Fantasy Baseball

2019 Fantasy Baseball: This Year’s Blake Treinen

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Scan your twitter updates. Read the beat writers daily. Pray.

This three-pronged attack will not bring you any closer to grabbing a viable late-round closer.

So how do we find this year’s Blake Treinen? A top-5 closer for ADP pennies on your draft dollar?


Treinen was a middle reliever with as sub-9 career K/9 and a WHIP >1.30 before last year’s 11.2 K/9 and 0.834 WHIP breakout season worthy of a 6th place finish in the AL Cy Young Vote. His play after a deadline trade to the A’s in 2016 allowed him to display his promise as a closer. Yet nothing was certain prior to 2018 fantasy drafts.

Today we dig through some soggy bottom boys who have evolved, both on the mound and in the training room. We also consider the situation/opportunity and if they have the talent to run away with the job.

If you strike it rich and land a top-10 closer after the 180th pick (15th rd of 12 team, 18th round of 10 team), a calm stikes your in-season management efforts. No weekly waiver wire and FAAB odysseys all for naught.

If you whiff and pick the wrong one(s), you’ll be in constant sorrow; all through [your] days. Let’s not let that happen.

This Year’s Blake Treinen

Free five-minute mock drafts against industry experts and custom analysis for your team with the FantasyPros Draft Wizard.

Anthony Swarzak, Seattle Mariners (ADP: 682, CL-42/P-197)

The Role Hold: Second in Line. Hunter Strickland and his anger issues seem to be the favorite. Strickland has back to back seasons with >1.40 WHIP and continuously declining K/9 rate (career-low 7.3 K/9 in 2018).

GM Jerry Dipoto has stated the biggest question mark for the Mariners heading into 2019 is their bullpen. Probably what happens when you lose Edwin Diaz’s 66-0 team record when he took the mound and late-season addition Alex Colome.

The Case: Door’s open boys! We are not fans of his shoulder issues although they explain his terrible 2018 with the Mets (26.1 IP, 1.60 WHIP, 5.48 FIP, 2.21 K/BB). Swarzak resumed throwing this past week, and the hope is he can get healthy after a lost season. He’s the most traveled arm in the pen, and late game situations will come down to him and Strickland.

In his healthy 2017 campaign Swarzak sported a 10.6 K/9, 1.034 WHIP, and a career-best 2.74 FIP across 70 appearances with the White Sox and Brewers. He had career highs in Contact% (71.6%) and Swinging Strike% (14.0%, next closest was 2014 campaign at 10.6%).

Yoshihisa (Yoshi) Hirano, Arizona Diamondbacks (ADP: 666, CL-41/P-191)

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The Role Hold: Murky. With manager Torey Lovullo back in the desert after a disappointing finish, we remain trapped between his actions and his words.

Actions: Hirano ended 2018 as the Diamondbacks 9th inning man after Brad Boxberger’s struggles.

Words: At the Winter Meetings, Lovullo claimed Archie Bradley would be his choice to close, though he was non-committal. In mid-February, Lovullo stated it will be a three-man competition between Bradley, Hirano and fresh signee Greg Holland.

The Case: As an age 34 rookie signed out of Japan last offseason, Yoshi settled into a mid-inning relief role for the first 2/3 of the season. From May to July, Hirano put on a show claiming sole possession of the Diamondbacks’ team record for consecutive scoreless appearances by a reliever (26 G, 22.2 IP, 0.95 WHIP, 21 Ks).

His September promotion to closer cost him a shot at the MLB rookie record for HLDs but allowed for him to audition in real time. Only Adam Ottavino and teammate Bradley had more HLDs last season than Hirano.

SplitGG FinishedSVWHIPK/9
Mar/Apr14000.6758.1
May12101.0009.8
June14001.2167.3
July11001.5527.4
August12301.1383.7
Sep/Oct1263/41.06511.3

Hirano finished the season strong in the closer role, going 3/4 in saves chances while Bradley was 3/11 across 2018. Even the uptick in his K/9 after receiving the closer job is promising on a micro-Treinen level (11.3 K/9 in Sept/Oct).


Given his top 25 BAbip amongst qualified relievers in 2018 and his consistency outside of a dismal July, Hirano has what it takes to reclaim the closer role. Watch the spring training battle closely, but at his current ADP, he’s worth drafting in all leagues.

Will Smith, San Francisco Giants (ADP: 208, CL-21/P-77)

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The Role Hold: Medium. Mark Melancon is such a lingerer. Smith is in a “battle” with Melancon, but should come out on top this Spring. The rest of the Giants bullpen isn’t even close to these two.

