Fantasy baseball is a lot like Alice in Wonderland.
Yes, in fact, fantasy baseball, believe it or not, is just like its name insists: fantasy.
We have players that brim widely with a grin-beaming promise but then disappear faster than you can say Cheshire.
You’ve got fantasy analysts spitting and spewing out sleepers, busts, projections and research like a Mad Hatter at teatime.
Before you fall into that dark rabbit hole, understand this about fantasy baseball:
At the end of the day, no matter the amount of endless research and time taken to mock draft and analyze the most obscure of players, the final decisions lie in your hands. Find out whom you trust and whom you don’t, because ultimately, this is your team you’re going to manage.
Consider me just one of the many guides available to you to help dominate your league in 2010.
You’re late! You’re late! For a very important draft date! Give me your hand, as I will guide you through this fantasy wonderland towards a glorious rise to your fantasy baseball championship.
All projections and rankings are used from Yahoo! Sports.
The first rule of fantasy baseball: Don’t talk about fantasy baseball? No, Tyler Durden, the first rule of fantasy baseball is to never pay for saves. If there is one thing that all fantasy analysts can agree on, it is to never pay for saves. This piece of advice applies to almost every format, but more specifically towards those 10- to 12-team mixed-league formats where closers are plenty.
In fantasy baseball, players have particular value and depending on that value, there is a right time and place for them to be selected. While having an elite closer like Mariano Rivera or Jonathan Broxton is advantageous, blowing a 5th or 6th round pick on a commodity that every Major League baseball team has blows my mind. Here’s the first and last example you’ll ever need to stop paying for those saves. We’re going to play a quick game of name that closer based on 2009’s final stats.
Player 1- W-L 3-3 ERA 1.76 K 72 Walks 12 Saves 44
Player 2- W-L 6-4 ERA 2.71 K 79 Walks 24 Saves 42
Player 3- W-L 6-3 ERA 1.84 K 91 Walks 24 Saves 26
Behind door No. 1 is the most reliable closer in baseball in fantasy and reality for the past 15 years, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. Mo’ finished as the fourth-most valuable closer in Yahoo leagues while ranking as the 59th most valuable overall. To acquire Rivera’s services, however, you’re going to have to burn a sixth- or even a fifth-round pick, a hefty price compared to what’s hiding behind door No. 2.
Player No. 2 is San Diego’s hefty righty closer, former Mets farmhand Heath Bell. While Bell had a higher ERA and walk rate than that of Rivera in ’09, he was drafted after the first 200 players selected, nearly 140 picks after Rivera was taken. He gave similar stats with a dissimilar price tag. This year, Bell will be among one of the top 100 players taken, again proving the insanity behind paying for saves.
Player No. 3 ended up being the second-most valuable reliever in the land while ranking in the top 50 overall. Oakland Athletics rookie closer Andrew Bailey is the perfect and only reason why I’ll never draft high on saves again. Why? He wasn’t even drafted last year!
Even the Mad Hatter isn’t crazy enough to blow a fifth-round pick on a closer. There are guys that go undrafted each year that could give you similar value without costing you an early draft selection. Assessing a player’s value and properly executing draft picks for that value is essentially the name of the game.
Top Bargain Closers
1) Chris Perez RP
Has the dynamite stuff and high strikeout-to-walk ratio to make noise at the back end of the Cleveland bullpen. Perez inherits the closing role while Kerry Wood is expected to miss the first six to eight weeks due to a strained lat muscle in his shoulder. Pick up Perez towards the end of your draft and watch those K’s and saves roll in.
2) Octavio Dotel RP
Even closers on bad teams earn saves. In fact, Heath Bell led the NL with 42 saves for a team that won 75 games. Dotel takes his blazing fastball to the Steel City and is another closer where you won’t have to pay a hefty price tag for in order to put some saves on the board for your team.
3) Mike Adams RP
The San Diego setup man should get a chance to close out games when the Padres move current closer Heath Bell before or at the trade deadline. Hitters produce a microscopic .206 batting average against Adams for his career while compiling a 0.73 ERA in 37 innings of work. Stash him at the end of the draft but don’t expect saves right out of the gate until Heath Bell is moved.
If you’re still ignoring the universal advice of paying for saves and grabbing your elite closer then by all means, be my guest. You’ll just be another manager sitting for tea in Wonderland with the Cheshire Cat floating to the right of you whispering, “You’re taking closers in the fifth round? That’s OK. We’re all mad here.”