OK, I am finally ready to give away my ultimate strategy for drafting closers in 2011. Every season is different for many reasons.
1. How many closer jobs are locks and how many are up for grabs?
2. Who is coming off down years or injuries?
3. What new closers are entering the market?
4. What have the teams done to not only solidify their perspective bullpens, but also to create more opportunities for their closer?
5. Where are certain closers being valued because of their past season performances?
Let me start with this. It is just bad drafting and even analysis to assume that a normally great player will remain awful just because he had a bad season the year before.
Just about everyone has a bad season. Whether it’s because of injuries, both hidden and known, personal issues or just bad luck, it happens. It’s also exactly why sabermetrics is bull when it comes to fantasy baseball. It’s about as hit or miss as a good BB gun at 50 yards.
Back to draft strategy. In years past, I’ve told you to take a closer in the fifth, sixth or eighth rounds. Things are totally different in 2011.
Closers are generally being abandoned in this year’s draft because of some awful performances and burns last season like Jonathan Broxton. Because of that, I will tell you, wait till the 10th, late ninth at your earliest.
ADP (Average Draft Position)
First and foremost, consider ADP. You cannot live by it cause you will likely die by it. Using it has a useful guide and will certainly help you get the best value for the players you are drafting.
The best ADP Reports can be found at www.mockdraftcentral.com. Check them out. I’ll talk more about ADP throughout the article, just have that ready when you are drafting.
The following strategies are based on 12-team leagues that are Roto 5, Points, or Head-2-Head. They can be applied to other league sizes or systems, but those leagues are the basis for the strategy.
Strategy 1: Do not draft a closer until the 10th round.
There is so much value in this year's closer draft class that you can skip early closers and go for value later in the middle and late rounds.
If you wait till the 10th round, you will miss Mariano Rivera, Brian Wilson, Heath Bell, Carlos Marmol, and likely Neftali Feliz. Why anyone wants Rivera in the fifth or sixth round is beyond me.
He's 41, and granted, he's the best of all time, he only saved 33 games last year, and now, has Rafeal Soriano to give him needed rest. Let someone else have him.
I love Wilson and Bell, but both are due for some bad luck, and even if not, there are equal if not better closers a few rounds later.
Marmol is amazing, but you never know with his control or if the Cubs will win. Feliz is a great pick and could be available in the late ninth or even 10th round. I like him there.
Strategy 2: Take two closers in the middle rounds (10-17).
This is where you make your value picks. By the 10th round, you like have 2-3 pitchers and six position players.
Now it's time to strike. Here is a list of closers I'd take with the round I feel they should go in.
For rounds 10-13:
- Neftali Feliz; Round 9, maybe Round 10; He will only get better.
- Andrew Bailey; Round 10; Battled injuries in 2010 and the A's are better in 2001.
- Huston Street; Round 10 or 11; As long as he is healthy, he will be there.
- Jonathan Broxton; Round 11; Last draft season, Broxton was gone in the fourth. The 11th is a joke and a STEAL.
- Jonathan Papelbon; Round 11; You have to worry about last year and his 70-inning limit.
- Jose Valverde; Round 12; Great value in the 12th round.
- Francisco Rodriguez; Round 13; K-Rod is healthy and should have a better 2011. Hopefully, he won't punch family members!
- Chris Perez; Round 13; He's the real deal.
Call me crazy, but if you can end up with Andrew Bailey and Jonathan Broxton or Francisco Rodriguez and Jonathan Papelbon by Round 13, you are looking great. If you decide to only take one closer by Round 13, you are okay.
Let's look at Rounds 14-17:
- J.J. Putz; Round 14; His injury past worries me, but he looked great and is ready to close.
- John Axford; Round 15; If anyone is set up for a crash, it's Axford, but he is a great value in the 15th.
- Francisco Cordero; Round 16; I don't like Cordero, but he gets the job done.
I highly suggest getting two closers in the middle rounds. Grabbing two of those 11 closers will set your bullpen up, and you should be strong in the other positions as well.
Strategy 3: Get your third and if you want fourth closers in the late rounds (18-24).
There are some young closers to grab for your third and fourth slots.
- Drew Storen; He may not get to 30 saves but should have a solid season.
- Craig Kimbrel; He has amazing stuff and is a right-handed version of Billy Wagner. Plus, he closes for Atlanta. He's going in the 24th round according to ADP, but I wouldn't hesitate to take him in the 18th or 19th round.
- Matt Thornton; His job isn't 100 percent secure, but if he does keep the job, he will be a huge steal in the 18-20th rounds.
- Joe Nathan; It's amazing he has an ADP of 254. Nathan should be gone by the 14th round, but managers want to see he work. Okay, fine. Take him in the 18th round, and you will be A-OK.
- Fernando Rodney; He's up and down, but he closes for the Angels. Not too shabby in Round 20.
Getting one or two closers from that tier should wrap up your draft, but since millions of people read my work (jk!) Let's look at a few late-round steals for more bullpen depth.
Strategy 4: Getting the guys in the latest of rounds.
- Brandon League; He will close for the Mariners to start the season and could keep the job if he performs well. His ADP places him in the 33rd round, which means he won't even be drafted in most leagues.
- Joel Hanrahan; Hey, he's a closer. For now.
- Brad Lidge; I just won't touch this guy, but not a bad grab in the 25th round. If he's gone, thank the manager who took him, so you didn't have to.
- Frank Francisco; He will close for Toronto and is a straight-up steal anytime after Round 20. ADP has him at Round 27.
- Leo Nunez; I get it; Hensley is on his back. However, Nunez has the big contract and will unveil a new slider. Taking him in the 18th round is OK. How about just getting drafted?
- Jason Motte; I haven't mentioned Ryan Franklin cause I don't think he'll close that long for the Cardinals. It's Motte's job at some point. Drafting him with your last pick is a smart move.
- Jason McGee & Joel Peralta; McGee is a young, hard-throwing reliever, and Peralta looked good last year while he developed a nasty cutter. There is no closer in Tampa Bay, and one of these guys will be there for you.
- Chris Sale; If he doesn't start, he could close.
- Daniel Bard; If Papelbon has problems, Bard is the future closer and will get his chance.
Following the strategy, I gave you should net you four premium closers at great or at least solid values. It should also net you at least one middle reliever or future closer and give you a top-notch bullpen.
Remember, your bullpen will be responsible for up to 35 percent of your fantasy roto points.
By Todd Farino, www.thecloserreport.com