Fantasy Baseball

Fantasy Baseball 2013 RP Preview

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2013 Position Previews: C 1B 2B 3B SS OF SP RP

By: Joe Bond

In most fantasy baseball leagues, all you care about when it comes to relief pitching is the closers. That, of course, changes if you add holds to the mix, but since most leagues only use saves, I will focus just on closers here.  With that being said, the closer’s job is the most dynamic job in baseball.  More than half of all closer roles changed at some point last season.  This is precisely why I will never draft a closer early in any league I play in.  Now, with that being said, some of you will still want to get a guy you can rely on, and there are a few out there, such as Craig Kimbrel, Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Pappelbon and Jason Motte.  But why use your early draft picks when you can get almost the same value later in drafts?  Not to mention, there will also be plenty of options that become available throughout the year.  Also, keep in mind that one reliable source going into last season was Heath Bell, and he finished with 19 saves (not horrible), but a 5.09 ERA and 1.55 WHIP.

1. Can Craig Kimbrel repeat his dominance for a third straight season?
I see absolutely no reason why Kimbrel will not continue to be a dominant closer this season.  His stuff is fantastic and he has the stats to back it up.  On top of the 46 saves, which tied for 3rd in all of major league baseball last season, he also had a ridiculous 16.66 K/9, 8.29 K/BB rate and a 1.01 ERA.  He might normalize a bit this season, but the fact that he has been so dominant the last two seasons proves that he is about as safe as it gets when it comes to closers, and he is easily the top choice available.

2. Will Fernando Rodney’s BB/9 rate return to his career rate of 4.42?
Owners who were lucky enough to land Rodney last season got one of the best closer seasons in history.  He finished with 48 saves and a ridiculous ERA of 0.60.  A big reason for the success last season was his drastic drop in BB/9 rate from 7.88 in 2011, to 1.81 in 2012.  I think there is a bit of regression expected, as the ERA and rates will be hard to repeat, but Rodney should still be a very good source of saves and ERA for your team in 2013.

3. Does the luck run out for Jim Johnson and the O’s this year?
Jim Johnson saved a ridiculous 51 games last season.  This was during a season that the Orioles won 29 of 38 one run games.  The O’s also never lost a game that they were leading after the 7th inning, finishing with a 74-0 record in those games.  It’s safe to say Johnson benefitted from some of the “luck” the Orioles had, but he also contributed to it.  I don’t think the luck runs out completely, but I would not expect a 51 Save season again due to him most likely seeing less chances this season.  Also, his K/9 rate is not very high, so that combined with a lower number of Saves is why we have him ranked as the 11th Reliever this season.

Player(s) on the Rise
Ernesto Frieri –  Frieri absolutely has the stuff to close, as he proved last season after he was traded to the Angels.  He wound up saving 23 out of 26 chances with a 2.32 ERA and 0.98 WHIP.  His 12.01 career K/9 rate means he can help you out in the strikeout category, as well.  Ryan Madson is supposed to be the guy in LA, but he is already scheduled to start the year on the DL, so that could open the door for Frieri to take the job.

Player(s) on the Decline
Rafael Soriano – He is absolutely in a great situation and could be be one of the top closers this year, playing for the Nationals who should win a lot of games.  Two things make me hesitate on him a bit, though.  One, with the Nationals expected to win a lot of games, I feel that quite a few of those game might not require a Save, thus limiting Soriano’s chances.  Two, he has two very capable closers on the team waiting for him to stumble.  The moment he does, I could see the Nationals having a short leash with their closer role, and see them move onto either Drew Storen or Tyler Clippard.

Player(s) to on the Horizon
Vinnie Pestano – Pestano could wind up being the closer in Cleveland at some point this season and he definitely has the stuff to get the job done.  Chris Perez has the closer job to start the season, but is already dealing with a shoulder strain this spring.  The Indians are saying Perez will be fine to start the year, but its a situation I would keep close tabs on since shoulder problems can linger.  For Pestano, I wouldn’t want to draft him in a normal-sized league, but rather make sure I have a quick trigger should Perez falter or have to go on the DL.

Player(s) to Avoid
Ryan Madson – I mentioned him when I discussed Frieri above, so I won’t go into too much detail here.  But, I’m not confident drafting a closer who is going to start the season on the DL, trying to come back from Tommy John surgery exactly a year later.  Pitchers who come back from that injury tend to take a while to get back to where they were, and I doubt the Angels will want to sit and wait for him to work through it in the closer spot.

Carlos Marmol – Marmol will likely open the season as the Cubs closer, but I wouldn’t go anywhere near him.  Yes, he can strike out a ton of guys, as proven by his 11.73 career K/9 rate, but he also has control issues, sporting a 6.03 BB/9 ratio.  The Cubs brought in Japanese pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa, and I’m sure he will unseat Marmol at some point this season.  

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About Joe Bond

Not just another "Average Joe" when it comes to Fantasy Sports, he is the fantasy brain trust behind the FantasySixPack.net website. Joe is included in the FantasyPros Consensus Rankings for Football, Baseball and Basketball and finished well each year. This includes a top-3 in-season ranking for Football in 2020 and top-5 in 2019. You can find him on Twitter, @F6P_Joe, where he is waiting by the keyboard for your question.

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