TDG 2022 PLAYERS TO AVOID: RELIEF PITCHERS
Ranking relief pitchers for dynasty leagues can be a futile exercise. Outside of a small handful of the game’s best closers, lists vary wildly from year to year. Teams continue to move away from the idea of having a set closer, and even those that do may see the gig change hands multiple times per season.
My personal philosophy is to focus on skills over opportunity. Roster relievers with high strikeout rates and filthy stuff that have potential to join that select group at the top. They can often provide more fantasy value than you’d think, especially as starters pitch shorter outings and more wins fall to the bullpen. Avoid ordinary pitchers whose value is tied almost entirely to saves. Here’s a few that fall into the latter category despite being ranked fairly high by our staff:
Joe Barlow, Texas Rangers
Joe Barlow enters his age-26 season as the Rangers closer. He earned that title as a rookie with a 1.55 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 11 saves in 29 innings. Great numbers, but even just a cursory glance at his Fangraphs page should make you suspicious. A 24.3% K-rate and 10.8% BB-rate don’t usually lead to elite ratios. His .143 BABIP is a virtual lock to regress in the wrong direction, and his ERA should move toward his 4.18 SIERA.
That may not be good enough for a Texas team that just spent $500 million to revamp its infield with Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. The Rangers want to contend, and it’s very possible they’ll bolster their bullpen in free agency or with in-season trades. There’s nothing particularly special about Barlow’s stuff, no triple-digit velocity or dynamite breaking pitch that screams dominant closer. He looks more like a decent reliever who caught a run of good luck at the right time. He’s our 20th ranked RP now, but I would not expect him to stay there.
Dylan Floro, Miami Marlins
Marlins closer Dylan Floro is our No. 25 RP, despite being 31 years old and having never struck out more than a batter per inning in his MLB career. His 23% K-rate last season was a personal best, but it also came with a career-worst 9.3% BB rate. His 2.81 ERA was more than a full run below his 3.93 SIERA. To his credit, he seems have a knack for limiting hard contact, which could help him continue to outperform his ERA estimators.
Outperforming Anthony Bender will be harder. Bender had a 2.79 ERA as a rookie, featuring a 96.8 MPH sinker and a nasty slider that produced a 46.1% whiff rate. Floro’s four-pitch mix doesn’t include anything like that, and he’s four years older. It seems like only a matter of time until this job changes hands.
Mark Melancon, Arizona Diamondbacks
I thought Mark Melancon’s career was over in 2018, when the tissue in his forearm was literally dying. He deserves a ton of credit for coming back from that injury and having four more solid years, including a 39-save performance for the Padres last season.
But all good things must come to an end. Melancon will be 37 on Opening Day. He’s never been a huge strikeout guy, and his control has slipped a bit, with his 9.4% BB-rate last season his worst since his 2009 rookie year. Though the Diamondbacks offer a secure closer gig, they may not be good enough to provide many save opportunities, and if he’s traded to a contender at the deadline he’s no lock to close.