Fantasy Baseball Closer Value Picks You Can't Afford to Miss Out On

John ZaktanskyCorrespondent IFebruary 11, 2010

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 08:  Andrew Bailey #40 of the Oakland Athletics throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium on April 8, 2009 in Anaheim, California. The Athletics defeated the Angels 6-4.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

At your next fantasy baseball draft, when the top-tiered closers start signing their siren songs, enticing you to blow an early pick on one of them…simply remember the number 60.

As in the 60 percent of Major League teams that had at least one change at closer during the 2009 season.

In simpler terms, out of all the closers who looked like locks to hold down their respective game-clinching duties during the season, only 12 managed to do so from game one through game 162.

Which means that, as usual, there were plenty of saves available on waiver wires and through good value trading. Expect a similar trend in 2010. (And be sure not to miss our closer depth chart.)

Let someone else spend an early pick or extra auction dollars on Joe Nathan and Mariano Rivera. Meanwhile, you can load up on these guys later and platoon your way to your league’s saves title. (Just like I suggest with my similar positional posts at catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, and outfield.)

I’ve bought several fantasy baseball magazines, and they all undervalue Oakland closer Andrew Bailey, ranking him on average around 11th at the closer position.

But why? Bailey took the full-time closing gig last season after Brad Ziegler struggled with the duties and Joey Devine suffered a season-ending injury. Bailey responded by saving 26 of 30 save opportunities and posting the highest WHIP of any player who earned at least five saves in 2009.

Those who felt Bailey’s numbers were a fluke only had to look at his second-half stats: a 1.71 ERA and a 0.73 WHIP. He’s locked down the closing gig for the A’s, and should see plenty of save opportunities in 2010.

Drew Storen was taken 10th overall in the 2009 draft by the Washington Nationals and has a solid track record of closing games (7-1 with seven saves and a 3.80 ERA with Stanford). While he isn’t guaranteed the starting closer gig this spring for the Nationals, his mid-90’s fastball and a sharp curveball should help his cause.

Watch the Nationals closing situation closely this spring, and if Storen reaches his potential early, he’s a great cheap source of saves for fantasy teams in all formats.

Matt Capps, the ex-Pirate, has an early lead in the closing conversation for Washington, but considering some of his ratios last season, Capps will probably struggle to hold the job for very long.

Octavio Dotel has replaced Capps as the closer de facto for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010. There is no denying Dotel’s high velocity, and while he does attract his share of home runs, he will have little competition in the closer role.

While Rivera remains the gold standard of fantasy closers, there will be a day in the near future that he is no longer the closer in New York. If you have room on your bench for a project player, it wouldn’t hurt to snag Phil Hughes. He was virtually unhittable after taking over a late relief role last season setting up Rivera … garnering a 1.40 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 65 strikeouts in 51 innings.

Again, it is important to remember that Hughes is not the current closer in Yankee-land, and may not get his shot in the immediate future, but there are few late relievers worth a late-round pick more than Hughes.

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