If the interest in free agent bidding can be used as a surrogate for ranking, the recent FAAB results from the Tout Wars and LABR Mixed leagues show differing opinions with respect to the new closers. To wit, here is how each league ranked the emerging closers:
Mixed Auction Tout: Francisco Rodriguez, Jose Valverde, Matt Lindstrom
OK with K-Rod
Mixed Draft Tout: Valverde, Lindstrom, Rodriguez
Mixed LABR: Rodriguez, Lindstrom, Valverde
Did any of the leagues get it right? What's your order?
I don't see it as being right or wrong, but instead a realization that none of them are expected to be the next coming of Craig Kimbrel. All three have issues and could lose their job at any time. Frankly, given the uncertainties, I was a little surprised at the amount of money spent on the three.
The dynamics of roster construction can play a big part, too. People yearning for that first or second closer will pay for the perceived security. Also, did the Valverde buyer in the mixed Tout draft have Bobby Parnell? In mixed Tout auction, Parnell's owner won Lindstrom, so at least he got SVO back in some form.
I didn't win any of them in mixed LABR (I own Soria) or the Tout auction (Perkins, with Chapman and possibly Crain waiting on the DL). I fall into the same viewpoint as Brian in that none were worth a back-breaking FAAB investment, and at least in Tout, I have options up my sleeve.
As for this trio, K-Rod has the best combo of experience and recent success, but Henderson is likely to get another chance at the role, and Milwaukee may trade Rodriguez down the line. The White Sox job ... we all just assumed it'd be Nate Jones. Robin Ventura is cheeky with his bullpen management, and Lindstrom has a decent leash to recover even with his recent struggles (one stumble came when he turned a 5-run lead into a 4-run but escaped anyway). Daniel Webb later in the season? Sure, but no other CWS guy stands out at the moment.
I was "lucky" enough to scoop up Valverde for $11 ($1000 budget) in the FSTA league when the only saves buzz was that he'd occasionally fill in to keep Parnell fresh to start the season. It's always best to beat the rush. Though I'd rank him third initially, if he pitches more like the way he pitched in his season debut, he could be the best and longest-lasting of the bunch. Of course, that was in a non-save situation, and he's been back to his old spastic self with the job.
This early, emerging group of shaky saviors shows that targeting the Webbs, Pedro Strops and other skilled but cheaper options could save you these crippling bids. It's the question of your faith in the present versus the future, part of what makes fantasy fun and challenging. I'm glad I went strong on the position in drafts more often than not.
The consensus on these three guys is apathy. One almost has to be pushed and prodded to make a bid on them. "Oh, do I have to!?" The answer being "Yes, you could use some saves and hey, what if!" So you throw a few bucks out there. It's interesting to watch the Tout bids on these types as OK. I'll get him if I can get him for a price I won't get him at because there's always at least one person to bid aggressively on a closer. In this case the hedge bid, though, is rather appropriate as the risk really does not justify a high bid.
As for ranking them, it partially comes down to viable alternatives. In the case of the White Sox, you have two rather exciting alternatives, albeit non-closer tested alternatives, in Nate Jones and Daniel Webb. In other words, Lindstrom could be on a short leash given those options. Lindstrom, at least, still does what he always has done - throw hard, keep it on the ground, and is pretty effective against righties, but has no real weapon against lefties.
In New York, the Mets' only alternative to Valverde is Kyle Farnsworth, so the role is probably going to flip between the two of them until either or both get released. Valverde is not his former self -- throwing only 91 though he does have 6 K in 3 IP for whatever that is worth. Farnsworth is down to 90 mph and has seen his strikeout rates tumble. Carlos Torres would be my very dark horse sleeper here. After writing all this I suspect the Mets' No. 1 save earner for 2014 is not even currently on the roster. Hello, Kevin Gregg or Joel Hanrahan?
