RELIEVERS: 2018 Sleepers

This week, sleepers. Sleepers in this column are relievers with skills that far outstretch the current projected role where there may be an opportunity down the road to jump up the ladder quickly due to skills inequities within a given bullpen, thus providing a quick profit. That's the hope. This year, there are plenty of these—we highlight just a few.

Baltimore had Zach Britton (LHP, BAL) go down with injury (again) and expect last year's fill-in, Brad Brach (RHP, BAL), to fill in again. Brach did just fine last year, but it opens the door to some possibilities for this year. Here are the projected BPIs:

BAL                  Sv IP xERA WHIP  Dom  Cmd HR/9 G% F% BPV ADP
=================    == == ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== == == === ===
Brach                27 65 3.73 1.18  9.7  2.7  0.8 42 38  97 219
Britton (L)          11 29 2.70 1.17  8.4  2.7  0.3 76 10 121 283
Givens                0 73 3.51 1.15 10.6  3.0  0.9 40 39 112 390

Britton will eventually come back and pitch in August, if all goes well. Look at that 283 ADP for two months of Zach Britton as he rounds into shape and barring any setbacks. But in the meantime, Brach has solid enough BPIs to do the job, but a 219 ADP might not be justified with other higher-skilled closers around. Importantly for this column, Mychal Givens (RHP, BAL) has a higher Dom, higher Cmd ratio, better xERA, better WHIP, better BPV and he has a 390 ADP. That makes him a sleeper. Givens is projected for zero saves, but if Brach stumbles at all, you could fall into saves quite easily by getting Givens and that nice Dom/Cmd combo late.


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Arizona ADPs are very interesting so far this season. Archie Bradley (RHP, ARI) is the reliever of choice for the masses with a 189 ADP. But is he even the closer? Too early to tell. Let's check the projections:

ARI                  Sv IP xERA WHIP  Dom  Cmd HR/9 G% F% BPV ADP
=================    == == ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== == == === ===
A.Bradley            32 58 3.38 1.22  9.6  3.3  0.6 48 29 120 189
Boxberger             5 58 3.23 1.22 12.3  3.2  1.2 44 41 138 322
Hirano                9 44 4.16 1.30  8.0  2.4  1.2 44 36  77 421
Sherfy                9 58 3.69 1.17  9.0  3.4  1.1 41 37 110 550

HQ projects Bradley to get the saves. And he has a superb skill set. But not so fast. Brad Boxberger (RHP, ARI) has a solid skill set too, save the homerific 41% flyball rate. How much effect will the humidor have? If Boxberger keeps the ball in the park—something he struggled with last year until later in the season as he shook off the rust, he could close and allow Arizona to deploy Bradley in that elite multiple-inning bridge role that teams crave. Boxberger's 322 ADP and the refusal of Arizona to name a closer off the bat makes him a solid sleeper option. And if he is homerific again, toss him overboard.

Arizona also has a second sleeper in Jimmie Sherfy (RHP, ARI). Sherfy does not have a major league track record yet, but the projections are quite rosy with a solid Dom/Cmd ratio combination and low WHIP and acceptable xERA. Sherfy is at a 550(!) ADP. That's a nice sleeper price. If your league has depth charts that long, make sure you get him. Owners are speculating a little on Yoshihisa Hirano (RHP, ARI) as well, and a 421 ADP won't hurt anyone. But the projections have Hirano comfortably behind Sherfy and Boxberger as options. The lack of track record makes it all a little speculative, so make sure you keep your sleeper buys where you can be comfortable.

For those who follow along on twitter, it is no secret that Joe Jimenez (RHP, DET) is a favorite sleeper of this column. But first he has to get past Detroit closer Shane Greene (RHP, DET). The projections:

DET                  Sv IP xERA WHIP  Dom  Cmd HR/9 G% F% BPV ADP
=================    == == ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== == == === ===
S.Greene             30 73 3.94 1.32  9.0  2.3  0.7 47 33  80 242
Jo.Jimenez            2 58 4.13 1.41 10.1  2.7  0.8 35 44  94 578
Alx.Wilson            4 87 4.79 1.44  6.2  1.9  0.9 47 37  50 671

Greene is a below-average closer, but his Dom/Cmd ratio is decent enough when coupled with a 47% groundball rate. Greene could hold the job longer than speculators might believe. But the electric arm here belongs to Jimenez. Jimenez was spectacular in the minors, but spit the bit when the Tigers promoted him. He gets another chance this spring and if he dominates, he could quickly slide above Greene. Jimenez has to fix his slider to go with that filthy fastball. But if he can, that 578 ADP will look like a joke. If you can grab Jimenez that late, by all means, grab him and hope for command and improvement on the slider.

Miami also has a strange ADP array. Buyers clearly do not believe in named closer Brad Ziegler (RHP, MIA) and it leads to some odd ADP results. Here are the projections:

MIA                  Sv IP xERA WHIP  Dom  Cmd HR/9 G% F% BPV ADP
=================    == == ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== == == === ===
Barraclough          18 73 3.69 1.34 11.0  2.1  0.6 47 30  79 315
Steckenrider         10 73 3.28 1.16 11.5  3.4  1.1 40 40 135 363
Ziegler              14 65 3.76 1.31  5.7  2.1  0.3 65 16  70 373

Ziegler does have a terrible 5.7 Dom. But the Cmd ratio is fine, the 3.76 xERA is ok and the 1.31 WHIP is not out of line with Kyle Barraclough's (RHP, MIA) 3.69 xERA and 1.34 WHIP. Ziegler just gets there with a 65% groundball rate instead of a 11.0 Dom. Barraclough has a 315 ADP. Ziegler has a 373 ADP. Ziegler may be the only named closer in recent history projected to go in the reserve rounds. An incumbent closer as a sleeper—who would have dreamed it possible?

