MARKET PULSE: Relief pitchers, 2020

NOTE: Our preseason Market Pulse column is an exercise in identifying the gaps between the valuation of the "popular" market (as reflected in Average Draft Position, or "ADP") and that of BaseballHQ.com. If a player is not listed here, it's likely that he qualifies at a scarcer position, or he's not in the ADP Top 500-600 (it's a bit fluid). Remember that this is an exercise in relative valuation, not absolute.

Each hitter is being considered at his scarcest qualified position (in order: C/DH, SS, 2B, 3B, 1B, OF), as it is the scarcest eligible position that typically drives fantasy value. The rankings are a risk- and position-adjusted estimate using current BaseballHQ.com projections. It is a purely quantitative ranking, with no specific consideration of "upside" (aside from reliability scores). The dollar values are position adjusted, but do not incorporate risk. Average auction values are approximate. These are not the "official" BaseballHQ.com straight draft rankings, but they should be close.

The article assumes a standard 15-team, mixed, 5x5 league, though the recommendations here will generally apply in most formats. A positive number in the "Diff" column indicates a player that BaseballHQ.com ranks higher than the "market," and a negative number indicates we have the player ranked lower, based on ADP. The list is split into tiers, based on the ADP. The ADP itself is based on recent NFBC drafts.

Previous columns: C/DH | SS | 2B | 3B | 1B | OF | SP 

(NFBC ADP Report) | Unofficial Rankings

We'll depart from our regular format of analyzing players with marked differences between BaseballHQ and ADP. Overall, the market values relievers higher than does BaseballHQ, especially given the typical volatility among closers. Instead, we'll take a handful of bullpens where the closer role is at least somewhat up in the air and see how the market likes the options versus how BaseballHQ ia valuing these players. Then we'll analyze some speculative saves sources that the market might be misvaluing.

                             HQ                           --  HQ Projections --
Player               TM REL Rank ADP Diff HQ$ AAV Diff |  IP  ERA WHIP  W Sv  K 
==================  === === ==== === ==== === === ==== | === ==== ==== == == ===
Hader, Joshua       MIL ABB   69  59  -10  17  19   -2 |  80 3.04 0.96  4 34 129

Yates, Kirby         SD BBA  125  75  -50  12  16   -4 |  58 2.33 1.00  2 30  90
Chapman, Aroldis    NYY DBB  137  83  -54  14  15   -1 |  65 2.49 1.14  5 34 104
Osuna, Roberto      HOU ABA  116  88  -28  12  15   -3 |  58 2.79 0.93  3 36  63
Hendriks, Liam      OAK DCB  186 101  -85  10  13   -3 |  65 3.05 1.11  4 30  86
Rogers, Taylor      MIN ACB  172 106  -66   8  13   -5 |  58 2.79 1.09  2 30  66
Hand, Brad          CLE BBA  138 116  -22  11  12   -1 |  65 3.32 1.12  4 38  90
Diaz, Edwin         NYM AAC  230 118 -112   5  12   -7 |  65 3.46 1.18  2 20 105
Jansen, Kenley       LA BAB  163 122  -41   9  11   -2 |  58 3.41 1.05  3 34  76
Giles, Kenneth      TOR ABA  153 127  -26   9  11   -2 |  58 2.79 1.09  2 32  79

