Fantasy Baseball 2011: Must-Draft Value Closers You Can't Afford To Overlook

John ZaktanskyCorrespondent IFebruary 24, 2011

Craig Kimbrel will be around late in many fantasy baseball drafts. And, he could save just as many games as anyone else on your draft board.
Craig Kimbrel will be around late in many fantasy baseball drafts. And, he could save just as many games as anyone else on your draft board.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In an attempt to satisfy a late-night sweet tooth, I hit the drive-through at Dunkin' Donuts and ordered two Boston Creams on my way home from work the other night. When I got to the window to finalize the purchase, I was shocked by a $1.82 bill.

That was because each donut, before tax, cost 85 cents. The local supermarket, just two miles up the road, sells fresh baked donuts in their bakery for 59 cents a piece. I wanted to cry.

But then, I realized that we all can just as easily fall into that trap of overpaying for a “brand name” commodity on fantasy baseball draft day. Don’t be one of them. Let your competition take Joakim Soria and Brian Wilson too early in your draft. Then, in the final rounds, take these guys …

Craig Kimbrel, ATL. I’ve always been a sucker for a fireballer dressed in a closer's clothing. Kimbrel racks up strikeouts like I racked up calories off those Boston Creams the other night. He fanned 40 last year, in just 20.2 innings.

He’ll start the season as the Braves’ closer after the retirement of Billy Wagner. And considering the Braves’ young-yet-potent squad, Kimbrel will find himself in a great opportunity to be the sport’s best value closer of the 2011 season.

Or something to that effect.

Chris Perez, CLE. Few doubted that Perez could save games last season; it was a matter of Kerry Wood being in that role most of the season. Once Wood was out of the picture, Perez responded with 16 saves, a 1.78 ERA and 0.86 WHIP during the second half. He isn’t going to rack up a ton of strikeouts, but he’ll save plenty of games despite being on a less-than-special team.

He won’t last as long on draft day as Kimbrel, but will still be around well after the Sorias and Wilsons are gobbled up.

Drew Storen, WAS. The most heralded rookie pitcher in Washington last season not named Strasburg, Storen has been groomed for the closer role for quite some time.

When he finally got his opportunity to close games late last season, he responded with adequate numbers (52 strikeouts in 55 innings pitched, an ERA north of 3.00), but the end result was plenty good. He saved five of seven games during the last two months of the season.

Sure, the Nationals won’t win a ton of games. Then again, neither do the Royals, and Soria still gets his opportunities. When Washington does win, the score will be close and Storen will be getting his due chance.

Matt Thornton, CWS. This pick is a little more tenuous than the others on this list. Thornton does, at the moment, have the closer gig to himself for the White Sox, according to Ozzie Guillen.

That is good, since Thornton has excelled in the bullpen of late, posting a 2.70 ERA and an 11 strikeout per nine inning mark that suggests he can keep the closer gig long-term.

It helps, too, that the White Sox are talented enough to win plenty of games, but shouldn’t be blowing out too many opponents.

The thing to watch this spring, however, is the threat of Chris Sale, who has been moved to the bullpen and could challenge for saves down the road if Thornton struggles.

These are my value closers for 2011 who are, at the moment, planned to close from day one. There are plenty of other sleeper closer options, such as Aroldis Chapman, Rafael Soriano and others who are waiting in the wings in case of injury or poor play. History suggests that plenty of these second-in-command closers will have value during the season. I’ll be writing more about these “sleepers” in the near future.

Don’t miss my 2011 closer rankings and rankings at other positions: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

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Forget all the other draft strategy advice you've been reading. We've got you covered with this one post.