Kelvin Herrera did not excite owners in his first season as the Royals closer. Can he rebound and pitch like the reliever we saw over the previous two seasons?
The Kansas City Royals surprised a lot of people when they traded closer Wade Davis to the Chicago Cubs. This left an opening in the ninth-inning role. Kelvin Herrera was the incumbent closer but he did not pitch the same as he did as the set-up man. In his second year as the closer, can Herrera bounce back?
Herrera recorded 26 saves, 15th in the league, with a 4.25 ERA, 1.348 WHIP, 8.5 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. After his amazing season in 2016, fantasy owners like myself were excited to draft Herrera to get all of the peripherals in addition to his saves. He had a 106.6 ADP, 11th round pick in standard ESPN leagues.
Unfortunately, Herrera did not live up to those expectations. He finished as the No. 47 relief pitcher. Granted, there were some starting pitchers that qualified as a reliever as well, so take that with a grain of salt.
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Herrera entered the 2017 season coming off an amazing season. He was the 31st best closer at the end of the year. Herrera posted a 2.75 ERA, 0.958 WHIP, 10.8 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 with 12 saves. As an undrafted player, he was more valuable in 2016 than last season.
Herrera saw a three-percent increase in his groundball rate but opposing batters were able to hit his pitches a lot harder. He went from a 26.9 hard-hit to a 33.5 hard-hit rate. He threw four percent fewer first-pitch strikes and a seven-percent increase in his contact rate.
Herrera needs to improve on keeping the ball down or whiffing it by opposing batters. He did that job just fine in 2016 and shouldn’t have a problem getting back there in 2018. Ground balls and strikeouts are a relief pitcher’s, and a fantasy owner’s, best friend.
The Royals did not have the best bullpen to support Herrera. Joakim Soria is the set-up man along with Scott Alexander and Brandon Maurer as middle relievers.
With the Royals offense going through a bit of a rebuild and the starting pitching in need of some work, the team may not be able to score enough or prevent runs in order for Herrera to rack up another 25+ saves. However, he could still support your team with strikeouts and low ratio stats.
Coming off a disappointing season, Herrera’s fantasy value isn’t as high as it was at this point last season. He is still the Royals closer with guaranteed saves lined up for him. Early rankings have him as a 20th-round pick in 10-team leagues as the No. 17 reliever to draft. As a high-end RP3, Herrera will have lower expectations, leading to a better perspective on his performance.