Neris, Hector       PHI ACA  129 137    8  12  10    2 |  73 3.21 1.12  3 36  93
Kimbrel, Craig      CHC DBC  214 142  -72   8  10   -2 |  65 3.74 1.15  3 36  95
Iglesias, Raisel    CIN CAA  188 146  -42   8  10   -2 |  65 3.60 1.14  3 34  80
Colome, Alexander   CHW BBB  218 157  -61   6   9   -3 |  58 3.57 1.26  4 34  56
Workman, Brandon    BOS FDA  158 159    1  12   9    3 |  65 3.05 1.14  7 30  81
Smith, Will         ATL FCA  262 163  -99   7   9   -2 |  58 3.41 1.17  6 14  79
Robles, Hansel      LAA BCB  183 166  -17   8   8    0 |  65 3.32 1.20  4 34  68
Leclerc, Jose       TEX BCC  239 170  -69   5   8   -3 |  65 3.18 1.20  2 19  94
Anderson, Nick      TAM ADF  177 171   -6   8   8    0 |  58 3.26 1.10  6 20  84
Bradley, Archie     ARI BCA  152 178   26   9   8    1 |  73 3.08 1.26  4 36  76
Kennedy, Ian         KC DBB  299 199 -100   4   7   -3 |  58 3.72 1.33  3 32  59
Doolittle, Sean     WAS FBC  215 201  -14   8   7    1 |  65 3.74 1.09  5 28  72
Gallegos, Giovanny  STL ADB  143 209   66  12   6    6 |  73 2.71 0.95  4 12  82
Kela, Keone         PIT FCA  213 211   -2   8   6    2 |  58 3.26 1.14  5 26  73
Jimenez, Joe        DET ADC  255 218  -37   4   6   -2 |  65 4.02 1.25  4 27  82
Melancon, Mark      ATL FCB  314 222  -92   2   6   -4 |  65 3.46 1.32  3 20  61

