The baseball equivalent of “Late Round Quarterback” is “Don’t pay for Saves.”
It’s an effective strategy because of how volatile the position is. Last year, 49 different pitchers recorded at least five saves and 39 shut the door 10 times. The league leader in saves, Fernando Rodney, was one of the last relievers selected on fantasy draft day. Francisco Rodriguez went from a setup role in April to finish with 44 saves, and Zach Britton went from trading block to middle relief to eighth inning to 37 saves very quickly. The list goes on and on.
So we know we’re not going to spend a high pick on a closer. But who should we be looking at in the later rounds?
THE OAKLAND CLIPPER
Injuries are the first place we can find value. Athletics closer Sean Doolittle is rehabbing a torn rotator cuff in his pitching shoulder, a potentially disastrous injury. The team believes he can come back sometime in May, but that’s far from a certainty. What we do know is Tyler Clippard is a flyball pitcher playing in Oakland’s cavernous park, holds a career 2.88 ERA, will hold down the closer’s job until Doolittle returns and can be had in the 16th round or so.
Muddled bullpens sink relievers’ average draft positions (ADP). That’s the case in Houston, where Luke Gregerson has predictably emerged from Chad Qualls/Pat Neshek and won the closer role. But since Gregerson had to fight for the gig, his ADP is down in the 220 range – right around the dumpster fire that will be LaTroy Hawkins in Colorado. Note that the Astros will have plenty of save opportunities this year – Vegas has their win total at a respectable 75.5.
TRADE WINDS BLOWING
Fantasy basketball owners weren’t “lucky” that Reggie Jackson got traded and is exploding in Detroit. They knew that he was an impending free agent who the Thunder were very likely to move at the deadline. We can say the same thing about the Jonathan Papelbon situation, as the Phillies finally appear committed to a desperately-needed rebuild. Enter Ken Giles, who has some of the nastiest stuff in the league and is the heir apparent. Giles can still help deep leaguers even before Papelbon is dealt via the strikeout category.
NBA Pickups of the Week
Justin Hamilton, C, Wolves – With just about everyone on Minnesota hurt, the highly productive Hamilton is getting 25+ minutes.
Dennis Schroder, PG, Hawks – When/if this German import gets his nicked toe right, he’ll be a top-40 player for the final few games.
John Henson, PF, Bucks — Owners category hunting for blocks can add Henson and expect a fistful of them despite limited minutes.
New Broncos coach Gary Kubiak spent last season in Baltimore, but he has two eyes. So it should be no surprise that he’s already named C.J. Anderson his starter for the offseason program, a role we can expect CJA to maintain. He’s an ideal one-cut runner for Kubiak’s Shanahanian zone scheme, and runs with far more vision and burst than Montee Ball or Ronnie Hillman. With the Broncos seeking more balance as we dive further into Peyton Manning’s decline phase, Anderson has second-round fantasy value right now.