Bullpen Banter: Is Hector Neris Destined To Lose His Role In 2018?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Hector Neris is generally viewed as one of the up-and-coming young closers in the game and overall he’s coming off a strong season.  However, as we’ve seen fantasy owners can’t take anything for granted as the closer turmoil was at an all-time high last season.  Can Neris continue to thrive at the end of games or is there an expiration clock on his time closing for Philadelphia?

To answer that question, first let’s look at his statistics from 2017:

74.2 IP
4 Wins
26 Saves
3.01 ERA
1.26 WHIP
86 Strikeouts (10.37 K/9)
26 Walks (3.13 BB/9)
32.7% Groundball Rate
.306 BABIP

Obviously those are some solid numbers and there’s little question that he can maintain an impressive strikeout rate (16.4% SwStr% in ’17).  That doesn’t mean that he’s a lock to produce, though;

 

Luck
While the BABIP isn’t a lucky number, you can argue that his 84.7% strand rate was.  It’s always possible for a reliever to hold a mark like that and Neris has consistently done it in the Majors (83.3% over 196.1 career innings) so maybe we can call it a “skill”?  Perhaps, but we also know that relief pitchers can be inconsistent from season to season and all it will take is one bad stretch to blow up his number.

 

Line Drives
While opponents have a hard time making contact against him, when they do they’ve been able to carry an elevated line drive rate:

  • 2016 – 24.6%
  • 2017 – 23.0%

That could lead to bigger BABIP marks, increasing the risk.

 

Home Runs
This may be the bigger issue, especially if it gets paired with a regression in his luck.  While he did show a better groundball rate in ’16 (41.9%), even that doesn’t indicate a “strong” mark and he’s struggled with home runs each year in the Majors (HR/9):

  • 2015 – 1.79
  • 2016 – 1.01
  • 2017 – 1.08

Is that something anyone wants to see from their closer?

 

Conclusion
This isn’t to say that Neris is a guaranteed “disaster”, but couple the concerns in his luck and home runs with some control regression in the second half of ’17 (3.47 BB/9) and there definitely could be bumps along the road.  As it is he’s shown signs of potentially being a better fit in a setup role, and it’s possible he’s a few bad outings away from losing his role.

Obviously the lack of an impressive alternative could limit the risk of losing his role, but there is risk all the same.  Be cautious in selecting him and assuming he’s going to be a locked in option all season, and with an ADP around Round 12 or 13 that’s not a price you have to pay.  If that’s the cost it’s fair value, but if you are reaching earlier then that the risk outweighs the reward.

Source – Fangraphs

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Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Rankings:

Position
Standard League
OBP League
Catchers03/14/1802/02/18
First Basemen01/08/1802/09/18
Second Basemen01/15/1802/13/18
Shortstops03/21/1802/27/18
Third Basemen03/09/1803/06/18
Outfielders1-20: 03/18/18

21-40: 03/19/18
1-20: 03/12/18

21-40:
Starting Pitchers1-20: 03/24/18

21-40: 03/24/18
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Relief Pitchers02/12/18--

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