Ask Nash: Sleeper Closer Candidates


I play in a 10 team, 5×5 roto points league. NL players only. I opened the season with only Jason Motte for a closer and it looks like he might be headed for Tommy John surgery. I need a reliever who has a good chance of taking over the closer role for a while on an NL team. I have Antonio Bastardo for Philly and Mark Melancon for the Pirates. The rest of my staff are starters. Most set up guys are gone. Drew Storen, Kenley Jansen, Tyler Clippard, Luke Gregerson, Santiago Casilla, and others. So it should be pretty clear the owners in this league are quick to grab closers and guys with closer potential. Do you have any suggestions for some sleepers out there?

Thanks for the help.

This, in general, is a common Ask Nash type of question, with only a few, yet significant changes here and there.

  1. Most leagues aren’t in NL only leagues
  2. In most leagues, the majority of even elite set-up men are available

However, if you find yourself short on closers, I do have some solid across the board advice, followed by a list of potential sleepers.

First and foremost I am going to refer you back to one of my favorite pitching montras, “don’t pay for saves.”  Even though we are not drafting or bidding, this ALWAYS applies. Too often new and experienced owners alike, chase the category the need, in this instance, saves.

That will be your undoing as you well end up trading a young stud player, ie: Josh Rutledge for the current league leader in saves, Sergio Romo.  Now don’t get me wrong, Romo is a terrific pitcher, actually one of my favorites, and yes, Rutledge is struggling mildly this season so far, but you still do not want to chase the saves.

Now for this poor owner, it appears his league rivals are vultures on the waiver wire for any set up guy worth going after, and all of those guys above are very rosterable in any league format as they are very good pitchers. So who is left to go after?  Well, there are quite a few pitchers I like, and for the sake of this post I am going to list AL and NL players. If you are in a specific league like this guy, you can act accordingly.

Guys like Kelvin Herrera and Jim Henderson should be long gone in most leagues by now. If they are not, go get them! Like, now. You can come back and read the rest in a few minutes.

Meeting the challenge of finding the next closer comes not as much from looking at depth charts. It’s more about looking at peripheral stats like BB and Ks per 9 innings (BB:9, K:9),  When a pitcher is good in these categories, he will usually find his way into the save opportunities we all covet.

Generally you want a strikeout an inning (or 9:9), and 1:3 BB per 9 or lower. In short 3:1 K:BB works just fine. I also don’t get too caught up in ERA especially this early in a season, because 1 bad pitch can lead to a really ugly ERA. Over the next month that ERA can be down to a nicer number and you have gotten all the good production in that category. WHIP is far more important, I like a pitcher to carry a 1.2 WHIP at the highest.

So let me list off a few pitchers that are carrying these sort of numbers and should be available in pretty much any league:

Just to name a few.

In closing, once you have created a short list of guys to consider, then it comes down to depth charts.

Tim Collins, Bruce Chen and Aaron Crow are all on the same team AND they are waiting out Greg Holland AND Kelvin Herrera, so it may not be worth your time if you really need a saves guy in a hurry. Chad Gaudin may not be very close to an saves either, so these guys are just very good pitchers that will only help you with holds, but not saves for the foreseeable future.

Another thing to note is that when you have you short list, you may have had a loogies slip through, like Darin Downs. For those who don’t know, a logy is a left handed specialist. It’s not unheard of for a lefty to be a closer, it just is not very common, so you may be waiting a while for nothing in his case.  All in all the key to finding the next RP is finding a good pitcher and waiting for them to get the opportunities.

Tags: MRI Relief Pitchers Saves Sleeper Pitchers