We have finally reached the final installment of this series. This edition will cover both starting and relief pitchers. Finding sleepers in these positions depends heavily, and I mean heavily, on your league’s settings. Does your league count wins or quality starts? Does it count saves alone or saves and holds combined? These two categories alone change this drastically.
The win category, in my opinion, should be removed entirely from fantasy baseball, and baseball too for that matter. It doesn’t represent how well a pitcher has pitched, at all. Take Jacob deGrom for instance; he had an historically successful seasons in 2018, and won just 10 games. Had he had the exact same peripherals with the Red Sox, he likely would have won 26+ games. It’s a stat that’s the subject of constant arguments throughout the fantasy baseball world, thus sparking the popularity of the quality start stat. I’ll preface this by saying I’m not a huge fan of this stat either, as a ‘quality start’ is a start that is at least six innings with three earned runs or less. If every start you have is six innings and three earned runs, you’d have an ERA of 4.50, which is not ideal, but you’d have roughly 30+ quality starts. Still not a great indication of pitcher’s performance, but it is a bit better than wins.
The confusion around pitching continues. The second major argument in the fantasy baseball world is whether or not to include holds with the saves category. The primary reasoning for this is that it opens the door for many more relief pitchers to be fantasy relevant. Especially in today’s game, in which the ‘closer’ role is becoming much murkier and high-leverage relievers are being more used in high-leverage situations regardless of when that situation occurs. It’s much more common to see your best relievers make an appearance in the seventh or eighth inning if you’re navigating through the middle of the opposing lineup. The hold category rewards you for those situations, and it’s very rare that I ever play in a league that is saves only. Some of the industry leagues around still use saves only, but any league I create and commission is always saves plus holds.
Chris Paddack, SP, San Diego Padres
The Padres are the up-and-coming team that made some waves in free agency when they signed superstar free agent Manny Machado to a 10-year/$300 million contract. The more under-the-radar budding star of this team is Chris Paddack. He is getting more and more mainstream attention as he lights up Spring Training.
Paddack’s current ADP is 448.2, suggesting he is not being drafted in any standard re-draft leagues. I’m selecting him with one of my last picks in virtually every draft I do. He is tearing it up in ST to the tune of a 2.13 ERA in four starts. There’s whispers that he may make the Opening Day roster and even some smaller whispers that he’d make the Opening Day start. I think it’s more likely that he starts the season in the minors and makes his debut in late-April. Once he gets that call, as I predict he becomes the National League Rookie of the Year, I believe he will be the ace of the San Diego staff.
It’s not like this spring’s success is anything unexpected. Paddack has had a stellar minor career since being drafted in 2015. In 33 career starts (37 appearances), he’s pitched to a 1.82 ERA and an 11.7 K/9. He’s been completely dominant at every level, and I fully expect that to continue in the big leagues.
Pedro Strop, RP, Chicago Cubs (saves only)
The Cubs are filled with question marks heading into the 2019 season. Outside of the MVP-like season of 2B/SS Javier Baez, a lot of players under-performed compared to expectations. They would finish tied for first in their division before losing both the divisional tie-breaker with Milwaukee and the Wild Card game against the Rockies, ending their postseason rather quickly.
One mainstay on that roster has been relief pitcher Pedro Strop. He has been one of the most, if not the most, consistent reliever in recent years. He’s had five straight and seven of the last eight seasons with an ERA under 3.00. He has maintained a K/9 just under 10.0 while allowing just 0.5 HR/9. He misses bats and keeps the ball in the ballpark; excellent peripherals for a relief pitcher.
His current ADP is 302.2, placing him in the 25th round of most drafts. The only negative to Strop is his high walk rate (4.0 BB/9 over his career), but at this stage of your drafts, the positives outweigh the negatives and he will begin the season as the Cubs’ closer.
Trevor Rosenthal, RP, Washington Nationals (saves+holds)
The Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo has rebuilt the Washington bullpen exceptionally well over the course of the past two seasons. They went from being one of the worst units in baseball, preventing the Nationals from being a serious World Series contender, to what should be a very efficient bullpen this season.
Rosenthal has been somewhat of a castoff since undergoing Tommy John surgery in August of 2017. The injury forced him to miss the entire 2018 season due to the lengthy rehab and recovery timetable for this procedure. However, he’s had over 18 months to recover and he’s back and looking very good in Spring Training. His numbers are not bad, a 3.18 ERA in six appearances, but his velocity is back as he’s touching the 100 mph mark again. He looks ready to get back to dominance and may prove to be the free agency bargain of the year.
His current ADP is 446.0, which is absolutely outrageous to me. I can understand him not being drafted in saves only leagues as it’s unlikely he’ll get more than a save or two barring injury; but he should receive plenty of holds. Even with the pending possibility of the Nationals’ adding star closer Craig Kimbrel, Rosenthal’s hold opportunities won’t go away. They have what looks like the best starting rotation in all of baseball on paper, which should set the bullpen up with plenty of opportunities to maintain leads.
On top of that, it’s easy to forget just how dominant Rosenthal was before the injury. He saved 45 and 48 games in 2014 and 2015 respectively, while actually receiving MVP votes in that stellar 2015 campaign. He finishes off hitters with a career 12.0 strikeouts per nine innings clip, which is outstanding and should provide plenty in that category as well. As long as the elbow doesn’t flare up (TJ surgeries have had excellent success in recent years), Trevor Rosenthal will be a steal for you in the last round of your drafts in saves plus holds leagues.
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Fantasy fanatic. I specialize in football and baseball, but will dabble in basketball as well. I play DFS regularly but I am by no means an expert. I win just enough to keep playing without having to deposit more money. I love talking about everything fantasy so I created this site in the hopes of helping others dominate their own fantasy leagues!