Keeping an eye on the volatile closer situations around the league.
Relievers are a tough commodity to value in fantasy. Their volatility and main carrying stat, saves, make it difficult to project accurate value at the season’s outset. You never quite know where a big-time reliever season will come from in a given year. Koji Uehara was given the job after Andrew Bailey was felled by injury. Kevin Gregg emerged after Carlos Marmol was undone by the Upton brothers. So what I will be doing throughout the season is keeping an eye on the reliever situations around the league and offer my thoughts on guys who are worth targeting/keeping an eye on as the season progresses.
PADRES Huston Street – This was pointed out on Twitter but Street’s strand rate last year was 99.5 percent. It goes a long way in explaining how Street was able to maintain a decent ERA despite giving up 12 HR in 56 2/3 innings. Street is effective when healthy, but the “when healthy” part is kind of the main concern with him. He’s made four DL trips since 2011, and he already had a groin issue in camp this year.
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The Reds try to extend Homer Bailey, and the Nationals consider reshaping the back end of their bullpen.
Reds “optimistic” about extension talks with Homer Bailey
As more and more high-end pitchers sign long-term extensions with their first big-league teams, those who don’t become hot commodities when they reach free agency. That, in turn, increases the incentive for pitchers to test the market and makes it more difficult for smaller-market clubs to retain them.
A look at five pitchers who could be in line for save opportunities in future years.
Joe Borowski, Brandon League, Todd Jones, Kevin Gregg, Frank Francisco, Billy Koch. No, I’m not working on a baseball version of We Didn’t Start The Fire (that you know of). These are all relievers who have ascended to the closer role, whether they deserved it or not. They acquired the closer mystique that allowed them to beef up their earnings and hold on or land jobs long past when they should have. To be clear, I’m of the mind that it’s often helpful to have a Gregg or a Koch at the back of the bullpen—someone who is competent enough to finish most games and allows the use of a more efficient or dominant reliever, a fireman, to enter into the higher-leverage situations.
That opinion belongs to the baseball analyst in me, though, not the fantasy analyst. As a fantasy owner, I’d rather see the most talented bullpen option in the closer role because then I don’t have to roster nincompoops who destroy my ERA and WHIP, all while chasing the dragon save. Of course, being blocked by an incompetent colleague is not the only reason that pitchers get denied coffee. Injuries, a couple of poorly timed blow ups, or a lack of experience can also cost a reliever a shot to use SemiSonic as his entrance music as well. The point of this article, then, is to shine a spotlight on some guys who would be closers, but for a minor flaw, be it in their game or their situations. These are players who could be elite-level fantasy closers if they are presented with the opportunity. The key is identifying them before the opportunity arises.
Dan looks at the Nationals' bullpen situation following the surprising signing of Rafael Soriano.
Rafael Soriano| Nationals Shallow (30 Keepers): No Medium (60 Keepers): No Deep (90 Keepers): Fringe NL-only (60 Keepers): Fringe Super Deep (200 Keepers): Yes
The Nationals aren’t shy about padding an area of the roster that’s already deep, apparently. To the surprise of many, yours truly included, the Nats inked Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $28 million deal last week despite the presence of high-leverage relievers Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard. Interestingly, General Manager Mike Rizzo wasn’t coy about Soriano’s role: the right-hander, who spent the past two years with the Yankees, was named Washington’s closer, presumably leaving Storen and Clippard to duke it out for the seventh and eighth innings.
Investing in top non-closers now could save you loads of money next draft day.
For the past five years, as the season winds down, I’ve made it a habit of discussing one of my favorite keeper league strategies: stashing potential closers. This, of course, isn’t viable in every single keeper league based on format, depth, and rule quirks, but in leagues where it is, it can be a powerful way of accruing cheap value for your 2013 squad before the 2012 season even ends.
As I discussed the strategy in detail last season, I’ll simply repost for those who are new to BP:
With spring training inching toward a close, closer battles are starting to wind down as well.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day, where I admit to the fact that I have the day off of work but may be the only person in the country who is stepping out for reasons that don’t involve either green-tinted festivities or the beginning of the NCAA Tournament. (I’ll watch Boston U get crushed in the first round, and then turn spring training back on, in case you’re wondering.) After a day spent looking at outfielders, we’re back to the bullpen, where there’s much to discuss.
Mike looks at some of the closers he wondered about in his rankings from earlier in the week.
As I was putting together the yearly fantasy closer rankings recently, it occurred to me that there were a few pitchers on the list who we've heard relatively little about this offseason. Sure, we've all heard more than we can stand about Neftali Feliz, Jonathan Broxton, and whatever's going to happen on the South Side of Chicago, but how much have we really heard about lower-level guys like Drew Storen, Jose Valverde, and Leo Nunez? Not nearly enough in my opinion, and now seems like a great time to rectify that oversight.
With the trade deadline behind us, it's time to look at what's changed in Washington and Pittsburgh.
In the comments of last week's article, I noted that I was "starting to wish I'd gone with my first instinct and included Michael Wuertz, since Andrew Bailey is still unavailable and is being seen by Texas doctors tonight." Bailey was only supposed to be out for a few days with his strained ribcage muscle, but he's still on the DL and is not expected to be activated when he's eligible on August 6. Wuertz, who was on the Value Picks list earlier this season, has finally regained his form since coming off his own DL stint to start the year. In his last eight outings, he's been unscored upon seven times while picking up four saves, and the strikeouts he was known for in 2009 are starting to return.
Craig Breslow may also get chances against lefty-heavy lineups, so keep that in mind. However, Breslow gave up a homer in yesterday's game and picked up a loss the day before, so Wuertz is your play here, even if it's just for the short-term until Bailey returns. He's owned in under 5% of ESPN leagues, and with fantasy seasons rapidly pushing toward the playoffs, every save counts. He replaces Brandon League on the list, who just saw his prospective value plummet to zero when the Mariners decided to hang on to David Aardsma.
Cristian Guzman is headed to Texas, with the owner-less Rangers somehow pulling off another trade (are you paying attention, Los Angeles?). This guarantees that Jorge Cantu will be playing first base and not filling in at second for the injured Ian Kinsler, and also means that whatever playing time you thought was coming out of Joaquin Arias and Andres Blanco for the Rangers is going to be cut into.