Year in and year out you get to a round in your Fantasy Baseball draft when the dreaded first closer gets drafted. Whether it is Wade Davis, Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman, it’ll spark a closer frenzy in the draft and like the vortex in the draft tornado, it’ll suck you in. This is when every manager panics, selects the “relief pitcher” setting on their draft board and the closers fly off one by one.
There’s a huge problem with this mentality: Closers today are a dime a dozen. The way I see it, closers are only worth one category, and all the while, you’re paying for a stat that is hard to count on because of the high turnover at the position these days. Now, you can argue that closers can help your ERA, WHIP and get you a few strikeouts. However, it seems more often than not that teams look at their closer as a replaceable cog in their bullpens wheel.
Of the 30 teams in the MLB in 2015, there was a permanent change at the closer role in a shocking 17 teams. Meaning more than half the league traded out their original closer (that a Fantasy manager more than likely took with a mid-round pick) for a guy that suddenly became worthless. Mind you, if you fall asleep on the next guy in line for the ninth inning, you’re now playing catch up in the saves department.
Each and every year I benefit from my draft by letting managers stretch for the best of the best closers. In doing my own homework and research I find the guys that no one pays attention to, but they’ll ultimately produce results by seasons end. Best part about it, I draft these closers, or closers in waiting, at the tail end of the draft.
With this long-winded statement I present to you the 2016 Relief pitcher sleepers.
Relief Pitcher Sleepers
Mixed League Sleepers
Drew Storen, Toronto Blue Jays
Now the verdict isn’t out in Toronto, but I believe that Storen will win the job out of Spring Training. While Storen had a career high 11 K/9 in 2015, he suffered a midseason collapse when the Nationals signed Jonathan Papelbon. While the closer in 2015 for the Blue Jays, Roberto Osuna, proved serviceable, he is more of a set-up man than a closer. Storen is a proven closer and with the Jays in to win it now, Storen is their best option in the ninth.
Joaquin Benoit, Seattle Mariners
Talk out of M’s camp is that newly acquired Steve Cishek is the closer for Seattle. However, Cishek had a rough time in 2015 across two teams (Marlins and Cardinals). In 55.1 IP, he had a 4.4 BB/9 and only had four saves in nine opportunities. Benoit, on the other hand, held batters to a miniscule .159 BA and sported a 0.90 WHIP over 65.1 IP. Benoit should be monitored on draft day because I truly believe Cishek’s leash will be very short in Spring Training and Benoit has been one of the best setup men in his long major league career.
Will Smith, Milwaukee Brewers
Smith should take the closer role now that Francisco Rodriguez is pitching in Detroit. The Brewers struggled last season and this season looks to be more of the same. That being said, Rodriguez managed 38 saves last season, so someone will be the recipient this season and why not Will Smith? Smith has a knack for making hitters miss, which was evident by his 12.9 K/9 in 63.1 IP last season. However, monitor Spring Training as a closer has yet to be named.
Jake McGee, Colorado Rockies
Newly acquired McGee should slide right into the ninth inning slot for Colorado. The Rockies had a mess on their hands last year in the ninth inning and they got themselves a steal in their deal with the Rays. McGee was a great set-up man boasting a .938 WHIP and an 11.6 K/9 over 37.1 IP. At this point, it seems Jason Motte may be his primary competition for the spot. Motte was solid with the Cardinals in 2012 as their closer, but has not done much since.
Alex Colome, Tampa Bay Rays
Colome found his grove when he went to the bullpen last year. He pitched to the tune of a 2.66 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 44/7 K/BB rate in 40.2 IP. Brad Boxberger was a tad shaky last year and now with Jake MeGee being shipped out to Colorado, Colome could be the next man in line for the ninth if the Rays pull the plug on the inconsistent Boxberger.
Ryan Madson, Oakland Athletics
Billy Beane pulled out his wallet for mid-rotation help this off-season and Madson benefited greatly. Does Mr. Beane happen to know something we don’t know? His closer Sean Doolittle missed most of last year and looks to be healthy. While Madson looks to take over the eight inning role in 2016, if Doolittle can’t get back to where he once was a couple years ago, the veteran Madson could look to be the closer for the A’s. Yes, John Axford was also brought in during the offseason, but he does not overpower hitters with a career 7.9 K/9 and he walks a ton with a career 4.5 BB/9 and an abysmal 5.2 BB/9 in 2105.
Carter Capps, Miami Marlins
The Marlins have announced that last years closer A.J. Ramos and setup man Capps will duke it out in Spring Training over the closer role. Capps looks to have the leg up due to high strikeout potential and his nasty repertoire, but nothing is certain. In 2015, Capps was nasty over 31 IP with a 1.16 ERA, .806 WHIP and 16.8 K/9. Ramos will more than likely get drafted before Capps given that he was the Marlins closer last season and faired well. However, Ramos did blow six saves (32 opportunities) and with Capps’ ability to make hitters swing a miss at the cyclic rate, this should make for an interesting battle.
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