Five Relief Pitcher Sleepers To Target In 2020 Fantasy Baseball Drafts

Who are the relief pitchers being slept on in drafts this year?

With the closer position more unpredictable than ever, the thought of paying a high price for saves has become an afterthought for many fantasy owners. Among the top 20 relievers in standard fantasy leagues last season, eight went undrafted in the majority of leagues, an indictment of just fragile the position is. While I don’t like the idea of punting any category, I think it would still make plenty of sense to wait on a relief pitcher till after pick 150 at the earliest, and possibly even later. With so many saves to be had on the waiver wire (about 40%), if I am to draft a reliever after pick 150, I want to make sure there’s enough upside (Nick Anderson, Jose Leclerc) to make it worth it as there is no such thing as a “safe” closer after all. With that being said, here are five relievers going after pick 200 who could provide plenty of value for those not looking to pay a premium price on saves.

Note: All ADP’s mentioned are based on NFBC ADP from Feb. 10 on.

 

Giovanny Gallegos, St. Louis Cardinals (212)

I’d imagine his ADP would skyrocket about 100 picks if he were named the closer, but as it stands now, Giovanny Gallegos is a must draft player at this current ADP. If he does get the job, which I’m cautiously optimistic about given his usage this spring, he should easily be considered a top 10-12 closer after being one of the best middle relievers/set up men in baseball last season. Keep a close eye on that bullpen situation but for now, Gallegos is worth the gamble around pick 200.

 

Joe Jimenez, Detroit Tigers (222)

Ignoring the ERA and WHIP, Joe Jimenez continued to improve last season and I expect him to take that next step forward this season. His 23% K-BB, 14.8% SwStr rate and 14% CSW all ranked in the top half of this year’s closers in 2019 and his improved Z-Contact,  O-Swing and CSW rates (76.2, 35.2%, 33% respectively) all rank in the top 10. His fastball posted an elite spin rate last season (95th percentile) and he was also able to improve his slider as an out pitch with a PutAway% up to 26.3% and Whiff% up to 40.5%. My rough projection for him this season is a 3.75 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 30% K rate and 30 saves, which is huge value at pick 222.

 

Mark Melancon, Atlanta Braves (228)

Despite Mark Melancon being the favorite to close out the majority of games, Will Smith is still going 55 picks earlier, which is kind of crazy. Smith’s the better pitcher, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think we’re giving Melancon enough credit for how effective he was after coming over to Atlanta at the trade deadline.

Melancon vs. Smith (2019 Second Half)

I wouldn’t expect him to be as effective over a full season, but even if the numbers regress a little, he’ll provide a ton of value at his cheap price. Give me Melancon 4-5 rounds later over Smith all day.

 

Mychal Givens, Baltimore Orioles (325)

I went into lengthy detail regarding Mychal Givens during our closer preview article a few weeks ago, in which I explained how he needs to use his changeup more. While the Orioles haven’t named a closer yet, I’d imagine Givens will be the guy out of the gate as the Orioles would love to maximize his value leading up to the trade deadline. He may not get you a ton of saves by that point, but at his super low cost, Givens can be a nice three-category helper for half a season.

 

Yoshihisa Hirano, Mariners (547)

With Matt Magill still nursing a shoulder injury and yet to make his spring debut, Yoshihisa Hirano would make the most sense to open the year as the Mariners closer. Basically free in all formats, Hirano is certainly worth a look with your last draft pick for cheap saves. Hirano saw an uptick in both his SwStr rate (14.2%) and K rate (26.2%) last year and was able to suppress hard contact at a high level (29.3%). He was also able to turn in a 33.7% CSW over the second half of the season, ranking 20th among all relievers. Even if the team starts the year with a committee approach, I’d expect the veteran to get the first crack at the job. If not, you can cut bait after a week or two.

Featured image by Rick Orengo (@OneFiddyOne on Twitter).

Rick Graham

Rick resides in the Boston area and has experience as a player and coach at the collegiate level. He has been covering relievers for Pitcher List since 2017.

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