Fantasy Focus: American League closers
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Closers are always the riskiest position when it comes to fantasy baseball. While there are the elite closers who produce year in-year out, many can’t be counted on for consistency. To make matters worse this season, the AL lost two of its elite closers as Jonathan Papelbon signed with the Phillies, and Neftali Feliz of the Rangers is now in the starting rotation. Whatever your strategy is on closers, here is a breakdown in the AL, including spring battles as well as a handy guide to help you at your draft.
For-sure pick – It means you’ll get consistency, nothing less, nothing more.
Sleeper – Underrated in drafts; can get in later rounds but might produce above-average stats.
Overrated – Might not produce at the hype he’s supposed to produce at.
Long-term value – Might not be the best bet for this year but excellent for keeper leagues.
1. Mariano Rivera, Yankees — 2011 stats: 1.91 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 60 K, 44 SV
2. Jose Valverde, Tigers –2011 stats: 2.24 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 69 K, 49 SV
3. Joakim Soria, Royals — 2011 stats: 4.03 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 60 K, 28 SV
4. Andrew Bailey, Red Sox — 2011 stats: 3.24 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 41 K, 24 SV
5. Joe Nathan, Rangers — 2011 stats: 4.84 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 43 K, 14 SV
Closer: Kevin Gregg — He is a veteran closer, just not a very reliable one. Had a 4.37 ERA, 1.64 WHIP with 53 K/40 BB over 59.2 innings in 2011. Walking 40 guys in 59.2 innings will get a lot of starting pitchers, as well as managers, cursing your name in the dugout. He had 22 saves, but blew seven. Grab him late if you are desperate, but don’t count on much.
Set-up: Jim Johnson — Appeared in 69 games for the O’s last season, going 6-5 with nine saves. He also had a tidy 2.67 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 91.1 innings. Not a strikeout pitcher, getting just 58 on the season, but those other numbers are more than solid in deeper leagues, and if Gregg falters, he is the closer.
Boston Red Sox
Closer: Andrew Bailey — Didn’t get many chances in Oakland, but when he did, he delivered. Has saved 79/84 career games, ranking among the best all-time in save percentage. Has a career 2.07 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 9.0 K/9 and has held opponents to a .188 average over 174 innings. Should get way more chances in Boston and join the elite. For-sure-pick.
Set-up: Mark Melancon — Acquired by the Sox from Houston in the off-season. Appeared in 71 games for the Astros in 2011, going 8-4 with 20 saves. Had a 2.78 ERA, 1.22 WHIP with 66 K/26 BB over 74.1 innings. Will be setting up Bailey and should be a good source for holds if your league uses them. Otherwise, could get a couple of saves but should only be considered in deep leagues.
Chicago White Sox
Closer: Matt Thornton — Looks to be the closer out of spring training, but with no extended experience in the role, could be shaky at times. A strikeout pitcher, 9.8 K/9 over his eight-year career, has great value if he can stick. Again, his lack of experience comes with risk, so don’t draft him until the end.
Set-up: Addison Reed — Another reason why Thornton owners will worry. Across four leagues last season in the minors, he had a 1.26 ERA, 0.73 WHIP with 111 K/14 BB over 78.1 innings. He held opponents to a .154 average, and his 12.8 K/9, 8 BB/K ratios show how dominant he is. Has a high-90s fastball with great movement, and his slider is a filthy wipe-out pitch. Struck out 12 over 7.1 innings for the White Sox last season, walking just one. Will most likely end the season as the closer. Long-term-potential.
Closer: Chris Perez — Owns a career 82 percent save percentage so he can be counted on to get the job done. Had 36 saves last season with a 3.32 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. His 39 K/26 BB over 59.2 innings are a cause for concern, however, as those numbers don’t really bode well for long-term success. Grab him late as he is still a decent option.
Set-up: Vinnie Pestano — Had 84 strikeouts over 62 innings last year, good for 12.2 K/9. Also doesn’t walk a lot of people as evidenced by his 1.05 WHIP. Held opponents to a .184 BAA and picked up two saves last year. If Perez struggles, snatch him up. If your league counts holds, he had 24 of them last year.
Closer: Jose Valverde — Hasn’t blown a save since September 2, 2010, recording 51 straight. Had a 2.24 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 49 saves with 69 K/34 BB over 72.1 innings last season. Has saved 242/272 saves over his career, making him one of the most efficient all-time. He is elite and should get another 40+ in 2012. For-sure-pick.
Set-up: Joaquin Benoit — Had 63 K/17 BB over 61 innings last year, picking up 29 holds. Was dynamite after the break, posting a 1.33 ERA, 0.67 WHIP and 32 K/8 BB over 27 innings. Won’t get many saves with Valverde as the closer, but is a solid option in deeper leagues as he can get you strikeouts while maintaining a low ERA and WHIP.
Kansas City Royals
Closer: Joakim Soria — Had a down year by his standards posting a 4.03 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 60 K/17 BB over 60.1 innings. Had 28 saves, but blew seven of them. Still, he owns a career 89 percent save percentage so he should bounce back. Finished strong, saving four games in September, striking out eight over five scoreless innings. A for-sure-pick.
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