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Sergio Romo: Take Caution with Giants Closer in Fantasy Drafts

With strong confidence, I’ll say right now that Sergio Romo will be one of the game’s best relief pitchers in 2014. Unfortunately, being one of the best relievers in the game and being one of the best closers in the game are two different things, especially in the wonderful world of fantasy baseball that we write and read about.

What makes me say that you need to be cautious with the San Francisco Giants reliever? Let’s start by looking at his numbers over the last four years. 

Sergio Romo: 2009-2013

Season
IP
BB (BB/9)
H (H/9)
K (K/9)
ERA
WHIP
Total225.241 (1.6)165 (6.6)261 (10.4)2.030.913
20106214 (2.0)46 (6.7)70 (10.2)2.180.968
2011485 (0.9)29 (5.4)70 (13.1)1.500.708
201255.110 (1.6)37 (6.0)63 (10.2)1.790.849
201360.112 (1.8)53 (7.9)58 (8.7)2.541.077

The glass is half full says that he’s one of the best relief pitchers in the game, just as I said he’d be. The glass is half full says that his numbers in 2013 — his first full year as a closer — were impressive, but a bit of a downgrade from the previous three seasons.

So while I don’t doubt that the numbers will be solid, the lingering question in my mind is, will they be solid as a closer? Or, will Bruce Bochy look to make him more of a set-up guy, the position where Romo has been at his best?

If he’s a closer, he can afford some more regression and still be a Top-10 fantasy relief pitcher at the end of the year. If he’s a regular reliever, the numbers will still be solid, maybe even better, but you’re looking at a good MRI option, and those are usually players taken at the end of drafts, or even in free agency afterwards. Top closers tend to go a little higher.

Wait a minute! Am I really suggesting that some very slight regression would be enough to take the ball away from one of the game’s best closers in the ninth inning? No, not on that alone. But when I add the wrinkle of Heath Hembree into the discussion, it becomes more of a conversation.

Who is Heath Hembree? In short, he’s the Giants closer in waiting. His Triple-A ERA of 4.34 and WHIP of 1.275 may indicate that Hembree is a work in progress. While it is a small sample size, the way that he finished 2013 may indicate that Hembree’s ready for the big time. 

Heath Hembree: 2013 Final Months

Timeframe
Level
IP
BB (BB/9)
H (H/9)
K (K/9)
ERA
WHIP
Total29.27 (2.12)20 (6.07)36 (10.9)1.820.910
JulyAAA10.24 (3.375)8 (6.75)15 (12.7)2.531.125
AugustAAA11.11 (0.794)8 (6.35)9 (7.1)2.380.794
SeptemberMLB7.22 (2.348)4 (4.70)12 (14.1)0.000.783

It’s a limited sample size, but that can be said about the more iffy numbers, as well. It’s true with any relief pitcher. If you eliminate three earned runs from his 2013 total, his ERA goes from 4.07 to 3.58. You really have to pay attention to how well closers keep runners off of the bases and whether they strike hitters out or not. Hembree has done that throughout his career.

Now, I’m not saying that Hembree will be the Opening Day closer for the Giants. As long as Romo is healthy, he’ll be that guy. But will he be that guy all year? The question alone makes me take caution.

When you’re thinking about drafting someone, especially someone with a little bit of uncertainty, you have to ask yourself two simple questions. What’s the worst case scenario if I take him? What’s the worst case scenario if I don’t?

We’ll go ahead and discount injuries, because those are always the worst case scenario. But let’s answer those questions for Sergio Romo.

  • Worst Case Scenario if you take him:

At some point in the early part of the year, Heath Hembree becomes the closer for the Giants. You end up keeping Romo around and while he’s a good MRI guy for you, his save total is comparatively light, somewhere under 20. You also passed on a good player at another position and you’re now scrambling to find saves on the waiver wire, and hoping that you can upgrade the other position that you passed on. It’s a harsh reminder of why you don’t overpay (or overdraft) for saves.

  • Worst Case Scenario if you pass:

Romo is as dominant as ever and racks up 35-40 saves. The guy that you took instead of him didn’t amount to much, and you’re looking to upgrade at his position.

 

The latter scenario is far easier to overcome. If you pass on Romo at or around his ADP and he saves 40 games, you’ll still have plenty of chances to pick up the 40 saves later in the draft. If you take him banking on that haul, then you’re not drafting a closer later and leaving yourself vulnerable at the position you passed on to take him.

I’m not saying that Romo should fall of of your radar come draft time. No, I’m only saying that you have to consider a little more than his reliable numbers. You need to at least think about the possibility that he won’t be closer long enough to be an elite fantasy reliever in 2014.

Because of that, wait at least two rounds after his ADP to take Romo.

Tags: Closers San Francisco Giants Sergio Romo

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