Josh Hader put together a solid fantasy baseball résumé in 2018. The Milwaukee Brewers‘ left-hander comes off a fantastic season in which — as a multi-inning relief weapon for the eventual National League Central champions — he struck out 143 of the 306 batters he faced in 81 1/3 innings, or more whiffs than all but 67 starting pitchers. Hader also won six games and saved 12, and with his 2.43 ERA and 0.81 WHIP, he ended up placing better on the final ESPN Fantasy Player Rater than all but five relief pitchers. Why would I not want him on my team in 2019?
Well, there are several reasons, and the prime one is, as usual, the price of rostering him has caught up to the value. History tells us it is rare for any relief pitcher to dominate for consecutive seasons, let alone for the long term, even when they throw as hard and nasty as Hader, who permitted a .132 batting average against and a mere eight base hits to lefty hitters in 102 plate appearances. I cannot see Hader doing this again, at least quite to this level. The other issue is, despite how awesome the strikeouts and innings are, we need saves. All of us. Hader earned 12, but with a healthy Corey Knebel and perhaps Jeremy Jeffress looming, I predict Hader’s save total goes the same way Andrew Miller‘s did in recent seasons.
Miller closed for the 2015 New York Yankees, and it was an incredible season. The following year, with lefty Aroldis Chapman on the club and an ascendant Dellin Betances needing more opportunities, Miller appeared earlier in games, and then he was traded to the Cleveland Indians. There was nothing special about right-hander Cody Allen, but he got the saves, and in 2017, when everyone drafted Miller ahead of Allen, the former saved two games, the latter 30. Bryan Shaw saved more Indians games than Miller did that season. Of course, Miller was awesome and his Player Rater ranking proved it, but I not only desire good innings from relievers, I want saves. We need saves. I do not see many saves in Hader’s immediate future.