2015 Relief Pitcher Preview
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As you probably know by now, we at the 411 do not subscribe to the “don’t pay for saves” philosophy. The reality is that elite closers help you in more ways than just racking up saves. They provide elite ratios, and most importantly, at a position that has such a high in-season turnover rate, it’s nice to have at least one closer on your squad who you know you can rely on throughout the year. To tell you the truth, chasing saves is not very fun, especially if you play in a league that uses FAAB. There’s nothing worse than blowing out your FAAB budget on speculative closers who either never get a chance to pitch in the ninth inning or take over as their team’s closer only to get yanked from the role a few weeks later due to poor performance.
Neftali Feliz – Maybe Feliz will never again be the dominant stopper of a few seasons ago, but there seems to be way too much negativity surrounding him this year. Yes, his velocity was down upon his return last July. Yes, his 1.99 ERA was influenced by an unusually low BABIP and unusually high strand rate. But he is the undisputed Rangers closer, and he has yet to struggle in the ninth inning role. Plus, it’s entirely possible that his velocity improves as he will be another year removed from Tommy John surgery. Based on draft results I have seen so far, Feliz can be had for the price of a third closer in 12-team mixed leagues. I’d be more than happy to grab him as a cheap second closer.
Sergio Romo – It’s really a matter of when, not if, Romo reclaims his old closing gig. Santiago Casilla has done nothing yet to lose the job, but I think that the club’s preference is to have Romo pitching in the ninth inning. He was viewed as a top-10 closer at this time last year, so if Casilla even slightly struggles, I can see the Giants making a change sooner rather than later. For this reason, Romo is worth drafting in deeper mixed leagues. He still possesses arguably the nastiest slider in all of baseball.
Trevor Rosenthal – Look, Rosenthal is by no means on my “do not draft” list, but I’d rank him more towards the back end of the top-10 closers as opposed to within the top-5. The strikeout rate remained strong last year, though it wasn’t anywhere near its 2013 level. The biggest concern, however, is that his walk rate more than doubled. At just 24 years of age, Rosenthal certainly has the potential to rejoin the elite class, but I wouldn’t draft him ahead of Mark Melancon, David Robertson, Cody Allen or even Dellin Betances.
Zach Britton – Closers with low strikeout rates generally don’t remain closers for long. Britton relied almost exclusively on his sinker last season to induce a ton of ground balls, which became the key to his success. If his sinker loses its effectiveness in 2015, things could get ugly in a hurry. Like Neftali Feliz, Britton also benefited from a low BABIP. Unlike Feliz, he has less than one year of closing experience under his belt. In a vacuum, I’d still take Britton over Feliz, but when factoring in their expected draft day cost, give me Feliz. And it’s not even close.