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Saturday 21st Oct 2017

We are now in the second full week of the season and while still a relatively small sample size, we can just start to get a feeling for individual players and assess where the year might take them. Or at least where we hope the season will take them and, thereby, our fantasy fortunes with them. Some of these will be good places and others will be not so good. But the game would be boring if everyone performed the same and everybody won. It’s our job to try to ascertain who to believe in and who to treat as a pretender.

Entering this year, there were many a pretender in the closer ranks in the National League. Out of 15 NL teams, only seven closers have what I would consider a safe hold on the job and are likely to keep it long term. That is less than half the teams in the senior circuit. This list would include Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen, Steve Cishek, Jonathan Papelbon, Jason Grilli, Sergio Romo and Trevor Rosenthal. It also would have included Aroldis Chapman if he hadn’t taken a screamer off his head on March 19. Unless you are playing in a super shallow league, there aren't many safe closers to go around. As if we even needed it, Chapman’s injury is further proof that this is a very tenuous position in many fantasy lineups.

Out of the seven relievers previously listed, Kenley Jansen has had some problems even though he has two saves and eight strikeouts, walking nearly a batter an inning and allowing more hits than innings pitched. Jonathan Papelbon was blown up in a game at the Texas Rangers in which he surrendered three earned runs, four hits and two bases on balls in one-third of an inning. That game was sandwiched in between two good appearances, in which he didn’t allow a hit, walk, or run and struck out a batter each time. Sergio Romo has allowed one home run in two innings, which has inflated his ERA, and Trevor Rosenthal had one bad appearance out of four.

The bottom line is out of the seven safe closers, only three of them have acceptable performances with Kimbrel clearly in a class by himself so far. Over the past years, I’ve listened to many experts say how it was wise to wait on closers because they were so volatile. And to be honest, I subscribed to that theory for awhile. But then I got burned with too many second and third tier closers and waiting for that closer-in-waiting or the next guy to get the job only to be beat to him in FAAB or as a free agent pickup, so I've changed my stance. I am now very willing to pay for the top guys, and to that end, I own Atlanta’s closer in half of my leagues, including the CBS Analysts NL League and a NFBC Draft Champions League.

As I was gathering my thoughts for this week’s piece, I was reading through the past week’s postings by my Mastersball brethren and was very interested in Todd Zola’s essay from April 3 where he talks about the same thing about two-thirds down. I certainly don’t think I stumbled onto some contrarian strategy before the esteemed Lord Zola but felt good about myself that he was of the same mindset.

How many of you were feeling pretty lousy about the start to the season that Ryan Braun has had? After his first four games, the 2014-reinstated Milwaukee outfielder was hitting a robust .150 with zero extra-base hits. Combine that with the reports of a recurring thumb injury that had to do with a nerve issue that was causing the former MVP much pain and problems gripping the bat, and quite a few owners were getting panicky. The fact that he missed two games was only compounding the anxiety. Then comes Tuesday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies in which the 30-year-old Braun smashed three home runs and had seven RBI. As a Ryan Braun owner, I have to admit that I was a little uneasy before that game and definitely felt some relief afterwards. This is something I think we’ll be keeping an eye on for the rest of the season, and many owners will be on the edge of their seat as a result – myself included.

The Los Angeles Dodgers' Matt Kemp certainly has had his share of injuries over the past couple of years. As a result, his stock has dropped in many drafts as owners were very leery of acquiring the former MVP runner-up. I did take the plunge in one league as I was able to roster him at a discount. The outfielder doesn’t have a good batting average to this point, but I’m encouraged by the fact that he has averaged a run scored and RBI through his first four games with two home runs.

Tim Lincecum has been on my pan list for the past two years, so I didn’t want to pile on by including him in this year’s version as well. I know there were some analysts in the pre-season that were predicting a return to some form of previous versions of The Freak, but I wasn’t buying. Not many in the aforementioned CBS Analysts NL League were buying either as the price was only ten dollars. The strikeouts are still there, but so are the home run tendencies and the diminished velocity. I’m not optimistic for a turnaround this year either.

That’s about it for some random thoughts…there are three late games; time to watch some baseball.

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