There is a popular notion among fantasy baseball owners which states, “Don’t Pay for Saves”. In other words, it can be a little risky using early round draft picks on selecting closers. The position is notably volatile and closers often come and go throughout any given season. If you subscribe to this theory, it may be in your best interest to consider some sleepers among relievers heading into your fantasy draft. Once the top few reliable pitchers are off the board, there are some relief pitchers who may provide good value in relation to where you should be able to get them in your draft.
Brett Myers (HOU) –
In a somewhat surprise move, the Astros have named Myers as their closer for 2012. He makes a move from the starting rotation into the 9th inning role, one which he held briefly for the Phillies in 2007. Sure, Houston won’t win many games this year, but the ones they do will most likely be close games and that means Myers should get his fair share of save opportunities. His fastball has seen a drop in velocity over the past few seasons, but the move to the bullpen may actually help. Without the prospect of throwing 200 innings, he can go out there and give it a little more gas this year.
Kenley Jansen (LAD) –
Manager Don Mattingly has stated that he is going into camp expecting Javy Guerra to be his team’s closer. However, Jansen has the stuff to hold down the role, as his gaudy 16.10 K/9 will attest. Sure, he’s a little bit wild but he did end the year on a good note with a stellar September. He should wrestle the 9th inning role from Guerra at some point. When he does, he could be fantasy gold.
Brandon League (SEA) –
With David Aardsma recovering from Tommy John surgery (and gone to the Yankees), the closer’s role is League’s. He seemed to work out his command issues with his nasty slider last season and it helped make him a much more effective pitcher. Seattle also has some decent middle infield defence and any games the club wins should be close. League could be a nice pick up.
Vinnie Pestano (CLE) –
With closer Chris Perez out for 4-6 weeks with an oblique injury, Pestano could get a shot as Cleveland’s closer sooner rather than later. Moving Pestano into the 9th inning role looks to be inevitable at any rate at some point in the future as Perez has seen a marked drop in his K/9 over the past few seasons and was particularly ineffective in the second half of 2011. Pestano tops Perez in most peripherals, including a nifty 12.19 K/9 and an utter dominance of right-handed batters.
David Robertson (NYY) –
Robertson is one of the rare relief pitchers that doesn’t need to get saves to give you fantasy value. However, one of these years, Mariano Rivera is going to start slowing down, right? Okay, maybe not, but if anything happens to Rivera in regard to injury, Robertson will be ready to step into the closer’s role. At the very least, you will have one of the best bullpen arms on your fantasy roster ready to step into the 9th inning role on one of the best teams in baseball. That definitely has fantasy value.
If you don’t walk away with one of the top fantasy baseball relief pitchers in 2012 at your draft, you can always turn to the sleeper picks. You might just get a surprise or two.
* Brett Myers photo by bridgetds on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
* Brandon League photo by smswigart on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons