The baseball season is only nine days away. Nine days. We are officially in a single-digit countdown. By this point, you should have either held your fantasy baseball draft or are going to draft very soon. I’ve written extensively on fantasy baseball already, so you can check out some assorted links, here. Today, I want to present my curious case when drafting closers.
Simply: As a whole, I don’t trust closers. I never have trusted them and probably never will. To me, there are only four closers who I can truly say that I trust drafting this season(Jonathan Broxton, Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, and Joakim Soria). Even after evaluating this list, there are question marks surrounding each of these closers. Broxton has had injury problems in the past. Soria does not put up big save numbers. Papelbon’s walks total and fly balls rates increased to career highs in 2009. Mariano Rivera is as close to bullet-proof as you’ll find, but he is 40 years-old now. Are you willing to pay a premium(70th overall; 6th round) for him? As great as Rivera has been, I can’t justify selecting him that high. Some teams paid a premium for Joe Nathan this earlier this off-season and now he’s out for the year. In addition to Nathan, Oakland’s Andrew Bailey is having arm problems. Colorado’s Huston Street is starting the season on the DL. My point being, no closer is bullet-proof and all of them have question marks in relation to their roles and health.
Traditionally, the ‘closer run’ will occur in roughly the 6th-7th round where owners will add one of the premium relief arms. Owners who do not take part in this run(yours truly) find great value among hitters and starting pitching. In one draft, a closer run started early in the 5th round and Jon Lester fell to me at pick 70. Talk about a steal.I’ll normally wait until the 10th round before I start thinking about drafting a closer. However, if I’m in the 9th round and Joakim Soria is still available, I’m selecting him. It’s all about value when drafting closers.
My reasoning for waiting on closers: The value of other positions available in Rounds 6-10 are superior to those players available in Rounds 11-15. I’ll take the Adam Lind/Heath Bell combination every time over the Jonathan Papelbon/Shane Victorino pairing. Unless you can lock down a top arm at a good value, the closer’s role is extremely volatile and worth waiting for.
Fun fact: 50% of the closers who start the season with a team, do not finish in that role with that team.
My advice: Load your team up with quality bats and grab a few elite starting arms in your draft. I normally like to built my teams with power bats that hit for average and high strike out pitchers that I can get at a value(Lester, De La Rosa, Greinke). I like taking late-round flyers on new closers with big potential. (Soriano, Perez, etc). New closers always emerge throughout the season, so keep tabs on injuries and act quickly on the waiver wire.
What’s your strategy when drafting closers?Photo Credit: moondogsports.com