Rotoprofessor’s Five Late Round Save Options

Mar 12, 2009

Written by Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

Are you an owner who likes to wait until the tail end of your draft to select closers?  A lot of people are employing that type of strategy these days, so you may have to dig deep.  Here are the five guys that I would target in an effort to get some cheap saves:

Frank Francisco – Texas Rangers
Those who have been reading since the end of last season know just how high I am on him.  After having stints in the majors in ‘04, ‘06 & ‘07, Francisco finally seemed to turn the corner and entrench himself as a great arm at the end of the game.

Look no further then his numbers in September, after C.J. Wilson went down with injury and he was put in the closers role, for proof:

8.2 IP, 1 W, 3 SV, 14 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.85 WHIP

Considering Wilson’s struggles at times last season (6.02 ERA, 1.64 WHIP), that late season performance from Francisco should help to secure him the closer’s role to open the season.  He’s got a career K/9 of 9.8 and a minor league mark of 9.6.  So, even if you don’t buy into his 11.8 from last season, he’s still going to be very productive there.

Even his WHIP could be consistent, as he posted a believable BABIP of .295.  Granted, his 3.7 BB/9 could increase, given his minor league career mark of 4.8, and while that would increase his WHIP, it certainly wouldn’t make it unusable.

The Rangers could play a lot of close games, even of the high scoring variety, which could lead to a fair amount of save opportunities.  That certainly makes him worth targeting.

Chris Perez – St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals have a few pitchers who could step into the role, but Perez seemed comfortable when he had his opportunities last season, going 7 for 11.  He has long been known as the team’s closer of the future, picking up 59 saves in 105 minor league appearances.

He also posted a 12.1 K/9, which he carried with him to the majors, striking out 42 batters in just 41.2 innings.  There’s no reason to think that can’t continue.

His problem was that he had 2 perfect months, with three terrible months mixed in.  He didn’t give up a run in May (6.1 innings) or August (9.1 innings, 6 saves), but in the other three months posted ERA’s of:

  • June – 6.00 (12.0 IP)
  • July – 5.06 (5.1 IP)
  • September – 5.19 (8.2 IP)

Those blow-ups are to be expected from a 23-year old rookie, however.  It isn’t something that should cause you to write him off and assume he isn’t going to get the job.  If I’m going to take the gamble on a Cardinals reliever, he’s the one I’d grab.

Manny Corpas – Colorado Rockies
I know the Rockies imported Huston Street this off-season, but why do people think that someone who could not hold down the A’s job is going to be handed the role in Colorado?  The Rockies have shown in the past that they want to give Corpas his shot, even when they had Brian Fuentes, so there is every chance that he gets the role.

I know he posted a 4.52 ERA and 1.46 WHIP, but his ERA was just 3.51 in the second half, certainly a good sign (and it would have been even better had he not given up 3 ER in 2 of his September outings).  That’s still not quite his 2007 (2.08 ERA, 1.06 WHIP), but it is very promising all the same.

The Rockies are not a team that looks likely to blow out many opponents, especially with Matt Holliday no longer filling the middle of the line-up.  Playing in the NL West, they have an opportunity to win their fair share of games, making their closer a great fantasy option.

That makes both Corpas and Street players worth watching, but if I had my choice, it would be the younger Corpas.  He is the future in the role in Colorado and should get his shot, sooner rather then later.

Joey Devine – Oakland Athletics
Devine or Ziegler?  Ziegler or Devine?  That’s the question everyone is currently asking, including the A’s.  Fantasy owners seem to be betting on Devine, with him currently holding an ADP of 188.41, compared to Ziegler’s 213.70 (according to Mock Draft Central).

Ziegler had a tremendous year last season, posting a minuscule ERA of 1.06 in 59.2 innings.  After making his season debut on 5/31, he didn’t give up a run until 8/14, a run that certainly turned heads around the league.

Does anyone really expect him to be able to repeat such success?  We all know how erratic relief pitchers are in general, but when you factor in his career minor league ERA of 3.67, it’s hard to believe he’ll enjoy similar success in 2009.  He also isn’t your prototypical closer, with just 30 K’s in 59.2 innings.

Devine, meanwhile, finally showed the type of stuff we’ve heard about since he was selected in the first round back in 2005.  He posted a K/9 of 13.2 over his minor league career, and last season showed he can have similar success in the majors (9.7 K/9).

Results will obviously be the ultimate factor, but it would be shocking if Devine didn’t see time as the closer at some point this season, if it is not on Opening Day.  When he gets that chance, it’s likely he won’t relinquish it.

Chad Qualls – Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks may have a few options, like Jon Rauch, in the bullpen, but Qualls’ September performance could give him an advantage.  He went 7 for 8 in save opportunities, though he did not give up a run over 13 innings of work.

Over his career, his highest ERA has been 3.78, which came in 2006, showing that he has been a rare, consistently good middle reliever.  He’s also done a great job of limiting base runners, with a career WHIP of 1.20.

He’s not an elite option, and I don’t think that he will emerge as one this season.  Still, those looking for end game saves should certainly give him a look.  He’s proven that he can have success, certainly making him worth the flier.

So, there you have it.  Do you like any of these five closers?  Is there any other players you are looking for in the late rounds of your draft?

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