How Valuable is Craig Kimbrel?

Yahoo! currently has Craig Kimbrel as the 21st ranked pitcher in fantasy, and 47th best player overall. So, is it worth it to go after the fireballing reliever who has the lowest ERA in history in the amount of innings he has thrown? My short answer is probably not, but if you desperately need saves and strikeouts while you have depth in other spots, then I can see an argument for trading for him.

Everyone knows what Kimbrel does, but it is difficult to trade the house for someone who is on pace to throw just 33 more innings for the rest of the season. Judging by Yahoo!’s value, Madison Bumgarner or Zack Greinke would be equal trading partners, two players I would not give up for any closer. Keep in mind that Yahoo! ranks Jim Johnson and Aroldis Chapman ahead of Kimbrel, due mostly to the fact that they have thrown more innings and the rate stats are comparable — though Johnson’s strikeouts are nowhere near comparable to the other two. Kenley Jansen is not too far behind them.

In trading for Kimbrel offering a package of two quality players would be the recommended strategy rather than trading a sure-fire stud. For a sole player, someone like Jordan Zimmermann seems like fair value in a straight-away deal, due to his great rate stats but pedestrian strikeout numbers.

The real good situation to be in is to be an owner of Kimbrel. There are teams in every league looking for saves, and if you own Kimbrel, who has been the best closer in the game over the past two years, you are likely in a great position to leverage his skills to acquire the combination of a lesser closer and another very good player. As a current owner of Kimbrel in a keeper league, while I also own Casey Janssen and Rafael Betancourt, this is a strategy I am strongly considering.

It is not selling high, as Kimbrel is simply an astounding pitcher, but it is maximizing value and helping your team in areas where it is currently struggling. While Kimbrel is great, the difference between Kimbrel and Rafael Soriano in fantasy leagues is a few saves, 21 strikeouts, and a bit of WHIP. With the difference being relatively minor and the real value being in the save total — which will likely not be too different over the remainder of the season — a trade of Kimbrel for Soriano and either a starting pitcher or solid bat could provide a team with solid value. Kimbrel is a great pitcher, but closers are often a bit overvalued in fantasy for a number of reasons. Don’t be afraid to trade your better players just because they are playing well or are the best at their position, as the label of “best at their position” may increase their trade value in itself.

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Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.

10 Responses to “How Valuable is Craig Kimbrel?”

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  1. DD says:

    Funny timing here – I just traded Beltran and Kimbrel for Trout. Felt I overpaid a bit, but I was trading from depth, Kimbrel being the best of my 5 closers (Jansen, Clippard, Soriano, Wilhelmsen the others). Standard roto league, 11 teams. I’m in first and needed runs, SB, and BA.

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    • Tri Le says:

      I don’t think you overpaid at all, as a matter of fact, that might be a steal if you ignore Trout’s age and his rookie status. Well done

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  2. Joel says:

    Kimbrel’s performance is outstanding, but then again, so is Ernesto Frieri’s (or Jim Johnson’s, Kenley Jansen’s, Tyler Clippard’s, etc.) Elite relievers are just a lot less valuable, because there are so many of them this year.

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  3. Dave W says:

    I traded lance lynn and scott downs for kimbrel, I’m pretty happy with it. Especially since I traded him before lynn’s last start.

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  4. Ned says:

    I have Kimbrel, Jansen, and Zimmerman, and I wouldn’t give up Kimbrel to get Zimmerman. I’d quickly give him up for both the other two, though. Don’t know who in his right mind would trade both a reliever and a solid starter for Kimbrel. I know it wouldn’t happen in my keeper league.

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  5. MVPrado says:

    Or as the professionals call him, “kimBREL”.

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  6. Brain says:

    I picked up Kimbrel from the wire during his initial cup of coffee and stashed him in a very deep dynasty league based on his profile/repetoire alone. After his hot start last year, I flipped him for Broxton and a draft pick that ended up being Profar. Feeling pretty good about it.

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  7. AF says:

    Depends a lot on whether there’s an IP limit doesn’t it? I play in leagues with pretty low IP limits relative to the number of roster spots. What that does is make relievers more valuable compared to starters, because of their rate stats (not just ERA and WHIP but K/9, which is essentially what the K category becomes when you have an IP limit). I would never dream of trading Kimbrel for Jordan Zimmerman. I’d balk at trading him for Bumgarner too. I’d look for someone like Greinke, Hamels, or even Felix.

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