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No matter how much I preach the idea that locking down at least two strong closers to earn saves and supplement your pitching staff’s ratios is the way to go, many fantasy strategists still go the other way and opt to either wait until way late in their drafts or even ignore the position altogether. Their argument stands on the platform that the position is simply too volatile to invest in and saves can be easily had on the waiver wire throughout the year. But to make that work properly, your starting rotation must be filled with strong arms, your offense needs to be insanely powerful and you suffer no injuries throughout the year. If that’s the case, then sure, chase saves all year. Go ahead and use the bulk of your FAAB budget on whichever reliever du jour falls into the ninth-inning job on his respective team. However, I live in the real world and have yet to own a fantasy team that doesn’t suffer through injuries and the idea of not having enough FAAB dollars or good enough waiver priority to fix the problems as they arise makes me more than just a little queasy.
For me, going into the draft with the understanding that you won’t be looking at closers until the very end or even not at all seems pointless. I’m never the guy who takes Craig Kimbrel in the third round nor do I even recommend it, so let’s just squash that notion. But am I taking Greg Holland in the sixth or seventh? Absolutely. Are there still productive offensive guys to be had? Sure? Solid starters? Of course. But from strictly a value standpoint, Holland makes for an excellent choice and I could easily argue that his value there surpasses that of an Anibal Sanchez or Homer Bailey and even that of an Alex Gordon or Matt Wieters. He is an elite player at his position and the production he provides is top-shelf.
After that, I usually wait a number of rounds and find someone with good numbers and great job security. Guys like Jim Johnson, Addison Reed and even Steve Cishek make for great plays here as they have the job locked up, have proven themselves to be competent closers, have the full trust of their managers and have little competition for their jobs. Sure, there’s always a vulture circling over-head, but it would take an unbelievable meltdown for them to have the opportunity to swoop in. These guys are usually coming off the board between rounds 12 and 14. Better value than Brandon Moss or Tony Cingrani? I’d say so.
**side note** Auctions obviously run much different than snake drafts and to grab yourself a pair of strong closers, you’re probably looking at investing upwards of 30-percent of your pitching budget. You might think that too high but with the vast number of starters out there, and good starters at that, there will be plenty of under-$3 bargains to be had late.
If you choose to go for closers late, you may luck out and find a Nate Jones if he hasn’t already climbed up the ADP ranks too high, but more likely, you’ll be looking at LaTroy Hawkins, Jose Veras and Tommy Hunter. They might be interesting early-season options, but their ratios are likely to be shaky and none of them have decent job security. The leash might be a little longer in some case more than others, but in the end, they’re all going to end up in the same fantasy dumpster and you’re back to chasing saves all year and here’s where the problems start to arise.
When chasing saves on the wire, you simply don’t know what you’re buying. If these guys were really worthwhile closers, they would have had the job already, no? You don’t know if you’re buying a guy for a month or a week or even just a game. Who knows how long they’ll be getting save opportunities? But there you go, sitting last in the saves category and in need of a boost and you go and spend 20-percent of your budget on a guy who may not have even have the job by the time you read the boxscores the next day. How are you going to fix that hole at third base in July when Ryan Zimmerman lands on the DL for a month and you’ve already blown through a substantial portion of your budget for a grand total of eight saves?
The current situation in Cincinnati is a prime example. Sure, the nay-sayers will happily chime in with, “Look at Aroldis Chapman. That’s why you don’t pay for saves,” but the fact of the matter is that it was a freak accident and once he does return, his job is waiting for him. Ironically these nay-sayers are also the ones drafting Jacoby Ellsbury in the first round, but I’ll make fun of them for that another time. For this example, I’m talking about all the waiver hounds who are making moves to pick up J.J. Hoover.
With both Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall nursing injuries, Hoover seems to be the next logical choice for saves over the first month and a half while Chapman heals. But what is Hoover worth on the open market? How much do you spend on him? Do you drop someone from your bench to pick him up? For me, the answer is simple – not much. Reds manager Bryan Price hasn’t even committed to him and says that he will implement a committee situation until Chapman is back. Now sure, Hoover should see the bulk of the opportunities given Price’s other alternatives, but if he’s not seeing the work consistently, then what kind of a return are you getting for your investment? Especially when obtaining his services is going to cost you as you compete with the other saves-chasers and one very unhappy Chapman owner.
This is typical of the situations you will see throughout the year. Yes, there are some guys who we know to be the next in line should the incumbent fall, but more often than not, the picture remains quite murky on most teams. You never know for how long a replacement guy will hold the job or how effective he will even be. The impact on your ratios might not be too severe, especially since the guy might not even throw more than a dozen innings for you, but the impact will be felt during the waiver process. You’ll either run out of FAAB dollars too soon or simply not have enough to get a guy you really need later on in the season. While everyone else is looking to acquire players like Byron Buxton, Gregory Polanco and Eddie Butler, you’re left out in the cold because you blew your FAAB wad on Matt Albers and have nothing to show for it.
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