Fantasy Baseball Sleepers - Relief Pitchers
After a few weeks of deep diving research trying to find the best sleepers across fantasy baseball for all positions, we’ve finally landed on the final article for the season. We’ve touched all the bases when it comes to fantasy baseball positions, but relief pitching, and that’s where we’ll take today’s article. Just as I stated in the starting pitching article, I believe relief pitching to be much the same, where you need to get a big name or two early on and then fill out the rest of your roster will the likes of the five names listed below. Before we get into the names, if you’re a frequent flier of this series, I wanted to thank you. It’s taken a lot of effort and time to get these out and your continued support keeps me going.
Tony Watson (San Francisco Giants)
Positional Rank: 71st
2019 Stats: 2-2, 4.17 ERA, 0 SV, 54 IP, 41 SO, 1.259 WHIP
2020 Projection (via RotoChamp): 3-3, 4 ERA, 32 SV, 63 IP, 56 SO, 1.25 WHIP
Watson is finally getting his chance to be a full time closer in the MLB. The last time he did so he played fill in for Mark Melancon for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Giants didn’t bring back last year’s closer Will Smith back, opening up a chance for the 34-year-old Watson to show what he can do. His age has him flying under the radar a bit, but any full time closer getting picked beyond the 400th pick is a steal in my books. He did post a 4.17 ERA a season a go but that was in the juiced ball era. That should go down this year and he should have a great season and we should see 30+ saves out of him.
Keone Kela (Pittsburgh Pirates)
Positional Rank: 31st
2019 Stats: 2-0, 2.12 ERA, 1 SV, 29.2 IP, 33 SO, 1.011 WHIP
2020 Projection (via RotoChamp): 3-3, 3.71 ERA, 26 SV, 51 IP, 57 SO, 1.22 WHIP
Here’s a name I’m in love with. The only downfall here is that the Pirates are a very poor team so save opportunities will be scarce. Keone Kela served as the Texas Rangers’ closer before being traded to the Pirates in 2018. He possesses an elite fastball-curveball combination. Former all-star Felipe Vasquez is currently under arrest for sexual assault so we can assume he won’t be coming back to take Kela’s position. He could very well be a player that’s eventually moved mid-season before the trade deadline, which would skyrocket his value. I highly suggest targeting him on draft day.
Brandon Kintzler (Miami Marlins)
Positional Rank: 53rd
2019 Stats: 3-3, 2.68 ERA, 1 SV, 57 IP, 48 SO, 1.018 WHIP
2020 Projection (via RotoChamp): 3-3, 3.81 ERA. 27 SV, 59 IP, 46 SO, 1.25 WHIP
It’s hard to find saves late in the draft. That’s what you’re getting with Kintzler here with his 30th round ADP. First off, he’ll close for the Marlins, so let’s not get our hopes up, but his best career season was when he split a season as a closer for the Minnesota Twins and Washington Nations in 2018 and was named an All-star. He did post a 1.018 WHIP last year during the juiced ball era, which is impressive. He’ll flirt with 30 saves this year, which is great for where you’re getting him in the draft.
Josh James (Houston Astros)
Positional Rank: 62nd
2019 Stats: 5-1, 4.7 ERA, 1 SV, 61.1 IP, 100 SO, 1.321 WHIP
2020 Projection (via RotoChamp): 3-3, 3.66 ERA, 2 SV, 59 IP, 79 SO, 1.31 WHIP
Picking James, you’re not looking for saves, but a low ERA and WHIP with a ton of strikeouts out of your relief pitching spots. The hype was there last year but a quad injury quickly derailed that. He struggled out of the gate but from May 1st on, he had a 3.86 ERA, 3.24 FIP and a 15.29 strikeouts per nine innings rate. His .171 xBA and .286 xSLG were in the top one-percent of baseball as well. He has elite strikeout stuff. He could be added to the Astros’ rotation as well at some point this season, which adds some value as he could have both SP and RP eligibility.
Colin Poche (Tampa Bay Rays)
Positional Rank: 131st
2019 Stats: 5-5, 4.7 ERA, 2 SV, 51.2 IP, 72 SO, 1.006 WHIP
2020 Projection (via RotoChamp): 3-3, 3.67 ERA, 2 SV, 51 IP, 61 SO, 1.25 WHIP
We’re digging deep here. If you’re in a really deep league or want to draft a deep sleeper with your last pick to impress your league mates, Poche is your guy. He’s entering his second season in the league and posted a staggering 1.006 WHIP during his rookie year. His ERA was a bit high at 4.7, but that should lower in his second year and without the juiced balls. We’ll hope he sees more than 51 innings pitched, but even if he doesn’t, he’ll give you a low era, a quality WHIP and a great K/9 with a very very low ADP.