FANTASY PLAYS: Look for core of 3 relief pitchers
Fantasy experts have varying thoughts about how to build relief sections. Some simply won't spend up or use an early pick at the position because the grip on some closer jobs can be shaky.
Others want a dominant reliever - maybe even two - to not only gain a stranglehold on the position but help strikeout, ERA and WHIP categories overall.
No matter what angle you take, we all inevitably seem to chase closers on the waiver wire who move into the position at some point, whether it's for need or just to gain an extra arm for trade leverage.
Ideally, you should have three closers among nine pitching slots to remain very competitive in the category. Fundamentally, having one top-level guy, one mid-range fireman and a lower tier reliever who can do the job adequately would be a balance to strive. But you can also be more daring and combine two mid-range guys to be respectable for saves while taking fliers on some potential sleepers or longshots.
There's no one singular way to approach the position, as the flow of the draft or auction will show that not everything goes fully according to plan. But if you look back at the past three years or even just the last year of your league and consider how many saves it will take to finish in the top three or so in that category, and aim for that number while building your roster and keeping an eye on WHIP and ERA maintenance, you will be off to a great start on draft day.
If you are targeting a sleeper type once the top 20 or so are off the board, don't hesitate to make a move for Cincinnati's Raisel Iglesias. The Reds have publicly maintained they intend to explore using a committee initially, but Tony Cingrani may fit better as a lefty specialist and Drew Storen has much to prove about regaining his dominant form. Health issues plagued Iglesias as a starter but he seems better suited for the pen given his potent arsenal and highly competitive motor that seems to fit the ninth inning role.
Ultimately, it could come down to Iglesias vs. Storen to determine Cincinnati's closer. Iglesias has a good fastball/slider/change mix and he appears to be finding his groove at age 27. His strikeout rates have consistently been around nine strikeouts per nine innings at all levels.
You may be able to get Philadelphia's Hector Neris even a bit later than Iglesias. Jeanmar Gomez surprised early as the Philly door slammer last year, but he doesn't seem to have the dominant arsenal needed to survive in the role over an extended period of seasons. He had a 19.13 ERA in September that showed he may have been overextended. Neris' awesome splitter led to 102 strikeouts in 80.3 innings pitched, and Gomez may not be able to hold him off for long this year. He is currently the 26th reliever off the board in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship's average draft position reports.
Relievers often lose or regain jobs, much like kickers in fantasy football. The next one to fall into the trash bin could be Miami's A.J. Ramos. The Marlins have seemed to be uncomfortable with him at times over the past two seasons and there have been whispers about him being replaced, even to the extent of trade rumors involving other closers this offseason. Ramos' 1.36 WHIP reflects his propensity for having some command issues and putting runners on base, making the team squirm. He does have a high strikeout rate and converts most of his opportunities, but if he starts letting some of those runners he puts on slide through in key situations, Miami could ultimately pull the plug on him.
If you cannot get Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen, Roberto Osuna and Edwin Diaz seem to be on the precipice of becoming premier dominant stoppers, and while Cody Allen has Andrew Miller in his mix and Jeurys Familia could be facing a suspension, they are terrific secondary options among the better choices. Alex Colome has nasty stuff needed to keep the job and Tony Watson and Shawn Kelley may turn out to be viable lower-level options.
SCOTT'S TOP 12 RELIEVERS FOR 2017
1. Kenley Jansen - Dodgers
2. Aroldis Chapman - Yankees
3. Zach Britton- Orioles
4. Mark Melancon - Giants
5. Roberto Osuna - Blue Jays
6. Craig Kimbrel - Red Sox
7. Edwin Diaz - Mariners
8. Seung-Hwan Oh - Cardinals
9. Cody Allen - Indians
10. Wade Davis - Cubs
11. Jeurys Familia - Mets
12. Kenneth Giles - Astros
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com .