I know, I know, we’ve all heard it before. “Don’t Pay for Saves”. Some of us have designed scoring schemes that put the save’s value where it belongs, a step down from most of the other cats, and have made the CLEW’s, or Closers en Waiting, that much more important. However, the majority of us still play in standard type 5 X 5 leagues where the save is 10% of your final score, or in a 6 X 6 where it is 8.3%. This article is talking to everyone in fantasy, but mostly to those of us who still slog along in standard leagues, waking up in the middle of the night wondering where our saves are coming from next week.
Sure, you can find saves during the season. The ease of that is based on what type of free agent acquisition system your league employs. If you are in a standard free for all waiver system then you better be on line all day, as someone else in your league is already is. I don’t think a league title should be based on being the fastest dude to the waiver wire when most of us work full time jobs and may have a family as well. Some have FAAB systems which level the field a bit, but can also cause owners to dump disproportionate sums on “potential” replacement closers. If you’ve read my articles before, you know I preach a pro-active stance when it comes to racking up enough saves to compete. I suggest drafting as many CLEWS as possible. The more pitchers you roster that have a good chance of getting the closer gig at some point, the less you have to stress over saves. The more CLEWS, the more peaceful, restfull sleep one can enjoy. The added benefit to drafting CLEWS with great skill sets is they will do more for your scoring over the course of a season then a backup hitter rotting on your bench, even if they never accrue a single save. Earlier in this off-season I had the daunting task of ranking relief pitchers for Major League Fantasy Sports. Part ONE #1-15. & Part TWO #16-30. & Part THREE #31- XXX. And my first article this off-season was my “What did I learn about drafting relievers last year” piece where I impart the wisdom of triumphs and disasters of a year ago. There is more about relievers packed in those than you ever wanted to know. Yes, I’ve drafted some pretty nice pens this season so far, but no one is letting me get them easily.
Here are a few pitchers who I think are great later round additions. We all know that offense wins championships more than any other fantasy force can. We all pretty much agree that Kenley Jansen is currently the premier closer in baseball. He is a guaranteed 40 save, 100 K, lock down reliever with great ratios and 100% job security on the Dodgers. But he is also going in the 4th* round on average. Chances are by the 4th you already have 2-3 stud hitters, and 1-2 stud pitchers. You know deep down that you damn well better load up on offense for the next few rounds if you want to win your league. But there is Kenley Jansen sitting there. You can grab him and start the closer run (An odd goal if you ask me), and also guarantee yourself a few less sleepless nights in your pursuit of saves. I’ll assume as well that you may win the league Saves title, but will likely finish no higher than 3rd place in your league. I know some of you have won leagues with this strategy, but I can’t. So, lets assume we are going to wait until later in the draft, after our offense is Godzilla worthy and our SP core can at least climb a mound, and then we will put together a bullpen that can score enough to keep us in the running.
The main goal here is to not panic when the closer run starts. The top 10 closers in baseball are gone by the 10th round. I don’t think you need one of them to compete. Here are some closers you can grab later that I think will give you far more return on your investment. This will also be a good time for me to name the CLEWs you better not forget on draft day. I want at least three of them on my rosters. I could end up with a few extra or replacement closers without having to sweat the usual, inevitable scramble for saves that my league mates are sucked into.
This week’s Trivia Question: My featured image this week is a childhood photo of an NL CLEW who is going largely undrafted this season with a week to go before the season starts. He has a good chance to take over the closer’s role on his team and could strike out 100 batters for you. Who is he?
2018 ADP GEMS (Numbers in parenthesis are the ADP’s from *FantasyPros.com*, ESPN, & the MLFS Mock Draft held in early March 2018)
Brad Hand, CL, SD – (136 Fantasy Pros*, 120 ESPN, 145 Mock Draft) – The more I look, the more I like. I owned him in my 15 team roto last season when he inherited the SD closer’s gig. A perfect example of why one should own CLEWS. Most prognosticators look at him as a long term closer solution, and I’m starting to come around. If you miss the first two big closer runs, and I usually do, I’d not be hesitant to start the season with Hand as my #1 closer. I fact, he is my #1 closer on the two teams I’ve drafted so far. I grabbed him in the MLFS mock draft in the 13th round, but now he is trending in the early 12th. I would not reach for him but at round 12 he could be gold. His wife rocks glasses far better than he does.
Blake Trienen, CL OAK – (190, 239, 240) – I’ve drafted Trienen as my #2 closer in those same two drafts and I can live with that. I got him in the 21st in our Mock which about the average where he is going. In Save-Happy ESPN he is going a little earlier around the 16th. So you can draft him around the time the Jansen owner is still looking for his 3Bman. No, he is not a proven closer and in fact already lost the gig once in Washington, but he is basically unopposed in Oakland and should have a long leash. He always had the pedigree to be a closer and now we get to find out….on my roster. His closest competition is Yusmiero Petit who I talk about later as the perfect handcuff if you don’t mind getting 100K from a CLEW.
