CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run... (03/10)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: NL Star... (03/09)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Depth C... (03/21)
Next Article >>
Premium Article You Could Look It Up: ... (03/11)

March 10, 2010

Fantasy Focus

Closers

by Marc Normandin

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

We're almost there! Today brings us the final batch of positional rankings, as we have ordered the primary closers (for all but one team, but we'll get to that currently developing story later) for your drafting convenience. You know the drill by now, so let's take a look.

For the previous rankings in the series, check out first basemensecond basementhird basemenshortstopscatchersleft fieldersright fielderscenter fielders, the combined outfielder rankingsAL starting pitchers and, finally, NL starters. Now, here are the changes to this year's ranking system:

  • Players are no longer ranked by number (the 1-20 system). Instead, I am implementing a tiered system using stars (five stars is the best, one is the lesser of your options). These stars are equal across positions to make comparisons between them easier—for example, there are three five-star first basemen, but there may be more or fewer than that at other positions—if it comes to it, the first player at a position may be a four-star option. You can derive positional scarcity from the number of four- and five-star players available and make decisions from there. Players are loosely ordered within tiers, with my first preference to my last.

  • Last year, I covered 60 starting pitchers total, which was still a lot relative to what I did at other positions but nowhere near enough. This time around, like with the other positions, I'm covering exponentially more. Just from the National League, I'm covering 83 pitchers. I looked at the depth charts and took the starting five for every team, then added some of the spot starters (who in some cases, are currently injured or rehabbing pitchers, or are also potential mid-season promotion candidates) to the list. Generally, those added with fewer innings are going to be ranked in lower tiers because they can't produce as much for you, but I wanted to at least have them here so they were in mind on draft day for you. If anyone you are curious about is missing, chances are good they were projected for a meager number of innings on the season, but if you have any questions I'll be glad to answer them in the comments.

Five Stars
Player
IP ERA WHIP HR/9 SO K/BB SV
Jonathan Broxton 60 2.82 1.11 0.8 77 3.5 37
Jonathan Papelbon 55 2.78 1.13 0.8 60 3.3 43
Mariano Rivera 60 3.52 1.21 1.2 55 3.4 40
Huston Street 60 3.10 1.12 0.9 62 3.4 37
Joakim Soria 60 2.98 1.19 0.8 64 3.4 33

Conspicuously absent from this tier is Joe Nathan, who I was debating as the top closer just yesterday morning before news broke that his the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow could cause him to miss the entirety of 2010. While no one has been picked as a replacement, Craig Brown took a look at some potential candidates to replace him from within the Twins’ organization.

There's still plenty to love in this tier, though, as a pair of Jonathans combine their strikeouts, saves, and sub-3 projected ERAs to take over the top in Nathan's absence. Papelbon's ERA may seem high given last year's performance, but if you poke around at his adjusted ERAs—notably SIERA—you will see that this forecast makes a whole lot of sense (assuming 99 percent of his pitches this year are not fastballs). Rivera's ERA strikes me as high here, but then again, how many comparable pitchers are there? This is like trying to find appropriate Bonds comps a few years back, so Rivera's demise will be foreshadowed well before it occurs. Street's one concern is his home park, which could scare some people away, but he's one of the best at what he does, regardless of locale. Soria has the unfortunate handicap of playing for the Royals, but his numbers make him a top-flight stopper just the same.

Four Stars
Player
IP ERA WHIP HR/9 SO K/BB SV
Andrew Bailey 60 3.24 1.23 0.9 60 2.4 35
Rafael Soriano 50 2.95 1.14 0.9 56 3.1 37
Heath Bell 65 3.40 1.27 0.7 68 2.7 33
Frank Francisco 60 3.20 1.18 1.1 68 3.1 36
Francisco Rodriguez 60 3.64 1.30 1.1 64 2.3 35
Francisco Cordero 60 3.78 1.35 0.9 55 2.0 35
Chad Qualls 60 3.42 1.18 0.9 54 3.6 34
Billy Wagner 48 2.86 1.15 0.9 55 3.2 32

Bailey's plenty good on his own, but his park creates a nifty little security blanket to help his BABIP. Soriano may pick up more innings and saves than this, given that the Rays know how to leverage innings in their bullpen. He may end up with the best WHIP of this group as well. Bell has two things working for him: strikeouts and Petco Park. That ERA seems high to me as far as a weighted mean goes—I would expect a 3.40 mark in his lower percentiles. Francisco's biggest question mark is health. If he's physically able, his forecast makes a lot of sense, and he compares to Bell very well.

In the non-surname category of Francisco's, you have two pitchers who are going to pick up plenty of saves, but maybe not with the same impressive peripheral numbers that those above them will display. Assuming the Mets’ injury curse is over, K-Rod should easily hit this value, though he has yet to pitch in any exhibition games becuase of pinkeye. Qualls may not have the punchout totals of other closers, but he's still well enough above in other categories to merit this kind of consideration. Wagner, if healthy, is five-star material. That if is bigger than the pitcher it's attached to, so be wary. You can see from his forecast just what kind of rates you can expect if he lasts all season as the Braves’ closer, and it's going to be very tempting to pick him up despite the risks.

