Baseball: Wait on closers

Are you one of the guys ready to draft a closer like J.J. Putz, Jonathan Papelbon or Francisco Rodriguez in the early rounds? Here's some advice: wait it out.

In all honesty, it's not a bad idea, but there is better value to be had in the early rounds. In some respects, drafting a relief pitcher within the first five rounds is like drafting a fantasy football defense early in NFL drafts. There will always be options on the waiver wire at the end of the draft that can help you out.


Guys like Jeremy Accardo, Kevin Gregg, David Weathers, Matt Capps, Joakim Soria and Manny Corpas were all undrafted -- or drafted really late -- and all were serviceable when healthy last year. Quite clearly, these guys don't compare to the Mariano Riveras of the world but when you factor that you will be drafting a position player or starting pitcher in an early round instead of a top-notch closer, and potentially getting a 30-save man off the wire, then you're cooking.

For me, in fantasy drafts, it is always about getting good value. You can't predict busts (in some cases) or injuries, but one thing I try to do in every draft is get the best value with each pick. Since I know there will be decent closers on the wire after the draft is done, I'd rather spend my high picks on position players and starting pitchers.


Here are a few closers that should be on the wire after your draft unless you are in an extremely deep league:

Brian Wilson, RP (SF): Bookies project the San Francisco Giants to finish with 72 wins this year. That's not particularly great if you have the closer of that team since he's not expected to get many opportunities. But on the other hand, guys like Capps and Soria were decent for garbage teams last year.

Brian Wilson -- not the guy that the Barenaked Ladies wrote the song about -- is the guy the Giants want to win their closing job. In all honesty, the Giants' batting order may be horrid, but with a decent rotation and a good manager, this team should be able to play small-ball enough to get Wilson quality opportunities.

He has the mental and physical makeup of a closer, which immediately puts him ahead of failed closers "Crunk Juice" Brad Hennessey and Tyler Walker.

He has seven strikeouts in 6.2 innings pitched so far in spring training, allowing only two runs. He's worth adding.

Joel Zumaya, RP (DET): For a second season in a row, we won't hear from Joel Zumaya until mid-season. Keep him in mind when he starts to get closer to returning. The general point here is he is capable of closing for the Detroit Tigers if the wheels on the Todd Jones' bus start coming off. Jones was effective last year but isn't getting any younger. Zumaya could be very valuable down the stretch of the season.

Carlos Marmol, RP (CHC): There are a few value options in the Chicago Cubs bullpen, and Carlos Marmol is my flavor of choice. Some people like Bob Howry; others are feeling Kerry Wood. Wood, for obvious reasons, is a risky pick in my books and Howry is a better setup man.

Marmol has had trouble with his control in spring, but he still hasn't allowed a run. I also love to see his 96 strikeouts in 69.1 innings pitched last year.


This is the ideal situation to get some good value. The Cubs are the reigning NL Central champs and should field another good team this year. If Marmol pans out, you would be getting a pretty good closer on the cheap.

Tony Pena, RP (ARZ): Brandon Lyon is supposed to be the replacement for Jose Valverde, particularly after he hit 95 mph on the gun late last season, but he has been awful in spring training. He isn't striking anyone out and is giving up lots of runs.

Tony Pena was supposed to be the youngster with closing ability that pushed Lyon somewhere around mid-season, ideally creating a healthy competition between the two. But with Lyon struggling, Pena might get a shot earlier than expected.

He's closer material with a mid-90s fastball and a solid complementary slider in the late 80s. Keep in mind that the D-Backs want to compete this year, and if Lyon falters, they would likely give him the hook sooner than they would if they were rebuilding.

George Sherrill, RP (BAL): Male first name, female last name, George Sherrill might be a decent pick-up after your draft. With Chris Ray and Danys Baez out most -- or all -- of the season, Sherrill, one of the players the Orioles received in return for Erik Bedard, should offer some value.

He's not a prototypical closer but has decent stuff and is good against right-handed batters as well. It might start as a committee in Baltimore, but with Chad Bradford and Jamie Walker as the other members, I would take my chances with Sherrill.