2017 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit

2017 Fantasy Baseball Holds Targets: Permutations Aplenty

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A permutation, also called an “arrangement number” or “order,” is a rearrangement of the elements of an ordered list S into a one-to-one correspondence with S itself.

— Wolfram MathWorld

Damn, how many readers did I just lose with that definition? C’mon, folks, a little discrete math never hurt anyone.

Well, if you are still here – yes, this is an article pointing out holds targets. Let me attempt to tie this all together here.

With the 2016 edition of the World Series came a revolution of how managers use their bullpen. When to use your ‘closer’ has been a topic of debate for some time and is heating up here in 2017. Using the term defined in the opener, the permutation of a bullpen is important to the outcome of an event (in this case, a game). If a closer is better suited to throw his “9th inning” in the 7th inning with the meat of the opposing lineup due up, managers need to adjust.

That’s no help in fantasy leagues that just count saves. Thus, I would expect more and more leagues to add holds to the mix as a category in conjunction with saves. Frankly, the fantasy world needs to change its ways as the real world changes. If there was a way to do a saves+holds category where saves are weighted more heavily, I am on board. Get on that, websites!

With all that said, it is more important now than ever to know who the elite non-closing relievers are. Not only are these guys great holds targets, but leagues counting just saves should know these guys. For example, what happens if the Yankees start throwing Aroldis Chapman earlier in games? (Well, Joe Maddon would probably advise against that…)

So before we start, I want to summarize what I have mentioned above:

  1. Dynamic of a bullpen is ever-changing.
  2. Holds targets are important in any format.
  3. I will go to great lengths to create a theme for an article.

Let’s tier these guys based on songs by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, just because. What, did you think I came up with ‘Permutation‘ out of thin air?

2017 Fantasy Baseball Holds Targets

Tier 1 – On Mercury

These two relievers are ‘on another planet’ (like Mercury, get it?) when discussing bullpens around the league. They’ve been talked about ad nauseam, but they must be mentioned.

PlayerTeam2016
IP
2016
SV+HLD
2016
ERA
2016
K%
2016
BB%
Andrew MillerIndians74.1371.4544.7%3.3%
Dellin BetancesYankees73.0403.0842.1%9.4%
  • How many times this offseason have you heard a manager say “He’s our Andrew Miller” or something along those lines? How cool would it be to be the revolution at a position? Well, drafting this polarizing arm won’t be cheap, but his value is building in fantasy circles. He’s worth the 10th round draft pick.
  • Miller’s old teammate, Dellin Betances no longer lives in his shadow for hold chances. In a saves+holds format, I would throw him easily in the top 8 among relievers.

Tier 2 – Subway to Venus

These players aren’t quite on another planet, but they are certainly on their way. They aren’t quite Mercury-hot as Miller and Betances, but they could be Venus inhabitants. Possibly via subway…

PlayerTeam2016
IP
2016
SV+HLD
2016
ERA
2016
K%
2016
BB%
Nate JonesWhite Sox70.2312.2929.2%5.5%
Addison ReedMets77.2411.9729.9%4.3%
Sean DoolittleAthletics39.0143.2329.0%5.2%
  • There’s a couple of points to make here with Nate Jones. He’s coming off a fantastic season with the White Sox and is much better than their closer David Robertson. The White Sox are in rebuild mode, so it’s not far-fetched to see Jones moving to a new team or gaining save chances in Chicago should Robertson get traded.
  • I bet most fantasy folks wrote Addison Reed off after a couple of bad seasons in Arizona. He has come into his own with the Mets. Every statistic he posted last year was a career best. While I don’t believe he can keep at last year’s pace, a sub-3.00 ERA and a stellar K-BB% is in the wings. Not much veteran competition for the major setup guy either.
  • I know including Sean Doolittle in this group will turn some heads, but go look at the stats. He was unstoppable in the second half after returning from an injury. He didn’t walk anyone in his nine September/October appearances. His 1.38 HR/9 was inflated, as he hasn’t shown a long ball-prone nature in his career. I believe in a full resurgence to greatness for Doolittle in 2017.

Tier 3 – The Power of Equality

These guys would be higher ranked if they didn’t have competition for regular holds. They have ‘equals’ in their bullpen, which leads to mixing and matching by managers.

PlayerTeam2016
IP
2016
SV+HLD
2016
ERA
2016
K%
2016
BB%
Pedro BaezDodgers74.0233.0428.1%7.5%
Grant DaytonDodgers26.162.0538.6%5.9%
Koji UeharaCubs47.0253.4534.2%6.0%
Hector RondonCubs51.0253.5329.0%4.0%
Will HarrisAstros64.0402.2527.1%5.9%
Luke GregersonAstros57.2303.2829.1%7.8%
Evan ScribnerMariners14.030.0030.6%4.1%
Steve CishekMariners64.0342.8129.5%8.1%
holds targets

Credit: Comcast

  • You don’t see ‘Pedro Baez‘ and ‘safe’ very often in the same sentence. However, when it comes to holds, Baez is the safer option. The more intriguing option is 28-year-old rookie Grant Dayton from the left side. He almost reminds me of a non-injured, bullpen version of teammate Rich Hill. The Dodgers are giving him a chance and I think he will run away with it.
  • The Cubs continue to build on strength, signing Wade Davis to close and Koji Uehara to help set him up. The 40-year-old still has plenty to give, especially in the form of consistency. Hector Rondon should mix in the 7th and 8th innings still. He’s coming off a year very similar to Koji’s and I like them to post similar numbers in 2017.
  • I would expect the Astros bullpen to look about the same in 2017 as it did in 2016. Ken Giles closes while Will Harris and Luke Gregerson dominate the hold chances. Each of them should also get saves on Giles’ off days and both are worthy of top picks among holds targets.
  • Closer-in-waiting Edwin Diaz finally got the job over Steve Cishek last season, but it’s not like Cishek performed that poorly. I think he is just suited better to setup. I will be targeting him in my saves+holds leagues. By the way, that’s Evan Scribner in the GIF above. That would be his absolutely nasty curveball to go along with his decent fastball-slider combination. He was perfect through 14 innings last season (by runs). He might be someone your league forgot about.

