Closers are always at a premium on draft day, especially when managers kick off a rush to select these ninth-inning relievers at a feverish pace. While many managers could get caught up during these “closer binges”, there are certainly options that some fantasy managers might not be paying much attention to.
Here are some situations that fantasy managers might want to keep an eye on as draft day approaches:
Seattle Mariners – Tom Wilhelmsen has only had one season of closing games under his belt, but he will go into the 2013 MLB season as the Mariners' closer. After recording 29 saves, four wins, and a 2.50 ERA during the 2012 MLB season, Wilhelmsen is a reliever that fantasy managers should certainly keep a close eye on once their respective draft day rolls around.
While Wilhelmsen recorded a 3:1 K:BB ratio last season, he also managed to allow five home runs – a total that fantasy managers might want to monitor for the upcoming season. Even though the Mariners might not make it out of A.L West cellar this season, Wilhelmsen should be one of the few bright spots out of the Seattle bullpen. Fantasy managers shouldn't hesitate to take a flier on Wilhelmsen as he is more than likely to duplicate his totals from the 2012 season in quiet fashion.
Houston Astros – With the Astros moving to the American League, things will not get easier for a rebuilding Houston franchise. Even though Jose Veras is slated to be the Astros' closer as of now, anything can happen in the next two months.
Jose Veras might be penciled in as the team's closer for now as he has the necessary ninth-inning experience under his belt, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Josh Fields, Jarred Cosart, or Wesley Wright vying for the closer's role if Veras proves to be ineffective. Fantasy managers should hold off on drafting Veras in their respective leagues as it is unknown how well the Astros will handle a move to the A.L West. If anything, fantasy managers should keep Veras, Fields, Cosart, and Wright on their watch-lists as the Astros might rotate their ninth-inning man throughout the 2013 MLB season.
Detroit Tigers – After not resigning Jose Valverde to another contract, it seems as though the Tigers are comfortable with tabbing Bruce Rondon as the team's new closer. Not much is known about Rondon and his ability to close at the major league level, but his BB/9 ratio was very high while the reliever worked in the closer's role in the minors.
While Rondon might not have the impeccable control that other veteran closers have, he has a fastball that can reach 100 mph and a nasty change-up. Fantasy managers should certainly not buy high on Rondon on draft day, but those in deeper leagues might want to consider taking a flier on the reliever when their drafts get into the later stages.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Jason Grilli certainly worked hard over the last two seasons to earn himself the closer's job for the Pirates. Once Pittsburgh traded away Joel Hanrahan to Boston, Grilli was certainly the next in line for ninth-inning duties.
As the Pirates' eighth-inning setup man, Grilli recorded 32 holds, a 2.91 ERA, a 4:1 K:BB ratio, and a 1.14 WHIP during his 2012 MLB campaign. While fantasy managers might be concerned about the seven gopher balls that the reliever allowed (due to his propensity to get fly ball outs) throughout the 2012 season, the upside to the reliever is certainly greater than his downside. Grilli has six years of relief experience under his belt, and fantasy managers should certainly draft the reliever if he is available on draft day.
Toronto Blue Jays – Janssen might not be the most seasoned option to close for the Toronto Blue Jays, but he might be a reliever that goes under the radar on draft day.
Janssen saved 22 games for the Blue Jays during the 2012 MLB season and his 6:1 K:BB ratio can certainly be an attractive stat for fantasy managers. Even though Janssen gave up seven homeruns in 63.2 innings pitched last season, he kept his ERA (2.54) and WHIP (0.86) to a very respectable clip, something that should definitely warrant considerations from fantasy managers on draft day. While some might be concerned about Janssen's lack of experience in the closer's role, managers should still feel confident drafting the reliever during the later stages of their draft as he might be an option that few fantasy managers will be considering.
Minnesota Twins – Glen Perkins might be the most interesting option to watch out for in 2013 when it comes to ninth-inning duties. Perkins finished the 2012 MLB season with 16 saves, 11 holds, a 2.56 ERA, and a 1.04 WHIP. While Perkins and Jared Burton might share ninth-inning duties during the 2013 season, Perkins is more than capable of holding down the closer's role on his own.
Perkins had an almost 5:1 K:BB ratio during the 2012 season, and the reliever has been a steady contributor out of the Minnesota bullpen for the last two years. Fantasy managers in deeper leagues might want to keep a very close eye on Perkins and Burton when their draft day rolls around as both relievers could ultimately wind up sharing ninth-inning duties for the Twins. However, if Perkins is tabbed as the man for the job between the time of this post and your respective draft day, then don't hesitate to take a chance on the lefty reliever as you might just be pleasantly surprised on your return.