I have a notoriously difficult time drafting outfielders in my fantasy leagues. I think it has something to do with the fact that there’s so many of them that I just wait and wait and wait and then, before I realize it, I’m stuck with an outfield consisting of Alex Rios, Ben Zobrist and Chris Young. Yes, that was my actual outfield this past season.
But as bad as I am at drafting outfielders, I make up some of that with my ability to draft relief pitchers. My strategy is pretty simple. If you’re a top 10 reliever, I don’t want you.
OK, so it’s not that I don’t want to have Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon or Heath Bell on my roster (actually I don’t want Bell in 2012 but that’s a post for another day), but I refuse to draft one of those three guys when I can use that pick to scramble and piece together another sub-par outfield. There’s just way too much volatility among relievers. Consider Baseball Professor’s 2011 preseason closer rankings as compared to the ESPN end-of-season rankings (and to clarify, guys without an end-of-season rank finished outside the top 50):
I highlighted the top 10 closers from 2011 in green just so you could see how random saves really are. Sometimes guys have off years (Joakim Soria), sometimes they get injured (Andrew Bailey) and sometimes they just lose their effectiveness (Jonathan Broxton). The same could be said about every other position, but not with the same frequency as with relievers. There’s a reason teams are hesitant to give multi-year deals to relievers.
Active managers can find saves on free agency and waivers all throughout the season as we saw with guys like Kyle Farnsworth, Jordan Walden, Javy Guerra, Fernando Salas, Brandon League, Sergio Santos and Mark Melancon (just to name seven). Don’t waste your mid round picks on supposed elite relievers.
This season there is one exception, Craig Kimbrel. His save/ERA/WHIP numbers should be elite (though we’ve proven that doesn’t mean they will be) and even if he falters somewhat he gets as many strikeouts as a mediocre starting pitcher in one-third the innings. He’s worth the pick.