Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Fantasy Man Talks "Closers of 2006" - Part 1

Filling your Fantasy team with stud closers can literally make or break your team! Some say that since closers are only one-dimensional, you can do better if you just skip the entire category all together. The Fantasy Man says..... Thats a load of crap!

The saves category can and will make or break your team. Below is 4 step process to playing the "saves game". Make sure you pay attention to what I did because if you plan correctly, you can suddenly find a way to climb the charts half way through the season and spark your team into the money like I did last year...here's how....take my team for example.

Step 1: Study! - Last year I did my fair share of studying. I play in an auction style keeper league for $200 a year which is quite competitive. My goal was to find a cheap source of saves towards the end of the draft when I had a low mount of cap money left. The object here is to find the ultimate bargain, the needle in the haystack, and then sit back and wait!. Last year's "Ultimate Bargain".....Huston Street! And the rest is history!

Step 2: Study some more! As your studying, look to see who is on the fast track to making it to the majors or who has a shot to close this year. With Street for example, in some of the early mags, writers raved about this guy just coming out of college and predicted he was going to close by the All-Star break but the problem was he was held back by Oaklands current closer, Octavio Dotel. So try to examine all the current closers, their set up men, and then the prospects lurking not too far behind. See what everyone is saying. As we all know, Dotel went down with a season ending injury and Street, although stuggled a bit a first, came on strong for the entire second half.

Step 3: Get that cheap player! As for my team, the lowest bid we can put on a player during an auction draft in my personal league is $.20 cents. We have a $55 budget and a 23 man active roster. Its the equivalent to a $1 player in $260 cap leagues. So what I did was I saved spots on my roster for cheap .20 players that I could bid on when no one else had any money left. When I threw out "Huston Street....20 cents!" Everyone looked at me like it was my first day playing Fantasy Baseball. "Who the hell is that?" someone asked. "Dont worry who he is, but he'll be closing in Oakland by July", I said. I also grabbed Brandon League who was in the same situation in Toronto for $.20. But Miguel Batista played well and Brandon League couldnt keep up. So out of the two gambles I took, Street panned out great and is my saves anchor as a keeper on every team I own going into this season. So Step 3 is to take the gamble, wait until the end of the draft, and then strike it rich when everyone leasts expects it. Then, if you have a reserve/bench draft, I drafted other pitchers with value to use until my cheapies are ready.

Step 4: Take a look at these potential Closers who could either make it out of spring training as the primary closer or make it out there at some point in the season. The list is short...but pay attention....

Chris Ray, Balt - in 40 innings last year, Ray had 43 K's in his first stint in the Majors. He's coasted through the minors so far and with BJ Ryan shipped off to Toronto, all that stands in his face is Jorge Julio, who my friends, is not the option Balimore is looking to give the ball too. Assuming he has a normal spring, currently expect Ray to be the primary closer in Baltimore. Look to scoop him up in the late rounds. However, the word is out on Ray, so make sure you grab him in a timely fashion.

Travis Bowyer, FLA - Same idea as Ray with the Innings/K's ratio but with a little less major league experience with only 9.2 innings pitched. However, with the Marlins firesale this off season, Bowyer is currently the penciled in closer. He has an upper 90's fast ball and could be a K machine. Expect growing pains but is he is someone to stash away until the break.

Chad Orvella, TB - Goodbye Danny Baez, Hello Chad Orvella! Although no Tampa player is ever attractive in Fantasy Baseball, this year could be a decent year for the Rays. That means that new tentative closer, Chad Orvella, could turn some heads. In his brief stint in the majors last year he posted 50 innings and 43 k's...not bad! But with Baez shipped out to LA, that leaves the door wide open for Orvella who has a strong arm, fastball, slider and a nasty Change up. He is the guy of this years draft that people may say..."Who the hell is this guy?" Grab him and stash him for later.

Step 5: Lastly, as I did, watch your team climb the charts in July and August when you put your new star closer in the lineup. Then, collect that prize money. Its the single best way to vulture points midway through the season, but like I said, you have to Plan and Study!!! Last year, in May, I was in dead last, in July, my team sparked and I was lingering in 6th and 7th. In the last 2 months, when I put Street in with my other 2 closers (Benitez, who I had stashed all year because he was hurt and Lidge who I acquired in a trade), I ended up in 3rd and in the money thanks to my rise in the saves category.

Now, here's the deal. I am NOT saying you should wait until the end of the draft and then get these guys. What I am saying is you dont necessarily have to waste a 3 or 4th round pick on a Brad Lidge or a Mariano Rivera when you can get an Armando Benitez and a Bobby Jenks in the later rounds and then grab some insurance with the guys I listed above. My thing is that I do not like to give up in saves. Assuming you have a normal team, you can stay competitive with 2 closers for the first half then we desperate measures call halfway through the year and Chris Ray is suddenly on fire, feel free to bench your weakest starting pitcher and start your hidden gem, your ultimate weapon, your secret saves guy!

Part 2: We'll go over this years Stud Closers
Part 3: The rest of the bunch!

The Fantasy Man....OUT!

Be sure to catch the The Fantasy Man Show and my next Podcast on iTunes. You can also download it at www.s39online.com

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