Hector Santiago and 3 Other Must-Add MLB Closers for Your Fantasy Team
So, you spaced on the day of your fantasy draft and auto-drafted four catchers, ten starters and no closers.
Or maybe you drafted Andrew Bailey, Kyle Farnsworth, Matt Thornton and Joakim Soria. Have no fear.
While none of these relievers are fantasy studs, saves are a hot commodity, and astute waiver wire pickups can make all the difference over the long fantasy season.
The discerning save vulture can still make a run at the fantasy title, but you have to strike while the iron is hot and add these closers immediately.
White Sox Closer Hector Santiago
The White Sox surprised the baseball world in the offseason by naming Robin Ventura their manager, despite his lack of experience. (He's never even managed even a Little League game.)
Ventura duly surprised the fantasy baseball world by eventually naming Hector Santiago his closer. Those who drafted Matt Thornton or Addison Reed found themselves without a chair when the music stopped.
Santiago is a rookie out of Newark, N.J., so you know he’s tough enough to be a closer.
The hard-throwing lefty has a fastball around 94 mph and a changeup around 79 mph, according to Fangraphs.com.
As if that wasn’t enough to keep hitters off-balance, Santiago also throws the rarefied screwball—a pitch that breaks in the opposite direction from the slider.
It worked for Carl Hubbell and Christy Mathewson, and it’ll be used in the ninth inning for the White Sox.
The job is now Santiago’s to lose. His meteoric rise from Double-A starter to shutting the door in the majors means he was undrafted in almost all fantasy leagues.
He’s currently owned in just 57 percent of Yahoo leagues, and with three saves under his belt already, that number will only continue to rise.
Astros Closer Brett Myers
Even though his beard is beginning to gray, the Astros will have veteran starter Brett Myers closing games this year.
He’s not exactly Mariano Rivera, but Myers knows how to pitch and has donned the closer cap before. He’s bizarrely being overlooked in fantasy leagues despite having been announced as the closer prior to the season.
Myers was thrust into the closer role for the Phillies in 2007, when Tom Gordon’s arm fell out of its socket (thanks, Joe Torre). He saved 21 games that year and kept the closer job even after Flash Gordon came off the DL.
While Myers’ ERA and WHIP won’t do much for you, he is firmly in line for saves.
This marks a much-needed improvement for the Astros bullpen, which blew 25 saves last year. The Astros also won’t be scoring very many runs this year, so any games they manage to win should be save situations.
Myers is owned in only 52 percent of Yahoo leagues, so he should be there for the taking. He also qualifies as a starter, so you can plug him in at SP if your other pitcher spots are filled with middle relievers racking up holds and Ks.
Rays Closer Fernando Rodney
It should come as a surprise to no one that Kyle Farnsworth finds himself on the DL to open the season.
He also blew six saves last year in just 31 opportunities. Farnsworth is slated to be out only four to six weeks according to MLB.com, but an elbow strain should be of great concern for any pitcher, especially a 36-year-old.
Many save vultures targeted Joel Peralta when Farnsworth went to the DL, but Joe Maddon named Fernando Rodney his closer instead.
Peralta has shown Maddon’s wisdom by giving up seven runs in four games, for a robust ERA of 37.80. The other closer candidates were J.P. Howell and Jake McGee, but Maddon prefers to keep his lefties free for situational matchups.
So that means Rodney’s stylishly tilted cap is now the closer for Tampa Bay.
As with Myers, Rodney’s ERA and WHIP won’t help your cause much. Rodney doesn’t strike out a lot of batters either, and his K/BB ratio is terrifying (26/28 last season).
Despite this, he already has three saves on the young season, and he has had success as a closer before, saving 37 games in 38 chances for the Tigers in 2009.
Rodney is owned in 58 percent of Yahoo leagues, so if you’re desperate for saves, go get him.
Nationals Half-Closer Henry Rodriguez
Drew Storen saved 43 games for Washington last year and was targeted early by many fantasy drafters, who figured he’d have more saves with an improved Nationals team.
Then, came the news that he'd start the year on the DL, and MLB.com now reports Storen will be out until the All-Star break, after undergoing surgery to remove a bone fragment from his elbow.
Manager Davey Johnson told the Washington Post that he’s going to alternate save opportunities between Henry Rodriguez and Brad Lidge.
Many fantasy GMs targeted Lidge when this news broke on the basis of his experience, but he has a track record of inconsistency.
Lidge was great in 2008, but awful in 2009. He blew five saves in 2010, and then was only able to pitch 19.1 innings last year. And the three-run homer he served up to Albert Pujols in the 2005 NLCS still haunts his dreams.
Lidge also denied National Gio Gonzalez his first win on Thursday by coughing up a two-run lead in the ninth.
Rodriguez has one save and no runs allowed in four appearances so far, and certainly has the higher upside.
He did give up the lead in a tie-game on April 9, but that was due to his own throwing error. If he can keep his walks down, Rodriguez should instill a lot more confidence in his manager than Lidge will.
Rodriguez throws flames, with his fastball hovering around 98 mph and even his changeup coming in at 90 mph (Fangraphs.com).
He throws a slider at 84 mph too, so he clearly has closer-caliber stuff. If Storen hits any setbacks in his rehab, Rodriguez could find himself racking up a lot of saves this year.
That’s what happened to Brandon League last year when David Aardsma could not get healthy, and now he’s got a stranglehold on the job.
Rodriguez is owned in only 31 percent of Yahoo leagues and could be a great source of saves off the waiver wire.