James, Joshua       HOU CDC  246 291   45   7   3    4 | 102 3.79 1.22  7  0 139
Oberg, Scott        COL DDC  318 294  -24   2   3   -1 |  58 3.41 1.29  5 14  54
Pagan, Emilio        SD ACD  232 299   67   5   3    2 |  65 3.05 1.00  3  8  76
Givens, Mychal      BAL ACA  305 304   -1   2   2    0 |  58 3.88 1.24  3 20  69
Davis, Wade         COL DBC  635 310 -325  -7   2   -9 |  44 4.91 1.48  2  9  47
Hudson, Daniel      WAS DCA  346 312  -34   1   2   -1 |  73 3.95 1.21  4 10  71
Kintzler, Brandon   MIA AFF  338 319  -19   1   2   -1 |  58 3.57 1.21  2 18  48
Lugo, Seth          NYM DBB  180 328  148   9   2    7 |  73 2.96 1.03  5 16  80
Treinen, Blake       LA BBD  401 339  -62  -1   1   -2 |  65 3.74 1.35  5  6  70
Magill, Matthew     SEA CDB  394 341  -53  -1   1   -2 |  58 3.88 1.33  5 11  61
Watson, Tony         SF AFF  448 364  -84  -1   1   -2 |  58 3.88 1.34  3 11  52
Peralta, Freddy     MIL BDB  399 368  -31  -1   1   -2 |  94 4.21 1.35  7  0 124
Castillo, Diego     TAM BDC  268 370  102   4   1    3 |  65 3.05 1.12  4  8  75
Betances, Dellin    NYM FDD  319 375   56   2   0    2 |  58 2.95 1.17  3  2  90
Reyes, Alex         STL FFF  652 384 -268  -9   0   -9 |  51 5.12 1.49  3  2  56
Pressly, Ryan       HOU DCB  300 388   88   3   0    3 |  58 2.95 1.10  3  4  79
Anderson, Shaun      SF BDB  663 394 -269  -7   0   -7 |  73 4.44 1.37  3  2  56
Pivetta, Nick       PHI ACC  762 419 -343  -8  -1   -7 |  36 4.50 1.36  2  0  36
Hirano, Yoshihisa   SEA CBB  397 427  240  -1  -5    4 |  51 3.88 1.25  3 11  55
Karinchak, James    CLE AFF  566 432 -134  -4  -1   -3 |  58 4.19 1.31  2  0  83
Alvarado, Jose      TAM DDC  479 435  -44  -4  -1   -3 |  44 3.48 1.25  1  4  53
Barnes, Matt        BOS ACA  326 439  113   1  -1    2 |  58 3.57 1.24  5  4  88
Lorenzen, Michael   CIN DCB  365 443   78   0  -1    1 |  80 3.71 1.24  3  6  73
Miller, Andrew      STL FDB  317 446  129  -1  -1    0 |  73 3.82 1.30  5 14  98
Knebel, Corey       MIL FCB  430 451   21  -2  -1   -1 |  58 3.57 1.26  2  4  81
Pomeranz, Drew       SD DBF  427 453   26  -1  -1    0 |  87 3.72 1.29  2  2  94
Clase, Emmanuel     CLE AFF  336 455  119  -3  -1   -2 |  65 3.05 1.17  3  2  60
Harvey, Hunter      BAL CFC  630 462 -168  -7  -2   -5 |  51 4.76 1.33  2  5  53
Peacock, Brad       HOU FCC  316 465  149  -2  -2    0 |  87 3.72 1.23  6  0 101
Helsley, Ryan       STL BDC  606 468 -138  -6  -2   -4 |  44 4.30 1.27  3  2  38
Stanek, Ryne        MIA BDB  472 470   -2  -3  -2   -1 |  65 3.74 1.28  1  3  76
Diaz, Jairo         COL FFF  459 472   13  -3  -2   -1 |  58 4.03 1.43  4 11  53
Newcomb, Sean       ATL ACA  504 474  -30  -3  -2   -1 |  65 3.74 1.34  5  0  64
Ginkel, Kevin       ARI AFA  331 482  151   1  -2    3 |  44 3.07 1.11  5  2  53
Bummer, Aaron       CHW ADA  500 484  -16  -3  -2   -1 |  58 3.10 1.22  1  0  52
Harris, Will        WAS BDA  296 493  197   3  -2    5 |  65 3.18 1.09  3  6  70
May, Trevor         MIN FDC  360 496  136   0  -2    2 |  58 3.41 1.19  4  2  71
Romo, Sergio        MIN DCA  465 499   34  -3  -2   -1 |  58 3.88 1.24  2  6  61
Britton, Zack       NYY FCA  493 502    9  -4  -2   -2 |  58 3.41 1.31  2  2  50
Crick, Kyle         PIT CDB  698 506 -192  -8  -3   -5 |  58 4.66 1.47  2  4  66
Ottavino, Adam      NYY FCD  425 507   82  -2  -3    1 |  58 3.72 1.29  4  2  78
Greene, Shane       ATL CBA  362 509  147  -1  -3    2 |  65 3.60 1.20  2 10  66
Munoz, Andres        SD AFB  333 515  182   1  -3    4 |  58 3.41 1.16  4  2  74
Wick, Rowan         CHC ADB  409 520  111  -2  -3    1 |  65 3.32 1.29  3  2  63
Dominguez, Seran.   PHI FFF  456 521   65  -3  -3    0 |  44 3.48 1.27  4  2  51
Buttrey, Ty         LAA ADD  451 523   72  -2  -3    1 |  65 3.74 1.28  3  2  73
Graterol, Brusdar    LA AFF  525 532    7  -4  -3   -1 |  44 3.68 1.25  4  0  42
Montero, Rafael     TEX FDD  359 536  177   0  -3    3 |  58 3.10 1.17  3  2  63
Tuivailala, Sam     SEA FDB  487 543   56  -4  -3   -1 |  44 3.48 1.27  3  2  43
Cishek, Steve       CHW BCB  438 545  107  -4  -3   -1 |  58 3.41 1.21  3  0  56
Green, Chad         NYY ACA  248 546  298   4  -3    7 |  73 3.33 1.08  5  0  94
Strahm, Matt         SD FDD  368 559  191   0  -3    3 |  65 3.74 1.15  4  0  72
Stephenson, Robert  CIN DDA  384 572  188  -1  -4    3 |  65 3.88 1.22  4  0  78
Urena, Jose         MIA FAB  559 574   15  -5  -4   -1 | 116 4.81 1.39  8  2  84
Middleton, Keynan   LAA FDD  366 575  209   0  -4    4 |  58 3.72 1.34  7  4  69
Hicks, Jordan       STL FDC  544 590   46  -6  -4   -2 |  15 3.00 1.07  1  2  15
Poche, Colin        TAM AFF  372 594  222   0  -4    4 |  51 4.06 1.10  5  4  73
Petit, Yusmeiro     OAK ACA  170 595  425   8  -4   12 |  80 3.15 0.91  5  2  70
Jackson, Luke       ATL ADC  455 597  142  -2  -4    2 |  58 3.72 1.29  5  0  71
Baez, Pedro          LA DCA  387 608  221  -1  -4    3 |  65 3.74 1.22  5  0  69
Duffey, Tyler       MIN ADD  407 611  204  -3  -4    1 |  58 3.72 1.17  4  0  64
Kahnle, Thomas      NYY CDF  345 614  269   1  -4    5 |  58 3.10 1.10  3  0  77
Wittgren, Nick      CLE DDB  464 621  157  -2  -5    3 |  65 3.88 1.25  4  0  63
Strop, Pedro        CIN DCA  466 630  164  -3  -5    2 |  58 4.19 1.24  4  0  69
Duplantier, Jon     ARI CFA  697 635  -62  -8  -5   -3 |  58 4.34 1.50  3  2  53

