Drafting relievers in fantasy baseball is traditionally a tricky proposition. It usually helps to find steals later in drafts, and one such name that could arise as a potential fantasy star in 2023 is Tigers reliever Alex Lange. The right-hander proved to be a highly effective reliever in 2022, and appears to be the top dog for saves after a number of notable relievers headed out of Detroit after last season.
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A Look at Lange
Acquired along with Paul Richan in the deal that sent Nick Castellanos to the Cubs, RHP Alex Lange came into his own as a reliever in 2022. It wasn’t a particularly easy road to the big leagues for Lange, a first round pick by the Cubs in 2017. A star pitcher at LSU, Lange dominated the collegiate ranks as a starter before beginning his trek to the Majors. The righty produced modest results in 2017 & 2018 in the Minors, before hitting a skid in 2019. With Myrtle Beach (A+) that season, Lange owned a rough 7.36 ERA and averaged half a walk an inning. Although, his numbers did improve after a move to the AA ranks.
After the aforementioned deal that sent Lange to the Tigers organization, Detroit moved the right-hander to the bullpen. That propelled the former LSU star on a road to the Majors.
Lange saw his first action in the Majors in 2021, a campaign that saw the 27-year-old strike out 39 over 35.2 innings. This past season, the righty saw his ERA dip to 3.41 ERA, and Lange struck out 82 batters over 63.1 innings. Lange’s 11.7 K/9 ranked as the 25th-best (out of 183) among relievers that threw at least 45 innings in the Majors last season.
The reliever’s ace in the hole is a mid-80s curve that doesn’t possess above-average spin or vertical movement. What it does have is late movement and the ability to fool hitters on a consistent basis. 56 of Lange’s 82 strikeouts came off the curve, a pitch that had a ridiculous 57.8% Whiff% rate last season.
On top of that pitch, Lange also owned a mid-90s sinker and a changeup that also proved to be a formidable weapon.
Even as a reliever, Lange still struggles with control and command at times. The Tigers reliever owned a 4.4 BB/9 last season, and led all of baseball last season in wild pitches. Those aren’t promising, but Lange does boast the swing-and-miss stuff that one would expect out of a late-inning reliever.
2023 Fantasy Outlook
If last year is any indication, whomever is set to be Tigers closer in 2023 should be a hot commodity in fantasy this season. Detroit was one of the worst offensive teams in baseball last season, thanks in large part to a rough campaign from star shortstop Javier Báez, alongside underwhelming debuts from Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene. Now, all three could very well rebound next year and help carry an offense that ranked in the bottom three in OBP, SLG, and wOBA. But even in that scenario, Detroit is still set to be in a difficult spot come the start of the 2023 season given a lack of depth in the lineup.
With all of that in mind, the proposition of adding Lange to fantasy teams should be tempting. Margins of victory could be narrow for the Tigers, a setup that should give Lange the ability to earn at least 30 saves this coming year. That total, for what it’s worth, was the same figure that now-former Tigers closer Gregory Soto earned in 2022. Soto, along with Joe Jiménez and Andrew Chafin, are all out of the picture heading into 2023. Thus, the job appears to be Lange’s for the taking
If you play in a rotisserie league, Lange should be on your radar later in drafts. As things stand right now, Lange is rated as the 30th-best reliever in the league by ESPN, alongside starters and some explosive non-closers. While Lange does carry some risk, the potential that Lange carries makes him a valuable asset, and someone who could be a top-15 reliever when 2023 is all said and done.