Reliever strategy in fantasy baseball has a lot to do with specific league settings. In a saves-only league, some might be tempted to draft Fernando Rodney, chasing saves regardless of the collateral damage caused. In leagues where holds or combined saves/holds are a category, a much larger priority is placed on the total impact of each reliever.
This approach is pretty common and can be effective, but one thing that might not be talked about enough is the growing impact of relievers in all formats. Starters are throwing fewer innings and the void is being filled with relief innings. Less innings from starters translates to fewer wins, fewer strikeouts, and less overall category weight from starters on WHIP and ERA.
A win is a win… or at least that seems to be the mindset until you start to place a value on reliever victories. The fact is, wins are a category in most leagues, and reliever wins, although unpredictable, are starting to matter more and more. Since 1980, relievers have been credited with roughly 32% of the total wins awarded in baseball. Since 2017 that percentage shot all the way up to 42%.
Changing Reliever Strategy
Reliever strategy is changing both in MLB and fantasy. This raises reliever value overall and we start to see guys like Adam Ottavino, Tyler Clippard, Chris Devenski, and Robert Gsellman make sizable impacts in saves leagues with little or no saves on the season. Each of those four is ranked on ESPN’s player rater in the top 200 and is wildly available. Finding the relievers who will make the biggest impact might be tough, but that shouldn’t prevent you from leaning on picking up solid relievers now more than ever before.
It’s incredible that Devenski doesn’t get more love in baseball circles. Maybe he is overshadowed by the star power of the defending World Series champs. Maybe as a fantasy community, we value saves too much. Devenski has been one of baseball’s best pitchers the last few years. His 2.37 ERA since 2017 is 12th best among pitchers with 100 or more innings pitched. Tied for 15th on that list is Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer with their 2.53 ERAs. Devenski has been a rock and may actually find himself in higher-leverage situations for the Astros down the stretch. Add him now before it’s too late.
Green is a bit of a no-mans-land reliever for the Yankees. He typically doesn’t see much time late in games and his attempt to get stretched out in spring was shorted lived. He acts as a bridge man for manager Aaron Boone. He enters the game in the fifth, sixth, or seventh after the starter exits and oftentimes the game is undecided at that point. The role is an unfamiliar one for fantasy owners but actually could be lucrative. Green already has two wins on the season and could easily break double-digit wins with this type of usage. Green can pitch multiple innings and the Yankees offense is really good. The perfect combination to snake a few reliever wins.
Coming into 2017, Guerrero was anything but a household name. That started to change Sunday night when he registered the fastest pitch of the season at a scorching 101.8 MPH. Guerrero is still better suited for deeper leagues, but don’t sleep on his strikeout potential. Over his last seven appearances he has struck out 15 batters in just 6.2 innings. That equates to a 55.6% K% during that span. As you would imagine, Guerrero has a hard time controlling his triple-digit fastball and has nine walks in just over 14 innings so far this season. The risk will have to be calculated with this one, but much like the ever popular Josh Hader, Guerrero could easily eclipse 100 strikeouts this season out of the pen and that is valuable in any league.