyes.
In deeper formats where it might be tougher to secure saves during the season, then I will likely bypass the top-100 closers — I always do — and take four or five lesser relief pitchers with the hope a few perform well and secure roles.
I like Parker. I think Parker, Bradley and a few others who are off the radar, like Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Corey Knebel a year ago this time, can actually be top-10 closers if the opportunity presents itself. But still, we are talking about late draft selections here, after a deep roster of hitters and rotation depth is secured.
AJ Mass: It’s all about job security when it comes to closers, whose value in category-based formats is almost completely tied to how many saves they can give a fantasy manager. So, while the ideal scenario would be to actually know the results of the many spring battles for that ninth-inning role as possible, when time is not on your side, for many teams, you’ll simply have to make your best guess.
Obviously, established relievers like Kenley Jansen, Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman are very unlikely to lose their jobs and are, hence, “safe.” Similarly, Wade Davis didn’t get a $52 million contract to pitch in long relief. In cases like his and that of Rodney, follow the money.
For the rest of the bunch, I’d play the “follow the leader” game. If someone picks Mark Melancon, I’ll grab Sam Dyson. If Jeurys Familia gets drafted, I’ll pounce on AJ Ramos. For one thing, the more “lottery tickets” I draft in this fashion, the more chances I have that at least one of these closer competitors will come out on top come April. Plus, say my Carl Edwards Jr. ends up as the Cubs’ go-to guy. That opens a big door for me to call the guy who put all of his eggs into Brandon Morrow‘s basket and name my price.
Kyle Soppe: The necessary evil of forecasting bullpen usage is nothing short of a pain — and often a game-changer. If I’m drafting today, I’m making a run at, but not reaching for, one of the six top closers.
From Jansen to Ken Giles, if value presents itself, I’ll happily lock in the few “safe” saves on the board and piece together the rest, knowing that I have an edge on at least a handful of teams, given the stability. But if you decide to pass on the top options, my philosophy is pretty simple: Go for talent or résumé.
The thought with the talent angle is that, at the bare minimum, you’re supporting your ratios while you wait for a role to present itself (the Bradley approach). The résumé idea is more of a short-term plan, hoping that loyal managers look in the past to determine whom they hand the ball to in the ninth (the Melancon-rebound approach).
I prefer the Bradley approach, as there is less risk involved, but it is important to understand that you are not the only manager struggling to secure saves (29 players had 15-plus saves last season, but only 10 had more than 30), and that this category is often decided during the season.
New York Yankees’ Gerrit Cole tests positive for COVID-19, will miss Tuesday start
In his second season with the Yankees, the 30-year-old right-hander is 10-6 with a 3.11 ERA in 21 starts. The four-time All-Star is coming off a 14-0 loss at Tampa Bay on July 29 in which he allowed eight runs in 5 1/3 innings.
Boone said Nestor Cortes Jr. likely will start in place of Cole. Cortes has no record and a 1.93 ERA in three starts and eight relief appearances for the Yankees this season.
Los Angeles Angels recall hot-hitting outfield prospect Jo Adell from Triple-A Salt Lake
Adell, 22, homered in three consecutive games on Thursday, Friday and Sunday and was batting .289/.342/.592 with 23 home runs and eight stolen bases in 73 games for the Salt Lake Bees. The Angels initially had him in the lineup for the series opener against the Texas Rangers — starting in left field, with fellow top prospect Brandon Marsh in center — but removed him because he arrived too late to start.
Adell, the 19th-rated prospect at the start of the season by ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel, struggled mightily both offensively and defensively during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. The Angels waited to call him up this year, even though they had obvious outfield needs with Mike Trout, Justin Upton and Dexter Fowler all out with injuries, the latter of whom underwent season-ending knee surgery in April.
Adell will share an outfield with Marsh for the foreseeable future and is the latest in what resembles a youth moment for an Angels team on the fringes of contention. On Sunday, Reid Detmers, a 22-year-old starting pitcher who was drafted 10th overall in 2020, made his major league debut. On Monday, 23-year-old right-hander Chris Rodriguez, who debuted as a reliever earlier in the year, got the start.
Adell batted .161/.212/.266 with 55 strikeouts in 38 games last year and misplayed several balls while serving as the Angels’ everyday right fielder last summer. Playing time for Adell has opened because of Trout’s lingering calf injury, which has kept him out since May 17. Trout was initially expected back around this time, but his rehab has hit something of a lull.
Prior to the game, speaking before Adell’s promotion was announced, Angels manager Joe Maddon said, “It’s very important for us going into the offseason to know exactly what we have and what we need to do to move forward for next year.
“Having said that,” Maddon added, “that does not mean conceding to anything at all. We believe that these young guys are ready to play here and be part of a winning environment.”
Texas Rangers reshuffle roster more, designate OF David Dahl for assignment
ARLINGTON, Texas — Former All-Star outfielder David Dahl was designated for assignment Monday by the rebuilding Texas Rangers, who added DJ Peters to their roster after getting the outfielder on a waiver claim from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Dahl hit .210 with four homers and 18 RBIs in his 63 games with the Rangers, who signed the 2019 National League All-Star for $2.7 million last winter. He was coming off right shoulder surgery then, and Colorado didn’t offer him a contract. The 27-year-old Dahl missed all of June for Texas with rib cage and upper back issues.
“We, over the past week, have really kind of defined where we are and where we’re going, and the opportunity to give at-bats to some of our young carry-forward pieces,” general manager Chris Young said. “I think we had determined that David is not going to be that moving forward and the decision was made to cut ties.”
Third-year Rangers manager Chris Woodward said the move with Dahl was performance-based, along with the opportunity to add Peters.
Woodward was the third-base coach for the Dodgers before taking the Texas job and is familiar with the 25-year-old Peters, who made his big league debut this season. He hit .192 with one homer in 18 games for the defending World Series champions.
“This kid’s talented,” Woodward said. “I know the kid personally, so I know this kid’s a worker. He plays hard, he plays with his hair on fire, he’s got a ton of talent. And I think it’s worth taking a chance.”
Peters should get a chance at more consistent playing time in Texas than he did with the title-contending Dodgers. The Rangers expected him to be available for Monday night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels.
In need of pitching depth, Texas also Monday selected the contract of right-hander Jimmy Herget from Round Rock, and optioned right-hander Demarcus Evans to that Triple-A team after he pitched in two of the previous three games for the Rangers.
“We need a pitcher. D-Train’s has been pretty good since he’s been up,” Woodward said. “We let him know everything he’s done up to this point, he’s been a true professional through it all, worked hard. He’s done everything we’ve asked. And it wasn’t performance-based. It was just necessity at this point.”
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