As the season has progressed, I’ve discussed what I believe to be proper strategy when it comes to active roster construction, whether it be via trade, free agency, or your bench. At this point in the season—that is to say, with a mere 19 days left—it shouldn’t be going out on too much of a limb to say that categorical stratification trumps all. If you haven’t yet, take raw “value” and Old Yeller it (or White Fang it, depending on your preferred fictional canine reference). Whether you chase it away or pull out all the stops and take it out back and shoot it, just get rid of the notion of “value in a vacuum” so you’re not tempted to play with it and catch rabies (or whatever threat White Fang posed—I never claimed to be an expert).
At this juncture, it doesn’t matter that Michael Bourn is one of the top-ranked players in the PFM if you have no room to move up or down in steals. There’s precious little time left, and guys that are still left on the waiver wire aren’t likely to be especially valuable overall. But if you can uncover a couple of one-category gems, that could be all you need to propel your team a few points in the standings. It doesn’t matter if Anthony Gose strikes out nearly as much as Adam Dunn; if you need steals, he might as well be Albert Pujols to your team. Because of this dynamic, I’ll be spending today and Monday discussing some players who surely have flaws but who can provide a serious jolt if you need what they provide.
Assuming all 30 primary closers are already owned in your league, you’re going to have a serious uphill battle to find saves among other relievers. If you’re in a dead heat with saves and are trotting out the same number of closers as your competitor, one or two stray saves over the next couple weeks could be all the difference you need to take an extra point or two. Consequently, there are two strategies you can try to employ.
The first is to watch for closers with high usage over a short period of time. If a closer goes three days in a row, there’s a good chance his manager’s second choice will be getting the ball the next day. In leagues that allow daily transactions and rosters, you absolutely must capitalize on these chances. Joe Nathan, for instance, has gone three days in a row, so if a save opportunity arises tonight, look for Alexi Ogando to potentially nab a save. (Mike Adams is used in higher-leverage situations, but Ogando has filled in when Nathan was unavailable in the past, so he is likely the top choice tonight). If faced with the decision between two such options, go with the one on the road; they get a slight boost with a guaranteed ninth frame.
The second option is to speculate long-term (or as long-term as is possible in the middle of September) on a guy or two in slightly murky ninth-inning situations. Dan Mennella does an excellent job of going over these kinds of guys every Wednesday with Value Picks, but here are a few more to consider:
Jonathan Broxton | Reds | RP
With Aroldis Chapman fatigued and getting rested for at least a few days, this former Royals closer is a must own. It’s not impossible that Chapman is done for the year and Broxton lingers in the ninth-inning over the closing weeks.
Javier Lopez | Giants | RP
Dan has discussed Lopez for a couple weeks now, so I won’t bother rehashing much. He’s the lefty half of a ninth-inning platoon in San Francisco. The match-ups rarely set up well for these types of pitchers, but if they happen to a handful of times before October 3, Lopez owners will be very happy.
Tom Layne | Padres | RP
Huston Street seems to be on the verge of returning (and when he does, he’ll immediately be inserted back into the ninth inning), but until he does, Layne makes for a poor but (sadly) viable option for those desperate for saves. If the opposition has a lefty-stacked lineup in the ninth, Layne could find himself vulturing another save or two.
Ronald Belisario | Dodgers | RP
Kenley Jansen is set to return on Tuesday, and Brandon League has received the last two saves chances for the Dodgers in his absence, but there still remains an outside shot that Belisario will snatch a save before Jansen returns.
Kameron Loe | Brewers | RP
The Brewers really want John Axford to take control of the ninth, and being out of the playoff race, they can afford to watch his continued meltdowns. While Ron Roenicke has several options to pick up the pieces in these instances or to replace The Ax Man before it gets too bad, I like Kameron Loe as a little-owned sleeper. Desperate times, dear readers…