The closer position is a volatile one, and the strategy for drafting them will vary depending on what type of league you're in. It's always nice to roster a dominant closer, but the draft capital needed for one can get out of hand. Over the past 2 weeks on NFBC*, Hader is going at average pick 62.19 which is directly before Machado and Luis Severino. There are currently 3 other closers going in the top 100 picks as well (Yates, Chapman, Osuna) which just seems like madness to me. This article is for stubborn fantasy owners like myself who wait/go cheap on closers during the draft, hoping to maximize value.
*All ADPs based off NFBC 1/14/20 - 1/28/20
Scott Oberg ADP - 253
Woah it's a Rockies reliever! Oberg was well on his way to a second straight great year before blood clots in his arm ended his season prematurely. In December, doctors told Oberg he no longer needs to be on blood thinning medication, he is expected to be fully healthy to begin 2020. His home road splits were actually the reverse of what you'd expect, pitching to a 1.71 ERA with 2.17 FIP at Coors, (where he allowed zero homers!) with a 2.96 ERA and 5.31 FIP on the road. Contributing to this was a 4 ER performance in San Diego a week before being shut down. In 2018 and 2019 he held batters to .211 and .195 batting averages, supported by wOBAs in the 93rd and 94th percentile. In 2019, this came with a solid 87.2 mph Exit Velocity and an xBA of .227.
Oberg's best 2 pitches are his four-seam fastball and slider, allowing 79 and 31 wRC+ in 2019 with both pitches showing positive pVAL (both 7+ in 2019) for 2 straight seasons now. His slider was especially good in 2019, generating a 14.5% SwStr% and a 42.2% chase rate (O-Swing%). Bud Black hasn't publicly committed to Oberg as the closer, but it will be his job to lose considering the other options and the seasons he and Wade Davis had in 2019. His ADP has him grouped in with the last tier of closers, and as someone who could hold the job all year, there is plenty of value to be had.
Mark Melancon ADP - 253
Right around Oberg's ADP, Melancon is currently being drafted 60 picks after Bradley, and 40 picks after Doolittle, two closers I see him outperforming this season. I assume his late ADP is because of the Will Smith signing, making people think the closer role isn’t his or soon won’t be. However long his leash may be, the Braves are planning to open the season with Melancon at closer.
He has a better shot to hold onto this job than most are probably giving him credit for. His numbers on the season as a whole aren't bad, but he really took off in the second half. He threw more strikes and walked fewer batters, allowing only 3 walks in 30.2 second-half innings. A quick breakdown on his season splits:
1st half: 4.17 ERA, 3.46 FIP, 1.64 WHIP, 11.7 K-BB%
2nd half: 2.93 ERA, 2.14 FIP, .95 WHIP, 25.4 K-BB%
During just his time in Atlanta, he had a 2.3% walk rate (0.86 BB/9!) to go with his 27% strikeout rate. If he can keep this rolling into 2020, he should keep the job all year. If he does, the saves should pile up a lot faster than the closers currently going right in front of him, (Kela, Jimenez) while providing far more value than the closers mentioned earlier.
Matt Magill ADP - 402
Magill is going overlooked as he enters 2020 as the presumptive closer for Seattle, possibly because he has only 139 unspectacular MLB innings to his name. He's bounced back and forth from the minors since 2013, finally cracking 50 major league innings in 2018 and again in 2019 which was easily his best season. Over the full season, he compiled a 4.09 ERA supported by sub-4 marks in FIP, xFIP, and SIERA. His 14.3 SwStr% was a new high, leading to a great 28% strikeout rate (11.37 K/9). Despite these good signs, he was still giving up too much hard contact - bottom 5% in the league in hard-hit rate and bottom 6% in exit velocity. So what makes him more than a mediocre option for those desperate for saves? Let's take a look at his profile before and after the July 21st trade that sent him to Seattle!
Before the trade: 4.45 ERA, 4.31 FIP, 4.76 BB/9, 35.4 GB% 15.8% K-BB%
After the trade: 3.63 ERA, 3.12 FIP, 2.01 BB/9, 41% GB% 24% K-BB%
Obviously the biggest takeaway here is his walk rate was cut in more than half. His strikeouts remained close before and after the trade, and his ground ball percentage rose 5.6%. The Mariners upped his fastball usage by about 10% while cutting back his curve and slider equally. The location of Magill's pitches changed during his time in Seattle as well:
Fastball vs LHB before trade
Fastball vs LHB after trade
Slider vs RHB before trade
Slider vs RHB after trade
There aren't many pitches here but a trend began to form in Seattle. As you can tell, he was leaving the fastball right in the middle of the plate far too often during his time in Minnesota, and began pitching lefties up and away in Seattle. He made a change with the slider location as well, making an effort to keep it down and out of the zone against right-handed batters (he didn't throw many to lefties). There is potential for him to keep growing in Seattle if he continues on this path. His current draft price will likely rise, but at this moment there is no risk for fantasy owners seeking value.