If there’s one position that fantasy players fret over more than others it usually is the closer if the league counts saves as a category. While some owners punt the category and it has worked at times, I don’t particularly like using that strategy. There are others who don’t chase saves during a draft or auction because the position is so volatile and prefer to get saves through FAAB or the waiver wire during the season. Due to the fact that closers are such a limited commodity and in high demand, I don’t like this strategy either. I don’t see much difference in chasing saves in the draft or chasing them during the season with waiver position or FAAB dollars.
I believe getting your closers before the season is the better option since it offers you more flexibility in how you build your overall roster. Since closers usually tend to go earlier or towards the middle of the draft rather than the end, I like that I can still take different roads to get to my final destination in creating my team. Waiting for in season acquisitions could tend to take resources from other spots where they are needed due to injury or poor performance. I don’t have to acquire the top end closers necessarily, but I want to try to leave the draft with two or three closers in tow. While it is still very early in the year, let’s take a look how these much sought after game enders are faring.
Arizona Diamondbacks – J.J. Putz has appeared five times this season and has four saves in those five chances. The big right-hander has allowed three runs in 4 2/3 innings for a 5.79 ERA. Two of the three runs against came off a gopher ball. Still, his job is very safe.
Atlanta Braves – Craig Kimbrel hasn’t allowed an earned run yet this year and is four for four in save chances. The second-year closer has struck out six hitters in four innings pitched but is a little rusty having issued four bases on balls to go along with four hits against in the same four inning span. There is nothing for Kimbrel owners to be concerned about at this time.
Chicago Cubs – Carlos Marmol has pitched in five games this year with one save, one blown save, and one loss to show for it. The wild throwing righty has four strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings but also has allowed four walks. This isn’t a good start considering he’s always fought with his control. A 2.40 WHIP and 8.10 ERA should have Kerry Wood owners licking their chops as long as he stays healthy.
Cincinnati Reds – Sean Marshall took over the role from Ryan Madson who is one of the latest victims for Tommy John surgery. Marshall has struck out four in his 3 1/3 innings of work and has a loss and a save to his record as well as better than a strikeout per inning. The left-hander has the job of finishing off games in his control.
Colorado Rockies – Rafael Betancourt is three for three in save chances. Colorado’s closer has appeared in five games and has allowed only one earned run which came off a home run. Betancourt has four strikeouts and sports a 1.20 WHIP and 1.80 ERA. No distress for his owners.
Houston Astros – With only two innings of work in two games, Brett Myers certainly isn’t being overused this year. However, that’s due more to how bad Houston is as opposed to Houston not having faith in the right hander’s ability to finish games. Myers does have two saves to go along with a .143 BAA. Even still, one has to believe Brett could be a trade candidate sooner rather than later.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Javy Guerra has made seven appearances and has five saves with one blown save for the year. Before the season, many people thought it would only be a matter of time before Kenley Jansen took over the closer’s role in Dodger-town. But Guerra hasn’t given anyone a reason to move him out of the role he currently has and his job is safe for the foreseeable future.
Miami Marlins – Heath Bell has been a major disappointment for his fantasy owners up to this point. One save, two losses, two blown saves along with a 2.75 ERA and 9.00 WHIP are very good reasons not to be happy with Bell’s performance. Despite the poor display, the Marlins are committed to the free agent signee.
Milwaukee Brewers – John Axford has started off 2012 a bit shaky. The tall right-hander has pitched 3 2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on three hits and five bases on balls. On the encouraging side, Axford is two for two in save chances and the eight hitters he has retired have all been via strikeout.
New York Mets – Frank Francisco has been a bit of a surprise as have the Mets in general. The 32-year-old has thrown five innings allowing six hits without a walk and two earned runs. Francisco has converted three of three save chances, striking out seven batters along the way. He needs to stay at the top of his game because the Mets do have other options if he falters.
Philadelphia Phillies – Jonathan Papelbon has pitched in five innings, allowing one earned run on a long ball and has been perfect in three save chances. The Boston Red Sox refugee hasn’t been overpowering, allowing more hits than innings pitched with fewer strikeouts than innings. Still, he has the job all to himself in Philadelphia.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Joel Hanrahan has one win and one save on his record so far. The 30-year-old is in what would be his second full season as the Pirates' closer but has been battling a hamstring injury. As a result, Hanrahan only has one victory and one save on the year. A little disconcerting is four bases on balls in only four innings of work, although his role as closer is very safe.
San Diego Padres – Huston Street only has one save on the year but has pitched magnificently. In four innings of work, the Padres' right-hander hasn’t allowed any runs on only one hit against and zero bases on balls. There are no concerns about Street at all at this time.
San Francisco Giants – Brian Wilson has succumbed to an elbow injury and will have the second Tommy John surgery of his career. Santiago Casilla seems to be the pitcher for the moment that will get the save chances and he has pitched very well although this could turn out to be the dreaded closer-by-committee.
St. Louis Cardinals – Jason Motte saved nine games at the end of the 2011 season and was anointed the closer for 2012. Motte has solidified his role with only one earned run off a home run in five innings. The Cardinals’ right hander has one win and two saves and has struck out seven hitters. If you have Jason Motte as one of your closers, you have no concerns.
Washington Nationals – Drew Storen had elbow surgery to remove bone chips in his throwing arm. Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez are sharing the save chances. Lidge has two saves and one blown save while Rodriguez has three saves and one loss. Both have pitched well with Rodriguez having the edge. But if there’s one thing we have learned over the years, it’s not necessarily who the better pitcher is, but rather who has the better opportunity.