Greg Holland, CL, Unsigned at this writing – (180, 192, 187) – Holland, like Melancon, my next write-up, are established big-time closers. Why are they lasting all the way to the 16th round when they’d normally be gone by the 10th? Holland is still unsigned as of this writing, though as mentioned earlier there are rumors out there. The way this free agent season has played out, where there are rumors there is usually a signing coming soon. Only Jose Bautista has talked retirement so far, but he can’t close. Holland can, and Closers Close. He can likely get ready in a hurry and possibly be there for opening day. Wherever he lands pencil in 30-40 saves and downgrade the CLEWs immediately, there will not be any competition. But, if you draft him in the 16th what do you have to lose? Call this a preemptive CLEW move with a team-less player. We’ll call him CLEW-LESS.
Mark Melancon, CL, SFG – (190, 180, 165) – Melancon is going around the same time as Holland, but has a team and the closer title. But he is coming off a major injury and has to prove he is back in the saddle. Sam Dyson is pitching poorly so far this spring, as is Melancon’s long time caddy in Pittsburgh Tony Watson, but i think all three will get the benefit of the doubt. Closers Close and Melancon is a closer. Snatch him up in the 16th as your 2nd or third closer and then grab a CLEW or two. If you want the Giant CLEW I like Watson over Dyson. My gut tells me that Melancon will be fine, even if not the first few weeks of the season. He will have a long leash, as he should.
Nate Jones, CL, CHW – (326, Undrafted, 276) – Jones is a nearly forgotten man in this “What have you done for me lately?” fantasy environment, and is going undrafted in many leagues. Before his injury he was one of the best CLEW’s in the game and spent a few years as the next in line in Chicago. There is no guarantee he gets back to that level in 2018, but the odds are good enough that he should be rostered. Currently, his only competition for saves is the even less often drafted Juan Minaya (345). Minaya ended 2017 as the Sox closer and is worth a spec saves pick as well. My money is on the more experienced Jones seizing the role. Nate has his own stable of CLEWS, enough to fill a whole pen. Yup, there is a 4th kid behind his wife, probably using the resin bag.
Two Teams to Watch – If you are looking for saves and less concerned about other value you may get from a reliever, these two teams bear watching. In each case there are no less than three pitchers who could earn the saves.
Florida Marlins: Brad Ziegler, the only Marlin left that is nearer to Social Security than ROY is penciled in as the closer. Right on his heals are Kyle Barraclough & Drew Steckenrider who I see being drafted late in my leagues. I was high on Barraclough last year and he disappointed, but relievers can have bad years too. If he keeps the walks down I like him the best of the three.
Arizona Diamondbacks: The fact that Ziegler was once the D’Backs closer shows how long they’ve been looking for one. Greg Holland has been the subject of rumors to potentially land there soon and that would change this, but barring that, Archie Bradley, Brad Boxberger & newcomer to US baseball Yoshihisa Hirano have all been mentioned as being in the mix for saves. I love Bradley in any role and he is capable of joining the 100 K reliever club. Boxberger will never see another one of my rosters. In his big season as Tampa Closer he was the worst statistically ranked pitcher in baseball with more than 15 saves that season. I’m not up on Hirano so I won’t give any advice on him.
Honorable Mention: (Number in parenthesis is the average ADP from FantasyPros.com*)
Jeurys Familia, CL, NYM (165); Blake Parker, CL, LAA (221); Shane Greene, CL, DET (225); Alex Claudio, CL, TEX (270); Fernando Rodney, CL, MIN (212) – For all of the above guys it is their job to lose, and we know that happens (losing that job). These guys look like good bets but why not grab their CLEW as well in the next round. Familia and Rodney are going late as they have capable CLEWs behind them in former closers AJ Ramos (338) and Addison Reed (275). I doubt either loses his job but those CLEWS are good guys to own anyway.
GET A CLEW OR TWO – I WANT THREE! – (Number in parenthesis is the average ADP from FantasyPros.com*) There are far too many good CLEWs to write about, and I learn about new ones every day. For that reason I will limit them to some of my favorites, and especially those that are so good that you’ll likely win that round if you draft them late. Some are not being drafted at all which boggles my mind. You don’t need a back-up 2nd baseman, BUT YOU NEED A CLEW!
Chris Devenski, CLEW, HOU (274)- Devenski may be one of the best relievers stuck behind an established closer in all of baseball, and a member of the 100K Reliever Club. Being drafted in the 23rd round on average, but much sooner in leagues that value middle relievers. I’m not letting him by me as early as the 18th or so. I think he is that good. Kenny Giles (95 or 8th round) is the very talented but often erratic, incumbent closer, and Hector Rondon is penciled in as the top CLEW, mainly because of his experience. I’m not the first to say that Devenski is the most talented of the three, and I would draft him before Rondon even found his way into my queue. I’m all over this guy and I am getting poached a lot.
