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The Market Report: Relief Pitchers

The Market Report is a weekly analysis of player valuations in the fantasy marketplace in an effort to find undervalued commodities.

Baseball has finally returned at long last. Spring Training games have begun, and Opening Day is in sight. We conclude our positional breakdowns with a look at relief pitchers this week. Once again, ADP values are provided in parentheses.

Tier One

1. Craig Kimbrel (55)

Tier Two

2. Aroldis Chapman (75)

3. Greg Holland (84)

4. Kenley Jansen (104)

Tier Three

5. Koji Uehara (122)

6. Joe Nathan (122)

7. Trevor Rosenthal (127)

Tier Four

8. Addison Reed (139)

9. Jim Johnson (147)

10. Rafael Soriano (147)

Tier Five

11. Sergio Romo (165)

12. David Robertson (166)

13. Glen Perkins (172)

14. Jason Grilli (174)

15. Jonathan Papelbon (185)

Undervalued

Jason Grilli (ADP 174)

Grilli sure has had a strange career. After several years of mediocre performance out of the bullpen, the veteran somehow enjoyed a breakout campaign in his age 36 season in 2012 with a dominant 36.6 K% against just a 6.4 BB% as a setup man to Joel Hanrahan. In his first year as a closer, Grilli was simply brilliant last year with a remarkable 1.71 SIERA, just behind Craig Kimbrel for fourth in the NL. Now, there are reasons why such great skills are available at a discount.  Grilli is certainly up there in years, he suffered a right forearm strain late last season, and Mark Melancon is behind him and more than capable of closing. Having said that, the reward far outweighs the risk at that price. This is a dominant reliever with elite skills going roughly 100 picks after the Tier 2 closers. Invest.

Nate Jones (ADP 272)

OK, so he hasn't officially been named the closer for the Pale Hose just yet, but he appears to have a leg up on the competition. My general approach to a murky closer situation is to grab the reliever with the best skills and let the roles fall where they may. Well, Jones clearly possesses better skills than fellow White Sox closer candidates Matt Lindstrom and Daniel Webb. In fact, last year he ranked 10th in the American League with a 2.56 SIERA. Sure, the White Sox are going to be a miserable club this season, but I care more about protecting my ERA and WHIP than accumulating saves. Once again, if the job were already his, he wouldn't be available on the cheap. Based on the current ADP, the risk that he fails to win the job as closer is minimal, and I just see this as a buying opportunity. The worst case scenario is you have a dominant setup man to serve as a buffer in ERA and WHIP. Speaking of which...

Pick an Elite Setup Man, Any Elite Setup Man

By now, it's a rather common practice in fantasy baseball, but the point bears repeating. Elite setup men are wonderful additions in leagues that allow for daily lineup changes. Even if a primary setup man never usurps the closer role, he still can still provide help in the ratio categories. My favorite targets this year are Joaquin Benoit, Sergio Santos, and Pedro Strop. One thing that all of these setup men have in common is that they're currently behind closers who will be free agents at the season's end. I also don't expect any of their clubs to be contenders, so it's certainly possible the current closers are dealt midseason anyway.

Overvalued

Rafael Soriano (ADP 147)

Let's start with the fact that Soriano's skills last season were mediocre at best. A relatively poor 18.4 K% coupled with average skills elsewhere resulted in a 3.11 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. In today's fantasy game, those numbers are actually below average for a closer. Moreover, his 3.71 SIERA indicates he was a tad fortunate, too. Now let's keep in mind that both Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen are likely better from a True Talent perspective. As a matter of fact, Steamer projects a better ERA for both of the setup man than for Soriano. Finally, the veteran has had trouble staying healthy over the course of his career. With all of this mind, there's  simply no good reason to draft the Nationals closer at his current pricetag.




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