In 2006 and 2007 J.J. Putz was one of the top closers in baseball. In those two years he notched 76 saves and struck out 186 batters in 150 innings while posting WHIPs under 1.000 each season. But injuries dogged him in 2008 as he suffered through a strained oblique and a hyperextended right elbow.
The velocity was there for Putz last year, but his control abandoned him. He averaged 95 mph with his fastball, which was a tick higher than it was in 2007, but his BB/9 jumped from 1.63 to 5.44 in 2008. The final month of the season offered hope for Putz, as he posted 13 strikeouts and two walks in eight innings.
Putz gave up a few more line drives last year (20.2 percent versus 17.0 percent in ’07) but his other numbers were right in line with what he did in his outstanding 2007 season. His arm is healthy, his velocity is there (PitchFX had him at 98.5 in his final game of the season) and there is no discernible difference in his skill set other than the walks.
Fantasy players should monitor his control over results in Spring Training. Assuming he shows no Steve Blass tendencies, Putz has a chance to be one of the most undervalued players on Draft Day next season. There are trade rumors surrounding him this off-season, but that has more to do with the value of a top-flight closer on a 101-loss team than any issues regarding his health. Regardless of which team he ends up with, Putz should be one of the top three-to-five closers taken.