In the following tables: # = Left-handed pitcher; All stats are projected

Atlanta

Pitcher              Rank  ADP  IP  Sv  ERA   WHIP  xERA  Dom   Cmd  G/L/F     BPV            
===================  ====  ===  ==  ==  ====  ====  ====  ====  ===  ========  ===              
Melancon, Mark        314  222  65  22  3.46  1.32  3.37   8.5  3.8  58/22/20  128            
Smith, Will#          262  163  58  16  3.41  1.17  3.20  12.3  3.9  41/21/37  155            
Martin, Christopher   320  706  65   0  3.32  1.05  3.09   9.8  8.9  46/23/31  171            
Greene, Shane         362  509  65   4  3.60  1.20  3.88   9.1  3.1  45/20/35  109            
Jackson, Luke         455  597  58   0  3.72  1.29  3.29  11.0  3.1  52/20/27  132

Mark Melancon (RHP, ATL) has been named the closer to start the season, but Will Smith (LHP, ATL) is coming off a 34-save season where he put up a 180 BPV. He's also five years younger than Melancon. Both BaseballHQ and the market see Smith as the more valuable player, even though BaseballHQ doesn't quite see him as the saves leader. Neither is going at a discount. Don't forget about Christopher Martin (RHP, ATL) who put up a ridiculous 13.0 Cmd in 2019 (supported by a 13% SwK and 70% FpK). If Melancon falters, Martin may get the primary closer role, as Smith has been much better against LHB the past two seasons than against RHB. Both Shane Green (RHP, ATL) and Luke Jackson (RHP, ATL) have closer experience as well, though something would have to go very wrong for one of them to lead in saves. To be safe, you almost have to draft both Melancon and Smith, which is costly. If Melancon starts out strong, he may survive a rough patch later in the season, but if he has a tough April, he could lose the job. Tough call here, but we believe Melancon will be the saves leader this season.

Colorado

Pitcher          Rank  ADP  IP  Sv  ERA   WHIP  xERA  Dom  Cmd  G/L/F     BPV            
===============  ====  ===  ==  ==  ====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ========  ===              
Davis, Wade       635  310  44   9  4.91  1.48  4.73  9.6  2.0  38/22/40   56            
Oberg, Scott      318  294  58  14  3.41  1.29  3.93  8.4  2.5  52/21/27   89            
Diaz, Jairo       459  472  58  11  4.03  1.43  4.43  8.2  2.1  49/19/32   70            
Estevez, Carlos   475  749  58   7  4.19  1.36  4.24  9.2  2.8  41/22/37   96            
McGee, Jake#      631  751  58   0  4.81  1.28  4.51  7.8  2.9  40/20/40   86

Wade Davis (RHP, COL) was awful in 2019 (6.06 xERA), and was a bit fortunate in 2018. His second-order control numbers the past two seasons have been miserable (49% FpK, 41% Ball% in 2018; 56% FpK, 41% Ball% in 2019). Yet he's the closer headed into the 2020 season. The market is torn between Davis and Scott Oberg (RHP, COL), but the odds are really in Oberg's favor. Davis has much better skills in his recent past, and the team showed excruciating patience with him in 2019, so if you draft Oberg, he may sit on your bench for a while (but his projection is 14 only saves, so even if he doesn't take over until July, you'll get your value for him). Jairo Diaz (RHP, COL) is also in the mix, and he's young enough to see a potential step up in skills. He's a good reserve option if you're prospecting. Oberg would be our first choice here, followed by Diaz. We don't even have Davis on our draft list (and it's 600 deep).

