As we dive deeper into the rankings, we start to come across some youngster lacking track records and a veteran with some injury concerns. Saves are saves though; it’s amazing what we’ll put up with to make sure we get as many of them as possible.
I’ve included Zach Sanders’ end of season player rankings for reference.
Drew Storen – $13
Storen had a sneaky good year in 2011, saving 43 games in 48 chances thanks to strong strikeout (8.84 K/9 and 24.4 K%) and ground ball (47.3%) rates. He also limits the free pass well (2.39 BB/9 and 6.6 BB%), and other than a bad week at the end of July (three homers in four appearances), he also keeps the ball in the park (five homers in his other 71.1 IP). The Nationals have flirted with Madson this winter, and Storen’s name did pop up in trade talks at the deadline (most notable with Denard Span‘s), so his job is only as safe as Mike Rizzo’s trigger finger. Storen is primed for a jump into Tier One territory next season.
Joel Hanrahan – $9
The control problems that plagued Hanrahan a few years ago appear to be a thing of the past, as he trimmed his walk rate down to a very strong 2.10 BB/9 and 5.8 BB% in 2011. Now that he’s throwing more pitches in the zone, batters are putting the ball in play a bit more (78.4% contact rate), which resulted in the lowest strikeout rate (8.00 K/9 and 22.3 K%) since his rookie campaign in 2007. That’s still a very good whiff rate, but it’s not on par with 11.58 K/9 he posted from 2009-2010. Hanrahan is the undisputed ninth inning guy in Pittsburgh now, and job security is a beautiful thing.
Kyle Farnsworth – $6
The Rays’ seventh different primary closer in the last seven seasons*, you can make a case that 2011 was the best year of Farnsworth’s career. His strikeout rate (7.96 K/9 and 22.1 K%) was a little below what we’re used to seeing, but he still generated plenty of swings-and-misses (10.2%) while setting career bests in walk rate (1.87 BB/9 and 5.2 BB%) and ground ball rate (50.6%). Farnsworth has remade himself since leaving the Yankees three years ago, adding a little cut fastball to his four-seamer and slider, which has led to what is essentially the best three-year stretch of his career. There is a red flag here though, Farnsworth battled a nagging elbow problem down the stretch and at 35-years-old (36 in April), no nagging injury should be ignored.
* I’m fudging a bit with 2006, they had a revolving door that year.
Carlos Marmol – $3
Marmol is probably the most unpredictable fantasy closer out there, surviving his perpetual walk on the tightrope because he misses bats and generate strikeouts like no one else. His lowest strikeout rate since breaking into the league is 11.31 K/9 and 27.8 K%, but he hasn’t walked fewer than 5.84 batters per nine (14.7 BB%) since 2007. Marmol does keep his WHIP down by allowing few hits, but the blow-up potential is sky high. If you have a strikeout deficient starting staff, this is the guy you want to target for a closer’s spot.
Sergio Santos – $6
A rough September (nine runs allowed in his last ten appearances) was a real sour end to an otherwise spectacular season. Santos struck out more than 13 batters per nine innings (13.07 K/9 and 35.4 K%) and kept runners off base despite a high walk rate (4.12 BB/9 and 11.2 BB%) because he’s so hard to hit. The former infielder went 30-for-36 in save chances after taking over the role at the end of April, and with Matt Thornton on the trade block and Chris Sale moving to the rotation, the only guys looking over Santos’ shoulder in Spring Training figure to be Jesse Crain and Jason Frasor. He is a bit risky as a fly ball pitcher (43% grounders career) in a small park, but it’s hard to pass up those whiffs.
Jordan Walden – $6
Walden had more blown saves (ten) than Phillies (eight) last year, but that’s a number that should hopefully come down in the future. He struck out plenty of batters (9.99 K/9 and 26.5 K%) and got a good amount of ground balls (45.2%), a recipe for long-term success. Walks (3.88 BB/9 and 10.3 BB%) have been a bit of an issue throughout his career, which is why his WHIP (1.24) is merely good and not great. Walden is can be a bit unpredictable, and right now the less than stellar baserunner rate holds him back from climbing any higher in the rankings.
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