Fantasy Baseball Strategies: When to Draft Closers in Fantasy Baseball

In Fantasy Baseball, Closers Can Come Cheap

Saves is a common scoring category for both rotisserie and head-to-head fantasy baseball leagues. While some fantasy baseball leagues might value Holds, Saves is typically the only relief pitcher statistic of any value. So, you’ll want to make sure you draft top-notch, top-shelf closers in your fantasy baseball draft, right? The Grey Goose of closers, correct? No. That’s not right. Did you read the title? Don’t draft closers early in fantasy baseball, if at all.

“But, what? You’re crazy,” you say. “Crazy like a fox,” I say. “A crazy fantasy baseball fox.” Pop quiz: How many of the 30 relief pitchers to own the closer role at the end of spring training in 2010 owned the role at the end of the regular MLB season? Let me tell you. It was 13. Less than half of the closers in 2010 kept their job throughout the course of the entire season. Some lost their job due to injury (Joe Nathan, Matt Lindstrom), poor performance (Jonathan Broxton, Chad Qualls, Trevor Hoffman) trades (Octavio Dotel, Brian Fuentes) or even beating the crap out of their girlfriend’s father (Francisco Rodriguez).

What does this mean? It means that unlike death and taxes, closers aren’t a certainty. And, if you are willing to scour your waiver wire, do a little research and read fantasy baseball advice websites throughout the season, there could be as many as 17 closers available from time to time.

Heath Bell

Heath Bell was the Second Best Closer in Fantasy Baseball in 2010
Heath Bell was the Second Best Closer in Fantasy Baseball in 2010 | Source

It’s a somewhat risky strategy as one closer in the hand is worth two in the bush and whatnot, but if you claimed John Axford, Neftali Feliz and Brandon Lyon on your fantasy baseball team, you still would have accumulated 84 Saves in 2010. Then pick up one or two others relief pitchers (Juan Gutierrez, Ryan Madson, Franklin Morales) when a MLB team’s regular closer is injured or make a trade late in the season and you likely can get to 100.

According to Roto-Authority, it typically takes around 102 Saves to win that scoring category in rotisserie fantasy baseball. Even if you’re only able to finish in the top three or four in Saves, that’s still a win considering you didn’t draft a single closer and should be very strong in other areas.

Drafting Closers Late in Fantasy Baseball

Maybe big gambles aren’t your thing? Maybe you’re no Kenny Rogers? The idea of leaving your fantasy baseball draft without a single closer could induce panic. That’s fine. Baby steps. You can take a more conservative approach to getting closers in fantasy baseball and still keep your first 15 picks for hitters and starting pitchers. After all, closers may help a little with WHIP or Ks, but essentially they are just there to get you Saves, so why not use your early picks on 5-tool players and pitchers and hitters that can help in multiple fantasy baseball categories?

According to Average Draft Position (ADP) charts on ESPN, on average 10 closers were taken within the first 10 rounds of 2010 fantasy baseball drafts, guys like Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Broxton and Heath Bell, for example. Of those 10, only five finished in the top 10 in Saves. If you ask me, 50/50 results are too big of a risk for a top 10 pick. However, if you could have stuck to your guns and were wise and frugal in 2010, you could have waited until the 17th round or later to draft Matt Capps, Leo Nunez, Brad Lidge and Kevin Gregg. Any combination of three of those closers would have resulted in over 110+ Saves for your fantasy baseball team, essentially guaranteeing you a top spot in the category.

So, if Saves are there for the taking late in fantasy baseball drafts, why not wait? “Wait until late for closers,” that should be your new fantasy baseball mantra. Bumper stickers are being made.

Fantasy Baseball Closers Saves/ADP in 2010

Closer
2010 Saves
2010 ADP
Brian Wilson
48
118.8
Heath Bell
47
107.7
Rafael Soriano
45
161.8
Joakim Soria
43
89.6
Matt Capps
43
223.2
Francisco Cordero
40
109.7
Neftali Feliz
40
222.5
Carlos Marmol
38
175.8
Bill Wagner
37
154.7
Kevin Gregg
37
260
Jonathan Papelbon
33
79
Mariano Rivera
33
55.8
David Aardsma
31
179.4
Leo Nunez
30
211.1
Ryan Franklin
27
173.5
Brad Lidge
27
225.8
Bobby Jenks
27
184
Jose Valverde
26
124.2
Francisco Rodriguez
25
88.8
Andrew Bailey
25
125.8
Brian Fuentes
24
164.2
John Axford
24
260
Matt Lindstrom
23
233.4
Chris Perez
23
235.2
Octavio Dotel
22
201.6
Jonathan Broxton
22
61.9
Jon Rauch
21
203.6
Brandon Lyon
20
260
Huston Street
20
184.2
Alfredo Simon
17
260
Stats and ADP provided by ESPN

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