Fantasy baseball owners shouldn’t reach for James Karinchak

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Five things are pretty much certain heading into the 2021 fantasy baseball season: Liam Hendriks, Josh Hader, Aroldis Chapman, Raisel Igelsias and Edwin Diaz, in whatever order you like them, are considered the top five relievers.

Beyond those, there are a slew of familiar names, such as Kenley Jansen, Brad Hand, Kirby Yates, Craig Kimbrel and Trevor Rosenthal. One name, however, has been popping up more than all of those well-known commodities: Cleveland’s James Karinchak.

In last year’s abbreviated season, Karinchak went 1-2 with a 2.67 ERA and 53 strikeouts (17.7 per nine innings). Among pitchers with a minimum of 20 innings pitched, Karinchak was tied with the Brewers’ Devin Williams (160.44 average draft position, $5 auction) for the best strikeout rate per nine innings (17.67). He also had the second-best strikeout percentage (48.6), the 12th-best opponent average (.151) and a top-20 swinging-strike rate (17.1 percent).

Karinchak utilizes just two pitches — a mid-90s four-seam fastball and a nasty curveball. He struck out 19 batters with his four-seamer while holding opponents to a .184 average and .569 OPS. He also had a 17 percent swing-and-miss rate with the pitch.

Karinchak was even better with the curveball, a pitch he used 49.8 percent of the time. He struck out 34 and had a 16.7 percent swinging-strike rate while holding opponents to a .140 average and .442 OPS.

James Karinchak
James Karinchak
AP

So, it’s nothing but elite numbers and good news for the guy who appears set to take over as the Indians’ closer after Hand took his talents to the Nationals, right?

Well …

Let’s start with the fact Terry Francona hasn’t officially named Karinchak the closer. Because of his 2020 dominance and elite numbers, he appears to be the leading candidate, and his 104.74 ADP ($12), according to Fantasy Alarm, shows fantasy owners are buying in. But doesn’t it seem like a bit of gamble to pay a premium price for a largely unproven commodity at a very volatile position?

Karinchak saved 22 games over 82 games in the minors, but has only one save in the majors. Though he has fared well in high-pressure situations over his 32 career big league games, he hasn’t had to handle the pressure of being the closer over a full 162-game season (heck, he hasn’t thrown more than 27 innings in a season). In 12 save situations in 2020, he was 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA, 20 strikeouts, seven walks, a 1.300 WHIP and three blown saves.

We’re also talking about a pitcher who walked 14.7 percent of the batters he faced last year (12th highest rate in the majors) and 13 percent for his career. The Indians are also not expected to be as good as they’ve been in the recent past. Less wins could mean less save chances.

Using an eighth-round pick in a 12-team league on Karinchak means you’re willing to draft an inexperienced closer, who was dominant over 27 appearances in a 60-game season, ahead of reliable position players or several top-30 starting pitchers.

Roto Rage would rather wait for cheaper options, like in another round or two with Hand (116.95, $12) or the Astros’ Ryan Pressly (125.07, $12). You can wait longer and land Yates (166.33, $11), Rosenthal (180.00, $5) or Kimbrel (185.83, $6) at bargain-bin prices. Roto Rage loves the Padres’ Drew Pomeranz, who won’t cost you much with his 211.51 ADP ($3). Or, you could take a shot even later on guys like the Braves’ Will Smith (221.33, $2), the Reds’ Amir Garrett (286.60, $7) or the Rangers’ Jose Leclerc (308.87, $2).

Karinchak is a high-risk, high-reward fantasy option at his current price. It’s true that the biggest risk is not taking any risk, but Roto Rage believes the price isn’t worth harming the balance of your roster.


