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Relief Pitchers to Target in 2020 Drafts


The pitching landscape in 2020 is going to be an odd one, as most teams' starting pitchers are not going to be fully built up in time for the season to start. Some teams have even already announced that their starters may not go more than four innings to start the year, and openers could be used more than ever until full-time starters are stretched out enough to go deeper into games.

This means that hidden in the depths of the draft pool, there are a handful of middle relievers that now all of a sudden may become extremely useful for fantasy purposes. Specifically speaking, the pitchers that should see their fantasy value spike in 2020 are those middle relievers who have the ability to go multiple innings and maybe poach a few wins.

Here are five relievers that should be more valuable now with starters innings being capped to start the season.

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Chad Green, New York Yankees

Chad Green is a pretty obvious option to get things started. With the roles at the back of the Yankees bullpen pretty much locked down with Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, and Tommy Kahnle expected to get most of the late-inning opportunities, it leaves Green in a rather unique spot going into 2020.

Green was a do-it-all type of pitcher last season, handling high leverage innings, as well as opening games, and he threw multiple innings 20 times out of his 54 appearances and was often the first option out of the Yankees bullpen in 2019 as they worked their way to their big guns in the later innings. It also helps that Green was quite effective last season.

He did have a dreadful start to the season and was sent down but upon being recalled by the team on May 12th, he was one of the best relievers in baseball with a 2.14 ERA and 1.74 FIP in 42 innings as he reclaimed his status as one of the anchors of the Yankees bullpen. He was the team's best reliever by FIP during that stretch, and had the third-highest FIP among relievers from that point onwards, as his control and home run issues seemed to mostly subside in his return back to dominance:

However, without a locked-down opportunity to set-up or close, Green did not have much fantasy value going into 2020, and his ADP currently sits at 540 in the NFBC. Green has shown the ability to be one of the best relief pitchers in baseball, and now with an opportunity to potentially poach some wins with the capability to go multiple innings, Green can be a difference-maker in fantasy this season.

 

Seth Lugo, New York Mets

Staying in New York with this option, there is definitely more hype around Seth Lugo than with Green with his ADP being over 200 picks earlier than Green's, and for good reason as looks to be one of the Mets' primary setup men and is coming off a truly dominant season. In 2019, Lugo was one of the league's overall best relievers, accumulating a 2.3 fWAR, which was right on par with Josh Hader, and Lugo also pitched 80 innings, one of the highest totals among all relievers.

Lugo has shown elite talent and has also displayed the ability to go multiple innings as well, as he went over an inning pitched 25 times out of his 61 appearances. The addition of Dellin Betances also maybe works into some of the extra value here, as the team can use Betances as the primary setup option and maybe use Lugo a bit more liberally in something of a fireman role, coming in to relieve shortened starts and go multiple innings and poach a few wins. He also possesses an opportunity to step into a closer role as well if Edwin Diaz replicates his turbulent 2019 this year.

Lugo features a beautiful Statcast profile, with his primary out-pitch being his high spin curveball that helped drive his 33.1% strikeout rate last season, and he pairs that high strikeout ability with good command, as his 5.1% walk rate also being one of the lowest among all relievers in 2019. Lugo should not only be a ratio-stabilizer on fantasy teams in 2020 but also can get some wins as well as have some save opportunities mixed in there as well.

 

Matt Strahm, San Diego Padres

While Matt Strahm still has the capacity to be a starting pitcher, the Padres rotation is a bit cramped with full seasons of Garrett Richards and Dinelson Lamet occupying two spots and the newly acquired Zach Davies likely getting another spot behind locked in starters Chris Paddack and Joey Lucchesi. This will leave Strahm on the outside looking in for a starting role. That may not be a bad thing, because Strahm wasn't exactly great as a starter in 2019, with him being bumped from the rotation in July and being much more effective in short spurts out of the bullpen:

Strahm is likely better off in a relief role, but with the Padres being quite busy this offseason acquiring other relievers such as Drew Pomeranz and Emilio Pagan, Strahm is likely to also be on the outside looking in for a high-leverage role. This has all but killed Strahm's fantasy potential this season, with his ADP at 566 in the NFBC, but without a locked-in high leverage role and starters on a pitch count, Strahm could wind up being pretty useful.

