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FANTASY BASEBALL 2014 – Closers with New Teams

Patrick Mayo Staff Writer January 29, 2014 5:45AM EDT
Pat Mayo (@ThePME) takes a look at the Fantasy Baseball values of Joe Nathan, Jim Johnson and Joaquin Benoit now that they’ve signed as free agents with new teams…

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RPs In New Places

Addison Reed (ARZ) ADP: 138 – If you believe in a ridiculous concept like “closer’s mentality” then you’ll be happy to know Reed has it – he collected 69 saves over the past year and a half with the White Sox. And, since the Diamondbacks front office still believes it’s 1983, they put a lot of stock into very arbitrary things like saves. While it’s ludicrous for a Major League team to make transactions based off a stat that tells you nothing significant about a player’s ability, Reed couldn’t have landed in a better spot for his fringe skills. He’s not a dominant closer by any means; over the past two seasons Reed’ has fanned a hair over a batter an inning (9.02 K/9), walked almost three (2.92 BB/9) with an ERA over 4. Yet, because of manager Kirk Gibson’s “old school” way of managing, he’ll be completely committed to Reed even if he struggles. And really, after the elite arms are off the board, job security is the most important trait you should seek out in a closer.

John Axford (CLE) ADP: 280 – Axford’s three-year run as the Brewers’ finisher came to an abrupt end last April when he caught a crippling case of the can’t keep the ball in the parks, ceding five HRs in the month. He was shipped off to St. Louis with a 4.45 ERA to his credit, and completely turned it around. In 13 appearances with the Cards in September, Axford allowed just a single run to cross the plate. That one month earned him a deal and closers gig in Cleveland. But, with the overflow of power arms already on the Indians’ roster, he’ll need do something about that pesky HR/FB rate which has sat above 17.2% the last two years.

Jose Veras (CHC) ADP: 299 – Veras is a middling closer at best. He’ll likely begin the year as the ninth inning man in Cubs bullpen, but if Chicago falls out of contention (as has become custom), Veras will be one of the first pieces to be sold off.

LaTroy Hawkins (COL) ADP: 267 – We’ve witnessed the LeTroy Hawkins ninth inning Experience in before, he’s proven his futility. He simply can’t retire right-handed batter; an odd spilt for a northpaw. Over the past two years, righties have hit a crisp .292 off Hawkins while lefties have managed a paltry .228. Weird. Expect him to get shoved aside for Rex Brothers (or maybe Matt Belisle) rather quickly, so he can return to his proper role as a situational reliever.

Grant Balfour (TB) ADP: 184 – Four straight seasons with a sub 2.59 ERA and now in Tampa, where close games are more than a common occurrence. Balfour could finish as a Top-5 option at the position through his opportunity and elevated strikeout rate (10.34 K/9 in 2013).

Joe Nathan (DET) ADP: 94 –  Nathan was exceptional during his two seasons in Texas, and there’s no reason he won’t remain among the elite at the position with the Tigers. His job’s about as secure as it gets. Plus, his strikeout rate hovered above 10 again last year, but there are a few red flags. Such as an expected ERA almost two points higher than his actual number (a product of a 3-percent home run to fly ball rate). Nathan hadn’t been below 9-percent since 2007. So beware of that dreaded REGRESSION.

Jim Johnson (OAK) ADP: 136 – Everything was up for Johnson: ERA, HR/FB, Walks, BABIP, Stand Rate; but from an advanced stat perspective, he was basically the same as his dominant 2012, just a lot unluckier. I’m pretty certain it’s why the A’s went and acquired him. Their spreadsheet acumen is well documented. And now, in a far more spacious ballpark, Johnson’s extreme fly ball tendencies can be masked. Plus, he’s moving to a division with more generous stadiums to hurlers in general. He’s undervalued.

Jesse Crain/Chad Qualls (HOU) ADP: 478/429 – The two will take extreme liberties with the term “competition” during Spring Training for the closing gig in Houston. But, as Jose Veras showed last season, the Astros just don’t win enough games to make either a viable Fantasy option.

Joaquin Benoit (SD) ADP: 290 – Benoit’s back in a familiar role in San Diego; a set up man who’s likely better than the closer blocking his path Fantasy relevance. Fortunately, the Padres lockdown arm is Huston Street, who’s always hurt. Benoit’s a stay away in shallow formats, but if you’re searching for handcuffs to stash on the back end of your roster, Benoit’s near, or at the top of that list.

*ADPs provided by the NFBC

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