How trustworthy is Rafael Betancourt?
Betancourt held the closer gig for a few stints with the Cleveland Indians and wasn't all that successful. Rox manager Jim Tracy was hesitant to put the elder statesman in the role last season because of the right-hander's comfort in setup work. Still, when skip gave him save shots, Betancourt followed through.
In fact, he has extracted more from his arsenal in his two-plus Rocky Mountain seasons than he did in Ohio; his K/9 boost and dramatic BB/9 cleanup came as he escalated his already potent first-strike percentage. He justified his brilliant 2010 last season by sticking with a pairing of a slider and his fastball that creeps toward triple digits. Betancourt lands near the apex of many RP statistical leaderboards.
Many will point to his impending age-37 season and call him a bust waiting to happen. His frequency of fly allowances would, on its own, cement those concerns, especially if his high-heat approach loses some gas. Some fantasy players might not even know he's the current savior for Colorado. Lefty launcher Rex Brothers looms, as well.
The Betancourt that closed for the Tribe, however, didn't have the same poise as the current edition. Brothers probably won't threaten until later in the season.
When it comes to closers, you buy skills, and Betancourt's profile rivals those of the upper-echelon stoppers. They haven't always translated to brilliant ERAs (which could have a harsh correction this year), but in most universes his peripherals will come at a bargain deal that will neutralize his risks.
What should drafters make of the Colorado Rockies starting pitchers?
Jhoulys Chacin, who's trying to become more contact-friendly while unfortunately sacrificing some K's, leads the way for now. He'll be less of a WHIP killer than he was last season, thanks to his modified approach from late 2011, but he's still a low-end mixed option.
Other than Chacin ... well, it's messy. The other four slots are seemingly up for grabs, at least for as long as talented but risky flier Jorge De La Rosa takes to recover from early-2011 Tommy John surgery; if he makes it past your draft pool, don't lose track of him.
Drew Pomeranz, 23, holds the most promise of anyone in this pile. The polished southpaw topped his fastball out in the mid-90s in his first minors work, but in his MLB debut following an August appendectomy, he topped out at only around 90 mph.
He's not a soft tosser, but he isn't a K machine. Either way, he is an attractive NL-only and deep mixed bet who'll also warrant a waiver grab in many mixed leagues when he gets a chance.
Mixed leaguers in non-cavernous formats can treat the rest as in-season pickup candidates. NL-only players should be more inclined to pay attention to how the spring spots shake out.
Juan Nicasio has an alluring K/9 and K/BB base, along with grounder inducement, that translated in his initial MLB stint last season. He's recovering from a fractured vertebra and will garner fantasy attention if he becomes a member of the quintet.
Sinkerballer Alex White, one of Pomeranz's travel buddies in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, bases his approach on contact, which diminishes his long-term fantasy promise. The righty's campaign was halted by a sprained middle finger on his throwing hand last summer.
With proper grip returned, White should regain bite on his sinker and slider. He won't be a star, but the forgotten 23-year-old could surprise many fantasy players.
Longtime sabermetric tease Jason Hammel has danced with a breakout numerous times but hasn't kept up the focus to deliver consistently. His bullpen time at the end of last season helped him correct that problem, and though it was only a pair of starts, he looked more comfortable on the September mound.
Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman, who came over from the Oakland Athletics in the Seth Smith swap, enter a less favorable environment. Outman has more promise than Moscoso, who performed above his abilities last season.
Swingman Esmil Rogers, who added a cutter this offseason, remains in the fray as well. Don't forget about 49-year-old Jamie Moyer - if not for fantasy value, for him potentially holding these options back if he bucks the odds.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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