Collette Calls: Looking Ahead

Collette Calls: Looking Ahead

This article is part of our Collette Calls series.

The calendar is flipping to September this week, and the theme of my remaining installments for this season will either be more reflective of lessons learned throughout this season or looking ahead to the offseason and what you can do now in keeper leagues to help prepare for next season. This week, I'd like to look at two relievers, one in each league, who show some intriguing numbers this season and could take another step forward in 2023.

Every year, we see several relievers who go undrafted during the peak of draft season and yet come up big during the season for fantasy owners. This season has seen several relievers who flew below the radar during draft season turn at least a $5 profit according to our Earned Auction Values Calculator for 15-team mixed leagues. The chart below shows all relievers who have earned at least $5 this season. Any ADPs of 500 are for pitchers who went undrafted in Main Event leagues in March of this year:

Value

ADP

Player

Team

IP

W

SV

K

ERA

WHIP

18

44

Emmanuel Clase

CLE

53.2

2

30

57

1.17

0.65

18

500

Ryan Helsley

STL

52

9

12

77

1.04

0.65

18

46

Edwin Diaz

NYM

51.1

3

28

99

1.40

0.92

12

63

Jordan Romano

TOR

48

5

27

53

2.25

1.04

12

500

Jorge Lopez

MIN

58.1

4

22

62

1.85

1.05

12

59

Kenley Jansen

ATL

47.2

5

29

64

3.40

1.09

11

120

Scott Barlow

KC

61

The calendar is flipping to September this week, and the theme of my remaining installments for this season will either be more reflective of lessons learned throughout this season or looking ahead to the offseason and what you can do now in keeper leagues to help prepare for next season. This week, I'd like to look at two relievers, one in each league, who show some intriguing numbers this season and could take another step forward in 2023.

Every year, we see several relievers who go undrafted during the peak of draft season and yet come up big during the season for fantasy owners. This season has seen several relievers who flew below the radar during draft season turn at least a $5 profit according to our Earned Auction Values Calculator for 15-team mixed leagues. The chart below shows all relievers who have earned at least $5 this season. Any ADPs of 500 are for pitchers who went undrafted in Main Event leagues in March of this year:

Value

ADP

Player

Team

IP

W

SV

K

ERA

WHIP

18

44

Emmanuel Clase

CLE

53.2

2

30

57

1.17

0.65

18

500

Ryan Helsley

STL

52

9

12

77

1.04

0.65

18

46

Edwin Diaz

NYM

51.1

3

28

99

1.40

0.92

12

63

Jordan Romano

TOR

48

5

27

53

2.25

1.04

12

500

Jorge Lopez

MIN

58.1

4

22

62

1.85

1.05

12

59

Kenley Jansen

ATL

47.2

5

29

64

3.40

1.09

11

120

Scott Barlow

KC

61

5

20

60

2.36

1.02

10

500

Felix Bautista

BAL

57

4

10

76

1.58

0.83

10

284

Paul Sewald

SEA

52.2

3

16

59

2.56

0.67

10

500

Daniel Bard

COL

46.1

3

27

52

2.33

1.12

9

23

Liam Hendriks

CWS

45

2

28

66

3.20

1.07

8

434

David Robertson

PHI

51

3

18

64

2.12

1.02

8

500

Clay Holmes

NYY

49

5

17

51

2.39

1.02

8

50

Ryan Pressly

HOU

37.2

3

25

46

3.11

0.93

7

102

Taylor Rogers

MIL

51.1

2

29

63

4.38

1.09

7

500

Seranthony Dominguez

PHI

44

6

9

54

1.64

0.91

7

500

Brock Burke

TEX

67.2

6

0

73

1.60

1.01

7

500

Jason Adam

TB

51.2

1

7

62

1.22

0.64

7

500

Evan Phillips

LAD

49.2

5

2

58

1.27

0.73

7

300

Devin Williams

MIL

49

4

9

76

1.84

1.00

6

161

David Bednar

PIT

46.2

3

17

63

2.70

1.07

6

500

A.J. Minter

ATL

54.1

5

5

72

2.32

0.94

5

154

Camilo Doval

SF

53.2

4

18

64

2.85

1.30

5

500

Alexis Diaz

CIN

49.1

4

6

67

1.82

0.95

This season has provided us with several surprises out of the pen. Helsley has flashed potential and velocity in other seasons, but it has all come together for him this year as he inherited the crown previously worn by Alex Reyes (without all the walks). Jorge Lopez gives us another example of a live arm moving from the rotation to the bullpen and seeing fantastic results. His departure at the trade deadline was made easier on Baltimore because of the surprise presence of Bautista, who has been dropping bombs on batters with his splitter and big fastball. (I had to throw the wrestling reference in there for Clay Link!) Bard has done well for Colorado when most thought anyone but him would be closing this year. Holmes took his power sinker and leapfrogged Aroldis Chapman in the pen, while Dominguez fully recovered from his elbow surgery to resume his late-inning dominance in Philadelphia. Phillips and Minter were not exactly unknowns like Burke, Adam and Diaz were heading into the season. All in all, it has been an impressive season for relievers coming out of nowhere to provide in-season value. 

