What’s poppin, Razzpimples?
I did one of these last year and figured it was a good time to sling another one of these your way. ADPs are starting to take shape, plenty of you nerds are drafting already, yadda yadda. I don’t like drafting this early (Frankie Montas owners know what I’m talking about), but the industry leagues I’m in (TGFBI and RazzSlam) will be starting soon enough, so I gotta put my big boy pants on and get ‘er done.
I’m only going by Yahoo ADP data for this. The NFBC crowd is a different beast that doesn’t exactly jive with the common fantasy baseballer, if you ask me. And just between you and me, I prefer Yahoo as a platform, even if it has its fair share of taco leagues. ESPN can kick rocks, tho.
Alrighty, let’s do it to it!
Jimmy Herget (ADP 248.1)
The Angels are probably gonna be pretty bad. But, if you read my work, you’ve probably already seen me toot the “closers on bad teams can still be really good for fantasy” horn. I’m a-tootin’ that one again here. Herget was legit one of the best RPs in all of baseball in the second half of last season (just go look up qualified RP WAR leaders in the second half), so I can’t really imagine a scenario where he’s not seeing at least the lion’s share of saves for the Halos. His fiercest competition is Ryan Tepera, who was pretty good in his own right, but he wasn’t no Herget. Baseball Savant has a new percentile to track on their profile pages: xERA/xwOBA. Herget was 84th percentile last season, ultimately compiling a very impressive stat line: 69 (nice) IP, 2-1, 9 SV, 2.48 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 63 K. He’s pretty good at limiting hard contact and doesn’t walk many batters at all. He won’t blow you away with strikeouts, but I’m happy enough with someone pushing 9 K/9, especially if good-to-elite ratios and relatively lots of saves are along for the ride. At an ADP like that, he’s an easy risk to take.
Pete Fairbanks (ADP 192.9)
Seems crazy I’m about to do this, but I’m gonna recommend a Tampa Bay Rays closer. That’s right, that ain’t a typo; there just might be an actual closer for Tampa Bay this year. Fairbanks was outlandishly good in 2022 and earned himself a nice little contract this offseason because of it. Some folks in the fantasy circles are saying that contract could mean no more arbitration silliness keeping his numbers in check. In other words, they’ve got no reason anymore not to use him as the dominant closer he’s shown he can be. In 2022, Fairbanks was as good as about anyone you’ll ever see…for 24 innings. See, that’s the real kicker with Fairbanks. It’s not that he’s shared the closing duties in the past, it’s that he’s hurt a lot. But! You can’t ignore how good he was, because it just speaks to how healthy he is now. The man’s only earned runs all season — a grand whopping total of 3 ER, by the way — came in his first two outings, on July 17 and July 22. After that, he was lights out the rest of the way. Control has always been an issue for him, but last year? Only 3 BB in 24 IP. I mean, everything you want to see was there. Whiffs? Yep. Lack of walks? Yep. Lack of homers (and hits/runs in general)? Yep. This success backed up by various metrics? Yep. Sure, it’s a limited sample, but the upside here is so immense that you should feel more than pleased with his current price tag. It’s only going to go up. Crazy Eyes is healthy, so get him while the gettin’s good! Let me conclude by painting this picture: I get stoked for a guy with a K% over 40 regardless of BB%…but Fairbanks’s K% minus his BB% was still north of 40.
Jose Leclerc (ADP 188.2)
Leclerc was quietly rather good last year, ending the season as pretty much the primary closer for the Rangers and putting up good numbers while doing it. Kind of hard to believe he’s still only 29 years old with plenty left in that tank. Leclerc isn’t the perfect closer, he’s just a good cheaper one with a good shot and keeping his job all season long (provided he stays healthy enough to do so). His 27.3 K% is pretty meh, and his 10.6 BB% is more than a little meh, but he was still able to finish 2022 with a 2.83 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, adding 7 SV, which pretty much all came in September (two in August). Before 2022, we last saw Leclerc in 2020, when his four-seamer averaged 94.5 MPH. That was up two full points in 2022, at 96.5. Some more good news is that the Rangers have beefed up their starting rotation for 2023, adding not only the best in the business in Jacob deGrom, but also Nathan Eovaldi and Andrew Heaney. The bats aren’t looking too bad either, especially if Josh Jung pans out. Long story short, and assuming JDG can pitch a good amount, Texas is in a lot better shape this year, so save opportunities should be there.
Alex Lange (ADP 213.3)
The Tigers pen looks a good deal different already, as I noted in my piece last week. I’m kind of grasping at straws here since he only has one single save to his name in his MLB career, but I just got a feeling that Lange pulls ahead as the guy to own back there. You def want this guy on your SVHD radar, that’s for sure. Man had a disgusting 19% swinging-strike rate last year (trailing only Edwin Diaz and Andres Munoz in that regard), helping him rack up 82 K in just 63.1 IP. The annoying part is he also had 31 BB. Still, the K stuff is potentially filthy and he doesn’t allow many hits, especially homers. It’s lazy analysis, but just go take a quick little look-see at his Statcast profile. Pretend you don’t see the dark blue circle for BB% and just admire all that dark red instead. Any contact he allows is usually weak stuff and he gets guys to chase and miss all the damn time. His grounder rate increased from 44.2% in 2021 to 55.6% in 2022, as well. In short, Lange could evolve into one of the better fantasy closers of the 2023 season and beyond.
Kendall Graveman (ADP 217.6)
I surely hope this turns out to be a bad call, so that instead of my victory lapping on Graveman it’s Liam Hendriks victory lapping kicking the shit out of cancer. For now, I’m just assuming Hendriks spends most of the season kicking ass off the field so that he can kick ass again on the field in 2024. It’s probably a pretty safe bet that Graveman will get the first chance to lead the White Sox in saves, and his outside-the-top-200 ADP right now makes him a pretty easy late saves target in my book. Graveman’s 2021 looked a whole lot better than his 2022, even if his 2022 wasn’t that bad. But where was the 1.77 ERA and 0.98 WHIP guy from a couple years past? That dadblasted regression bug is what caught up to him, sadly. He overperformed like crazy two years ago and regressed back to the mean in 2022. That’s not to say he’s a bad pitcher, cuz that’s most definitely not the case. And one could argue he even underperformed last year due to a higher BABIP. Were that to be the case, 2023 would look like something in the middle of what 2021 and 2022 had to offer, and that would make for a very fine fantasy season indeed. Graveman dropped his sinker usage almost 20% last year, trying to rely more on his slider and his change. That sinker was positively lethal in 2021, but something about it last year led to a .313 OBA and .282 XBA against it. It lost about an inch of break, but you’ll have to ask someone smarter than I about the cause/significance of that. Otherwise, it had nearly identical velocity and inches of drop, so I’ll just leave y’all with a *shrug emoji*.
Kyle Finnegan (ADP 244.3)
Here I go tootin’ the bad team closer horn again. Tanner Rainey was a hot topic heading into last season, but now he’s 100% out of the picture for 2023, so this is Kyle Finnegan’s job to lose. The Nats are atrocious, but Finnegan could still get somewhere along the lines of, what, 20, or 25, or 30 SV? A few projection systems out there have him at either 26 or 27. That’s the easiest #243 draft pick I can think of. We’re talking probably a sub-4.00 ERA, a WHIP in the range of 1.10-1.20, about a strikeout per inning, and relatively lots of saves most likely. I can realistically see Finnegan being one of the best bargains in all of fantasy baseball, no cap. I’m concerned about all the hard hits, but really nothing else jumps out at me other than being slightly below average in the walks department. The fastball velocity is elite and his job is pretty ding dang safe.
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.