Closer is the most complicated position in Fantasy Baseball. If you talk to five different people, likely four of them have different strategies on how they value closers. Some people want to be sure they get a couple of the elite, some people refuse to draft them and just wait until jobs change during the season, and others are a hybrid of those. They all can agree they do not want overvalued closers.
So, not only do closers have different values to different people, it is the most fluid position on the field. Let’s face it, they don’t call it the closer carousel for no reason! Every year I would say at least 10 teams finish the season with a different guy manning the ninth inning than they started with in April. How is someone expected to succeed in the draft with these factors?
To add to the fun, closer is a position largely based on confidence and for some guys it can be shaken easily. You could have a reliever who is cruising through the season, hit a rough patch in August, and is never able to recover. Or a closer could be lights out one season, and unable to hold the job the next year. It is enough to drive a Fantasy owner to drink!
I guess what I am trying to get at here is the difficulty of staying away from overvalued closers. The good news on this front is that even if you do find a few guys who don’t live up to their draft position, you will have many opportunities to work free agency during the season to fix your team.
The following are three closers that I feel are being overvalued this draft season. One is a guy that I feel has been declining already, one I don’t think has enough experience for his draft position, and one just doesn’t have the stats to back up the ADP that he is currently at. As always, please follow me on Twitter @fightingchance.
Jonathan Papelbon, Washington Nationals
He hasn’t had a bad season in a few years, but Papelbon is not what I would call elite material, or one of the Top 15 closers off the board. Traded to the Nationals at the deadline last season, Papelbon went to the nation’s capital and held his own. He blew just two saves in the last two months of the season, but he just wasn’t the guy he once was. Papelbon is 35 years old and he definitely is on the downside of his career. Closers tend to fall off the map in extremely quick fashion, and I would not be the least bit surprised if that were to happen to Papelbon in 2016.
The strikeouts are not at a great level, the walks a bit too high, and you can see that his skills have diminished. Even with all of this, Papelbon is still currently being drafted in front of closers like Shawn Tolleson and A.J. Ramos who might not have as much experience, but they are younger and have nice ceilings. If he were to struggle, the Nationals also brought in Shawn Kelley who could be ready to take the job. Not only do I not like Papelbon among the top baker’s dozen at the position, I am going to avoid him all together in drafts this season.
Huston Street, Los Angeles Angels
I’ve never really been a fan of Street, and the more he ages, the less I like him. He does have back-to-back 40 save seasons, but there are a few reasons why I don’t believe that will happen again. First is his injury history. Street has had multiple seasons in his career where he has been forced to miss about a third of a season. Second, I don’t believe that the Angels are going to be as good of a team this season. They have Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun, and an injury prone Albert Pujols, but if you look at the rest of the lineup it is pretty awful offensively. And third to go with that sub-par offense is a weak pitching staff.
Garrett Richards is an ace? C.J. Wilson is average, and Andrew Heaney needs to learn on the job fast. I do not see the Angels competing for the AL West title this season. Street had an ERA over 3.00 last season, an ERA he has held in six of his past eleven seasons. For a closer, that is an unacceptable number. Put all of that together with the fact that he isn’t a high end strikeout pitcher, and there is no way that Street should even come close to being a starting Fantasy closer.
He is currently being drafted in the 13-15th closer range, right along with Francisco Rodriguez and Papelbon. I guess that is the sweet spot for old, washed up closers, but I would rather take the chance on a young guy on the upswing than these old tired vets.
Hector Rondon, Chicago Cubs
My mother always said if you don’t have anything nice to say, to not saying anything at all. Well, I never listened to her all that much so let me tell you what I think about Rondon. He is a nice pitcher, a bit meh, but overall he isn’t bad. He is on perhaps the best team in baseball, and is coming off back-to-back “successful” seasons as a closer. That being said, there is nothing spectacular about him. He has been pushed out of the closer’s role for a period of time in each of the last two seasons due to ineffectiveness, and you would think for a guy on such a good team he would have more than 30 saves.
He averages about a strikeout an inning, but for a low level top Fantasy closer, you want more than that. Rondon is currently being drafted among the Top 10-12 closers, and he just doesn’t belong there, no matter how good the Cubs might be. He is not having a good Spring as two recent appearances have been bad. He allowed three runs in one game and the Cubs have to be evaluating him as their ninth inning stopper.
They do have Pedro Strop on the roster who is much more of your prototypical closer. If Rondon was available as the 20th to 24th closer, I would like him a lot more, but I am finding him to be very overvalued so far in 2016.