Seattle

Pitcher            Rank  ADP  IP  Sv  ERA   WHIP  xERA  Dom  Cmd  G/L/F     BPV            
=================  ====  ===  ==  ==  ====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ========  ===              
Magill, Matthew     394  341  58  11  3.88  1.33  4.23  9.5  2.9  37/24/39   97            
Hirano, Yoshihisa   397  427  51  11  3.88  1.25  3.87  9.7  3.1  45/19/39  112            
Tuivailala, Sam     487  543  44   2  3.48  1.27  4.54  8.8  2.3  39/18/42   70            
Edwards, Carl       567  662  44   2  4.30  1.36  4.90  6.6  2.0  44/20/36   52            
Swanson, Erik       628  835  58   0  4.19  1.31  4.27  8.8  3.4  41/17/41  107            
Brennan, Brandon    717  857  51   2  4.76  1.55  4.37  8.3  1.7  55/21/24   54

We checked eight respectable fantasy publications, and found a completely split opinion on who would lead the Mariners in saves in 2020 (three each for Magill and Hirano, and two, including BaseballHQ, who had them neck-and-neck). However, bullpen committees rarely remain committees for long; while the role may switch back and forth throughout the season, most managers end up picking a guy and sticking with him until he falters. We're not going to hedge in this space—the clear choice is Yoshi Hirano (RHP, SEA). Why? First, he's about six rounds cheaper than Matthew Magill (RHP, SEA) despite being just as much in the saves mix. Second, Magill has been having shoulder issues in camp and has yet to pitch. He's expected to be okay by Opening Day, but as of this moment in time, it adds to his risk. In 2018-2019, Hirano was just as effective against RHB as Magill, and much better against LHB. Finally, Hirano has pitched in much higher leverage situations the past two seasons (1.44 LI in 2018 and 1.32 LI in 2019 for Hirano, vs. 0.87/0.76 LI in 2018/2019 for Magill). We're betting on Hirano here, for sure. We'd take Hirano as early as the 18th round (note that he's gone as early as #250) if we needed saves.

St. Louis

Pitcher             Rank  ADP  IP  Sv  ERA   WHIP  xERA  Dom   Cmd  G/L/F     BPV            
==================  ====  ===  ==  ==  ====  ====  ====  ====  ===  ========  ===              
Gallegos, Giovanny   143  209  73  12  2.71  0.95  3.68  10.1  4.8  34/18/48  137            
Miller, Andrew#      317  446  73  14  3.82  1.30  3.64  12.1  2.8  41/22/38  120            
Brebbia, John        332  675  73   2  3.58  1.21  4.34   9.8  3.5  28/21/51  107            
Fernandez, Junior    523  948  44   0  3.48  1.20  3.77  10.0  2.7  45/21/34  104            
Gant, John           542  701  73   0  4.19  1.49  4.89   7.5  1.6  45/25/30   32            
Reyes, Alex          652  384  51   2  5.12  1.49  4.78   9.9  1.8  42/18/40   45

We don't see this as a bullpen by committee or as a terribly uncertain situation. We expect Carlos Martinez (RHP, STL) and Kwang-Hyun Kim (LHP, STL) to begin the season in the rotation, which leaves Giovanny Gallegos (RHP, STL) as the clear choice at closer. While Andrew Miller (LHP, STL) didn't fill the "multi-inning reliever" role in 2019 (only 7 of 73 appearances were for more than an inning), he only saw 11 save opportunities all year (and he's alrerady having arm issues in camp). Gallegos is the higher-skilled of the two, based on projections, and was equally effective against LHB and RHB in 2019 (Gallegos had 68/76 L/R OPS+ in 2019, while Milller's was 89/107). We think Gallegos is the clear #1 here and should be considered on the same closer tier as guys like Roberto Osuna (RHP, TOR), Brad Hand (LPH, CLE), and Hector Neris (RHP, PHI).

