Tier 5: Rollercoaster rides (6) (AKA: The "Mets, Pirates, Cubs, Padres, Athletics, Mariners, White Sox, Royals, Orioles" Tier.)
Mark Melancon (first chair), Alfredo Aceves (second chair), Boston Red Sox
Henry Rodriguez (fourth chair), Tyler Clippard (second chair), Brad Lidge (third chair), Washington Nationals
Matt Thornton (first chair), Addison Reed (second chair), Hector Santiago (third chair), Jesse Crain (fourth chair), Chicago White Sox
Jonathan Broxton (first chair), Greg Holland (second chair), Kansas City Royals
Javy Guerra (first chair), Kenley Jansen (second chair), Los Angeles Dodgers
Joel Peralta (first chair), Jake McGee (second chair), Fernando Rodney (third chair), Tampa Bay Rays
If your team shows up here, sorry. Watch the young guys and dreamcast about the future. It's all you can do.
Finding the gem in this mess won't be easy. Mark Melancon is the clear get right now -- but he's also a temporary closer, as Bailey could be back by the All-Star break. Bailey could also be out until August, depending on who you believe about the severity of his thumb surgery. At least his competition for the role is minimal, as Aceves will be needed in the rotation from time to time too. Melancon has closed before and has the better peripherals. It's worth mentioning that the Red Sox beat writers think Aceves is the guy, so if you're trolling for saves, you can pick him up. But Melancon has the peripherals of a closer, not the swing man Aceves.
Henry Rodriguez looks like he has the closer role in Washington, thanks to his 100 MPH gas and crazy hook (not thanks to his terrible control). Joel Peralta is the front runner in Tampa Bay, but he's pretty bad against lefties and might need help from lefty youngster Jake McGee from time to time. In both cases, however, we're left waiting for news about the incumbent's elbows. If the vets in front of them are just taking a few weeks off, we'll look pretty silly for getting all up in arms about this.
Greg Holland, Addison Reed and Kenley Jansen are the long-term owns on this list. If you're in a keeper league, it's fine to bypass the veterans in front of them. They've got lights-out stuff and are headed to the closer's role at some point.
But right now? Right now it's Javy Guerra, and Matt Thornton, and Jonathan Broxton probably. Thornton is the best pitcher, and his team could pump up his value before trading him, so he's the best pickup among the trio. Broxton was once a great pitcher, and he could regain his velocity (he's struck out nine in his seven spring innings), so he's next. Javy Guerra has neither shown an extended ability to strike people out at an above-average rate for a reliever, nor the ability to control the ball for more than one year. He's the worst option among guys with the "Closer" tag.
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Andrew Bailey, Oakland Athletics
Kyle Farnsworth, Tampa Bay Rays
Drew Storen, Washington Nationals
If only we could take a peak in the elbows of Kyle Farnsworth and Drew Storen. Farnsworth might be scarier because he's not pitching right now. Storen threw a bullpen on Tuesday and felt fine, and thinks he'll be back in mid-April.
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The Steals Department
Heard some feedback last week that Ben Revere wasn't a starter and was therefore a bad sleeper for speed. It was a poorly-timed announcement by the team, I'll admit that, but I'll also stick by my belief that he'll steal 35+ bases this year. Not only will he steal bases when he's in, but now that Chris Parmalee is headed to the DH role, he's only competing with Trevor Plouffe and Ryan Doumit in the outfield, and Trevor Plouffe does not own great upside, and Ryan Doumit is Mr. Breakable. Lorenzo Cain obviously has a better grip on the job than Revere, but he's owned more and also more of a .280/10/20 kind of guy and won't make the same impact in steals. John Mayberry, Jr. will have a regular role in the early season, but his contact troubles will mean that his 20 and 10 will come with a bad batting average. Brandon Belt could get 20 and 10 with a better batting average, and has made the team in San Francisco, but with the way that tream has treated him, he might best be a wait and see.
If you want a great mixed-league speedster that might still be on your waiver wire, has an assured starting job, and will put up stats that fit your 12-teamer, there's Alejandro De Aza in Chicago. He'll steal more bags than Cain, hit for a better average than Mayberry, and has a job in hand. He's a great sleeper worthy of your bench spot if you need a little speed. And if he's gone, just take the National League version -- Angel Pagan.
Deep leaguers? The player that combines a starting job with the most projected steals and the lowest ownership rates is… Jordan Schafer! He won't give you runs because the Houston offense will be that bad. He won't give you home runs, because he hasn't shown league-average power since half a season in Double-A in 2008. He won't give you a nice batting average because he strikes out too much. He does walk, though, and he can steal a base. His 83% career success rate on steals is excellent enough that he'll continue to get the green light. With Jason Bourgeois gone, there's even less competition for center field. Pencil him in for 30ish steals, a full slate of plate appearances, a few home runs… and a .250ish batting average. Hey, you chose to play in that deep league, right?