At your draft it is smart to wait on saves.
You should nominate all the Papelbons and Riveras early in your auction and watch your foes’ budgets disappear.
What are you left with? A couple “low-end” or “shaky” closers like Matt Capps and Mike Gonzalez who will get you 30 saves for the price of dirt. Fill out the rest of your fantasy bullpen with setup men in position for saves. There are quite a few potential closers who will lop that potential right off the front of ’em before 2010 is over. Some are ready to cash in now.
It’s worth noting that every one of these players has added value in leagues that reward you for holds.
Relievers who will be closers by the end of 2010, ranked in order of most likely to move into the role (so RPs who are already in the spot due to injury are at the top):
Chris Perez (Injured closer: Kerry Wood) — One guy I’m grabbing late or for $1. Wood hasn’t been healthy since Little League. Bold prediciton: Perez gets 30 saves this season.
Ryan Madson (Injured closer: Bad Lidge) — Lidge needs to resuscitate his dead arm. Madson will get some work until that happens. Then, after Lidge is still ineffective, Madson could take over completely. 25-30 saves? Maybe.
Franklin Morales (Injured closer: Huston Street) — Latest word out of Rockies camp is that Morales isn’t a lock to fill in until Street’s back. Manny Corpas is the other option.
Kevin Gregg (Closer in question: Jason Frasor) — Gregg’s the better closer. Unless he gets Marmoled when he gets his chance, he’ll take over for Frasor and finish with more saves. Scott Downs could be in line if neither of them are productive.
Jon Rauch/Matt Guerrier (Injured closer: Joe Nathan) — Rauch will get first crack, but Guerrier or Jose Mijares are good players to take a chance on late, too. This committee will get a lot of opportunities for saves, but unfortunately, the committee is two-to-three deep, that’s why they’re ranked this low.
Joel Hanrahan/Octavio Dotel — Neither of the Pirates closers will make 25 saves, but one of them will win the closer job… Then lose it. For stretches, either of them will get you a couple saves a week.
Brandon Lyon (Closer in question: Matt Lindstrom) — There are few more sure bets in fantasy baseball this season than Lindstrom not holding onto this job.
JJ Putz/Matt Thornton (Injured closer: Bobby Jenks) — Bobby Jenks’ inflamed calf — which would make a fantastic team name, by the way — was worrisome in mid-March, but he’s been effective in a couple games recently. Putz and Thornton could be effective replacements if Jenks gets banged up or proves ineffective.
Randy Choate (Closer in question: Rafael Soriano) — Soriano’s going cheap enough that he’s one of the closers I’d target. However, be ready to pull the trigger on a pickup the first time there is a question he can’t handle the job. JP Howell, Dan Wheeler and Grant Balfour could be other closer options for the Rays, but Choate is second right now according to MLB.com.
Fernando Rodney (Closer in question: Brian Fuentes) — Fuentes had a nearly 4.00 ERA last season, but he always seems to get 20-30 saves. If his 4.00 ERA starts costing the Angels games, Rodney will take over.
John Grabow (Closer in question: Carlos Marmol) — Glad to see Marmol finally get a chance — I’ve kept him in a dynasty league for each of the last two years. He has the tools but hasn’t always been effective in the ninth inning.
Takashi Saito (Closer in question: Billy Wagner) — Wagner’s one of my personal favorites, but the bottom line is health has never been one of his top assets and now he’s 38 years old. Saito’s older (40), but first in line to replace him.
Neftali Feliz (Closer in question: Frank Francisco) — Francisco will never get 70 appearances in a season like top closers. His ERA last season was around 4.00. If Feliz blows up hitters when Francisco gives him an opportunity, you won’t want to rely on waiver priority to get the fireball throwing prospect. If this list was based on talent, Feliz would be at the top.
Brian Bruney (Closer in question: Matt Capps) — Bruney is not an exciting closer option, but he’s second behind one of the shakier closer options in baseball in 2010. Capps saved 27 games last season but had a 5.80 ERA and had a 4.37 FIP. If you just threw up in your mouth a little bit, relax. That’s a common reaction.
Mike Adams (Closer in question: Heath Bell) — Bell was great in a setup role before really breaking out as a great closer last season. However, his ERA was well below his career numbers. If he regresses, Adams is the first in line to take over. Luke Gregerson and Edward Mujica are also in line.
Dan Meyer (Closer in question: Leo Nunez) — The only difference between Meyer/Nunez and Dotel/Hanrahan is that the Marlins have already chosen one as the closer to start the season. Like in the Pirates argument, expect neither of them to reach 25 but both of them to go through hot stretches.
What relievers are you targeting late? Who did we miss? Educate us in the comments.