Fantasy Baseball

2019 Fantasy Baseball: Middle Round Closers To Target Using K%+IFFB%-BB%

In a recent article I shared the K%+IFFB%-BB% metric that I used to evaluate pitchers. As discussed, the combination of strikeouts and the ability to induce weak contact on infield fly balls — the batted ball with the highest probably of turning into an out — while limiting free passes are skills we like to target when selecting players for our game. Using that same theory and data, I’ve identified three relievers you’re currently able to land in snake drafts outside of the top-100 players selected in qualified NFBC drafts.

The purpose of this particular metric and all of the K%+IFFB%-BB% data is taken directly from my analysis here and my spreadsheet here. All of the NFBC ADP data used in this analysis are for 15-team “Draft Champions” drafts between 01.01.19 and 02.19.19.

Here are the starting pitchers I suggested to target for value in a separate post.

Relief Pitchers to consider

Kirby Yates | Padres | K%+IFFB%-BB% Rank: 9 | NFBC ADP: 107

The signing of Manny Machado indicates the San Diego Padres are officially opening up their window to win. And while the playoffs may appear to be out of their (projected) reach at the time of this writing, we may assume that the Padres brass will be less likely to deal valuable MLB assets at the trade deadline for future assets – similar to how they dealt Brad Hand to the Indians for Francisco Mejia last season – unless the wheels really fall off and receive one of those “too good to be true” deals. That includes Kirby Yates.

Admittedly, I was fearful of Yates being a trade deadline victim prior to Machado’s signing. At this point, I’m more willing to bump Yates up my rankings closer to the top tier of closers. He posted elite ratios, elite swinging-strike and elite strikeout rates last season. Yates also yielded a ton of weak contact courtesy of the infield fly ball which landed him atop of my K%+IFFB+-BB% chart. The Padres should find themselves in a bunch of close games this year making Yates a top target outside the current top 100. Buyer beware, though, Yates’ ADP is on the rise so you may want to target him in the late-80s or 90s if you hope to get some shares.

Jose LeClerc | Rangers | K%+IFFB%-BB% Rank: 1 | NFBC ADP: 109

Jose LeCLerc is the number one rated arm on the chart according to the given metrics. Yes, he’s higher than Chris Sale, higher than Edwin Diaz, higher than Max Scherzer and higher than Aroldis Chapman. In 2018, according to Statcast data via BaseballSavant, the Rangers’ right-hander ranked in the top 1% of the league in exit velocity (83.7 mph), xBA (.137), xSLG (.194), wOBA ( .205), xWOBA (.210), Hard Hit% (20%), top 2% of the league in K% (38.1) and top 5% in the league in Barrel% (3.6%).

He’ll be the closer in Texas again this season as newly minted skipper Chris Woodward already mentioned. The main reservation I have with LeClerc is the one I did not have with Yates: the inevitable trade deadline. Texas doesn’t figure to be in the playoff conversation come July, so trade dialogue is likely to occur should Leclerc remain effective and healthy. However, LeClerc is young and controllable through the 2024 season – a very appealing asset to rival clubs – so one could imagine the King’s ransom Texas would be looking for in return from teams making push to be relevant in late-October.

His skills are superior to Yates’, but the situation may not be. I’m still taking Yates ahead of LeClerc in redrafts, but not by much. If the opportunity arises, I would skip out on the upper tier entirely and grab both Yates and LeClerc at their current stock prices.

Will Smith | Giants | K%+IFFB%-BB% Rank: 3 | NFBC ADP: 182

Will Smith is a blend of both Yates and LeClerc, in that his skills are pretty elite according to our chart, but his situation is not. The Giants, similar to the Rangers, figure to be out of the playoff picture by April June and could look to move Smith on or before the deadline as their squad is in need of a rebuild.

Smith did finish ’18’s campaign in the top 1% of the league in wOBA (.228) and xwOBA(.222), the top 2% of the league in xBA (.173), top 3% of the league in xSLG (.275) and top 5% of the league in K% (33.8). Additionally, he finished third on our K%+IFFB%-BB% chart further solidifying his excellent skills. We don’t love lefties as much as righties in closing situations, however, I’m willing to let that slide at a current 12th round cost in 15-teamers. Smith shouldn’t be the first closer on your squad. And you may want to back him up with a share of Mark Melancon super late in drafts as trade insurance – although, both could be dealt at the deadline.

All in all, I’m out on the top tier of closers at their current costs. I’d much rather piece together a bullpen with two or three from this list and some a bit further down on our chart – think Corey Knebel (I grabbed him in Mixed LABR, TGFBI & Tout Wars Draft & Hold, current ADP: 134) as well as Ken Giles (current ADP: 128) who was excellent last season despite a bloated ERA and need for change of scenery.

Chart:

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