Mark Melancon is the first of the big three free agent closers to come off the board, as the Giants inked him to a deal on Monday. What is the fantasy fallout from this deal?
Early December is always a fun time in MLB, as the Winter Meetings usually spark the movement of numerous players. One of the biggest free agent dominoes fell today, as Mark Melancon is headed to the San Francisco Giants after inking a four-year/$62 million contract. That now makes him the highest paid RP in MLB history.
So, what about his fantasy value heading into 2017?
As fantasy writers, we do not say this enough but, I have been dead wrong about Melancon nearly his entire career. Between the early mediocrity with the Yankees, or seemingly underwhelming arsenal, it just never made sense why or how he has blossomed into a stud closer, but he has done just that nonetheless.
If we simply look at his numbers over the last three seasons, you would be hard pressed to find a more efficient closer than Melancon.
Since 2014, he has amassed 131 saves, while only blowing 10 chances. Add the fact that his ERA has not been higher than 2.23 since 2012, and it is clear to see why he just got paid.
The only thing that Melancon lacks is the high upside strikeout numbers that fantasy owners covet. He struck out 65 last season, and his career high is only 71. That still averages out at about one strikeout an inning, but he simply lacks swing and miss stuff. However, he makes up for that with his ability to generate weak contact.
Over the last three seasons, he has only surrendered 9 HR. Looking at his stat line last season, 1.82 ERA/47 SV/0.80 WHIP, it is clear to see that his ability to stay away from big damage is a key element to his game. His command is steady as ever, he has not walked more than 14 BB in one season since 2011, so the traffic on the base paths is limited to say the least.
Looking closer at his batted ball data, it is easy to see why the move to San Fran is a great for his fantasy value. Last season he posted rates of, 21% LD, 54% GB, 25% FB, 30% Soft, 46% Med, and 23% Hard contact rates.
What jumps out immediately is the GB rate, and he has consistently been able to notch 54%+ clips over the last four seasons. He is largely able to do this thanks to him adopting the cutter, conveniently shown to him by Mariano Rivera, and his ability to pinpoint it against lefites and righties. He also sprinkles in a curveball as well, keeping hitters always guessing.
Neither Pittsburgh nor Wahington would be considered hitter friendly ballparks, but AT&T Park is the standard-bearer when it comes to pitcher’s ballparks. Melancon’s peripherals are already solid, so the added benefit in this ballpark surely can not hurt.
It is early in the offseason, but the Giants should be solid again next season. If he was able to notch 30 SV on a floundering Pirates squad before being dealt last season to the Nats, he should surely be able to eclipse the 35+ SV mark in San Fran. The Giants blew 32 SV opportunities last season, offering owners a glimpse into the sheer amount of work he could see in 2017.
Melancon has quietly flown under the radar as one of the better RP in the game over the last three seasons. The move to San Francisco boosts his value, and it is not an exaggeration to have him in the conversation as a top-5 fantasy RP next season. The K potential is capped, but his continual minuscule ERAs, and consistency, are nearly unmatched.