The state of the closer position can be described in one word: volatile. Every season we see turnover in the closer role and for a variety of reasons, the worst of which for fantasy owners is poor performance. Or, in closer speak, blown saves. Last season, there were 1,292 saves, or 43 saves per team. In addition, there were 533 blown saves, according to FanGraphs. That sure is a lot of blown saves, but that stat includes blown saves by middle relievers as well as closers.
In 2014, there were 24 closers who saved 20 or more games. Nine of them couldn't repeat the 20 save season in 2015. Last season, there were 25 relievers who saved 20 or more games. As it stands right now, already five of those relievers will not start the season as their team's closer. How many of the remaining 20 relievers will be closing at the end of the 2016 season. History tells us that a good number of them will lose their job this season.
If you have been following the experts drafts, FSTA, LABR, Tout Wars, that I write about here, you will notice that many of the experts draft their closers very early in snake drafts, usually beginning in the fifth or sixth round, and some will draft their closers back to back to ensure they roster two high quality closers.
With the closer position full of uncertainty heading into the season, we have several National League teams, Braves, Phillies, Reds, Brewers, Rockies and possibly even the Padres, in full-on rebuilds or their own version of a rebuild, so the guy who is closing on Opening Day could change by July 31st for most, if not all, of these teams. So, if you want to draft two solid closers, you are going to have to grab them early.
Note: the Fake Teams writers will be addressing the bullpen situation for the following clubs this week: Braves, Brewers, Reds, Blue Jays, Padres and Mariners, so please be sure to check back over the next few days for those articles.
That said, every league is different, and you know the owners in your leagues better than we do, so reading the tea leaves on how owners drafted in previous years can help you form your strategy for when to draft a closer. I like to leave the draft table with either two solid closers, or one elite closer with the thought of grabbing one off of the league waiver wire as changes happen during the season.
Leaving the draft table with one or zero closers is not a bad thing. As long as you have owners in your league that like to trade, then you can always trade for a closer or two during the season. So, don't leave your draft upset that you left with only one, or zero, closers.
There really aren't any breakout candidates in the closer position, as the breakout candidates are really the current set up men on each respective team. I will be writing a piece on Tuesday or Wednesday on some relievers that I think could close by midseason, or end the season with more saves than the Opening Day closer, so look for that in the next day or two.
Very few pitchers are drafted as closers, but one that comes to mind is former Nationals closer Drew Storen. He closed in college and was drafted as a closer. Most closers are drafted as starting pitchers and for one reason or another don't make it as a starter, and are moved to the bullpen. The pitchers who succeed in the bullpen are the pitchers who have one or two dominating pitches, guys who can bring the heat and have a wipeout pitch.
Jason Hunt will offer some thoughts on some pitching prospects who could become closers at the big league level on Wednesday morning, so please be sure to check back then.
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