The NFBC Draft Champions (DC) format is one of the more innovative developments to hit the fantasy world in the past year. This style of play was created to provide a unique challenge for draft-hungry players, while making it easier to manage the extra teams by making these leagues 50 Round drafts with no in season pickups. What you draft is what you have to work with all season long.
These leagues continue to grow in popularity this season, and many of the Mastersball staff has a few of these leagues on the books for 2013. One of the keys to success in these leagues is making good use of your late round picks. One category owners always try to mine at this point will be closers-in-waiting, since in DC leagues there will be no FAAB to use to grab emerging saves. You need to speculate at the draft table on who may emerge, and that means looking at who has the skills and situation best suited to potentially providing saves at bargain rate prices. Last year for instance, I used this approach and was able to snag Tom Wihelmsen in the 47th Round in my DC league.
So, as you look to the 2013 Drafts, here are three guys I drafted late in my recent Draft Champions league:
A.J. Ramos, MIA – Ramos is a 26 year-old reliever who has spent the last three years working as a closer in the Marlins system, moving up each year to AA last season. His numbers in the minors are impressive, with 288 strikeouts in 211 innings, to go along with 83 saves over those three seasons. He got a late cup of coffee in the majors last year and racked up another 13 punch-outs in his 9 innings of work. The Marlins are a team in transition, and as such have one of the more unsettled bullpens this draft season. Steve Cishek is the favorite to open the year as the closer, but after him there is no real clear successor. Mike Dunn is a lefty; Ryan Webb and Jose Ceda have been injury prone and ineffective. All this uncertainty points to Ramos getting a chance to work himself into the mix for saves at some point this season, and as such he is one of my favorite sleeper saves targets in Draft Champions leagues this year.
J.J. Hoover, CIN – Hoover came over from the Braves last season in the trade for Juan Francisco. He appeared in 28 games, totaling 31 strikeouts in his 30 innings pitched. With the proposed move of last year’s closer Ardolis Chapman moving everyone else in the Red’s pen up a notch, Hoover now only finds himself behind Jonathon Broxton and Sean Marshall for save opportunities. Broxton will open the year as the closer, but he could have a shorter leash than normal on a contending team. If Broxton falters then Hoover could find himself in a committee with Marshall for saves. I drafted Broxton in my DC league and scooped up Hoover in Round 45. Another name to have on the radar is Tony Cingrani, but I like Hoover a little more for this season.
Pedro Strop, BAL – Jim Johnson was one of the best surprises last year for fantasy owners, as his league-leading 51 saves came at bargain basement prices. What made the achievement even more impressive was that he did it with a rather pedestrian 5.37 K/9 rate and only 41 strikeouts in 68.2 innings pitched. He was able to do this with a 62.3 GB%. It isn’t that big of a stretch that Johnson is one of this year’s prime candidates for some regression simply with some more bad luck on all those ground balls and the fact that it is unlikely the Orioles will be able to provide as many opportunities as they did in last year’s charmed campaign. Add in some recent trade rumors that have the O’s possibly shipping their incumbent closer to the Tigers and you have all the reasons you need to take a chance on Strop when looking for this year’s version of, yeah that’s right, Jim Johnson. Strop has the fastball that most managers like coming out of the bullpen in the ninth inning, and actually saw an increase last year with an average of 96.4. He actually had a better GB% than Johnson last year at 64.3%. If I had to pick one name today with the best chance to be this year’s Wihelmsen for your DC team, Strop would be that guy.
Do you have your own late round saves sleepers for this year? Please feel free to share in the comments section.