A common thread for most of these guys is their ability to get punchouts, with Barlow being the only name on the list who has not struck out at least a batter an inning this year. When looking for potential value relievers, the starting point should be the strikeouts, because pitchers who specialize in weak contact rarely survive long in high-leverage situations unless they have some special funk to their delivery. It should be no surprise that Edwin Diaz is the best in baseball in getting strikeouts and swinging strikes in the bullpen as he has had a ridiculously fantastic season for the Mets. The next guy on the list would be Andres Munoz, who didn't even make the table for reliever value because he has but 2 wins and 3 saves. He also has a 2.94 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP, an absurd 41 percent strikeout rate and a 34 percent K-BB rate and trails only Diaz in swinging-strike rate this season. It's the names that are third and fourth on the swinging-strike leaderboard that have my attention, because neither guy is pumping triple digits with a filthy secondary like Diaz or Munoz. Look at the two names who fill out the swinging-strike percentage leaderboard between that duo and Liam Hendriks:

  1. Edwin Diaz - 24.0%
  2. Andres Munoz - 21.0%
  3. Dylan Lee - 20.0%
  4. Alex Lange - 19.2%
  5. Liam Hendriks - 19.0%

Three of those five names are instantly recognizable to most fans, but the latter two may not be. Lee came up in the Miami organization as a 10th round selection in the 2016 draft before being released at the end of camp in March of 2021. He missed the 2020 season as a minor leaguer during the peak of COVID-19, and his 2019 season saw him go 1-6 with a 2.91 ERA and just under a strikeout per inning between Double-A and Triple-A. He joined the Atlanta Triple-A team after signing and has worked 62.1 innings, striking out 77 while allowing 43 hits and 12 earned runs. Lange was a first round pick of the Cubs in the 2017 draft and was the key return to Detroit in the Nick Castellanos trade. Lange worked mostly as a starter in his minor-league career until Detroit began his conversion to a reliever last year. The track records and scouting reports for Lee and Lange may not match the other trio on the list, but check out how they stack up in some areas this season:

Pitcher

Team

Z-Contact%

Contact%

Zone%

F-Strike%

SwStr%

CStr%

CSW%

Edwin Diaz

NYM

73%

54%

39%

71%

24%

17%

41%

Andres Munoz

SEA

71%

61%

40%

68%

21%

14%

35%

Dylan Lee

ATL

74%

64%

41%

57%

20%

12%

32%

Alex Lange

DET

81%

57%

32%

56%

19%

16%

35%

Liam Hendriks

CHW

79%

62%

35%

66%

19%

13%

32%

Lange has been the easiest to make in-zone contact against of the quintet, but he is also generating as many swings and misses as the more established Hendricks while generating a higher frequency of called strikes plus whiffs (CSW%) and being tougher to make contact against overall. The in-zone contact rate could be helped should Lange begin to find the strike zone with more regularity with his first pitch. His curveball is his preferred weapon of choice, as he throws it 50 percent of the time and has an absurd 60 percent whiff rate when batters offer at the pitch. His experience as a starting pitcher has helped him with a good changeup which has a near 50 percent whiff rate, and the league has struggled against that offering as well. The one pitch they have little trouble with is the fastball (.300 BA, .500 SLG), which is the pitch Lange goes to more frequently when he falls behind in the count. The league is hitting .500 against the fastball when they're hunting for it. 

One thing which helped Jason Adam surge with Tampa Bay this year was the club encouraging him to use his non-fastballs more frequently, which is a model Detroit may want to consider with Lange given the characteristics of his non-fastballs. 

Detroit had Lange shelve his four-seamer for a sinker this season, but neither fastball has been effective for him over the past two seasons. He could help protect the pitch by getting ahead earlier in the count and forcing hitters to protect against his stronger secondaries:

These two profiles are not that far apart with a tweak in one direction and more consistency finding the strike zone. 

Pitcher

Team

Z-Contact%

Contact%

Zone%

F-Strike%

SwStr%

CStr%

CSW%

Alex Lange

DET

81%

57%

32%

56%

19%

16%

35%

Jason Adam

TBR

78%

65%

44%

63%

17%

17%

35%

The back end of the Detroit bullpen is anything but settled, and Lange is certainly showing signs of being able to do more with the right opportunity. If he can improve his control and work ahead in the count more frequently, he has the skills to take a significant step forward in his newfound relief role in the very near future. Even in its current shape, Eno Sarris's Stuff+ model has Lange at a 109 (100 is average.)

Lee does not have a wide-open path ahead as Lange does, but it's not that crowded either. Kenley Jansen is a free agent after this season, and the rest of the bullpen roster has aging vets such as Kirby Yates and Collin McHugh around along with the high-octane stuff from A.J. Minter. It's tough to envision Lee taking command of the closer role in Atlanta, but it is not tough to imagine him doing something similar to what Tim Mayza or Adam Cimber have done in Toronto this season. After all, the two lefties in the Atlanta pen, while differing in stuff, are not that far apart:

Pitcher

Team

Z-Contact%

Contact%

Zone%

F-Strike%

SwStr%

CStr%

CSW%

Dylan Lee

ATL

74%

64%

41%

57%

20%

12%

32%

A.J. Minter

ATL

78%

71%

42%

68%

15%

14%

30%

Minter has a 119 Stuff+ grade on Sarris's report while Lee comes in at a 97, yet look at the outcomes Lee is generating despite the lesser stuff. Lee averages 5 miles an hour less on his fastball, and neither his fastball or curve have much spin to them, yet the pairing of those two offerings has created a four-seamer with a 26 percent whiff rate and a curveball with a whiff rate nearly twice that. Lee's stuff plays up extremely well against lefties while holding its own against righties, which should allow him to work in leverage in 2023 regardless of the lineup situation:

I like each of these guys for different reasons as speculative names to watch in the offseason as their respective clubs formulate the new rosters for the coming season. If you have the chance to add them in these final weeks of your keeper leagues, you should consider doing so in the single-league formats before opportunities or the next skill arise. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Collette
Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Sleeper and the Bust podcast every Sunday. A ten-time FSWA finalist, Jason won the FSWA's Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2013 and the Baseball Series of the Year award in 2018 for Collette Calls.
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