Tier 4 – Don’t Forget Me

Don’t forget these dudes! They are great relievers in their own right and should vie for a great volume of late inning work for solid teams.

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PlayerTeam2016
IP
2016
SV+HLD
2016
ERA
2016
K%
2016
BB%
Brett CecilCardinals36.293.9328.7%5.1%
Matt BushRangers61.2232.4825.1%5.8%
Hunter StricklandGiants61.0213.1022.8%7.6%
Brad BrachOrioles79.0262.0529.6%8.0%
Pedro StropCubs47.1212.8532.1%8.0%
Kyle BarracloughMarlins72.2292.8536.9%14.4%
  • The Cardinals signed Brett Cecil to a four-year deal – uncommon for non-elite relievers nowadays. Cecil’s 3.93 ERA was an anomaly compared to his combined 2.68 ERA from 2013-2015. I’m expecting his ERA to decrease by a run from 2016. Unfortunately, St. Louis will still use Trevor Rosenthal and Kevin Siegrist more than you’d like.
  • Matt Bush pushed the restart button on his MLB career in 2016 and thrived. He has 97 MPH on the fastball and two plus offspeed pitches. You’d like to see more strikeouts from someone with his arsenal and perhaps 2017 presents him the chance to do that. Don’t be surprised if he is closing by season’s end.
  • Like with Bush, you’d expect more strikeouts from a guy with the stuff like Hunter Strickland has. His control was the issue last season as he was constantly behind in counts. The BB% increased by 2.5% from 2015 to 2016. If he can revert back to 2015, he can be a great source for holds in the Giants bullpen.
  • It was a tale of two halves for Brad Brach in 2016. The Orioles may have overworked him in the first half with 49 relief innings,which was third-most in the majors. He had a sparkling 0.91 ERA over that span. It was a 3.91 ERA second half that lead to his overall numbers. A sub-3.00 ERA and lots of work plays well in save+hold formats.
  • If it weren’t for Uehara and Rondon, Pedro Strop would get much more love among holds targets. However, he should still be very much in the mix for holds and does have potential to move up. Uehara is aging and Rondon will have his slumps. I like Strop most among the non-Wade Davis bullpen arms.
  • Kyle Barraclough is receiving tons of love in the preseason as a potential arm to become a closer midseason. That’s fine and dandy – a 14.0 K/9 and 2.11 FIP will do that for you. However, let’s not dismiss that horrendous walk rate. 5.24 – that is his BB/9 over his major and minor league career. You don’t fix that overnight. Make sure you draft a low WHIP commodity to partner with Barraclough.

Tier 5 – If You Have to Ask

There’s still quite a few holds targets for me very late in drafts. Here are the remaining players that I wanted to put higher but couldn’t. One reason or another led me to create a ‘leftovers’ group.

PlayerTeam2016
IP
2016
SV+HLD
2016
ERA
2016
K%
2016
BB%
Carl Edwards Jr.Cubs36.083.7537.7%10.1%
Josh SmokerMets15.124.7038.5%6.2%
Brad HandPadres89.1222.9230.5%9.9%
Liam HendriksAthletics64.2103.7625.8%5.1%
Derek LawGiants55.0152.1323.4%4.2%
Matt StrahmRoyals22.061.2334.1%12.5%
Juan NicasioPirates55.263.8831.0%8.3%
  • As mentioned with Strop, I love C.J. Edwards Jr. in another bullpen other than the Cubs. Talent-wise, he’s the best in Tier 5. In regards to his role though, the chances for holds may be few and far between.
  • With a name like Josh Smoker, he better be a good pitcher! Despite a ridiculous K-BB% at 32.3%, he sported a 4.70 ERA driven largely by a 0.387 BABIP. If he gets the shot in front of Reed with the Mets, I expect a great season from him. This is a name that your leaguemates may not be aware of in your saves+holds league.
  • Brad Hand was the go-to guy for middle relief in San Diego. Hand will have definite value this season – whether it’s in the bullpen or the rotation. He reminds me a bit of Drew Pomeranz last season.
  • I have been waiting for a year with a sub-0.300 BABIP allowed from Liam Hendriks for the last few years. However, it just hasn’t happened – BABIPs allowed last five years are 0.313, 0.350, 0.327, 0.322, and 0.344 last season. I am still bullish on the A’s figuring out that one tweak that turns him into that great reliever.
  • There’s nothing wrong with Derek Law. That bullpen is just very congested. Between Melancon, Strickland, and Will Smith, hold chances will be slim for Law. Great pitchers find a way to pitch in high leverage situations though.
  • I included both Matt Strahm and Juan Nicasio in this tier because I have no idea what to do with them. They could both be starters, middle relievers, or late inning specialists. It all depends on what routes their organizations decide to take. Still, they are worth the speculation.

Be sure to check out our Rankings, Position Preview and much more in the 2017 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit.

About Tyler Thompson

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