-Don't pay for saves. Don't pay for saves. Don't pay for saves. Don't pay for saves. Don't pay for saves. Don't pay for saves.
-Uh, what are you doing?
-I'm repeating the phrase "don't pay for saves" over and over again so that it becomes even more cliched and, a result, even more of a statement of truth.
-Oh. But you will pay something for saves, right?
-So why not use a more accurate phrase, like "don't use high draft picks on closers." Or, "if you are going to draft saves, spend wisely." Or maybe, "it is usually possible to get a solid closer in the later rounds, so try to limit the amount of closers you take in the first ten rounds." Or something.
-Don't try to trick me with your semantics! Those phrases are not as catchy and, as a result, are probably less of a statement of truth.
Okay. So don't break your bank on closers (unless your league settings make lots-o-closers a worthwhile strategy). I get it. As someone who has had Todd Jones repeatedly and single-handedly kill my team's chances of winning weekly H2H games, I don't quite believe in the concept, but at the very least I understand the idea. Maybe these people who hate closers are simply just picking the wrong closers. Tangentially, I must say I dislike having to rely on being super-quick on the waiver wire to round out my stable of closers. I'm one of the fastest guys in my league when it comes to waiver wire pickups. Certainly top three. But I swear, sometimes it feels like closers only get hurt during the two minute window each day I'm away from my computer. I don't know what the right answer is, but I tend to get a closer in the 9th-11th rounds, and then one or two more in the 15th-21st rounds.
Anyway. Let's start by looking at the relievers that finished in the top 150 of the Y! game in 2008:
(Note: to avoid having the semi-randomness of the Win category skew the RP rankings, I opted to use Quality Starts instead of Wins. The other four categories are standard: SV, K, ERA, WHIP.)
So it would appear that the repetition of the phrase "don't pay for saves" that you hear throughout the fantasy baseball universe is really working: average mock drafters are rarely paying for saves. Soria, who performed like a third rounder last year, is being drafted midway through the seventh round. His saves might be worth paying for. But Soria plays for the Royals. Who cares who Soria plays for? He played for the Royals last year and ended up being the 36th best player in the Y! game.
Who else? Maybe Kerry Wood, who would give you sixth round value on your tenth round pick if he were to repeat his '08 stats. But Kerry Wood loves to hang out on the DL. True. But if you think he can stay healthy, he should give you a nice return on your investment.
Then you have the "rising closer" class: Marmol, Qualls, and Devine only had 17 saves combined, and yet all three were ranked in the top 25 in 2008 even without high save totals. And so now that they probably will be getting more save opportunities in 2009, you have to feel good about their chances of outperforming their 2009 ADP.
A few setup men might also be a nice return on investment. If Balfour, Kuo, Arredondo, Howell, or Thornton can repeat their 2008 numbers in 2009, they will be cheap to draft and will certainly help your fantasy team. Remember that these rankings use Wins instead of Quality Starts, so if you are in a league with Wins, the value of these setup men increases even more.
The other other thing I'll say about the top 150 RPs is that seeing this list makes me want to avoid Bobby Jenks and B.J. Ryan, and I'm not all that keen on K-Rod, Papelbon, or Capps, either.
Here are the rest of the RPs in the top 252:
This list has two more rising closers in Francisco and Bell. Please also note that Brian Wilson, poster boy for the "closers only help you in one category" believers, is currently being drafted 50 picks ahead of his 2008 value. (By the way, FB Junk works to dispell the closer-as-one-cat. myth in this post.) Unless you believe that Wilson will improve on his 2008 numbers in 2009, he might be someone to avoid.
And one last thing: Who the shell is Steven Shell? Answer: "Shell, a former Angels prospect, has been quite a find since signing a minor league deal with Washington. He had a 1.96 ERA in 41 1/3 innings out of the pen in 2008, and the stuff is there for him to be a quality setup man going forward." However, he doesn't get much love from The Prognosticators: 4.98 ERA, 1.45 WHIP.
Want more draft strategy? Click here for 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, OF, C, SP, and RP position primers.