Fantasy Baseball 2020: Consistent Undervalued - RP

Wes Easley compares 2020 NFBC Average Draft Position to our Clutch Rate and Clutch Rate Rankings providing you with consistency targets for your H2H fantasy baseball leagues. Follow him @loafinit on Twitter.

My grandpa taught me a very valuable lesson that I love to use in my fantasy baseball draft. He used to tell me always put things back where they belong. He was talking about putting tools back in his garage, but when it comes to a fantasy draft, we can apply the same lesson to the Average Draft Position (ADP) of a player. Sometimes we need to put players back where they belong based on their fantasy stats from the year before rather than basing their draft position on rankings of projected outcomes we have yet to see. By the way, if you find a hammer in the woods with the initials WP on it, please tell me. I know who the rightful owner is.

My goal on draft day is to find the players that will put up the most consistent points every week. I do not want the inconsistent players who go on a weeklong hot streak due to a good matchup and then go cold until the next hot streak comes along. A continuous cycle like that will drive fantasy managers crazy. The staff at Big Guy Fantasy Sports has done the work for you, breaking down each position’s most undervalued players according to consistency data from last year.  This gives you an advantage over your competition on draft day. Below I will give you five relief pitchers who I would feel comfortable drafting a round or two earlier than their ADP, allowing me to benefit from their consistency rather than my opponents.

 

Liam Hendricks: Oakland

RP Rank

Player

Team

ADP

Clutch Rate

CR Rank

RP-5

Hendricks, Liam

OAK

122.2

71%

2

I can’t remember how or why I picked up Liam Hendricks last year, but, boy, was I happy that I did! With a whopping 85 innings under his belt last season, he struck out 124 batters. After he was given the closer role in June, he accumulated 25 saves. He ended the year with a 1.80 ERA and only gave up 5 homeruns. After numbers like that, I wanted to throw him a parade.

I have to admit, I love having good relief pitchers on my team that can earn saves, lower my team ERA and WHIP, and give me the occasional win. I am always that guy who aggressively goes after the relief pitcher position in drafts.

I was in a 10-team draft this year where I had planned to draft Josh Hader in the 4th round since his ADP was round 5. Out of the blue, someone else took him in the 4th round just before me and I exclaimed, “Oh it’s like that, huh? Okay! Game On!” Then I remembered what I know about Hendricks. His clutch rate is as high as Hader’s so I grabbed Yates and Chapman in the 5th and 7th rounds. Then in the 9th, I grabbed Hendricks and knew I had a solid RP staff to carry me the entire year.

 

Raisel Iglesias: Cincinnati

RP Rank

Player

Team

ADP

Clutch Rate

CR Rank

RP-13

Iglesias, Raisel

CIN

177.1

71%

4

If this were a horse race, it would have been a photo finish for Hader, Chapman, Hendricks and Iglesias who all preformed at a very consistent level when it came to earning fantasy points each week last year. They all finished with a 71% clutch rate, which means they will give you the most consistent production every week. Other players with a lower clutch rate from fluctuating weekly stats will put you at a disadvantage when they have those ice-cold weeks.

I know that Iglesias finished the year with a 4.16 ERA and 12 losses, but don’t let that scare you away on draft day. Iglesias said he was uncomfortable being bounced around last year for the Reds, put in all kinds of situations and in all kinds of innings. In spite of his discomfort, he still racked up 34 saves. This year he has accepted his role and the Reds are a much better team offensively so they should improve on their 75 wins. If you put that in your baseball calculator, it all adds up to Iglesias being ranked higher than his draft position by the end of the season. 

 

Sean Doolittle - Washington

RP Rank

Player

Team

ADP

Clutch Rate

CR Rank

RP 21

Doolittle, Sean

WAS

265.53

61%

10

 One of my philosophies in fantasy baseball is never to draft a Nationals relief pitcher so I can’t believe I am telling people to take a guy coming out of the Washington bullpen, but this year I am.

Doolittle, also my nickname at my very first job, started and finished the season very strongly with 29 accumulated saves. He had a terrible 5-game stretch at the end of August when he pitched while injured. He gave up 13 hits, 10 runs, 5 HR and his ERA ballooned from 2.81 to 4.33. When he returned after taking 14 days off, he appeared in 9 games, only allowing 2 runs and 1 HR. He finished the year with a clutch rate of 61% which means he is in the same conversation with Kirby Yates (63%) and Brad Hand (61%). The three of them all rank higher on the clutch charts than Osuna and Jansen.

Now consider this. If you removed Doolittle’s 5 playing-while-injured games from his stats, he would have finished the season with only giving up 6 HR and allowing 17 runs to cross the plate in 56 innings pitched. Imagine what that would do to his clutch rate! You would be saying to yourself, “Man, that Doolittle sure does Do-a-lot.”

 

Ian Kennedy: Kansas City

RP Rank

Player

Team

ADP

Clutch Rate

CR Rank

RP-23

Kennedy, Ian

KC

270.27

58%

12

 “Too often we… enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”  - John F. Kennedy

You may already have an opinion formed of Ian Kennedy and his ability to be a benefit to your team, but take time to think of what he did in the 2019 season that made him the 12th ranked relief pitcher with a 58% clutch rate. He finished the year with 27 strikeouts and 18 saves over 21 innings and posted a 2.08 ERA after being handed the closer role on May 30th. Sure, he plays in K.C., which will not amount to as many opportunities as someone like Chapman will have, but he will still produce a lot with what he is given. After all…

“Ask not what your team can do for a reliever, but what a reliever can do for your team.”  -Wes Easley

Let’s consider that Jose Leclerc is being drafted as the 18th relief pitcher off the board with only a 39% CR. No, thank you. I walked down Leclerc Lane last year and found it to be a one-way dead end street. I would much rather wait 50 draft picks after Leclerc and get Kennedy who finished above Kimbrell, Osuna and Jansen in the CR rankings.

Finding relievers like Ian Kennedy in the later rounds of the draft can make or break your season.

 

Will Smith: Atlanta

RP Rank

Player

Team

ADP

Clutch Rate

CR Rank

RP-14

Smith, Will

ATL

197.53

67%

7

Has it happened, yet??? Has it happened, yet??? Every day I will be the guy looking at a publication and wondering if Will Smith has yet to be named the closer in Atlanta. Smith finished the year with the 2nd highest Clutch Rate at 67% while the named closer for the Braves, Mark Melancon, finished at 21%. Smith put up some incredible numbers last year. He recorded 96 strikeouts and 34 saves in 65 innings while only giving up 10 home runs. Manager Brian Snitker has already said that Smith could see save situations this season, which does not bode well for Melancon.

Have you heard of the new MLB rule? The Three-Batter Minimum? I wonder if the Braves were planning for this rule with so many relief pitchers in their back pocket. They re-signed Chris Martin and Darren O’Day. They already had Melancon, Shane Greene, Luke Jackson, Sean Newcomb, all names the Braves brought out of the bullpen with regularity last season. Now with Will Smith, the Braves will have one of the deepest bullpens in the MLB, allowing them to keep their arms fresh all year. Of them all, I think Will Smith will be crowned the freshest prince of Atlanta.

Be sure to check out all of the positional ADP vs. CR breakdowns by our fantasy baseball writing team to ensure you don’t pass on consistency at any point in your drafts. Filling your roster with these types of steady assets will give you the weekly advantage over your opponents in head-to-head leagues in 2020.

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