Big Board's Picks: Relief Pitcher

Over the next couple of weeks at Harper Wallbanger, I'm sorting through the Big Board for 12-team 5x5 leagues to find the must-draft and must-avoid players at each position. It's the position I love, and everybody else hates, relievers!


The story is more or less the same every year. Relievers are volatile, and in certain league formats, vital to your success due to their elite ERA/WHIP numbers. I like the old addage that you should 'draft skills', and so I always focus on drafting relievers I believe will be good, regardless of role. Others chase saves and that is a losing game unless you're lucky. At the high end, I want one of the top guys like Jansen, Kimbrel, or any of the next 4 or so. After that, I'm out, I'll take what drops. The mid-range is generally a terrible investment if your league only counts Saves. So today, I'm identifying a number of guys that fit into the mold of what I'm usually looking for: good skills, possibility of future saves, and cheap.

Note: I'm pushing these out now in case you're drafting soon! The short blurbs for each player will be added later.

TARGET: Edwin Diaz
65 IP, 4 W, 94 SO, 3.10 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 32 SV

This may be splitting hairs a bit, but I view Diaz as a solidly top-5 closer, and he is dropping down into the ADP tier with Giles, Rivero, and Allen. Those guys are all solidly below Diaz. Last year was a bit of a step back, but look for the 24 year old to put up a season closer to his '16 numbers (2.8 ERA, 33% K-BB) than '17 numbers (3.3 ERA, 20% K-BB). 

When to target: Round 8-9

Risk profile: Low.

TARGET: Shane Greene
65 IP, 3 W, 69 SO, 3.60 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 29 SV

Closers on losing teams are often unexciting and overlooked, so let's turn our eyes towards Shane Greene. The former starter posted 67 innings last year, all in relief, with a 2.66 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. He'll have to fight off the luck dragons to post an ERA that shiny again, but he is building a solid case for real HR-suppression skill, and the rest of this bullpen is a dumpster fire. I expect Greene to hold the role all year unless he's traded midseason.

When to target: Round 16-17.

Risk profile: Low. Dump if not good/losing role.

TARGET: Carl Edwards Jr.
65 IP, 4 W, 100 SO, 3.00 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 5 SV

Let's try and get past the whole... walking Yu Darvish in the playoffs thing. They're teammates now, so it won't happen again. This lanky man is also known as the "Stringbean Slinger", which is an 80-grade nickname and easily enough of a reason to draft him to your team, but beyond that, he's also posted a top-10 K% in baseball since 2016. The profile looks really similar to Corey Knebel, the other member of that top-10 who has real difficulties finding the strikezone (CJ: 35.9 K%, 14.5 BB% vs. Knebel: 40.8 K%, 12.9 BB%). Sure, Knebel has the closer role to start the season, but beyond that these guys are more similar than different, and the only thing standing between CJ and the role is the injury-prone Brandon Morrow. I see him as a nice stash candidate in leagues where you need to spec on saves.

When to target: Last round.

Risk profile: Medium (BB's).

AVOID: Wade Davis
63 IP, 4 W, 82 SO, 3.60 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 30 SV

Even if Wade hadn't landed in Colorado, I think I would be 'out' on him this year. As a Cubs fan, I love Wade for grinding out some really tough/long outings in the playoffs last year, but it was fairly apparent by the end how hard he was grinding. On top of the obvious stress that a playoff run can put on a pitcher, he also posted career worsts in BB% and HR/FB% in the regular season. Now he goes to the hitter's haven that is Colorado - ick. Prepare yourselves for disappointment, and keep in mind that there is real blowup/injury potential if his arm has been worn down by last year's efforts.

AVOID: Mark Melancon
55 IP, 3 W, 52 SO, 3.17 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 24 SV

He appeared here last year, where I said "I'm probably the anti-Melancon guy every year, as the projections have just never loved the guy." Hey! I'm back again! In addition to the previous concerns, now Melancon has a pretty major health concern, and with the somewhat nasty descriptions of his offseason arm surgery floating around, I'm happy to let someone else deal with this. I might actually prefer to target Dyson, Strickland, or Watson to get the SVs that pop out when Melancon coughs up the role.