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Closers are the most fungible commodity in fantasy baseball. Predicting saves is a quixotic quest that frequently ends in heartbreak and confusion.

You don’t need to search long to find examples of how volatile the saves market can be. Kevin Gregg was a discarded reliever when the Cubs reached out for his services in the ultimate act of desperation. Carlos Marmol had imploded and their in house options were either hurt or ineffective. Gregg, who was unable to survive spring training with the Dodgers, ended up accruing 33 saves before being released in a much-publicized spat with management.

So if you have Chapman on the DL or you were just caught off guard ahead of a massive closer run and are in need of saves don’t fret. I’m here for you, friends.

Let’s take a look at three situations in which a closer could emerge from the shadows.

Houston Astros
Bad teams play close games as well. Jesse Crain is currently on the shelf as he tries to come back from biceps surgery. He’s slated to throw his first bullpen today (March 27) and he could be back very early in the season. He’s owned in 19% of Yahoo leagues and only 1.8 percent of ESPN leagues. Crain is a solid stash option as he’s done well in high-leverage situations:

Split

G

PA

R

H

2B

3B

HR

SO/BB

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

BAbip

tOPS+

High Lvrge

268

754

132

152

29

6

14

2.00

0.234

0.318

0.362

0.679

0.285

108

In limited innings the past two years, Crain struck batters out at a 30 percent clip. I would wait on positive news regarding his health before snatching him up, but I think he’s worth keeping an eye on if you’re hurting for saves. Chad Qualls and Josh Fields are two other names in this ‘pen to keep an eye on. Fields has the velocity but his 2013 walk and homerun rates are concerning to say the least. Qualls might be a decent stopgap/handcuff option if you’re intent on Crain.

Cincinnati Reds
“From the fun-stat department, (Hoover) has yet to allow a run during his 21 career ninth-inning appearances—so if anything happens to Aroldis Chapman, he’s got this.” —BP Annual

These two options are stopgaps to be sure as I do expect Chapman to come back in good form, so keep that in mind.

In Aroldis Chapman’s absence, the Reds might be leaning toward Hoover to start the year as the closer. Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall will both start the year on the disabled list. Hoover is owned in 11 percent of ESPN leagues and 37 percent of Yahoo leagues, so there’s a pretty good chance he’s available in yours. Over his young career, Hoover has paired a .182OAV with a 25% strikeout rate. I’d also keep an eye on Sam LeCure, who has a tremendous curveball and might earn some time as the closer if Hoover falters early.

Cleveland Indians
How much do you trust John Axford? The famously mustachioed closer has the stuff to succeed and he found some consistent success with the Cardinals last year (who didn’t?), but that was done in a very limited sample. Axford still has control issues no matter what the 10-inning St. Louis sample tells you. I believe that the 9.4 percent walk rate in 60-plus innings falls more in line with what Axford is, and I firmly believe he’s a borderline double-digit walk-rate closer who is homer -rone. Perhaps the worst-kept secret in fantasy baseball is Cody Allen, as he is owned in 55 percent of ESPN leagues and 16 percent of Yahoo Leagues despite not having the big C attached to his name. Allen posted a nearly-30 percent strikeout rate in 70 innings last year. He has the stuff; Allen uses a mid-to-high-90s fastball with a good breaking ball. Now he just needs the opportunity.

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Muboshgu
3/27
I'd trust Axford more if he stayed in St. Louis. That said, they told him he was tipping his pitches in Milwaukee. If Axford can keep up the mechanical changes he made while a Cardinal, then maybe he can return to his former glory, as brief as it was.
MRubio52
3/27
I would too. I think he and Ubaldo Jimenez will end up being really interesting watches this year to see if their mechanics are drastically different from what they were when they got "fixed"
mfreedom1
3/27
Thanks for the info, will put to good use in the closer hunt. What about the CWS situation? My money is on Lindstrom, not Jones. Thoughts?
MRubio52
3/27
I like Nate Jones, and I might be in the minority there. Lindstrom has a good arm but maybe not the miss the bat stuff I'd like to see out of a closer. Dunno, that situation has all sorts of layers.
mfreedom1
4/01
Closer Experience (TM)
cedis81
3/27
How about the Sergio Santos/Casey Janssen situation in Toronto? I'm in a 16 team h2h league, and I have both Cody Allen and Santos. I don't know how much longer I can roster both of them. I'd like to use the remaining spot on either a lottery ticket like Mike Olt or a solid but unspectacular performer/streamer like a Brandon McCarthy or Daniel Nava type. Thanks