2020 Fantasy Baseball: This Year’s Liam Hendriks

by A.J. Applegarth
Oakland A's

Three weeks ago, my "This Year's Lucas Giolito" article launched here on Fantasy Six Pack. Since then, I've been on-again-off-again writing my "2020 Fantasy Baseball: This Year's Liam Hendriks" follow-up article. All the while the world has gone into a full-on pan(dem)ic thanks to the spread of Coronavirus Disease, or, COVID-19!

In the introduction of my Giolito article, I highlighted all of the great sports-related events that occur every March. However, March Madness officially became #MarchSadness, as none of those great sporting events I mentioned actually happened.

Thanks to COVID-19, the sporting world here in the United States has been completely upended. And, as of Tuesday, March 24th, the 2020 Summer Olympic Games have now been officially postponed, as well.

Let's shift gears back to Baseball, though, and get to the point of this article. Currently, there is still no clear timeline for "when" baseball can/will resume. But, "July" seems more and more plausible with each passing day, which greatly affects the 2020 Fantasy Baseball season.

With fantasy drafts pushing into Spring Training's "Take 2" act, it will affect how you look at the pitching position. Typically, going after innings-eating Starting Pitchers who rack up K's is ideal. With the shortened season upon us, though, those value pitchers will disappear.

So, how do you compensate for that lost value? You need to draft (at least two of) my picks to be this year's Liam Hendriks. Who are my picks? Read on to find out!

2020 Fantasy Baseball: This Year's Liam Hendriks

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In order to determine who can be this year's Liam Hendriks, let's take a look back at Liam's 2019 Season. Liam Hendriks started the year buried behind Closer, Blake Treinen, who had 38 Saves in 2018. Treinen also posted 16 Saves to start 2019, but, he had two Blown Saves and an inflated ERA and WHIP.

Then, the wheels fell-off for Treinen on June 20th, 2019. He gave up 3 ER, 2 H, and 2 BB before notching an out. Hendriks did not pitch in that game, though, because he had pitched in three games in the previous four days.

Hendriks was, however, given the Save Opportunity on June 22nd against Tampa Bay. He converted the Save successfully, and he never looked back. Hendriks finished the year with 25 Saves, a 13.13% K/9, an 85.7% LOB%, and a 1.80 ERA across 85.0 IP.

That brings us to the "abbreviated" 2020 MLB Season! As noted above, I believe the key to pitching success this season is to have plenty of solid Relief Pitchers. To win this year, you need to draft guys like 2019's Liam Hendriks.

Without further adieu, let's get to the candidates for this year's Liam Hendriks!

The "Sure Bet" Pick

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Scott Oberg, Colorado Rockies

If there were ever a true "sure bet" in gambling, its name would be "Scott Oberg!" Wade Davis is slated to start 2020 as the Closer for the Rockies, yet again.

Davis was atrocious in 2019, posting a gaudy 8.65 ERA and a 1-6 record in a mere 42.2 IP. Yet, he somehow managed to escape the season with only three Blown Saves.

Davis also posted an 8.86 K/9, his first career sub-9.00 K/9 rate as a Relief Pitcher. He's had a 10.00+ K/9 rate in five-out-of-six seasons as a Reliever. Davis has also amassed 137 Saves since 2014, including 43 alone in 2018. Alas, only 15 of those Saves came in 2019.

Enter Oberg! All he has done since he broke into the big leagues in 2015 is improve year after year. Last year, he finished with a 6-1 record, a 2.25 ERA, and a 9.32 K/9 in 56.0 IP. He also notched five Saves and eight Holds as one of the top Relievers for Colorado.

If Davis cannot find his pre-2019 form early this year (whenever the season does actually start), Oberg should benefit. Like Davis, Oberg also had three Blown Saves in 2019. But, he has the talent to be very valuable for both Colorado and Fantasy Baseball managers alike!

Favorable Odds Options

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Daniel Hudson, Washington Nationals

Hudson has been in the majors since 2009 and has spent the last six seasons almost exclusively as a Reliever. During that time, he has not been used to close out games much, but he does have 72 Holds.

In 2019, Hudson started the season in Toronto and finished the season as a World Series Champion with the Nationals. And, he really found his groove after being traded to Washington, finishing with a 0.88 WHIP and a 1.44 ERA.

After Sean Doolittle went down to an injury in late August, Hudson took over the Closing duties for Washington. He struggled as the Closer initially, blowing two Saves, but then, Hudson collected five Saves in September.

Both Sean Doolittle and Hudson were used in high leverage situations as Washington made their Championship run. Hudson out-Saved Doolittle in the playoffs 4-2, though.

Hudson's late-season/playoff usage and performance makes him a fairly obvious choice to be this year's Liam Hendriks. Draft him with confidence!

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Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros

Pressly was quite possibly the best Relief Pitcher in the majors for the first two months of 2019. He racked up 15 Holds in 26.1 IP through 5/31/19. That includes 21.0 IP of scoreless baseball to start the season, as his first ER came on 5/24/19.

Pressly started to show some cracks in June, allowing another five earned runs, including three homers. He did net another five Holds and a Save, but he also blew three saves and earned his first loss.

July and August were a mixed-bag of success for Pressly, as he collected seven more Holds and two more Losses. The biggest blow for Pressly, though, was having to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery after experiencing discomfort after pitching on 8/20/19.

Pressly missed exactly four weeks, coming back on 9/20/19, and earning his 28th Hold of the year. He finished 2019 with 31 Holds, 3 Saves, a 0.90 WHIP, a 2.32 ERA, and 72 K in 54.1 IP.

All that said, Pressly still needs to usurp Roberto Osuna's spot as Houston's Closer to gain value in non-Saves/Holds leagues. But, based on Osuna's FIP and BABIP track record, 2020 could be the year his good luck finally runs out. If so, Pressly should be the one to collect Osuna's 30+ Save Opportunities.

Rookie Surprises

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Hunter Harvey, Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore had arguably the worst bullpen in the big leagues last season. Mychal Givens was inconsistent all season long, and the Orioles will almost assuredly start 2020 with a Closing Committee.

Hunter Harvey only pitched 6.1 innings for Baltimore in 2019, but nearly 58% of those 19 outs came via strikeout. He will likely start the 2020 season on the 25-man roster where his high strikeout pedigree will be on display.

If Givens continues to struggle, Hunter Harvey could easily slide into the lead Closer role for the O's next season. He's worth a late draft pick in deeper leagues, but he should remain on the watch list in shallower leagues.

James Karinchak, Cleveland Indians

Like Hunter Harvey, Karinchak has filthy strikeout abilities. His fastball grades out at an 80 and settles in at 95-99 mph. His 22.o K/9 in the Minors last season is the highest rate in history (min. 30.0 IP).

Karinchak does have some work to do with his control, which may be difficult with his mechanics. Plus, he has the highly-successful Brad Hand blocking his way to the Closer role in Cleveland.

It's likely that Karinchak will slot-in to more of a setup role for the Indians to start the season. But, if their season turns mediocre, it's possible Hand could get traded to a contender. That would pave the way for Karinchak, Cleveland's potential Closer of the future.

That concludes my series on 2020 Fantasy Baseball Pitchers. For all your preseason Fantasy Baseball needs, be sure to check out our entire series of position previews linked below.

Catchers | First Base | Second Base | Third Base | Shortstop | Outfield | Starting Pitcher | Relief Pitcher

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