As I’ve talked about, I hate closers. Let us start off with that simple fact. Every time I try to go big with one they end up biting me in the rear. So I punt them, then go to the scrap heap or the last 5 rounds. It’s just my way of coping. So every year I am acutely aware of closer situations on mediocre and bad teams, as they are my favorite place to pick up saves. This year figures to be no different, with uncertainty in the air for some teams and certainty (that they’ll be bad) on other teams. Bad and mediocre teams inherently play closer games, especially ones with a decent pitcher or two (like, say the team I just wrote up, the Diamondbacks). Notice it’s closer as in fewer runs, not ‘Closer’ games for the back end of the bullpen, though the play on words is not lost on me. So without further ado and a distinct lack of jibberjabber, here’s a list of guys and situations to be aware of in the late rounds when you’re scavenging for saves…
It was not long ago that Putz was a bona fide stud closer (2007). Remember that. In more recent history, he put up outstanding numbers as a setup guy for the White Sox, in case you weren’t paying attention. He’s now headed to my favorite place to snag closers, land of the 2-1 game, the NL West. There’s no reason to think Putz won’t return to full closer form in 2011 as he builds off last year and what better place to do it than a league known for tight games on a staff of mid-level pitchers? While Bill James doesn’t have him projected for any saves (result of him being a FA), other sources have him coming back in full. CAIRO has him at 32 saves, as does RotoChamp. CBS thinks he’ll get all the way back to 40 saves. I think this is a very reasonable range for Putz in 2011. Peripherals aside, projections aside, I rest my hat on the fact that he’s done it before. He’ll be around later than most and will be well worth the investment.
The Pittsburgh Situation:
Evan Meek/Joel Hanrahan
This one’s pretty up in the air. Meek is the better pitcher, but Hanrahan has the experience. As someone pointed out (astutely) on Twitter (@MLBreports), the most likely scenario is to have Hanrahan close, build up his value, then trade him and allow Meek to slide into the role. Meek has the stuff and the makeup, having been groomed as a setup man for the past season and a half. All this being said, the breakdown could go several ways. Hanrahan could go on a tear and save 20+ games, as some predict… and so could Meek after he’s gone. Neither of these players, being in (arm)Pittsburgh, is very sexy. But I would watch Meek or draft him for the long haul (seasons are won in August in fantasy, too) and pick Hanrahan off the scrap heap to start the year if you need cheap saves. This could all be wrong, however, if Meek just flat-out outpitches in Spring Training. I’ll be sure to update you while we’re down in Florida and the spring battles heat up, but as of now, I’m comfortable in saying Hanrahan is going to start out getting the saves.
What was it I so smartly said about young guys missing bats? Hmm…. Storen came up and had no trouble missing bats, posting an 8.46 K/9 in about 55 solid major league innings. He was developed as the closer of the future and for the Nats, the future starts now(ish). The Nats also figure to be in lots of close games with a shaky staff and improving offense (honest) and the ‘perts seem to agree that he will get the opportunities. CAIRO and RotoChamp have him for 31 saves and CBS thinks he’ll score an even 30. This seems about right, though that number really has to do with the Nats (lack of) winning ways. Storen has great stuff and will definately be available at the end of a draft for you to pluck and enjoy like a tasty peach. Not sure why I went with the colorful terminology, but the point remains – Storen will pitch well. Whether he saves 20 games or 30 games will depend on the Nats. That’s just a risk you’ll have to take when you play Closer roulette. Heck, if they improve drastically down there in D.C. (unlikely) he could save 35! What a bargain! Wishful thinking, maybe, but Storen should be worth owning should you pass on closers for better teams.
Someone on the Blue Jays:
Frank Francisco / Octavio Dotel / Jason Frasor/ Jon Rauch
I listed them in a particular order – the order in which the closer ‘competition’ should turn out. All of these men will enter… one will emerge the closer… OK, so there’s really not that much drama, Francisco is the clear choice here, but it warrants mentioning that the Jays have collected 4, count ’em FOUR, guys who have had a nice season as a closer. They all provide value, whether it be from holds or K’s, but my bet is on Francisco to be the man in Toronto with Dotel the backup. Francisco should save between 25 and 30 games in Canada, with a decent WHIP and a K/9 north of 9. Solid numbers. Should the Jays improve, as they very well could, he could see that save total jump 5-7 saves. Dotel could certainly pick up a handful of saves along the way – things happen- and is ownable in many leagues because of his outstanding K value. As long as the walks don’t get in the way, he’s a solid own in leagues where you need that extra bump in strikeouts, regardless of WHIP. Both Rauch and Frasor are similar in that they are established relievers who are wholeheartedly unexciting if not in a closer’s role. They will provide value as 7th/8th inning hold guys but this is a classic case of a reliever being more valuable in real life than fantasy, that’s just how it works most of the time. Francisco might go earlier than those Pirates’ guys, but I’d put him around the same level as Putz. No need to reach, as one of them will be there at the end for you to snatch.
Classic case of closer for a bad team. Did you realize he saved 23 games last year (they won 69 games)? The Indians are a very young team and are bound to improve this year but even if they do not, Perez figures to be right around 30 saves. But who am I to say? Let’s see what the expert panel thinks: Bill James? 31 saves. CBS? 30 saves. CAIRO? 33 saves. RotoChamp? 33 saves. Sounds like I’m not the only one who thinks he’s going to have a solid year. Actually, forget solid – he’s going to have a very GOOD year. His K/9 should hover right above a batter an inning and my guess is his ERA will be 4 or below. If he gets his ground ball percentage up close to 40%, his WHIP could easily be sub-1.20. Sounds like a very solid Closer to me (just like the Cardinals thought he’d be). I’d bet he’s getting a look at the end of some drafts and if he’s on the scrap heap to start your season, grab him. I’m looking forward to a good 2011 from Perez.
There’s my list. I know I left some guys out – Venters and Kimbrel in Atlanta are sure to impress – but these are guys on the REAL cheap. I hate closers so if any of these gentlemen blow up in your face this season… well… s#!& happens. But if you’re like me and you look for saves on the cheapest of cheap, I think this list is a good place to start (let me know if you think otherwise).