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.
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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.
As the trading deadline nears, relief pitchers could be on the move.
Think about this. You're the Washington Nationals. After years of ineptitude, you're finally close to turning the corner, but you're not quite there yet. Sure, 2010 has seen some highlights, but you're once again in last place in the NL East, 15.5 games behind the Braves, and now you have to deal with your worst nightmare: Stephen Strasburg missing a start, and maybe more, with a stiff shoulder. You've got a closer who is at the peak of his value, rebuilding from a lousy 2009 thanks to his high saves total and low ERA, but is headed towards a hefty arbitration raise from his current $3.5m salary, even though he's allowing more than a hit per inning. To top it off, you're in a trade market where the prices for the few relievers out there are sky-high.
The Nationals' catching prospect talks about his development and catching some of the top young pitchers in the organization.
The 2010 season has been a speed bump for Derek Norris. The 21-year-old catcher came into the campaign ranked by Kevin Goldstein as the No. 2 prospect in the Nationals organization, but a pair of injuries have contributed to a subpar offensive showing. Norris is hitting just .233/.409/.372 with five home runs at High-A Potomac, after a .286/.413/.513, 23 home-run showing last summer with Low-A Hagerstown. Despite his struggles, the Goddard, Kansas native still projects as an offensive force behind the dish and a big part of the Nats’ future. Norris talked about his development, and his experiences catching Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, and Jordan Zimmermann when Potomac visited Boston for the Futures at Fenway minor-league doubleheader earlier this month.
It's time to look backwards in order to get value going forward.
Weird week here at the relievers outpost of Value Picks. As you can tell from the comments in last week's article, I'd expected that we'd be talking about possible closer changes in Houston and Washington, with Matt Lindstrom and Matt Capps having each blown three saves in four outings. Yet since then, Lindstrom's been perfect in converting three saves, and Capps has converted his chances as well, holding off the wolves at least for this week. Plus, two of the other teams we've been talking about - Toronto and Baltimore - haven't even been able to get far enough in games to have save opportunities. So as far as save-chasing goes this week, it's kind of a lean group, and with that in mind we're looking back at past values which could pay off in the near future.
We're welcoming back two previous Value Picks this week in Alfredo Simon and Fernando Rodney. Simon was one of the more successful value picks of the season, as he went from being a minor-league afterthought in April to converting six of seven save opportunities in May before being injured - a nice treat for savvy fantasy owners who were able to wring easy value out of him. Since he's been gone, the Orioles have been even more of a disaster than they were before, and though Will Ohman's been the nominal closer for over two weeks now, he hasn't notched a single save. Much of that is his fault, but not in the way you think. Yes, he blew the only save opportunity he was presented with (though he allowed just one run while doing so), but since he was forced into the 9th inning, the replacements the Orioles have tried in Ohman's old spot have failed miserably, leading to Ohman getting just one chance to actually close a game.
Mike Petriello graduates two success stories from the Value Picks list and checks out two freely-available talents to help your team.
Smell You Later: What with it being graduation season and all, we're going to start with those departing the Value Picks list. So say goodbye to Alfredo Simon and Jose Contreras, as they've continued to gain notoriety in the fantasy world and can no longer be considered 'hidden gems'. When Simon joined this list on May 6, he'd pitched in just four games and was owned in less than 10% of ESPN leagues. Since then, he's racked up three more saves plus a win in six games. He had one terrible outing in between, accounting for some inflated stats, but it's also the only game of the ten he's entered in which he's allowed an earned run. Simon's now owned in nearly 40% of ESPN leagues, so by this point you've likely already made your decision on him.
The story is much the same for Contreras, who's been picked up in an astounding 46.7% of leagues in the last week alone. He joined the list the same week as Simon, and and at the time was available in over 99% of leagues. Since then, all he's done is rip off five consecutive scoreless outings, allowing just two hits. With Brad Lidge's health still in question, Contreras will get his chances, though you certainly already know that by now.