This brings us to Francisco Rodriguez, who is no longer even averaging over 90 mph. Despite no longer being elite, Rodriguez has still maintained a strikeout rate higher than a batter per inning given a plus changeup that he uses about a third of the time. Henderson had a troublesome spring with velocity/command issues, but the Brewers intend to give him back the job if he can get back to where he was. So this could be a very temporary thing for K-Rod or it could be a season-long one.
Of the guys bid on, Lindstrom has actually been one to best maintain his skills, but Valverde may be in the best save accumulation situation given a complete lack really anyone else to challenge him barring a free agent signing. K-Rod despite diminished velocity still has the weapons to miss bats aplenty but will have a short leash if Henderson rights himself.
Every time I attempt to rank these three relievers, I cringe. There is no correct ranking. Forced to rank them: I'd chance K-Rod, Lindstrom, and then Valverde. And I could easily be wrong on that.
No longevity for Lindstrom?
I pretty much agree with Rob here.
On one hand, if you are desperate for saves, this is a big deal. If not, owners are probably chuckling a tad watching the save coveters scramble for the services of these guys (ha, while we watch Jonathan Papelbon, Jim Johnson, and the rest of the closers who have been getting clobbered early this year struggle).
I would bet on Lindstrom first among the troika myself, then Rodriguez, and then, gulp Valverde, were it left to me. Fortunately, my team flaws, aside from having Papelbon and Glen Perkins in a couple of leagues, are elsewhere.
Perry Van Hook
I think the Mixed Auction Tout league got the order right with
1) K-Rod -- no reason he can't keep pitching that well which keeps Henderson at bay
2) Valverde -- certainly not as much confidence in Papa Grande, BUT there is nothing to really threaten him waiting in the Mets bullpen
3) Lindstrom -- I think when Nate Jones gets healthy he will get the job back BUT that is an IF just like Lindstrom's effectiveness ... I like the dark horse in the White Sox pen, Daniel Webb, but only if Jones can't reclaim the job
I agree with Perry's ranking and with his assessment on Jones. Of course that could be since I am holding him in a bunch of leagues.
I pretty much whiffed anyplace I was forced to bid on them over the weekend since there always seemed to be someone who liked them more than I did.
I of course backed my bids up with some other speculations and did come away with Josh Fields or Pedro Strop in a couple places. As the bids on these emerging closers show, if you have a roster spot to play with, you can save a nice chunk of change dedicating it to finding the next guy who might fall into the roll.
I agree with the Mixed Tout Auction rankings, and I did bid rather aggressively on K-Rod. I think that he could legitimately hold onto the closer job for a good chunk of the season given his track record and Jim Henderson's struggles. But after Henderson demonstrated much improved velocity in his most recent outing, I'm starting to feel a little better about losing out on K-Rod. Valverde vs. Lindstrom is close as both are blow-up-prone, but I'll give Valverde the edge since he has more experience in the stopper role.
The much cheaper speculative closer game can pay off, as Strop went for a reasonable four bucks in my Tout league, but one thing to keep in mind is the Tout rule that you have to start your FAAB acquisitions for at least one week after adding them, so starting a non-elite middle reliever for a week at the expense of an extra starting pitcher could cost you in wins and strikeouts without really helping your ratios.
Lord Zola's Wrap-up
First off, I promise, this is the last we'll talk about saves. OK, maybe it's better if I promise we'll move on to some other topics, never say never.
While it is important to some, the ranking of these three closers is secondary to the larger point. The times, they are a-changin'. It's worth investing some draft or auction assets on the better, more reliable closers. No, they won't all perform as expected. But contrary to what some believe, acquiring the asset after the fact is not an efficient means of competing in the category.
OK, enough of the "I told you so."
For what it's worth, I'd rather pay what it took to get Valverde then speculate on candidates like Strop, Daniel Webb, and I'll toss another name in the ring: Evan Meek.
When it comes to closers, opportunity is paramount, and of the three, Valverde has the best chance to hold the job for an extended period of time. Unless Vic Black can get his act together in Triple-A.
Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for fantasybaseball.com, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.
Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at MLB.com and SI.com, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums.