Relief pitcher fantasy baseball sleepers to eye late in drafts

To help with your fantasy baseball draft prep, Dalton Del Don will examine potential draft bargains at each position. He’s already offered up sleepers at catcher, first base, second baseman, shortstop, third baseman, outfield and starting pitchers. Below, he concludes the series with his relief pitcher draft values.

Given his lack of track record, the Pirates unlikely to rack up wins and Pittsburgh’s reported plan to split closing duties, Bednar remains plenty affordable at draft tables despite posting a 1.05 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP after the All-Star break last season. He’s the Pirates’ clear best reliever — by a wide margin — so I’m not too worried about the uncertain role to start a very long season. Bender has a strong fastball/curveball combination, is only getting better and posted a 2.51 expected ERA last season that was in the top 3% of the league. He’s available after Round 15 in Yahoo formats.

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Rogers has been rumored in trades as an upcoming free agent, but he’s one of baseball’s best relievers and without question Minnesota’s best option to close. He missed most of the second half of last year with a finger injury, helping mask an otherwise dominant season that featured a K-BB% (30.7) that would’ve ranked top-five among relievers had he qualified. I wouldn’t worry too much about him being a lefty in the closer’s role either. Moreover, the Twins have added Sony Gray and Carlos Correa to go along with an underrated roster (that includes a strong defense) that could easily provide a bunch of save opportunities (also making them less likely to be sellers at the deadline). Until recently, Craig Kimbrel somehow had a higher ADP than Rogers in Yahoo leagues.

Taylor Rogers has fantasy baseball upside with great ratios and a chance to save games for the improved Twins. (Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Even though Bender has emerged as one of baseball’s best relievers, he’s still plenty affordable at draft tables with Miami’s closer’s role up for grabs. His ADP from him is admittedly on the rise (currently after Round 20) with presumptive closer Dylan Floro dealing with arm soreness, but don’t be surprised if Bender runs away with the job. Fangraphs expect the Marlins to be much improved and projects them to have a winning record this season, so more save opportunities should be in store as well.

Lamet is likely pitching through a partially damaged UCL, but it’s possible many pitchers are doing the same without our knowledge. He certainly looked healthy during his spring debut, when Lamet’s fastball clocked 97 mph while his vintage slider appeared to be back. And it’s possible a full-time move to the bullpen helps keep the converted starter healthier; Lamet would often wear down when asked to go out for a second inning last season, so a strict one-inning role in the ninth also makes the most sense. In a truly wide-open Padres bullpen, Robert Suarez looks like the favorite to close for the Padres to open the year. But Lamet can turn into a shutdown, dominant reliever if his arm from him cooperates, and San Diego’s sick rotation should provide a bunch of save chances. That’s a lot of upside for someone coming off the board toward the end of drafts.

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Robertson is going undrafted in Yahoo leagues and has an ADP of nearly 450 in NFBC Main Events, so admittedly this is a catatonic sleeper. But he’s my pick to emerge as Chicago’s closer this season, with Rowan Wick and Michael Givens his main competition. Robertson’s stuff remains plenty good, and he has the coveted “closer’s experience,” which managers often lean toward.

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