Hey all. Baseball is finally back, and while not ideal, let’s hope we are able to get through a 60 game season safely. While the shortened season does have an impact on the game, it’s not going to cause a ton of movement here compared to my rankings back in March.
There are some things that we should take into account, however, when looking into what relievers to target in a short season. First, the expectation for innings for most relievers should fall between 20-30 IP. This gets me a little more excited for some of the pitchers who have struggled to stay healthy past 40+ innings in the past (Sean Doolittle, Keone Kela) as well as closers who are in that overworked category (Kenley Jansen, Brad Hand, Craig Kimbrel), as the extra time off and sprint as opposed to marathon style of the season should help them.
The other issue with such a short season—which is probably more related to holds/non-closer relievers—is that the “upside” options take a hit since there likely won’t be enough time for them to move up the depth chart into a prominent high leverage role. This is just a hunch as it could wind up being the complete opposite story and teams may be quicker to make role changes now more than ever. I just find it less likely that someone like James Karinchak sees save chances this year after losing 4 months of the season.
With that, let’s get to the list.
- No changes to Tier 1, although we need to keep an eye on Corey Knebel’s progress in the coming weeks as he returns from Tommy John surgery. He is expected to be ready by Opening Day, however, the expectation is that Josh Hader will remain the primary closer. Here’s a quick reminder just how good Knebel and Hader were between 2017-2018.
Pitcher IP Saves ERA WHIP K/9 xFIP Corey Knebel 131.1 55 2.54 1.13 14.66 2.73 Josh Hader 129 12 2.30 .88 14.72 2.64
- Nick Anderson gets moved down a spot and a tier despite still being the leading candidate for saves in Tampa Bay. There’s just more risk here than before as if he doesn’t begin the season in the role, he may be a total dud in the save column. That being said, I’m still buying at the right price, and it’ll be interesting to see where he is going to land in drafts now as his price was soaring before the shutdown.
- As mentioned above, I’d expect the shortened season to benefit the likes of Kenley Jansen, Brad Hand, and Craig Kimbrel. Jansen and Hand certainly could use the time off as they seemed to wear down in the second half of 2019. Kimbrel I am still more skeptical about as he’s been trending downward since the second half of 2018 and the time off didn’t do him well last season. Perhaps in a short season, knowing he only needs to get through roughly 25 innings or so, he empties out the tank and wins comeback player of the year.
- Sean Doolittle could benefit the most from the shortened season as the veteran reliever has typically pitched better in the first half of seasons before wearing down in the second half. However, there is some risk here as there is a chance he decides to sit out this season. If he decides to sit out, Daniel Hudson would likely be next in line to close out games and would fall into that tier 5 grouping. But if he opts in, Doolittle could be a steal in drafts as he should be healthy and ready to go for 20-30 innings this summer.
- Giovanny Gallegos takes the biggest hit with the shortened season, as not only are we not sure who will be closing for the Cardinals opening day, there’s a good chance Jordan Hicks will be on the opening day roster now. I still like taking a gamble on Gallegos, but with Hicks available, it diminishes his chance to run away with the job. The expectation as of now is for the Cardinals to go with a committee, with Hicks slowly being worked back into the mix as the season progresses.