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Friday 28th Apr 2017

Somewhere in my previous 152 Mastersball articles, I’m pretty sure I covered the topic of closers in fantasy baseball. More specifically how I think the “don’t pay for saves” strategy is nonsense. By drafting at least one top-tier closer, you’re not just paying for saves. You’re paying for elite ratios and the peace of mind in knowing that you will not need to frantically scour the waiver wire during the season to address that roster spot should one of your cheaper stoppers lose their ninth inning gig due to poor performance. You will not need to drain your FAAB budget out of desperation to acquire the hot closer pickup of the week who may or may not hold onto the job beyond that week. Now look, Tout Wars league mate Derek Van Riper won this year’s Mixed Auction league despite purchasing zero closers at the auction and finishing the season with a grand total of two saves. But that’s a very tough thing to do, and personally, I just don’t have the stomach for it.

My formula generally includes one closer from the elite group, one mid-tier guy with a high level of job security and one dominant setup man on a team with a shaky closer. And I executed this plan rather well in 2014 with my David Robertson ($17)/Addison Reed ($13)/Mark Melancon ($2) trio. Robertson was lights out from start to finish. Reed came very close to being demoted a number of times during the season but managed to hang on and record 32 saves to go along with a solid 1.21 WHIP despite the mediocre 4.25 ERA. As for Melancon, let’s just say that those two bucks turned out to be two bucks well spent.

But what got me thinking about relievers in the first place? Well, being that this is my sixth year of writing the relief pitcher bios for the MLB.com Player Preview, which is set to launch on the site in early-February, the RP position has always been the position that I focus on first when starting to prepare for the upcoming season. So, inspired by the Picks and Pans format that you will see in The Fantasy Baseball Guide, let’s get started.

PICKS

Neftali Feliz – Despite diminished velocity since his pre-Tommy John surgery days, Feliz did a fine job following his return to action this past July, finishing the season with 13 saves in 14 chances to go along with a 1.99 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. Although his mediocre strikeout rate (6.0 K/9) is somewhat concerning, it is common for pitchers coming off Tommy John surgery to regain their lost velocity, and an increase in power could lead to increased whiffs. Draft Feliz at the price of a mid-range #2 closer and he could very well perform like a borderline #1.

Drew Storen – With Rafael Soriano no longer a member of the club, Storen heads into 2015 as Washington’s undisputed closer. Considering his track record in the stopper role (43 saves in 2011) and his dominant performance as the Nationals’ ninth inning man last September (10-for-10 in save chances, 10 1/3 IP, 8 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K), there’s no reason to think that Storen cannot deliver top-10 closer numbers, at the very least. Judging from some early mocks, you should be able to draft him at a fraction of that cost.

PANS

Addison Reed – I know I mentioned that Reed did a decent job for me in Tout this year, but that doesn’t mean I plan on drafting him in 2015. To be fair, he did post a stellar strikeout rate (10.5 K/9) and impressive walk rate (2.3 BB/9), so there is some bounce back potential here, especially if he can cut down on the homers. But watching some of his outings was flat-out torture, and I’d rather not go through that again.

Joe Nathan – This is kind of depressing, as Nathan has been a longtime fantasy favorite of mine. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve owned him over the past decade. But his reign as an ultra-reliable closer appears to be over. Yeah, he did pitch better in the second half (16-for-18 in save chances, 3.70 ERA) after a disastrous start to the 2014 campaign, but with 15 walks over 24 1/3 post-All Star break innings, it’s not like all was well on the Nathan front. With Joakim Soria as a fallback option for the Tigers, Nathan figures to have a short leash should he struggle out of the gate in 2015. Forget #2 fantasy closer. I wouldn’t even feel comfortable with him as my #3.

Give me Addison Reed instead.

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