Well, I hope the last post gave you fantasy sports nuts a good idea on how to find that "Diamond in the Ruff"! Doing it with a closer is the best way to do it so you can save your early round picks on more important stud players. My way and my theory is something that works for me, if I can find that special bargain closer and I am confidant that this year it can be done with Chris Ray, Travis Bowyer and Chad Orvella. Will all three work out? Realistically, probably not! But yes, it is possible. Its about good planning and a lot of luck!
Since this is the part 2 of a three part series, today I want to talk about the "middle of the pack" guys. These are the closers who can be great but can also struggle. These are closers who may have question marks but can still give you the stats you need. These are middle to late round closers and not quite your automatic 40 save studs but have the potential to be 40 save studs. You are not going to select any of these guys within the first four rounds, I don't care what any fantasy magazine or website says. Will some of these guys break out, absolutely! Will some falter, absolutely! Will some disappoint, you can count on it! Will some of these guys do the exact opposite of what I say here, absolutely! Will some of these guys be picked in the first 4 rounds, probably! So with that being said...here we go (in my order from best to worst)......
1. Huston Street, RP, OAK - I know I know I treated him like God in my last post. I don't have Street into Elite status yet because in reality, he has still only given us one half of a season. Spectacular he was, but thats the reason he is not yet considered elite.
Fantasy Mans Advice: He will be after this year! Keeper leagues, grab him while he may still be cheap! If you have morons in your league...he will be!
2. Billy Wagner, RP, NYM - Billy had a career year for Philly last year even in a hitter's park with 38 saves and 87 K's. He's a Fireballer that never walks anyone! As long as he stays healthy, he'll be at the top of the pack in closers and may even have a 40+ save year with the Mets. But the reason I have Wagner after Street...no, not because the Fantasy Mag does, its because Wagner is now a Met. Yes, the Mets look good this year and yes, Shea is a good park for pitchers. But the fact is, the Mets either have a great year, or they are a disappointment. Although the roster on paper as of now is sweet, just be careful.....its something to think about.
Fantasy Mans Advice: Despite being a Met, he's worth a pick in the middle rounds even before Street. Just depends on how much you like the Mets I guess!....and I don't!
3. Trevor Hoffman, RP, SD - Hoffman is still a stud at 38. His fastball only tops around 90mph but he has a change-up to die for! With over 40 saves the last 2 years and the pitcher park he is in, expect 40 more. He also gets you a nice WHIP and a K per inning.
Fantasy Mans Advice: Its up to you who to take. If Hoffmans available and the best closer out there in the mid rounds and in your mind, dont hesitate but he certainly comes cheaper than the elite because he only plays for San Diego!
4. Bobby Jenks, RP, CWS - I have to rank Jenks a little higher than most. He came out of nowhere to help the Sox win a World Series. There's no doubt that Chicago found their closer of the future. He throws 100mph heat and with a full season will probably hit over 100 K's for a team that will compete again this year.
Fantasy Mans Advice: Grab him cheap in Keeper leagues but remember, he's not an unknown anymore. He will rank up higher this year because of his post-season coverage. A great pick if you get him, but don't wait too long!
5. Jason Isringhausen, RP, STL - Izzy stays up on my list because he is closing for the Cards so his opportunities should be plentiful. However, he is not as high on my list because he is very injuy prone and last year he was a scary sight in the 9th. His walk rate jumped and every inning reminded me of Armando Benitez when he was with the Mets......cover your eyes and hope for the best!
Fantasy Man Advice: Still a top closer when healthy and on a good team! If these other guys are gone, still a good choice as your top closer!
6. Francisco Cordero, RP, TEX - Here's a guy with nasty stuff, the problem last year was that Texas did not win enough and his opportunities were few and far between. That could possibly explain why his ERA jumped and his saves were down. With a revamped pitching staff in Arlington, Cordero's value could rise again. Definitely still a top 10 closer.
Fantasy Mans Advice: I think this year Texas will put it together now that they got Millwood and Eaton and have some sweet rookie pitchers coming up too. I'd take a chance on Cordero who'll regain his 40+ save status!
7. Chad Cordero, RP, WAS - Cordero had a breakout season thanks in part to an enormous pitchers park and the fact that the Nationals always kept the game close with their lack of offense. Expect much of the same this year for this 24 year old but 47 saves may be unrealistic. 35 - 40, yes, 45+, probably not but possible. It depends on the rest of the team.
Fantasy Mans Advice: Can be absolutely Lights OUT! Soon to be Elite!
8. Armando Benitez, RP, SF - Benitez ripped up his hamstring last year early and didnt return until August, which was still early. His ERA jumped but he had 15 saves after his return. He blew a few saves as he always does but he can still blow away hitters. He's not normally injury prone and should be fine this year. Benitez is always a scary thought and makes you want to cover your eyes, but he can rack up saves quicker than anybody. San Fran will be a mediocre team so look for Benitez to get a lot of opportunities.
