With only 30 closers available in a draft able to accumulate Saves at any one time, not all fantasy teams will have the opportunity to get 3 closers in a 12 team league, not alone in a 20 team league. With a limited number of closers available, it is important to find other relievers to help generate stats. I am going to look at 3 of the best non-closers in the game, Koji Uehara, Sergio Romo and Joaquin Benoit.
A few months ago, I looked at the K/9 and BB/9 values that led to a non-closer being valued similar to a closer. The key was to have a K/9 greater than 9 and a BB/9 less then 2.8. After querying Oliver Projections at The Hardball Times, only 11 pitchers in all the majors project to meet this criteria in 2012. Justin Verlander, Yu Darvish, Zack Greinke and Stephen Strasburg are the 4 starters while Rafael Betancourt, Huston Street, Joakim Soria and Jonathan Papelbon are the 4 closers that meets the criteria. That leaves Koji Uehara, Sergio Romo and Joaquin Benoit as the final 3 choices. Here is a quick look at the 3 pitchers going into 2012.
Koji Uehara (Oliver projections: 9.3 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, 2.94 ERA, 1.02 WHIP)
Koji had a great 2011 season going with the Orioles when he was traded to the Rangers. He had a 1.72 ERA and a 0.70 WHIP. With the Rangers, his ERA jump to 4.00 even though he maintained a similar WHIP (0.78). The main cause in the discrepancy was his 98% LOB% in Baltimore that lowered to 86% LOB% in Texas.
For 2012, his only value will be from his super low rate stats. There is only a miniscule chance of him closing games with Joe Nathan, Mike Adams and Alexi Ogando all slated to be ahead of him on the Ranger’s bullpen depth chart. To begin the season, he won’t even be in line for Holds with the other 3 pitchers likely pitching the 7th, 8th and 9th innings. While he has good rate numbers, I would only look at picking him up after all the closers and set-up men for weak closers have been taken.
Sergio Romo (Oliver projections: 10.7 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 2.65 ERA, 1.01 WHIP)
Sergio Romo has the problem of being the setup man for fan and team favorite,Brian Wilson. It is the same Brian Wilson that had a 3.11 ERA, 8.8 K/9 and 5.1 BB/9 in 2011 while Romo’s numbers were 1.50 ERA, 13.1 K/9, 0.9 BB/9. It seems like only a matter of time until Romo will be the closer in San Francisco.
Romo does have a unique handedness split. His FIP is better vs LHH at 2.76 instead of 3.83 vs RHH. Against LHH his K/9 is only 7.4 and his BB/9 is at 2.5. Now against RHH the numbers are 12.6 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9. The difference is made up in the HRs he gives up. His HR/9 vs LHH is 0.30 and it is 0.77 vs RHH.
Joaquin Benoit (Oliver projections: 9.4 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 3.07 ERA, 1.09 WHIP)
Benoit did not have as good of a season in 2011 as he had in 2010, but it was still pretty decent. The main change for him was a jump in his BABIP (0.192 to 0.273) which lead to a lower LOB% (95% to 75%).
He is a great reliever, but is currently stuck behind Jose Valverde. While Valverde’s stats (8.9 K/9, 4.2 BB/9) look to be worse than Benoit’s, he did convert 49 of 49 save opportunities in 2011. I would not expect Benoit to be the closer, unless Valverde fails monumentally or is injured.