The Current SAGNOF (Saves) Landscape

Howdy-do, Razzfools!

I thought it might be useful to survey the current reliever landscape in early drafts thus far. This one isn’t gonna have much in the way of deep dives or sleeper picks or what have you. It’s just a look at what’s happening right now so you can start planning your strategy a lil bit. That’s all. And what’s been happening so far has been…interesting, to say the very least.

There are usually two schools of thought regarding drafting saves. You either reach early and to secure them, or you just fade and then play the wire when needed. Depending on the league setup, of course. But by and large, you got your “get your saves early!” types and the “every team has a closer (or two!), so just fade saves!” types.

What’s interesting about this year is just how early people in Camp A have been on NFBC. And some of that is bleeding into standard Yahoo formats, as well, but certainly not to the same degree.

I’m gonna try to cater to two audiences here. So, if you’re not interested in NFBC formats, skip to the Yahoo section, and vice versa. Some (or maybe all) of what I’ve got for you may or may not be useful. Could be stuff you already know or do, but I hope either way you see it as a good refresher of things to consider when getting ready for the 2022 fantasy baseball season.

NFBC 15-team RP Landscape

Alrighty. You know us Razzball folks really like our bats early. I’m one hunnid percent in that camp. Won’t catch me taking arms in the first couple rounds, like, ever. But you know what fools are doing these days?? They’re taking relievers in the first two rounds. Sometimes the first round! What in tarnation?!

Right now, which, for 15-team drafts, I’m defining as those that have taken place in the calendar year of 2022, Liam Hendriks‘s minimum pick on NFBC is #14 overall at the time of writing, with his ADP sitting at 26.65. Right behind him is Josh Hader, topping out at #17, with an ADP of 28.13. And I suppose I get it: these are either no-FAAB or very-limited-FAAB leagues in an era of baseball where relievers are carouseled around and around. If you peek at my closer rankings, I’ve only got three guys in the top tier. You can pretty much set your watch and warrant (there I go making Dark Tower references again…) on those three finishing among fantasy’s best RP and keeping their jobs all year. But, like, Jordan RomanoEdwin DiazWill Smith? I feel good about them. But do I feel great about them? Do I feel great enough to pay the asking price? They’ve all got obviously strong opportunities right now and are in a place where they can absolutely provide immense fantasy value. But still, they aren’t the level of “sure thing” that the elite tier guys are. They’re all Tier 2 in my book, though I kinda wanna delete the term “Tier 2” and make it start at Tier 3 cuz the gap really is that large, at least in terms of “I feel really, really good about grabbing this guy right now for saves so I don’t have to worry about it later.” These guys could be a string of bad outings or a free agent signing or a trade away from setup territory. So the mindset is you get one of those Tier 1 guys really early and secure those saves along with elite ratios and strikeouts, basically for peace of mind. But is peace of mind for essentially one category worth it for a 1st or 2nd rounder? Or a 3rd? I, uh, I think I’m good on that. You gotta be good on that, right? I’m a little contrarian by nature, but I don’t think it’s just me fighting back against the masses. There’s no such thing as a 5-tool arm. There are 5-tool bats, though, and you’ll be missing out on them if you don’t take them right away. Duh.

Rudy’s NFBC War Room has Hendriks and Hader basically neck-and-neck on the Main Board in terms of $ value, but neither come particularly close to where they’re being drafted. Of course they could surpass Rudy’s projections, and it’s not even too unlikely that they do, but again…that price tag tho. The 2021 version of Hendriks did manage to finish close to his 2022 ADP according to our Player Rater, but that was in no small part thanks to his contributions in wins, which you just simply can’t reliably count on from a reliever.

And it’s not just those two. Joining them in having an ADP inside the Top 50, you’ve got Raisel Iglesias, Emmanuel Clase, and Edwin Diaz. Inside the Top 75, you’ve got Ryan Pressly, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansenand Will Smith. And lastly, when you add in Jordan Romano and Giovanny Gallegos, it’s a grand total of eleven RP going inside the Top 100. I’m no historical ADP guru, but I’m 99.999% sure that’s never been the case before. Only five RP finished inside the Top 100 on the Player Rater, yet more than double that amount are being drafted there.

So, as you can see, RPs are at a premium these days. It’s bonkers, folks. Bonkers, I say! Jansen isn’t even employed right now! Sure, the assumption is he signs somewhere (maybe even back to LA) and is immediately handed closer duties, but damn that’s a price to pay for a free agent. Craig Kimbrel isn’t even a closer (but could be traded and thus turn back into one) and has a minimum pick of #76. Gallegos was only a closer for like a month. It’s far from a sure thing he starts 2022 as the closer (though I do think it’s very probable). The closer market is so skewed right now you’ve got people paying good picks for unemployed closers and elite setup men, just desperately hoping for saves in return.

