Monday, February 29, 2016

Fantasy Focus: Know Your Closers

Most fantasy baseball leagues count 10 statistical categories toward determining who wins the league.  These 10 categories are divided equally between offense and pitching, or 5X5.  Most of these categories are somewhat overlapping.  Starting pitchers who strikeout a lot of batters also tend to get more Wins and to have low ERA's.  Batters who hit a lot of HR's also tend to score a lot of Runs and get a lot of RBI's.  Saves is the one category with the least overlap.  If you roster a Starting Pitcher who eats innings and has a low WHIP, you will get some wins and even get some K's out of him.  You can't roster just any pitcher and get Saves.  At any given time, there are only 30 pitchers in all of baseball who are likely to give you Saves.  Depending on how many RP roster slots your league has, those 30 closers can be a scarce commodity.

On the other hand, Saves is just one category out of 10, so you don't want to be expending your resources on players who are only going to help you in that one category.  Sure, Closers also get an occasional W and usually help out your ERA and WHIP numbers and even give you a few K's, but overall, you are rostering them for one reason, to win the Saves category.  One simple rule I have learned in my now 8 years of playing fantasy baseball is a bad Closer on a bad team is almost as valuable as a good Closer on a good team.  The main reason for drafting elite closers is job security rather than performance at any given time.  You don't want to be using 3'rd and 4'th round picks on the Craig Kimbrels and Kenley Jansen's of the world, nor do you want to be bidding $15-$20 for them in an auction.  So, it pays to always know who the current Closer is on all 30 teams and also who might become the Closer in the future in case of injury or poor performance. With that in mind, here are the current projected Closers for all 30 MLB teams:

Orioles:  Zach Britton- Secure.

Red Sox:  Craig Kimbrel- Secure, but Boston also has former closers Carson Smith and Koji Uehara on the roster.

Yankees:  Aroldis Chapman- Secure except for that suspension hanging over his head for alleged domestic abuse.  The Yanks also have Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller who would be closers for most teams on the roster.

Rays:  Brad Boxberger- Secure, but wasn't great last year.  Rays have a bunch of unknowns filling out their bullpen roster, but have no problems turning to one of them if needed.

Blue Jays:  Drew Storen- Shaky with Roberto Osuna competing for the closer's role.

White Sox:  David Robertson- Secure, but wasn't that great last year.

Indians:  Cody Allen- Secure.

Royals:  Wade Davis- Secure, although KC has several relievers who could do the job about as well.

Twins:  Glen Perkins- secure.

Astros:  Ken Giles- Probabably secure, but last year's closer, Luke Gregerson is still on the roster and he did a good job.

Angels:  Huston Street- Secure.

A's: Sean Doolittle- Secure, but a big health risk. Unclear who would take his place if injured, I would bet on RJ Alvarez.

Mariners:  Steve Cishek- Shaky.  Had a poor season last year and the M's also have Joaquin Benoit on the roster.  Keep you eye on Tony Zych.

Rangers:  Shawn Tolleson- Fairly secure, but doesn't throw that hard and many analysts think Keone Kela will be the Closer by the end of the season.

Braves:  Jason Grilli- Fairly secure if healthy but coming off an Achilles tendon injury and Arodys Vizcaino is a legit option.  Grilli is also a prime trade candidate come mid-season.

Marlins:  AJ Ramos- Fairly secure, but Carter Capps is pushing him.

Mets:  Jeurys Familia- Last year's big breakout.  Secure!

Phillies:  David Hernandez- Shaky.  Not at all clear who might take his place, though.

Nationals:  Jonathan Papelbon- Secure for now, but could be a trade candidate if the Nationals drop out of the race and if there are any more clubhouse issues.

Cubs:  Hector Rondon- Fairly secure, but the Cubs have a deep bullpen so he'll be on a short leash if he starts pitching poorly.

Reds:  John Hoover- Fairly secure, but Jumbo Diaz is pushing.

Brewers:  Will Smith- good pitcher, so should lock down the position, but Jeremy Jeffress is pushing and trades are possible.

Pirates:  Mark Melancon- Secure.

Cardinals:  Trevor Rosenthal- Secure.

Diamondbacks:  Brad Zeigler- Secure, but not a classic closer profile.

Rockies:  Jason Motte- Shaky.  Unclear who might unseat him:  Kevin Quackenbush?  Jake McGee?

Dodgers:  Kenley Jansen- Secure!

Padres:  Fernando Rodney- As alway with Rodney, shaky!  Not clear who might replace him, though.

Giants:  Santiago Casilla- Fairly secure, but Hunter Strickland is pushing.

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