Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Closing Conundrum

The Counselor is IN: by Michael Kaplan

This article is dedicated to the people who are just like I was at the beginning of the season; very confused about closers. Many players moved to different teams, were good setup men and inherited the closing role, or are fighting during spring training for the spot. The next five minutes will sort out this mind boggling conundrum.

First there are solid closers who kept their jobs on their respective teams. These players include George Sherrill, Bobby Jenks, Jonathan Papelbon, Joakim Soria, Mariano Rivera, Joe Nathan, Troy Percival, B.J. Ryan, Francisco Cordero, Jose Valverde, Brad Lidge, and Brian Wilson. These are reliable closers, barring a few injury risks, whose teams did not even have to think about making a change. Some other players that came into the closing role late in the year and kept it during the off season are Mike Gonzalez and Matt Capps. There are two good strategies for how to deal with this group of closers. One is to pick one of these players to have a consistently dominant closer on your team, which could be a smart move. Using the other strategy, it would not be vital to a fantasy team to have one of these closers if none are open at good times in the draft. The strategy is to take lesser closers in order to not waste high draft picks. Lesser closers with a consistent role and higher ERA will still get your team saves.

Another group of closers are the ones on new teams such as Kerry Wood, Brian Fuentes, Brandon Lyon, Trevor Hoffman, and Francisco Rodriguez. Some of these players are great closer picks because they are in the next tier down, but could still be the number one closer on your team. My personal favorite for the top closer pick is Brian Fuentes because he has always had a good ERA is a hitter’s ballpark in Colorado. Now he is on a team in which last year’s closing pitcher racked up a whopping 62 saves. He would be a great pick to be your top closer. Make sure you keep Scot Shields or Jose Arredondo close in mind because one of them could try to steal the spot from Fuentes and they will probably perform just as well for your team. You should probably take one closer from one of the last two categories to be the top closer on your team.

The third category is the closers that inherited a closing role after being a strong RP last year, including Joey Devine, Frank Francisco, Chad Qualls, Matt Lindstrom, Jonathan Broxton, Heath Bell, and Joel Hanrahan. Some of the draft’s best sleepers come out of this category. This year’s top closing pitcher strategy is to take one player from one of the first to groups, except maybe Brandon Lyon and Trevor Hoffman because they are too risky, and then take two players from the third group. My two favorites are Joey Devine and Matt Lindstrom because they are both players with impressive ERAs last year and are both from talented rising teams that produce great pitchers. Fuentes, Devine, and Lindstrom could be the best closing staff in your league without wasting many draft picks.

The final group of closers are the one’s fighting for the closing role, such as Miguel Batista and David Aardsma in Seattle, Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol in Chicago, Manny Corpas and Huston Street in Colorado, and Jason Motte and Chris Perez in St. Louis. These players could all be late steals and might even go undrafted in some leagues. Keep your eye on some of these players after the draft and if they win the role, you could pick one up and trade a different closer for a position on your team that needs to be filled. The Cubs spot is probably the most important right now because they will most likely have the most save opportunities. Marmol is a very risky early pick because he could just end up starting the season as a setup man, which has low fantasy value in most leagues. Gregg is low risk, high reward because he goes late in drafts and could be the Cubs closer.

I hope this article helped you sort out your closers for the draft and gave you the knowledge to have the best closers in your league. Check out more of Michael Kaplan’s help at http://www.bestfantasysportshelp.com.

The Counselor is OUT:


ericpalmer said...

Hey man, love the site. I have a fantasy blog of my own that I'm just starting out, you should check it out sometime.

Anonymous said...

Mike: been reading your columnn. Great info. I have learned a lot