Fantasy Mans Advice: He's below the elite only because he is Armando Benitez. He was fantastic in 2004 but his reputation from Shea overshadows. If you can grab him late, which you probably can, you'll be happy. He's a top closer with a bad rep that everyone will forget about or shy away from at draft day. Grab him and cover your eyes, I plan too!
9. Bob Wickman, RP, CLE - Wickman had a great comeback year last year with 45 saves, a career high! Now this year, the Indians project to compete so I am betting on Wickman having another fine year with atleast 35+ saves.
Fantasy Mans Advice: He's not "Lights out" but he works and gets the job done. He's getting up there in age but definitely has some gas left in the tank. Expect an injury free season.
11. Eric Gagne, RP, LAD - I probably should rank him higher but his elbow surgery last year knocks him down. However, he can still be devastating and should be healthy for the start of this season. Consider Gagne to be a nice value pick. Unless you have idiots in your league, Gagne shouldn't be anywhere near the first closers to go. Should be a nice bargain pick.
Fantasy Mans Advice: The answer to your question is yes, I would take Gagne before both Cordero's, Izzy, Benitez and Wickman. I should have ranked him higher but just not sure exactly what we'll get. Since its still early in the off season, we're not quite sure what kind of shape Gagne is in. If he looks good in spring training, feel free to move him near the top of this list! I won't be mad!
The rest of the pack.....
All of these guys are basically Young guys waiting in the wings, emergency picks, late rounders, and definitely bring some risk!
Derrick Turnbow - Should probably be in the list above but that would mean I'd have to knock someone off...but who? Turnbow can be a sweet pick up but remember, he plays in Milwaukee. Despite being on this list down here. He's a decent pick up and could be a sleeper for 35+ saves.
Kieth Foulke - Should be healthy but doesnt overpower anymore and is losing his touch. Could lose his job to Craig Hansen. Had surgies on both knees towards the end of last season.
Todd Jones - Not elite but may be good for 30+ saves in Detroit. He's old and you can do better.
Eddie Guardado - Needs surgery. Can still be "Everyday Eddie" but his health is an issue...look for a breakdown at some point if he doesnt get the surgery.
Tom Gordon - New home in Philly finally as a closer. He could be a sleeper or a bust depending on if your a Yankee fan or not like I am... so I say bust! But, Philly will be good this year so look for Gordon to probably save atleast 30 if he hangs around all year.
Ryan Dempster - He's a wild card but made a nice transition last year from being a starter. if given the chance, he could be a sleeper for 35+ saves.
Octavio Dotel - Now a set up man for the Yankees. Not much value for saves but great value as an extra set up man.
Brandon Lyon - Looks like Jose Valverde will get the nod this year.
Jose Valverde - First year starting as closer, small ballpark, could be good but expect growing pains and Greg Aquino still around. Not a good situation.
Danny Baez - Traded to the Dodgers so unless Gagne gets hurt, Baez doesn't have much value.
Brian Fuentes - two words.... Coors Field!
Mike McDougal - The Royals Suck! But he will probably start the season as the primary closer.
Kyle Farnsworth - Also now setting up for the Yankees. Could get a chance to close if Rivera gets hurt.
Miguel Batista - Look for Batista to go back to the rotation in Arizona.
Mike Timlin - Garbage
Dustin Hermanson - Garbage
Todd Coffey - Could close for the Reds but with Ryan Wagner lurking and the fact that Cincinnati is tiny, I wouldn't waste a pick.
Chad Orvella - See last post. Primary guy in Tampa. Stash Away!
Chris Ray - See last post. Could be primary to start season. Stash Away!
Travis Bowyer - See last post. Could be primary to start season. Stash Away!
Craig Hansen - Could take Keith Foulke's job in Boston by All Start break. Stash Away!
Some Set Up guys or Young ones to think about who could either fill in nicely for injured closers or just waiting in the wings.....I wouldn't waste picks on these but I'd surely read up on them....
Ryan Madson in Philly
Ryan Wagner in Cincy
Jesse Crain in Minny
Scott Linebrink in SD
Brandon League in Toronto
And that's all she wrote folks.....
Part 3 coming sometime in the next few days! We'll talk about the Elite!!!
ALSO..... Stay tuned for The Fantasy Man Show on Friday when the Fantasy Man reaches into the mail bag to answer your questions on his 3rd ever Podcast! You can download the first 2 Podcasts for free on iTunes or by going to www.s39online.com
Feel free to ask The Fantasy Man your questions on trades, keepers and draft strategies to be read on the next Podcast on Friday. Email those questions to FantasyManShow@aol.com