Josh Hader Fantasy Outlook: Paying Small Premium For Saves Peace of Mind

By drafting Milwaukee Brewers closer Josh Hader, you won't have to spend the season churning your relief pitchers trying to catch saves.
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Milwaukee Brewers closer Josh Hader is next level.

He took over the closer duties in 2018 and hasn’t looked back. Hader has been electric over the last two years (9-6 with a 2.52 ERA, 281 Ks, and 49 saves in 157 IP). Last year he was very hard to hit (.155) and improved significantly in his walk rate (2.4 – 3.3 in 2018). The most glaring problem was his massive HR/9 rate (1.8).

To begin the season, after nine great innings (no runs, 15 Ks, and five SVs), Hader allowed four runs in four of his next five outings (six runs, six baserunners, and four home runs over 5.2 innings with 16 Ks).

Over his next 26 innings (about two months), he found a groove with a 0.69 ERA with six hits, 46 Ks, and 13 SVs. Unfortunately, he endured another big drop-off.

His arm fell off over his next 15 appearances (6.19 ERA, 1.500 WHIP, and seven homers in 16 innings). Hader would go on to right the ship again over his final five weeks (1.42 ERA, 32 Ks, and 12 SVs in 19 innings).

The 2019 season concluded with a disappointing playoff appearance (two runs and three baserunners allowed in one inning), costing Milwaukee a victory in their wild-card game. 10 of his 15 home runs allowed were hit by righties (.158 BAA). His average fastball (96.0) was better than in 2018 (95.3).

Hader threw his four-seamer (.174 BAA) 84-percent of the time, but batters hit 14 (of his 15 allowed) home runs off of this pitch. His slider (.070) is a plus, but he must’ve felt less trust in the pitch when compared to its 2018 total (293 pitches – 182 in 2019). Hader gets in trouble when he gets high up in the zone (fly-ball rate – 55.1 and 51.6 in his career) with a massive HR/FB rate (21.4).

Hader is one of the best closing arms in baseball but there’s still room for him to make improvements. He must expand his secondary pitches, particularly his slider, while improving the location of the fastball in the strike zone. His ADP (60) places him as the first closer off the board in 2020.

I love his edge, which ranked ninth in SIscore (5.93) in 2019 for pitchers. You have a pay a small premium for closers if you want to attempt to avoid the risk of having to churn them all year long should you choose to fade the position. Expect more of the same from Hader while hoping for fewer poor outings and fewer home runs allowed in 2020.

READ MORE: 2020 Milwaukee Brewers Fantasy Team Preview