Three Stars
Player
IP ERA WHIP HR/9 SO K/BB SV
David Aardsma 55 3.48 1.31 1.0 59 2.3 35
Brian Wilson 60 3.54 1.27 0.9 64 2.7 35
Octavio Dotel 60 3.43 1.29 0.9 71 2.5 27
Jason Frasor 57 3.82 1.32 0.9 53 2.3 19
Mike Gonzalez 55 3.72 1.29 1.0 58 2.8 30
Jose Valverde 60 3.21 1.23 1.1 64 2.6 24
Bobby Jenks 60 3.68 1.26 1.2 52 2.6 32
Kerry Wood 55 3.75 1.35 0.8 57 2.4 32
Carlos Marmol 60 3.35 1.37 0.8 72 1.9 32

Aardsma's numbers are great for a reliever, but as a closer he's much closer to the average. He and Wilson both fit that mold pretty well, though Wilson may pick up a few more whiffs than your average closer. Dotel will most assuredly pick up more strikeouts than your average closer, but I'm not sure he's that much better overall than the guys in front of him, if at all. He probably has the best potential of anyone in this tier to pitch himself into a higher one though, especially if his 2007-2008 K rates returned. If the Blue Jays decide to give Kevin Gregg the bulk of the save opportunities then Frasor should do worse than the forecast for 19 saves.

With the next few pitchers, you'll see somewhere they are lacking relative to their higher-ranked peers. Gonzalez should have average closer K rates, but with an ERA a bit higher than you would like, and 30 saves isn't lofty enough to offset that. Valverde has the ERA, but he's right around the average K rate and is penciled in for a low save total. Jenks is below average in ERA and Ks, Wood in ERA and WHIP. Marmol's walk rates make me want to avoid him entirely despite the potential for strikeouts galore.

Two Stars
Player
IP ERA WHIP HR/9 SO K/BB SV
Leo Nunez 60 3.89 1.33 1.1 48 2.1 33
Ryan Franklin 55 3.65 1.36 0.8 36 1.6 35
Brian Fuentes 55 4/10 1.35 1.1 50 2.3 34

Nunez doesn't have to worry about Matt Lindstrom anymore, but you do have to worry about his below-average (for a closer) strikeout rate, and his ERA doesn't look impressive, either. Franklin may post a better ERA, but he will give you even less in the punchouts department. Fuentes is somewhere in between, with more strikeouts than either but also more potential for a damaging ERA.

One Star
Player
IP ERA WHIP HR/9 SO K/BB SV
Trevor Hoffman 50 4.17 1.35 1.1 37 2.3 34
Matt Capps 60 4.12 1.31 1.1 46 2.6 32
Brandon Lyon 60 3.59 1.29 0.9 47 2.0 19
Matt Lindstrom 60 4.46 1.42 1.1 47 1.7 17
Brad Lidge 55 5.00 1.54 1.3 51 1.8 31

Hoffman worries me in the sense that if I were to pick one pitcher most likely to underperform his weighted mean, it would be him. The combination of age and park bothers me enough that I wouldn't want to spend too much on him at auction or waste a pick on him too soon. Capps could easily be a two-star or better pitcher, but with the more than satisfying glut of closers above him, there's no reason to spend on that risk unless you're desperate. Lyon is a lot like Nunez as far as numbers go, but he may battle Lindstrom for save opportunities, which hurts his value. If it's perfectly clear Lyon is the guy picking up the opportunities all year, you can disregard this raking and bump him up to two-star. Lindstrom is obviously here because there's a chance he could snag some saves out from under Lyon, as mentioned.

 Brad Lidge. Oh, Brad Lidge. It may seem like PECOTA is being harsh, but remember, he did have an ERA of 7.21 last year with a WHIP of 1.81. He is the kind of guy I would be willing to absorb the risk on solely because he may churn out one of his good years, but at the same time, once the price went above a few bucks, I would bail on bidding further faster than you can say, "Pujols, deep to left field…"  

28 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run... (03/10)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: NL Star... (03/09)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Depth C... (03/21)
Next Article >>
Premium Article You Could Look It Up: ... (03/11)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
The Lineup Card: Eight Notable Early-Season ...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: A Moran and a Wolf Wal...
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Wednesday, April 16
Premium Article What You Need to Know: Please Send Starters
Premium Article Overthinking It: Does Baseball Have a Pace P...
Premium Article Notes from the Field: Notes from Five League...
The Call-Up: George Springer

MORE FROM MARCH 10, 2010
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: Ozzie's Baserunning ...
Premium Article On the Beat: Mid-Week Update
Premium Article Checking the Numbers: Leaving the Innings Bu...
Fantasy Article Team Health Reports: Cleveland Indians

MORE BY MARC NORMANDIN
2010-03-18 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Mailbag
2010-03-12 - MLB 10
2010-03-12 - MLB 10
2010-03-10 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Closers
2010-03-09 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: NL Starting Pitchers
2010-03-08 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: AL Starting Pitchers
2010-03-04 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Center Fielders
More...

MORE FANTASY FOCUS
2010-04-09 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Stolen-base Redux
2010-04-04 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Pre-season Fantasy Prediction...
2010-03-21 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Depth Chart/PFM Update, Part ...
2010-03-10 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Closers
2010-03-09 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: NL Starting Pitchers
2010-03-08 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: AL Starting Pitchers
2010-03-05 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Draft Exercise
More...