Closers In Waiting...Wednesday, February 08, 2012
Every baseball season there are significant transitions in bullpens around the major leagues, and 2012 projects to be no different.
Getting out ahead of those promotions and demotions with smart waiver plays and late-round draft selections can pay great dividends in fantasy leagues, which is why we like to look beyond the typical Top 30 closer rankings here at Rotoworld to the up-and-comers who are next in line.
For a full (and constantly-updated) Bullpen Report, check out our recently-launched Online Draft Guide. You’ll also get over 1,000 player profiles and gobs of useful draft tools like cheat sheets, positional tiers, ADP reports, keeper rankings, projected lineups and depth charts. Not to mention, one of the most well-researched Top 100 prospects lists on the web, compiled by ProjectProspect.com’s Adam Foster.
Here are several talented setup men worth monitoring -- and, in some cases, drafting -- for the 2012 fantasy baseball campaign...
Kenley Jansen - RHP - Dodgers
Javy Guerra seems likely to open the 2012 season as Los Angeles’ closer after converting 21-of-23 save opportunities last year alongside a 2.31 ERA. But Jansen will be ready to pounce should he falter. The 24-year-old right-hander from Curacao recorded the best strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate (16.1) in major league history last season for the Dodgers and owns a sparkling 2.12 ERA through the first 80 2/3 frames of his big league career. It’s feasible that Jansen could simply dominate his way into the closer’s role at some point in 2012. He should be plucked off draft boards as a Top 20 reliever.
Vinnie Pestano - RHP - Indians
Pestano posted a spectacular 2.55 ERA and 185/60 K/BB ratio across 173 minor league innings before joining the Indians’ bullpen in September of 2010. And he’s made the transition from the farm to the bigs look quite easy. The 26-year-old righty had a 2.32 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 67 relief appearances last year as a rookie setup man to Indians closer Chris Perez, striking out 84 batters while issuing just 24 walks across 62 total innings. Perez has proven durable and should carry a long leash into 2012, but Pestano will soon be breathing down his neck. We’d consider stashing him with a late-round mixed league draft pick.
Addison Reed - RHP - White Sox
Veteran left-hander Matt Thornton is poised to finally get save chances this year on the south side of Chicago and he has the goods to run away with the gig. But the White Sox are already grooming their “closer of the future” and could throw him into the fire as early as mid-summer if things go awry in the American League Central standings. A third-round pick in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft, Reed has compiled a fantastic 1.41 ERA and 12.0 K/9 in over 108 minor league frames. He should claim a spot in Chicago’s Opening Day bullpen this spring and begin his steady climb toward the ninth-inning job.
Fautino De Los Santos - RHP - A’s
There’s not much to like out in Oakland this year from a fantasy perspective, but even bad teams tend to find their way to around 55-70 wins. And those wins sometimes require saves. The A’s haven’t committed yet to a primary closer, opting instead to let Brian Fuentes, Joey Devine and De Los Santos duke it out for the rights to the job this spring. Being the youngest and most talented of the crop, it’s De Los Santos who has caught our eye. He possesses a fastball that reaches consistently into the high-90s and he laid the groundwork for the closer’s gig last year by registering a dominant 43/17 K/BB ratio in his first 33.1 major league innings.
Fernando Salas - RHP - Cardinals
The Cardinals fell in love with Jason Motte in 2011 while watching him post a lights-out 2.25 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 63/16 K/BB ratio in 68 regular-season innings and five playoff saves. But there are still questions about his secondary stuff, and whether major league hitters will eventually catch on to his heat-heavy approach. Which is why Salas deserves some attention in the later rounds of fantasy drafts this year. He posted a 2.28 ERA last season and tallied 24 saves in 30 chances. Motte is the Cardinals’ first option for the ninth inning in 2012, but Salas makes for a sturdy fallback and could be thrust back into the pressure cooker in the event of an emergency.
Mike Adams - RHP - Rangers
The Rangers handed Joe Nathan a two-year, $14 million contract this winter and will have him open the 2012 season as their unchallenged closer. He’s fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and showed signs of his former self in the second half of 2011. But he’s also 37 years old with close to 600 relief appearances under his belt. If his arm acts up again this season, look for Texas to turn quickly to Adams. One of the top setup men in the game no matter where he’s pitching, Adams registered a 1.47 ERA and 9.0 K/9 in 73.2 innings last year between San Diego and Texas, and a 1.76 ERA and 9.9 K/9 in 2010. He’s a sure-thing eight-inning reliever with skills that would translate comfortably to the ninth.
David Hernandez - RP - Diamondbacks
After a couple years of trial and error, the Diamondbacks have finally pieced together a rock-solid bullpen. J.J. Putz was one of the most effective closers in baseball last year with his 2.17 ERA and 45 saves, and Hernandez has emerged as one of the more promising young eighth-inning options in the game. The 26-year-old from Sacramento, California averaged 94.6 mph with his fastball in 2011 and posted a 30/7 K/BB ratio in 28 second-half innings. Putz has a firm grip on ninth-inning duties, but Hernandez could accrue mixed-league fantasy value if his strikeout rate takes another leap in the right direction in 2012. Even if he’s not racking up saves.