Fantasy Baseball 2012: The Andrew Bailey Injury Dilemma

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Fantasy Baseball 2012: The Andrew Bailey Injury Dilemma
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Red Sox reliever Alfredo Aceves (10-2, 2.61 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 2 saves last year) will likely get the first chance to flourish as the club's replacement closer.

There is little loyalty or sentimentality in fantasy sports. Otherwise, Andrew Bailey would still be part of my 12-team auction-league roster this morning.

Amid reports the Boston Red Sox closer would require immediate surgery on his right thumb, one question popped into my head before seeking out viable alternatives for saves: Has a pitcher ever had thumb surgery that wasn't serious?

I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but I'm guessing the answer is no.

So, here we are, just one day from Cardinals-Marlins christening the new stadium in Miami, two days before the rest of baseball rings in the new season, and we're left with our first crisis moment on the fantasy side: Should owners drop Bailey (traded from Oakland in the offseason) right away? And if so, whom should they target?

If you're in a 10-team league where closers like Sergio Santos, Grant Balfour or Matt Thornton are available in free agency, go ahead and grab one before lunchtime. For owners in 12-, 14- and 16-team leagues, your decision-making will be reduced to three Boston-based replacements for Bailey: Alfredo Aceves, Mark Melancon or Daniel Bard.

From reports I have read, the Red Sox will not relent from Bard's full-time conversion from elite set-up man to starting pitcher. So he ranks third on the pecking order. After that, The Boston Globe reports that Sox manager Bobby Valentine told Aceves he would finish games in Bailey's absence, but that may have only been a short-term solution.

Would Valentine favor Aceves or Melancon as the season-long stopper? Does it matter that Melancon recorded 20 saves for the last-place, bullpen-deficient Astros in 2011?

Here's a tale of the tape involving both prospects, neither of whom were likely drafted in 12-team leagues prior to Bailey's injury: 

 

Three-Year Track Record

Aceves: 23 wins, 3.14 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 151/62 K-BB ratio (210 innings), 6.9 K/9, 4 saves

Melancon: 10 wins, 3.21 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 98/44 K-BB ratio (112 innings), 7.9 K/9, 20 saves 

 

Verdict

Based on this modest sample, I believe Valentine's initial choice for closer (Aceves) will be the long-term answer as well. As productive as Melancon has been of late, Aceves projects as a more definitive closer on a club that'll likely notch 90 wins this season.

Of course, there's a double-edged sword to this prediction: The Red Sox are under constant pressure to contend for the American League East title or wild card berth, so if Aceves should falter in his new role heading into late May, a new alternative (Melancon, Bard, farmhand Chris Carpenter—not the Cards' starter) would likely emerge by June. 

But if you're angling for a stealth alternative before the rest of the country wakes up Tuesday morning, the safe money's on Aceves.

Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.

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