I'm not one to rush into drafting closers this fantasy baseball season. Of course, as you'll find out in the annual Baseball Analysis Draft (which debuts on the site Monday and continues for 28 juicy rounds), the industry feels the same way, which has created some tasty values.
Crack in Bell
One of the reasons I remain cautious about the market, however, is the Miami Marlins' Heath Bell, whom many might still believe is an unquestionably unstoppable ... stopper.
Even with Bell heading to a much better offense and another pitcher-friendly atmosphere (expected, at least), I beg to differ.
His frequent implementation of a sinkerball last season cut down his strikeout rate to 7.32 per nine and swinging-strike percentage from 10.6 to a career-low 8.3, per Fangraphs. Opponents produced a 21.3 percent liner rate against him - his highest allowed since '06.
Though his 2011 average velocities show he could luck into a better K/9, that's not looking like his approach anymore, and at age 34, can he sustain that FBv for another season? Will Wii Fit save him again?
Bell's K column won't reside at the levels of some firemen you can snag later on, like Sergio Santos and Rafael Betancourt. That advantage he used to offer is gone. Of course, he'll still hover near the top 10 at his position, at least in drafters' eyes, thanks to his experience.
Still, I'd rather avoid ringing Bell (almost made it through pun-free) and take a chance on Ryan Madson, Joakim Soria and Carlos Marmol, or wait on Santos or Betancourt or take a chance on Kenley Jansen winning the job eventually.
Bell will still be a fine buy at the right price, as long as you don't expect his increasingly hittable arsenal to magically return him to previously overpowering levels. He isn't the Liberty Bell yet, but the crack will get worse.
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 competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won several industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, hear him every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. On Thursdays, he visits 106.1 FM WMTI in New Orleans and Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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