During a fantasy baseball draft, it’s tough to know when to start drafting a closer. Do you wait until someone else draft first?
Well I will discuss four closers that are available in the later rounds that might prove to be as effective as the first closers taken and will provide great value for your team.
Joe Nathan, Minnesota Twins
Tommy John surgery ended Nathan’s season last year before it even began. When he’s healthy, he is one of the top closer in the league. In six seasons as the Twins’ closer, Nathan averages 41 saves, 1.87 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 86 strikeouts. Since he probably won’t pitch on back-to-back nights, day game after a night game, it will be difficult for him to come close to these numbers in 2011. However, Nathan should still give you at least 28 saves and a high-1 ERA.
John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers
Coming into Spring Training last season, the Brewers didn’t know who their closer was. Would it be Trevor Hoffman, the all-time leader with 591 saves? Or was it Axford, the guy who had just one save in his career? Well, Hoffman struggled the entire season and finished with 10 saves, five blown saves and a 5.89 ERA. His record was 2-7 and struck out 30 in 47 1/3 innings.
While Hoffman struggled, Axford was superb when he got the opportunities. He converted his first 14 opportunities and finished the season with 24 and just three blown saves. His ERA was 2.48 and struck out 76 batters in just 58 innings. He also contributed eight wins and 1.19 WHIP. There is no doubt Axford is the closer in Milwaukee. With the Brewers a strong contender to win the NL Central, Axford will get plenty of save opportunities. I expect 40 saves, low-2 ERA and 6-7 wins for Axford.
Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians
Similar to Axford, Perez had to battle for the closer spot in Cleveland. When Kerry Wood was injured starting the season, Axford got the call. He struggled with four saves and a 4.05 ERA in April. When Wood came back in May, Perez became the set-up man. Once Wood was traded to the Yankees, Perez became the closer again and this time he delivered.
Perez converted his last 10 save opportunities and 18 of 19. He enters 2011 with a scoreless streak of 14 2/3 innings. Perez finished with a 2-2 record, 23 saves, 4 blown saves, 1.08 WHIP and an excellent 1.71 ERA. He struck out 61 batters in 63 innings. I expect Perez to have at least 30 saves and a high-2 ERA.
Andrew Bailey, Oakland Athletics
I’m surprised Bailey isn’t drafted higher in the draft. Last season he converted 25 of 28 save opportunities, 1.47 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. The year prior, Bailey converted 26 of 30 with a 1.84 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP. Now I remember why Bailey isn’t drafted higher. Like everybody else on the A’s, health is a concern for Bailey. He already gave the A’s a scare when he had to visit Dr. James Andrews about his elbow. Fortunately, he only had a strained forearm and should not miss but a couple of weeks of the start of the regular season. If he can stay healthy, with strong A’s pitching and much improved offense, I expect Bailey to post low-30 saves and a 1.8 ERA for an A’s team that will contend for the AL West title.
I would not hesitate to go with these closers on my team. They provide great values because I can afford to draft them at later rounds and therefore opening up earlier rounds for offense and starting pitching.
Which closers do you think will surprise this year?