Chad Green, CLEW, NYY (268) – Another member of the 100K Reliever Club, Green may be one of the best relievers without a clear role in all of baseball. He is going right ahead of Devenski in the 23rd round on average, and deservedly so. Most league champs will have at least one of the Yanks relievers on their rosters as Aroldis Chapman, Delin Betances, David Robertson, and Green are all top, or recent top relievers, and all capable of 100 K’s. If you miss out on one of them and feel left out, Tommy Kahnle, Ben Heller, and Adam Warren are pretty good too.
Josh Hader, CLEW, MIL (272)- He is clearly blocked by one of the better closers in baseball, but is also one of the best young relievers in baseball and deserves to be rostered in standard leagues. If you are in a keeper league that lets you keep a lot of players then Hader is a must own. If you are in a dynasty he likely already is. You can’t go wrong as a last round pick. He’ll give you holds and K’s and has excellent command for his age and experience. He is also in a prime spot to step in if something happens to Corey Kneble. The Brewers plan to contend this season, and with a suspect rotation that bullpen will be relied on.
Addison Reed, CLEW, MIN (275)- “Fernando Rodney, meet Addison Reed.” “Addison, Fernando.” Closers Close, and Rodney is a closer. Owning him requires a strong heart and a strong gut. He’s a ratio land mine, but usually gets the save, at least 30 of them. It is often for non contending teams who have no reason to remove him nor a suitable replacement. That is not the case in 2018. The Twins plan to contend, and Addison Reed is a suitable replacement. This is the perfect Closer/CLEW handcuff. We can call it the CLO-CLEW**. Toss that phrase around on draft day and see what looks you’ll get.
**CLO-CLEW – Copy-write pending**
CJ Edwards JR, CLEW , CHC (326) – CJ Edwards is going undrafted. Let me say that again. CJ Edwards is going undrafted. A near member of the 100K club of relievers, 94 in 73 IP, Edwards is also in the mix for closing duty in Chicago. A Greg Holland signing could change that, but right now the legendary Brandon Morrow is penciled in as closer. Morrow has had a good run the last year and a half or so as a reliever, and has always had the great arm, but this is not a slam dunk closer gig by any means. Morrow is being drafted in the 14th round on average*, and Edwards is barely drafted. GET A CLEW! For free no less. Maybe when Edwards finally hits Arbitration he can afford a new pair of pants for his wife. Oh wait, the ones with holes actually cost more, I forgot.
Answer to this week’s trivia question: Yes, my featured image this week is none other than CJ Edwards Jr. as a kid in grade school, before he was….or had a CLEW. His daughter is already dressed to play.
Mychal Givens, CLEW, BAL (395) – ESPN’s Tristan Cockroft predicted Givens would lead the 2018 O’s in Saves. Why not? He is a high strikeout pitcher that does not give up a lot of walks or HR. Brad Brach is a good reliever also but faltered down the stretch in his first try at the closing gig and Zack Britton is due back at some point but there is no guarantee he’ll be effective enough to take back the role. Draft Givens with confidence, don’t go CLEW-less.
Yusmeiro Petit, CLEW, OAK (487) – How is it possible that some members of the 100K club of relievers go mostly undrafted. I own Petit in two leagues so far. Blake Treinen is likely on a short leash and has lost closer gigs before. If you think Liam Hendriks will get the gig before Petit, go ahead and draft him. I’d rather own Petit either way. Who can’t use an extra 100 K’s over the course of a year?
Thanks for reading! That’s it for Spring Training and 2018 draft prep! I hope some of my advice made a difference or that at least you laughed at some of my picks…..I mean jokes. Next Sunday will be the opening episode of Season Three of “Pick Your Spots”, where I choose 5 or 6 pitchers to spot start the following week from the under 50% owned ranks. I select them based on match-ups, trends, streaks, skills and gut. These are the guys I’m spot starting in the next week myself, so I win or lose along with you. We’re mining the diamonds in the rough with more than just some basic stats. I’ll be on Reddit r/fantasybaseball tomorrow talking relievers and next week to talk spotters. See you then. If you have a question or comment post there or Tweet or email me directly at
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and John Gozzi live on Sunday March 25th, 2018 from [7:30]-9pm EST for episode #109 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This is our kick off show for the new 2018 fantasy baseball season. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Coach Andy Macuga. Andy is the Head Coach for Borrego Springs H.S. in the San Diego area. He has been an owner in our leagues for 6+ years, and also contributes to our football shows as well. He is also the Head Football Coach for Borrego Springs.