Jose Veras — not the most glamorous name that comes to mind when you’re thinking about closers for next year, but if you’re one of those fantasy owners who hates investing heavily in a position as volatile as the ninth-inning specialists, then he just might be worth a look. Of the dozen or so mock drafts that I have done over the past several weeks, I have seen Veras taken exactly once, and that was by me in the very last round with my very last pick. Closers have been coming off the board in their usual fashion and while many owners were plucking middle relievers who may very well be great for stabilizing ratios, hardly any of them will be accumulating saves. Veras, on the hand, has the potential to do both.
Now I know what you’re thinking…Houston Astros, yuck! Are they even going to win a game this year? But as we’ve seen proven countless times, even closers on bad teams can be extremely helpful in the fantasy world. Are they going to pick up 40-plus saves in a year? Probably not. But a 30-save mark isn’t so far-fetched, is it? I remember when my league used to laugh at me for throwing a late dollar on a little-known Kansas City Royals closer who turned out to be quite the dominant force, and while Veras is hardly Joakim Soria, his situation is just as tasty for him as it was for the man formerly known as the Mexecutioner back in 2008.
I’ll grant you, at 32-years old, Veras is no spring chicken. He’s been around the block more than just a few times and he has almost never been given the opportunity to close. But with the departure of Wilton Lopez, the Astros really have nowhere else to turn right now. There might be a name or two in their bullpen who might get a fleeting glance this spring, but as things stand right now, Veras, a guy who has posted a K/9 over 10.00 in each of his last three seasons, is their guy.
While a career 4.01 ERA is nothing you really want a part of when it comes to your fantasy bullpen, Veras’ career numbers with the bases empty is something to which you should be paying attention. When a closer comes in for the ninth inning, he is there starting from scratch. Sure, there are times when he’s brought in in the eighth to work out of a jam, but more often than not, when he walks to the mound, it is to start the ninth with a clean slate. With the bases empty, Veras has an ERA of just 1.06 with 166 strikeouts in 153.1 innings and he is holding opposing batters to a .208 average. Yes, he’s also walked 93 batters in that span, something that he has been struggling with throughout his career, but hey, I never said the guy was perfect.
In fact, if the notion of a final pick on Veras as the Astros closer tickles your fancy even just a little, I recommend you head over to a piece that Jack Moore wrote on him back when Houston first picked him up in December. You’ll see that he will test your patience as he goes through stretches when his mid-90’s fastball and paralyzing curve look unhittable followed by stretches where batters just can’t miss either. But you’ll also see that the Astros have little else on their plate in the relief department and the leash he has will be lengthy.
For the extremely minimal investment it will cost you, he’s definitely worth a shot. If he’s a disaster from the start, you’ve lost nothing. But if he ends up panning out, you’ve got a tremendous value pick on your hands….and possibly some killer trade bait.