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As the game of baseball continues to evolve, perhaps no category has been affected as much as saves. It's not that they're disappearing like steals or overabundant like home runs. It's that they've become very hard to forecast on an increasing number of teams.
The conventional wisdom is changing in baseball from "your best reliever should get the last three outs" to "your best reliever should face the highest leverage situation." This makes perfect sense from a baseball perspective, but it's also maddening for Fantasy owners.
By my count there are approximately 15 closers who seem secure in their roles and likely to hold on to their job barring something unforeseen. I am going to do my best in Rotisserie leagues to get two of them. Beyond that, I'm focusing more on ratios than saves, figuring I'll pick up a few more saves along the way.
That's the one positive of this trend. There were 43 pitchers who had at least 10 saves last year and 50 had at least seven. Rewind five years ago and those numbers were 37 and 39. There will be saves to be found on the waiver wire, but count on them as a bonus, not a part of your actual plan.
- Edwin Diaz - 57
- Wade Davis - 43
- Craig Kimbrel - 42
- Blake Treinen - 38
- Kenley Jansen - 38
- Felipe Vazquez - 37
- Aroldis Chapman - 32
- Brad Hand - 32
- Shane Greene - 32
- Brad Boxberger - 32
What you need to win
Below you'll find the average saves by place for the category in 2018. These numbers are for a standard mixed, 12-team league. In an eight- or 10 team league, these numbers would be higher. In a 15-team league you could aim lower.
| 105 |
This section was supposed to be dedicated to Anthony Swarzak, but then the Mariners signed Hunter Strickland and announced Swarzak was supposed to be behind the other pitchers at spring training. The Mariners are one of the teams I would expect to rely predominantly on one closer, assuming one guy steps up and handles the role. It appears Strickland will get the first shot.
Last year was his worst in the majors, but his career numbers still look very solid. He owns a 2.91 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP. He's not an overpowering pitcher (8.4 K/9), but he did have great control early in his career. Watch Strickland closely this spring. If he seizes the job he has top-20 upside.
Yes, Brad Hand saved 32 games last year. Yes, I believe he can break out from there. Over the past three seasons Hand has been one of the best relievers in the game. He owns a 2.26 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP and 12.0 K.9. The only thing he's missed is a full-time closer's role. The closest he's come is 2018, when he was the Padres closer for three and half months. He racked up 24 saves in a little over a half a season.
The Indians lost Andrew Miller and Cody Allen in the offseason, so Hand will be the man at the back end of the bullpen. He has the potential to lead the league in saves and be one of the best relievers in Fantasy. He should be drafted in the 10th round at the latest.
This is nothing against David Robertson. He's an extremely talented pitcher who could still be a top-15 closer in the right situation. Philadelphia is not the right situation. Nine different pitchers had a save for the Phillies in 2018, and no one had more than 16. What's worse is that most of those pitchers will be back on the roster in 2019. Robertson will have a difficult time being a top-24 reliever in the role he's likely to be used.
Saves are mostly about opportunity. While the Royals are a bad team that is also talking about being less conventional with their reliever usage, Wily Peralta still stands to lead the team in saves in 2019, and he's virtually free regardless of the format. Peralta joined the Royals on June 13 last year and compiled 14 saves in the last three and a half months of the season. it seems reasonable to think he could save 20-25 games in 2019 assuming he holds on to the job.
Drew Steckenrider is also on a bad team and his role doesn't seem entirely secure, but unlike Peralta he still has a little bit of upside. In 2017 he posted a 2.34 ERA with 14.0 K/9. Control has been an issue, but he still only has 99.1 innings in the major leagues, so that could improve. If everything goes right for Steckenrider, he could be mixed-league viable as a contributor in four categories. At the very least he should be a source of strikeouts and saves early in the year for the Marlins.