Let’s do a little strategy comparison on roster building shall we? Are you willing to pay the price to get an elite closer for one, or even both, of your Relief Pitcher roster spots? Or do you find yourself spending late-round picks on them and monitoring the waiver wire for the hottest bullpen arms from week to week? Personally, I rarely grab an elite closer and instead spend my early draft picks on starting pitchers then hitters, especially in a Point Scoring System league. But some teams swear by the Relief Pitcher strategy so let’s do the homework and see what we can find…
The first five relief pitchers off fantasy baseball draft boards right now are (with their projected point totals for the 2020 season per Fantrax):
- Josh Hader (505 pts)
- Kirby Yates (449 pts)
- Aroldis Chapman (437 pts)
- Roberto Osuna (402.5 pts)
- Liam Hendriks (384.5 pts)
In order to secure one of these stud 9th inning flame throwers, you have to at least pay market value, if not more because of the position’s fantasy scarcity. The Average Draft Position (ADP) for this group as of March 2020 is as follows, per Fantrax:
- Josh Hader – 62.96 ADP (3rd Round Pick in a 16 team league)
- Kirby Yates – 81.58 ADP (5th Round Pick)
- Aroldis Chapman – 83.73 ADP (5th Round Pick)
- Roberto Osuna – 101.66 ADP (6th Round Pick)
- Liam Hendriks – 116.67 ADP (7th Round Pick)
Needless to say, there’s some seriously good hitters available in these rounds that you have to pass up on if you’re taking on of these guys for your Relief Pitcher #1 spot this early in the draft… to name a few of those hitters:
- DJ LeMahieu – 708 pts – 64.84 ADP
- Josh Bell – 663 pts – 84.73 ADP
- Matt Chapman – 675 pts – 86.49 ADP
- Michael Conforto – 664 pts – 105.19 ADP
- Carlos Santana – 693 pts – 112.33 ADP
Now the popular counter strategy would say, “I can afford to pass on these hitters because the hitters pool is deeper.” Which you’d be right, the hitter’s pool is deeper, but is that strategy actually paying off? What if there’s Relief Pitchers you can find later in the draft too, value at the Relief Pitcher position that doesn’t come with the Big Name Price Tag? What if those players, aren’t actually bullpen arms but are real-life Starting Pitchers with fantasy eligibility at Relief Pitcher?
Enter the SPARPs…
SPARPs, Starting Pitcher And Relief Pitchers, are o-so-valuable in a fantasy baseball league that uses a Points Scoring System. Different than a-typical 5×5 Category or Rotiserre fantasy baseball scoring systems, where you have to balance your team across different stat categories (making closers an imperative commodity to invest in), a Points Scoring System erases the problem of “not having enough steals,” or “not having enough saves.” Every player accumulates points based on their performance and more often than not, more playing time = more points scored for your fantasy team. Those first five closers listed at the beginning of this article, they averaged 68.5 Innings Pitched for the 2019 season. The first five SPARPs? They averaged 146 Innings Pitched last season, and it should be more than that but one of them hadn’t gotten injured (and he still managed to finish in the top 10 fantasy Relief Pitchers for the season). Let’s do the same comparison we did above, this time with SPARPs and hitters you’d be drafting in those rounds instead…
- Kenta Maeda – 459 pts in 2019 – 161.87 ADP in 2020 drafts (10th Round in a 16-team)
- Kyle Gibson – 424 pts – 310.55 ADP (19th Round Pick)
- Brandon Woodruff – 400 pts – 85.09 ADP (5th Round)
- Jordan Lyles – 310 pts – 310.43 ADP (19th Round Pick)
- John Means – 349 pts – 310.24 ADP (19th Round Pick)
- Amed Rosario – 575 pts in 2019 – 163.79 ADP in 2020 drafts
- Paul DeJong – 633 pts in 2019 – 178.36 ADP
- Freddy Galvis – 486 pts – 315.44 ADP
- Adam Frazier – 517.5 pts – 322.29 ADP
- Howie Kenrick – 453 pts – 325.49 ADP
So let’s do the math.. If I took Josh Hader in the 3rd Round, and then Amed Rosario in the 10th Round I would have 1,080 points from the 2019 season. Or I could pass on the elite closer and take DJ LeMahieu in the 3rd Round, and then Kenta Maeda in the 10th Round, which would have given me 1,167 points in 2019. Obviously that’s just one example, and it doesn’t mean much when all of those players are already rostered in a dynasty league, but let’s take a look at our 2019 Hum Babe Draft Results and see which strategy worked out better over the course of the season…
The first Relief Pitcher taken in our 2019 draft (full player pool, no keepers) was Edwin Diaz in the 4th Round by Team #1 (we will call them); Diaz scored a total of 329 points during the season. And like we mentioned earlier, Team #1 had to pay the price tag for an elite closer, passing on hitters who like Gary Sanchez (+144 more points than Diaz), Jean Segura (+216), Matt Chapman (+367) and starting pitchers like Zack Wheeler (+205) and Jose Berrios (+236).
2019 Draft Comparison
Compare that strategy to Team #2 grabbing a SPARP in the 13th Round to fill one of his Relief Pitcher roster spots, Kenta Maeda, who started twenty-six games for the Dodgers and scored a total of 459 points during the 2019 season. Also available in the 13th round, were hitters like Adam Eaton (+154 more points than Maeda), Paul DeJong (+174), Jeff McNeil (+157) and starting pitchers like Andrew Heaney (-192) and Dylan Bundy (-80).
So in perfect hindsight, Team #1 came away with Edwin Diaz in the 4th Round for 329 points and Paul DeJong in the 13th Round for 633 points for a total of 962 points between the two picks; while Team #2 secured Aldaberto Mondesi in the 4th Round for 464 points and Kenta Maeda in the 13th Round for 459 points for a total of 923 points.
Given that comparison, the Relief Pitcher First strategy works then… but consider the strategy overall… had Aldaberto Mondesi not suffered an injury causing him to miss half of the 2019 season, here’s what the comparison would have looked like: Diaz (329) + DeJong (633) = 962 points vs. Maeda (459) + Mondesi (715) = 1174 points.
Take that information and do with it as you please, but personally, I’ll always follow the same draft strategy from year to year… reading the draft room and taking advantage of how other Owner’s are drafting. I bring up the SPARP strategy because every single year, there is a bidding war over the game’s top closers. Instead, I’ll pass on the bidding war and fill my Relief Pitcher roster spots with guys like Ryan Yarbrough, Yonny Chirnios (thank you Tampa Bay for using Openers) and Vince Velasquez; banking on the fact that they will get a couple two-start weeks that could give me the extra 12-20 points I need to add a tally to the win column.
The Best Part
Best part about all of this… a Fantasy Baseball League is never won on draft day, it can be lost, but it’s never won. Here’s to finding this year’s SPARP’s on the Waiver Wire before you do.