Fantasy baseball rankings

Roto Rage Jarad Wilk ranks relievers and catchers. Next week: starting pitchers

Catchers

  1. J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies
  2. Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
  3. Yasmani Grandal, Chicago White Sox
  4. Will Smith, Los Angeles Dodgers
  5. Wilson Contreras, Chicago Cubs
  6. Travis d’Arnaud, Atlanta Braves
  7. Christian Vazquez, Boston Red Sox
  8. Austin Nola, San Diego Padres
  9. Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
  10. James McCann, New York Mets
  11. Mitch Garver, Minnesota Twins
  12. Sean Murphy, Oakland A’s
  13. Carson Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks
  14. Jorge Alfaro, Miami Marlins
  15. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
  16. Danny Jansen, Toronto Blue Jays
  17. Yan Gomes, Washington Nationals
  18. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
  19. Pedro Severino, Baltimore Orioles
  20. Omar Narvaez, Milwaukee Brewers
  21. Ryan Jeffers, Minnesota Twins
  22. Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Texas Rangers
  23. Wilson Ramos, Detroit Tigers
  24. Daulton Varsho, Arizona Diamondbacks
  25. Tom Murphy, Seattle Mariners
  26. Elias Diaz, Colorado Rockies
  27. Jacob Stallings, Pittsburgh Pirates
  28. Max Stassi, Los Angeles Angels
  29. Kurt Suzuki, Los Angeles Angels
  30. Tucker Barnhart, Cincinnati Reds
  31. Roberto Perez, Cleveleand Indians
  32. Mike Zunino, Tampa Bay Rays
  33. Jose Trevino, Texas Rangers
  34. Alejandro Kirk, Toronto Blue Jays
  35. Luis Torrens, Seattle Mariners
  36. Chance Sisco, Baltimore Orioles
  37. Jason Castro, Houston Astros
  38. Francisco Mejia, Tampa Bay Rays
  39. Victor Caratini, San Diego Padres
  40. Tyler Stephenson, Cincinnati Reds

Relief pitchers

  1. Liam Hendriks, Chicgo White Sox
  2. Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers
  3. Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
  4. Raisel Iglesias, Los Angeles Angels
  5. Edwin Diaz, New York Mets
  6. Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros
  7. Brad Hand, Washington Nationals
  8. Kirby Yates, Toronto Blue Jays
  9. James Karinchak, Cleveland Indians
  10. Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
  11. Craig Kimbrel, Chicago Cubs
  12. Devin Williams, Milwaukee Brewers
  13. Nick Anderson, Tampa Bay Rays
  14. Drew Pomeranz, San Diego Padres
  15. Trevor Rosenthal, Oakand Athletics
  16. Matt Barnes, Boston Red Sox
  17. Rafael Montero, Seattle Mariners
  18. Taylor Rogers, Minnesota Twins
  19. Richard Rodriguez, Pittsburgh Pirates
  20. Amir Garrett, Cincinnati Reds
  21. Jordan Hicks, St. Louis Cardinals
  22. Jose Leclerc, Texas Rangers
  23. Greg Holland, Kansas City Chiefs
  24. Will Smith, Atlanta Braves
  25. Diego Castillo, Tampa Bay Rays
  26. Giovanny Gallegos, St. Louis Cardinals
  27. Joakim Soria, Arizona Diamondbacks
  28. Alex Colome, Minnesotat Twins
  29. Mark Melancon, San Diego Padres
  30. Archie Bradley, Philadelphia Phillies
  31. Freddy Peralta, Milwaukee Brewers
  32. Chris Martin, Atlanta Braves
  33. Anthony Bass, Miami Marlins
  34. Daniel Bard, Colorado Rockies
  35. Yimi Garcia, Miami Marlins
  36. Jordan Romano, Toronto Blue Jays
  37. Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies
  38. Michael Lorenzen, Cincinnati Reds
  39. Reyes Moronta, San Francisco Giants
  40. Sergio Romo, Oakland Athletics
  41. Lucas Sims, Cincinnati Reds
  42. Zack Britton, New York Yankees
  43. Pete Fairbanks, Tampa Bay Rays
  44. A.J. Puk, Oakland A;s
  45. Jake Diekman, Oakland A’s
  46. Seth Lugo, New York Mets
  47. Stefon Chrichton, Arizona Diamondbacks
  48. Hunter Harvey, Baltimore Orioles
  49. Trevor May, New York Mets
  50. Emilio Pagan, San Diego Padres

Team Name of the Week

Bichette’s Creek

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