Within all the single-digit rounds, all of these RP are gone: Liam Hendriks, Josh Hader, Raisel Iglesias, Emmanuel Clase, Edwin Diaz, Ryan Pressly, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Will Smith, Jordan Romano, Giovanny Gallegos, Mark Melancon, and Craig Kimbrel. It’s just madness out there.

What’s a sista or brotha to do when everyone’s chasing saves and driving the prices to the moon? Well, my lazy answer is the purpose of this piece ain’t to make your choices for you. But were it me, in a league with zero FAAB that’s purely a draft-and-hold, then I’m of a mind to take a type like Pressly or Chapman if the price is looking decent. Good bet those two keep their gigs and provide top-end save totals. Don’t think I can bring myself to pull the trigger on a Hendriks/Hader/Iglesias/Clase, but you do you, my friend. I’ve even seen a team start with Hendriks/Hader at the turn! *Shrug emoji* And for what it’s worth, a guy like Taylor Rogers sits rather nicely in War Room and is basically free compared to the rest of the closer class. I can also see myself just kinda halfway punting saves, ceding the fact I likely won’t lead the category and instead trying to snag enough guys in the later rounds to keep me competitive. If everyone else is paying up for the likes of Diaz, Clase, Chapman, etc., I’ll focus on quality starters and wait to load up on guys like Dylan Floro, Scott Barlow, Joe Barlow, Lou Trivino, Matt Barnesetc. for my saves. Still haven’t quite made up my mind if I want to target Camilo Doval or Jake McGee…maybe I’ll just try for both! That’s the beauty of best ball. Ain’t gotta worry about getting those guys in your roster on the right day; the computer does it for you!

Yahoo Standard 12-team RP Landscape

Let’s switch gears here. Moving from 15-team best balls to your standard fare of 5×5 12-teamers. Daily FAAB.

By nature, there’s a lot more wiggle room for how you go about drafting. Take your aces early, target your mid-round value bats, scoop up some late RP (or just straight punt saves, who gives a damn), then be a waiver wire wizard to address your deficiencies. Or go bats early and take mid-round SP. Can go either way really. One thing remains a constant in my book: don’t need to pay for RP. Almost at all.

Be that as it may, so far people are still paying. Josh Hader actually leads the way (stupidly…I mean come on, Liam Hendriks is the RP to pick if you’re gonna do it) with an ADP of 39.0. Next is Hendriks at 42.8. Pretty ding dang close. But then there’s a gap, with the next man up being Aroldis Chapman of all people at 77.2 (totes should be Raisel Iglesias). Only five RP are going in the Top 100 right now: Josh Hader, Liam Hendriks, Aroldis Chapman, Raisel Iglesias, and Ryan Pressly.

In the NFBC section above, you see the names of 13 RP who are drafted before Round 10. In Yahoo, that number drops to just six, which is a pretty stark difference even factoring in we’re talking about leagues with three less teams: Hader, Hendriks, Chapman, Iglesias, Pressly, and Clase. Thus, it’s much, much easier to wait on your saves. And so, in a standard league, I’m spending approximately zero single-digit round picks on RP. Can get plenty of saves in later rounds, and there’s always some Random Joe or three who will show up out of nowhere and be on your wire anyway. Always.

My go-to tactic is to fade the big names and snag a few high-upside maybes, knowing I’ll likely drop some/most of them. Cuz again, the waiver wire will definitely produce a few useful guys. That’s how I’ve always approached closers (in most cases), and no crazy fantasy baseball Twitter circle jerk will change my mind! Instead, I’ll target a guy like Corey Knebel. Yahoo ADP is at 187.5 right now. I’m more than decently confident he gets the gig for Philly to start, and given health, he could be a huge bargain. Taylor Rogers is also down in that range and is, once again, somewhat of a darling in Rudy’s War Room. Then you’ve got Joe Barlow and Lou Trivino you could consider, who right now have no competition for their jobs. Rowan Wick, who’s more than likely to be the guy for the Cubs unless they make a splash in free agency or make a trade. Oh yeah, and Matt Barnes! He’s free. No one wants him apparently, but he’s still got a real shot at closing again for Boston and seemed to get back on track as the season wound down. All of these dudes have the upside to keep you competitive in saves, allowing you to spend your premium picks on premium power, premium speed, and premium starting pitching.

I do some fantasy baseball as well as some fantasy hockey here at Razzball. Find me on Twitter: @jkj0787. DMs are always open for questions, comments, concerns, complaints, etc. Odds are good I’m drinking black coffee, dark beer, or some form of bourbon at any given time.

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