The Case: I would challenge that if the Giants rotation is healthy, they have the arms to be somewhat competitive. We’re looking in the 25-35 SV range if he’s a Giant all season. Though that’s not quite Treinen-esque, his counting stats have the potential to be:

SplitBatters FacedK/BBBAAOBPSLG
vs RHB1382.93.207.285.298
vs LHB7230.00.171.183.257
HOME1153.18.223.298.350
AWAY959.00.159.191.205

The 30:1 K:BB ratio against lefties is absurd, but indicative that Smith was finally healthy again after missing all of 2017. His clear effectiveness against all batters, regardless of their handedness, is indicative of an elite bullpen option.

The Home/Road splits are actually promising. Smith was appreciably worse at home despite Oracle (formerly AT &T) Park’s pitcher-friendly reputation:

SplitGERAWHIPK:BBSVGF
Home273.951.2443.18410
Road271.050.7019.001017

His September stats (8 G, 6.75 ERA, 1.625 WHIP) coincide with a major change in his pitch usage. Over the final month of the season, Smith threw his slider ~12% less and upped his fastball in turn by ~13%. Opponents batting average against his slider rose from 0.105 to 0.214 and from 0.188 to 0.308 on his fastball (August Vs. Sept/Oct). Fatigue definitely set in after such a long layoff.

In the end, it all came down to his final appearance of 2019: in 1 inning he faced a season-high nine batters, gave season-high four runs, and tied his season high for hits allowed with four. This took his ERA from 1.90 to a season high 2.55 to end the year.

Will Smith is still young (age 29 season upcoming) and doesn’t have a lot of miles on his arm. He could deliver elite counting stats similar to 2018 Blake Treinen, with 25-35 save potential.

Matt Barnes, Boston Red Sox (ADP: 252, CL-28/P-97)

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The Role Hold: Medium. Ryan Brasier is not a lock to make the roster, though Alex Cora has stated he’ll find him a spot. Brasier’s infected pinkie toe coupled with Steven Wright’s suspension should allow for Barnes to get a clear first crack to secure the closer job.

The Case: Craig Kimbrel is still floating out there but we are drafting for now. At his ADP, his constant improvement over the past three seasons (see table below) is indicative of someone who could seize the opportunity effortlessly.

Year_AgeERAFIPK/9K/BB
2016_264.053.729.62.29
2017_273.883.3310.72.96
2018_283.652.71143.10

What’s very interesting is the evolution of Barnes’ pitching repertoire. 2018 pitch count by pitch: Fourseam-688, Slider-16, Curve-511, Split-52.

Matt Barnes (MLB) Whiffs per Swing% (by Pitch)

Year_AgeFourseamSliderCurveSplit
2016_2625.0736.0037.000
2017_2727.5336.9033.110
2018_2830.2850.0040.0033.33

Last year was his first hurling the split to mixed results (.385 BAA). His two money pitches are the fourseam (.227 BAA) and his curve (.132 BAA). He has improved these plus pitches over his career, especially recently. Ditching the sinker and changeup from year’s past along with selective use of the slider has brought Barnes’ counting stats way up.

For a potential 100 win team with 35-45 save opportunities there for the taking, jump on Barnes at his ADP and ride the potential top-6 closer to the fantasy playoffs.

Trevor May, Minnesota Twins (ADP: 253, P-99)

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The Role Hold: Weaksauce. Craig Kimbrel is lurking and has been linked then unlinked to the Twins this past week. Damnit Craig!

Though the Twins still have last year’s closer-by-committee members Trevor Hildenberger (7 SVs, 4.53 FIP) and Taylor Rogers (2 SVs, 2.33 FIP) in house, they went out and signed Blake Parker (22 SVs, Career 3.60 FIP) as well.

The Case: May finished strong over his final 10 appearances: 10 IPs, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 2 ERs, 14 Ks. He has the technical jump on his competition as he emerged as the de facto closer, going 3/3 in four game stretch in late September.

StatFourseamChangeSliderCurve
Raw Pitch Count265484887
Whiffs per Swing34.88%30.00%23.53%33.33%
Batting Average
Against
0.2360.1250.6250.063

Although the usage of his curveball is down, he clearly has become more efficient (2015-.310 BAAA, 2016-.143). He’s also been shockingly good for a Righty against Lefties. In 2018, he gave up a paltry .195 BAA and .366 SLG to lefties across 44 batters, yielding only 3 BBs to 18 Ks.

Ditching the starter gig, May has the potential to be another former starter-turned-closer that benefits fantasy owners for years to come.


2019 Fantasy Baseball Position Previews
CatcherFirst BaseSecond BaseThird BaseShortstopOutfieldStarting PitcherRelief Pitcher

Check out the rest of our great Fantasy Baseball content as the 2019 season approaches.


Thanks to Brooks Baseball for simplifying pitching stats for the use in this article.

Thanks to NFBC for ADP stats (data taken from 3/01/19 to 3/06/19).

About Samir Qurashi

Samir Qurashi is from the Bay. He thinks football is a good time. You can get at him with any fantasy football questions on the tweeter: @FSPsamir and by electronica: ssq.FSP@gmail.com. He remains unspooked.

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