Drew Steckenrider (RHP, MIA) deserves some sleeper love, too. Steckenrider has the best xERA, WHIP, Dom, Cmd ratio and BPV, yet he is stuck with a 363 ADP because he is neither last year's favorite closer-in-waiting (Barraclough) nor this year's named closer (Ziegler). Steckenrider is the best skill set here, and as you know, more often than not, the cream rises to the top. Don't be afraid to speculate on Steckenrider at a 363 ADP.

The Los Angeles Angels have not named Blake Parker (RHP, LAA) the closer (yet). In fact, they have gone out of their way to tell us that they have not named Parker the closer. But buyers think Parker is the closer, judging by his 215 ADP. Here are the projections:

LAA                  Sv IP xERA WHIP  Dom  Cmd HR/9 G% F% BPV ADP
=================    == == ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== == == === ===
B.Parker             20 65 3.38 1.05 10.4  3.8  1.0 39 42 129 215
Bedrosian             8 58 3.58 1.24 10.1  2.8  0.8 45 35 108 332
J.Johnson            12 73 3.93 1.48  8.5  2.4  1.2 52 27  87 553
K.Middleton           4 58 3.80 1.34 10.1  3.6  1.7 37 42 121 626

Parker certainly has the best xERA, WHIP, Dom, Cmd ratio and BPV of the candidates. Looks like the closer to me. But there is room for speculation here. Perennial closer-in-waiting Cam Bedrosian (RHP, LAA) is no slouch. Bedrosian has a solid enough skill set to close and just needs health. It would allow the Angels to deploy Parker more flexibly in leverage, if they chose to go that route. Bedrosian is running at a 332 ADP, so is a sleeper at this point after being overrated in past years.

Jim Johnson (RHP, LAA) is available if the Angels want to go with experience, as they did last season early-on. Johnson's calling card is the 52% groundball rate and consistency, but the rest of the BPIs don't look all that great. Of course, it won't even matter if he gets the role even for a short-time when the asking price is a 553 ADP. If you can get Johnson at 553--add him.

Finally, the Angels also still have forgotten man Keynan Middleton (RHP, LAA). Middleton still has a decent 3.80 xERA, 10.1 Dom, 3.6 Cmd ratio and 121 BPV. It is the projected gopheritis with a whopping 1.7 HR/9 that holds him back. Middleton's ADP is 626. You can't even get a donut and a cup of coffee with a 626 ADP. His slim chance at saves from that ADP is worth a chance. What else are you going to buy at a 626 ADP?

San Diego has put together a very nice bullpen with Brad Hand (LHP, SD) solidly in as closer. And Hand is the best reliever in this pen. Here are the projections:

SD                   Sv IP xERA WHIP  Dom  Cmd HR/9 G% F% BPV ADP
=================    == == ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== == == === ===
B.Hand (L)           32 73 3.05 1.10 11.0  3.9  1.0 46 34 145 113
K.Yates               2 58 3.49 1.24 12.0  3.4  1.7 34 47 131 460
K.Makita              0 44 4.40 1.18  4.9  4.0  0.8 44 36  77 557
P.Maton               2 58 3.64 1.29  9.3  3.2  1.7 46 33 112 627
Stammen               0 73 3.68 1.21  7.8  3.0  1.0 52 29 100 675

It would take something bad to happen to Hand. Or a trade. And Kirby Yates (RHP, SD) would have to do better than a 1.7 HR/9 from that 47% flyball rate. That is a LOT of ifs! But that 12.0 Dom is eye-popping and he has the other BPIs in spades. Yates has a 460 ADP and is more than worthy as a sleeper if he can just tamp down the homers. Yates is perhaps my favorite high risk sleeper in the NL, right with Jimenez in the AL. If things break right, you'd have an elite arm in the 30th round. If not, you haven't cost yourself much.

Washington went out and bought a bullpen mid-stream last year and it worked out great. Sean Doolittle (LHP, WAS) took over as closer and never looked back. Here are this year's projections:

WAS                  Sv IP xERA WHIP  Dom  Cmd HR/9 G% F% BPV ADP
=================    == == ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== == == === ===
Doolittle (L)        38 65 3.39 1.03 10.9  5.3  1.0 30 52 149 134
Madson                7 65 3.09 1.06  9.0  4.1  0.6 52 26 132 414
Kintzler              2 65 4.04 1.26  5.1  2.6  0.7 58 24  76 474
Glover                0 29 4.00 1.31  8.1  2.9  0.9 44 34  92 626

Doolittle has the best skill set (truly elite) despite the 52% flyball rate. But Doolittle gets hurt, too. So how in the world is Ryan Madson (RHP, WAS) buried with a 414 ADP? At a minimum, Doolittle owners should handcuff Madson. Madson is more than capable, combining a very low 3.09 xERA, 1.06 WHIP, 132 BPV, elite Cmd and Dom and the kicker is the 52% groundball rate. Madson is a "must own" at a 414 ADP regardless of whether you already have Doolittle. (Oddly, the roles were reversed in this column last year and Doolittle was the first sleeper on the 2017 list!)

One last name: Koda Glover (RHP, WAS). Glover was everyone's darling last year going into the season and he flopped. But Glover still has the same ability and could work into a solid role, if not saves. A 626 ADP makes him a very interesting post-hype buy.

Next week, we reverse it and look at gambles--the relievers with solid roles but softer projected skill sets.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.