Note that we do not have Jordan Hicks (RHP, STL) on this list. He's likely out until July following Tommy John surgery and is unlikely to step back into the closer role when he returns.

Hidden saves?

Seth Lugo (RHP, NYM) and Dellin Betances (RHP, NYM) both sit behind Edwin Diaz (RHP, NYM), who struggled mightily in 2019. In this space, we expect Diaz to experience a whole lot of positive regression, which may make this conversation moot, but he will certainly be on a shorter leash than he was in 2019. Lugo (147 pBPV) probably gets the first shot at saves, while Betances (154 pBPV) is probably Plan C. Keep in mind, too, that Betances is coming off some serious injuries—in particular, his Achilles tendon could be a ticking time bomb. He's also had velocity issues so far this spring, though that's not uncommon at this point. Lugo's 16 projected saves is a bit of a hedge against Diaz imploding, but if he gets even half that many, he's still worth more than his 22nd-round ADP. He's a great speculation in the 18th-19th round or so. Betances is more a reserve pick than anything, but still with upside.

Diego Castillo (RHP, TAM) is in the mix for saves in Tampa, though Nick Anderson (RHP, TAM) is the presumptive leader for the ninth-inning role. We feel compelled to point out here that Anderson has exactly five career save opportunities, and he's blown four of them. It's a small sample, but that's kind of the point—nobody in the Rays' bullpen has more than 15 career saves. Anderson has the best projected skills of the bunch (170 pBPV), but Castillo (139 pBPV) is close behind. All it would take is two or three blown saves for Castillo to get the nod, and Anderson's fly ball tilt may lend itself to a few loud blown saves. Even if that doesn't happen, the Rays are likely to spread saves opportunities around a bit, so 8-10 saves for Castillo in a setup role is not out oft he question. He's a good value as a short reliever any time after the 20th, and his potential is much higher if he lands the ninth-inning role.

We'll be honest; we're not enamored with Rowan Wick's (RHP, CHC) skills as a potential closer. They're just okay: 4.3 Ctl, 9.5 Dom, 2.2 Cmd, 85 BPV in 33 IP in 2019. However, his FpK, Ball%, and minor-league track record suggest a lower Ctl (on the order of 3.6-3.7), which would make things look better. His biggest advantages lie in his team context: he has the second-best skills in the Cubs' bullpen, and he's pitching behind a guy who might be in serious decline. Craig Kimbrel (RHP, CHC) has been one of MLB's best relievers for years, but his age (32), injury history (knee and elbow injuries in 2019), and 2019 performance (4.62 xERA, 5.2 Ctl, 2.5 Cmd) all increase the odds that he flames out of the closer role. Kimbrel didn't pitch in anger in 2019 until the end of June, so perhaps a normal off-season training regimen will restore him to something close to his former glory. However, he remains near the top of the list of closers likely to lose their job at some point. Wick is worth a reserve pick for sure.

Ty Buttrey (RHP, LAA) has solid skills (126 pBPV) and some experience as a closer. The Angels have Hansel Robles (RHP, LAA) inked in as their closer to start the season, but his skill set (9.4 Dom, 3.0 Cmd, 41% FB%) doesn't blow us away—he is capable of handling the role, but certainly not elite. If he falters, Buttrey is the likely next in line. The Angels do have Kenyan Middleton (RHP, LAA), who also has close-worthy skills, but he's in his first full season back after Tommy John surgery, so they will likely monitor his workload closely. That leaves Buttrey as the potential heir. That's worth a reserve pick.

If you're in a deep NL-only league or one of those 50-round draft-and-holds, consider Drew Steckenrider (RHP, MIA). First off, his competition is Brandon Kintzler (RHP, MIA) and his 7.5 Dom. Steckenrider was the closer to start 2019 before succumbing to an elbow injury, and his 10.3 Dom and 2.7 Cmd in 2018 are a better indicator of his skill than his injury-hampered 2019. Kintzler certainly doesn't have a lock on the role and if Steckenrider is healthy, he could take over at some point. However, beware Brad Boxberger (RHP, MIA), who has closing experience and is hitting 93-94 MPH in camp. 


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.