Draft or Pass: Will Oakland A's Closer Liam Hendriks Repeat His Electric 2019 Performance?

A career-best 2019 season from Oakland Athletics closer Liam Hendriks reshaped his narrative. Can he do it again or was it merely an aberration.
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The still-to-be-determined start of the 2020 MLB season has added an interesting wrinkle to fantasy baseball draft prep. We here at SI Fantasy want to provide you with the best information possible heading into your drafts in these unprecedented times.

Our "Draft or Pass" video series takes a closer look at a fantasy player that will be debated often leading up to fantasy drafts, in many cases, because of the delayed start to the season. Are our hosts targeting this player specifically? Are they avoiding him entirely?

Today's feature focuses on Oakland Athletics closer Liam Hendriks.

Draft or Pass at current ADP: 98 (SP/RP31)

If you took a gamble on A's closer Liam Hendriks, back in June of 2019, you were rewarded handsomely.

The Australian flamethrower burst onto the scene after hanging around the Twins, Royals, and Blue Jays, before arriving in Oakland in 2016, mostly with mid-average bullpen numbers.

But then something happened a season ago.

Former closer Blake Treinen wore out and eventually was done for the season. His spectacular 97 mph hard sinker stopped sinking and would remain up over the plate. His pinpoint control vanished, a la Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects.

Hendriks was thrust into the role and, at age 31, saw the highest spike in velocity of his career, averaging 96.5 mph on his fastball while mixing in a wipeout slider and curveball.

He finished the season with a remarkable 13.13 K/9 while only allowing 0.53 HR/9. His WHIP was under 1 (0.96) for the first time in his career. He pitched 85 innings, saved 25 games, and struck out 124 batters while walking just 21.

The critical question entering 2020 is simple. Can Hendriks repeat what he did from last year?

As our SI Fantasy insider and high-stakes guru Shawn Childs broke down in his Athletics Team Outlook, there's a legitimate concern that Hendriks can put up similar numbers for a second consecutive year:

This season he'll be drafted as a lockdown closer with an ADP of 103 (now 98). One only needs to look back at Treinen's season in 2018 (9-2 with 0.78 ERA, 100 Ks, and 38 SVs over 80.1 innings) to see the variance of a high leverage arm without a long history of closing. Tread carefully while keeping an open mind with his insurance. Hendriks looks the upside part, but I can't get away from staring at his ERA in 2016 (3.76), 2017 (4.22) and 2018 (4.13). I'll sit this dance out.

Because I share those concerns with Childs, I'll pass on Hendriks at his current ADP of 98. Instead, I'll take my chances on a more proven commodity at closer, or take a few late-round, high-upside fliers.

READ MORE: 2020 Oakland Athletics Fantasy Team Preview