By Todd "The True Guru" Farino
In 2008, I started the battle cry to draft closers early, and it caught on like wildfire. It has always been one of my most successful strategies. Last year, it was a major part of my overall fantasy baseball strategy and my victories.
This year, I've developed a different strategy relating to closers. At the start of the 2009 season, major league teams will have at least 16 new closers for the 32 teams. With so many new closers or ones that changed teams, there is a lot of uncertainty, excitement, and intrigue within the ranks of closer.
This is the first year in a long time, I tell you to hold off on drafting a closer. Last year, I told you to consider taking closers in the fourth round and to get one within the first seven rounds.
This year, you can wait till rounds eight, nine, or even 10 to get your first closer. Let the other guys invest in Papelbon, Rivera, Nathan, or F. Rodriguez with expensive early round picks.
Bide your time and draft closers like Jonathan Broxton and Carlos Marmol. Those new premium closers can get drafted no earlier than the eighth round (Broxton) and as late as the 14th round (Marmol). These guys are at the top of the new class of closers.
Last year, they totaled 213 strikeouts and 21 saves. Now, the jobs belong to them (we assume Marmol will be the Cubs' closer), and with those stats pitching for the Dodgers and Cubs, they are the top closers in the National League. We believe one of those two closers will lead the NL in saves.
We also like Matt Lindstrom, who will be an outstanding closer drafted in the later rounds. He packs a 98 MPH fastball and is one of the hottest new closers in baseball.
Other great late round closers are Joel Hanrahan, Heath Bell, Joey Devine, and Roy Corcoran. All of these closers can get drafted in the later rounds and make great additions to your bullpen.
Corcoran is a leader in the Mariners' bullpen and should be available in rounds 20 and beyond. Hanrahan is one of the more underrated closers and will likely get 37-39 saves for the Washington Nationals.
Heath Bell is taking the job from legend Trevor Hoffman (Hoffman is now the closer for the Milwaukee Brewers), while Joey Devine is injured but the leading candidate to take Huston Street's old job. Street is now the closer in Colorado.
Even now, there are still some closers in waiting that could get the job at some point in the season or even at the start of the season with injuries. Pitchers like Brad Ziegler, Chris Perez, Manny Corpas, Jason Motte, Jose Arredondo, Fernando Rodney, Rafael Soriano, and Jensen Lewis will either start the year as closers or could at some point take over the job, because of injury or the failure of the starting closer.
I firmly believe that Arredondo will be the Angels' closer by June (replacing Brian Fuentes) and that Ziegler could start the season as the A's closer in place of the injured Joey Devine. Kerry Wood will likely get hurt at some point, handing the job to Lewis.
With so many new closer options, I see no reason to draft closers in the early rounds (3-8). Sure, you won't get the security of a Papelbon, Nathan, or Rivera, but you will get a young, hungry for success closer that could be the next great Rolaids Relief Man of the Year.
Get your offensive players and/or stud pitchers in the early rounds and get your closers a bit later.
My perfect bullpen of 2009 would be:
1. Jonathan Broxton, Round 9: 46 Saves, 91 Ks
2. Carlos Marmol, Round 13: 46 Saves, 102 Ks
3. Joel Hanrahan, Round 16: 39 Saves, 78 Ks
4. Matt Lindstrom, Round 18: 38 Saves, 85 Ks
If you can draft that bullpen, you will dominate saves and give your strikeouts a major boost along with ERA and WHIP. Having a strong top-ranked bullpen is key to victory. If you have any questions concerning closers, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.