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Luke Gregerson -- The Closer Who Wasn't Owned

The new A's closer has flown under the radar because he was a middle reliever, but he's not one anymore.

Christian Petersen

Unlike fantasy football - which ignores offensive linemen, special-teams players, virtually everyone on defense* - fantasy baseball doesn't really ignore anyone. If you're on a big-league roster, there's a spot for you on a fantasy roster.

With, for the most part, one exception. Middle relievers have historically been fantasy afterthoughts**. On the downside, considering the direction of modern roster construction - starters going fewer innings, closers sticking to the ninth, and more and more middle guys - this means that every season there are more and more guys going unused in fantasy circles. On the plus side, though, it means that when a guy gets a "promotion," moving into a closer role, he's one of the few guys who might not already be owned in every dang league.

To that end, Luke Gregerson is the newly minted closer of the Oakland Athletics***, since $10 million man Jim Johnson gave up seven runs on nine hits and six walks with only four strikeouts in 3.1 innings before losing the job. As a result, Gregerson is a current save-accumulator who is owned in only 28 percent of Yahoo! fantasy leagues. The only teams whose current closers are less widely owned are the Cubs and Astros, who have "who the heck is their closer?" issues of their own.

Gregerson, meanwhile, is a pitcher with a long track record of success****, having posted a 2.88 ERA and a 1.092 WHIP in his career entering this season. He's walked more than a batter per inning through 347 career innings, while walking less than a third of that number. Basically, he's been Huston Street, except Street entered 2014 with 234 career saves, while Gregerson entered with 16.

I had a debate on my weekly closer rankings piece with regular reader Jackcecil about Gregerson's season-long value versus Johnson's. I ranked Gregerson as the No. 30 closer for the rest of the season; he has the job now*****, but considering Johnson's pedigree and price tag and the like, how long will Gregerson keep it? I argued that a good, successful Gregerson will keep the job as long as he is the good, successful Gregerson; Jackcecil said that the team basically has to give Johnson at least one more shot at the job, drastically reducing Gregerson's value.

You know what, though? That's irrelevant right now. Right now, Gregerson is the closer for a first-place team, in a pitcher-friendly ballpark, with a good starting rotation, Right now, he's 28-percent owned on one of the main fantasy sites, because a week ago he was a middle reliever, and they always get ignored. There's no excuse for that, as even Jose Valverde is at 60 percent, and every closer with any semblance of ability is at 80 or above. Gregerson is a must-own in every league.******


* I decided to play around with footnotes, like I'm Grantland or something! Anyway, yes, my initial point ignores Individual Defensive Player leagues, but I will always ignore those leagues, because those leagues are awful.

** Several of my own leagues have actually switched from Saves to Saves+Holds, which is a far superior setup and keeps middle relievers involved. Still, though, Gregerson was available in my primary league until I picked him up Tuesday, and that's a S+H league.

*** This is not necessarily true. The A's page on MLBDepthCharts lists all three of Gregerson, Sean Doolittle, and Danny Otero as the team's closers, and former closer Ryan Cook has just returned from the DL as well. Since Johnson's demotion, four A's games have had save situations, with Gregerson getting two of the opportunities and Doolittle getting the other two, but blowing his second chance, in Tuesday night's game, pretty spectacularly. It certainly seems, after Tuesday, like Gregerson is the best bet, though.

**** To be fair, Gregerson's entire career before this season took place in the pitcher joyland known as San Diego, so his stats might be a bit deceptive. On the flip side, he's now in Oakland, which is like the pitcher co-joyland. If San Diego is Disneyland, Oakland is Disney World. Also, why is Disneyland one word while Disney World is two? I have so many questions.

***** I think. For more, please refer to ***

****** This was weird and complicated and awkward. I am clearly not Grantland. No more footnotes for me.