Closers are being drafted earlier than ever in 2022. For context, most drafts so far have been NFBC 50 player draft and hold, but closers are going in the third round. What's up?
It seems that players are reacting to increased volatility in the closer market. More teams are using groups of guys based on matchups, and there is a high turnover rate with the closing jobs in general. Players are reacting by driving up the price of "known" closers. Is that a good idea?
On the one hand, if the known guy gives a team 40 saves and good ratios, the player could earn the slot. On the other hand, is it a good idea to invest in a high pick BECAUSE the position is volatile? I'd rather not.
As a thought experiment, let's consider drafting a closer at pick 40 vs. drafting three relief pitchers in the last three rounds. Players have been drafting Josh Hader at #36. Trevor Story, Aaron Nola, Matt Olson, Xander Bodearts, Tyler O'Neil, JT Realmuto, Wander Franco, Sandy Alcantara, Robbie Ray, and Chris Sale are going after Hader.
The Hader argument is that most of those players have warts, and with Hader, a player can acquire something elite. The non-Hader view is that alternatives can impact more categories.
I'd rather go Bogearts, Olson, or Franco in this spot. If I needed a pitcher, I'd prefer Sandy. He is young and could still find a way to generate more CSW. Players like these won't be available at the end of the draft, but guys who get saves will - we just don't know their names. There will be more closers than Bogearts, Olson, Franco level players available at the end of the draft.
At least Hader has some level of certainty. I think the big miss is driving up the price on Emmanuel Classe (65), who is nine walks away from the 6th inning job. The go-closer argument is about certainty, and a guy like Classe doesn't provide it.
Overall, I don't think paying more for an asset class because it is now perceived as more volatile is a good strategy. In all other markets, higher volatility lowers asset prices. I think reliever values should trade the same way.