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Fantasy Baseball: Be on the Lookout for Potential Closers

RotoExperts Staff June 18, 2014 3:37PM EDT
The saves category is a tricky one to figure out in Roto-style leagues.  One or two solid options can win you the category, but nobody has any idea which closers will actually keep their jobs. This season has been particularly crazy.

Francisco Rodriguez leads the Majors with 22 saves despite going undrafted in most Fantasy leagues. Zach Britton, Chad Qualls and Sean Doolittle appear to be legitimate closing options for the time being, but they weren’t even on Fantasy radars when the season started.

Joakim Soria has been among the most dominant closers in baseball with 15 saves and a 0.64 WHIP, but he was behind Neftali Feliz on the Ranger’s depth chart when Spring Training began. Feliz has a 3.97 ERA and three saves… for Triple-A Round Rock.

Sean Doolittle is very likely the A's future closer. Photo Credit: sec116pix

Sean Doolittle is very likely the A's future closer. Photo Credit: sec116pix

Jose Veras was a shaky closer entering Spring Training and the trendy thing to do was pair him with “closer-of-the-future type” Pedro Strop. Three months later, Veras is a minor leaguer in the Astros organization after being released by the Cubs. So Strop owners are delighted, right? Nope. The universally undrafted Hector Rondon passed Strop for saves in Chicago.

Huston Street was regarded as an injury-prone last resort closer when the season began. Street has picked up 18 saves with a 1.04 ERA while staying off the disabled list so far.

An AL-only owner would have been thrilled with the combination of Joe Nathan and Jim Johnson when the season began. Now? Not so much.

Imagine if one or two specific hitters would guarantee you the home run category? They would be either first-round picks or $40 players, depending on the league setup. But a closer that dominates the saves category can often be found on waivers.

The key is to identify potential save candidates before the hype. This way you can snatch them up at the first sign of trouble from the incumbent closer atop the depth chart.

Dellin Betances is emerging as the next Yankees closer, but he’s already too well known for this column. We’re looking for players with closer-upside to keep an eye on in very deep or dynasty leagues. Fantasy owners in respectable leagues are familiar with the game’s top setup men, so we’re digging deeper. Much deeper.

Don’t pick these guys up yet… but remember their names

Adam Ottavino – Everyone assumes Rex Brothers will inherit the ninth-inning role once LaTroy Hawkins falters. Back in May, Rockies manager Walt Weiss mentioned the possibility of Ottavino closing “down the road.” Unfortunately, Ottavino has taken a major step back in June with a 15.00 ERA over his last seven outings. If Ottavino regains his once-dominant stuff, remember that his manager feels saves could be in his future.

Kirby Yates – Yates dominated the International League with a 0.36 ERA and 16 saves before getting called up to help the Rays’ bullpen. He posted a 35:9 K:BB ratio over 25 innings Triple-A without allowing a single home run.  Yates has saved 52 minor-league games since being converted to a closer in 2012.

Kyle Crockett – The 2013 first-round pick became the first member of his draft class to reach the Majors when the Indians called him last month. He’s a true reliever and posted a 0.74 ERA and 23:3 K:BB ratio with six saves over two minor-league levels this season.

Tony Sipp – Once a big-time relief prospect, Sipp appears to finally be comfortable in the Majors. The 30-year-old Sipp has a 2.16 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and a 23:2 K:BB ratio. He might not ever get a chance to pitch the ninth, since he’s a lefty. Qualls is a candidate to be traded at some point so keep an eye on Sipp.

Vic Black – Mets fans have talked about Black as the “closer of the future” for a few years now.  He needs to stop walking so many batters to ever be considered for the role. In 18.2 minor-league innings this season, Black has an 18:17 K:BB ratio yet somehow managed a respectable 1.45 ERA. Since getting called up to the Mets last month, he’s issued eight walks in 12.1 innings.

Questions? Hit me on Twitter @briansflood

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