Keeping with the theme of the previous two pitchers mentioned, Strahm has the ability to also go multiple innings, and without having to pace himself for 100 pitches, he can just air it out and give it all with full intensity on every pitch. This is essentially what drove Strahm's success in the bullpen last season, as right away his strikeout rate jumped nearly five percentage points while he also maintained his pinpoint control.

While his strikeout rate likely won't match some of the best in the game thanks to a fastball that sat right around 93 miles-per-hour as a reliever, there's nothing wrong at all with a 27.6% strikeout rate, with the plus control helping him out to a 23.9% K-BB%, which sat in the top-30 among relievers from July 2019 onwards. Strahm is one of the Padres' best options to eat up a lot of the middle innings, and he's shown he can be successful in that role. Expect to see him sniping wins frequently in 2020.

 

Oliver Drake, Tampa Bay Rays

Moving away from former starters now, Oliver Drake is simply just a quality middle reliever that should have a high-leverage role but the tremendous depth of the Rays doesn't allow it. After bouncing around to a whopping five different teams in 2018, Drake finally found a home in Tampa Bay last season and pitched well. His 3.21 ERA won't knock anyone's socks off, but it was still an extremely solid 139 ERA+.

More encouraging is that Drake was much better in the second half of the season, pitching to a 2.80 ERA with his strikeout rate jumping to 33.1% and his walk rate falling to 7.5%. Drake also had a good helping of multi-inning appearances last season. While he didn't go multiple innings as much as the other three pitchers mentioned earlier, Drake did go two or more innings nine times in 2019 and more than one inning 18 times.

Drake likely will not be a closer or setup candidate with the Rays featuring a nice triumvirate of late-inning options with Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo, and Jose Alvarado, so Drake could likely find himself as one of the first relievers out of the bullpen. With the Rays rotation already not full of many workhorses outside of Charlie Morton, there's a lot of potential for Rays' relievers to get their fair share of wins in this shortened season, with Drake being a primary candidate.

Drake's extremely reliable results combined with his ability to go multiple innings makes him a worthy name to target. He's essentially free in fantasy drafts, with an ADP of 803 in the NFBC, but a sharp manager can eke out some free value here.

 

Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee Brewers

The final option to highlight here is another starting pitcher without a locked-in spot in the rotation. Corbin Burnes is likely to be on the outside looking in for a starting spot, with the additions of Josh Lindblom, Eric Lauer, and Brett Anderson earlier in the offseason. The Burnes hype quickly faded in 2019, after a disastrous start to the season got him demoted to AAA, and he bounced between AAA San Antonio and the majors for the majority of the season. An 8.82 ERA and 6.09 FIP look ugly in every scenario, but the peripherals were actually pretty good for the most part, and some bad luck may have played a factor.

Burnes is a former top-100 prospect and showed promise in his first trip to the Majors in 2018, so it's unlikely that he suddenly forgot how to pitch. Indeed, Burnes did a lot of things well, as highlighted by his 29.8% strikeout rate, and decent enough 8.5% walk rate. That high strikeout rate is paired with an excellent 17.2% swinging-strike rate that was at a Gerrit Cole-level last season, which helps show that his stuff is legitimate. His home run rate was extremely inflated at a rate of 3.12 per nine innings, which inflates his FIP but when regressed using xFIP and SIERA, looks a lot better with 3.37 and 3.55 marks respectively.

While his poor results in 2019 may have cost him a 2020 rotation spot, he can still be quite effective in the bullpen. The Brewers starters weren't likely to go all that deep in games pre-shutdown, and that certainly isn't the case now, so there should be a lot of middle innings available, and Burnes may be one the biggest beneficiaries. Not only can he poach some wins, but he should be quite effective at it. His current ADP is nothing at 384, and he could end up as one of the biggest steals of the draft.

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2021 1st & 2nd Year Players with James Anderson - Benched with Bubba (Episode 317)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by James Anderson (@RealJRAnderson) on episode 317. The guys will go over 30+ first and second-year players. They will discuss their current ADP's in the 2 Early Mocks, what to expect of the players in 2021, and much more. They also go over some listener questions, compare Juan Soto to Mike... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 21st, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 21st, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 20th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 20th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 54: 2 Early Mocks APD Player Debates - Benched with Bubba (Episode 316)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They go over some of the positions and look at players with similar ADPs and debate. Going around the diamond discussing some players people are high on and some they are down on with a... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 18th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 18th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 17th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 17th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


2021 Early Mock ADP Values & Reaches: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More