I could say I told you so, but I won't ... OK, I lied. I told you so.
Over the years, I've used this space to warn people about taking closers too early in their fantasy baseball drafts, that the position is too fluid and while the top guys are really good, you can get close to the same numbers much, much later in the draft. And this year, as happens in most every year, those who ignored that advice and drafted the Dodgers' Kenley Jansen in or near the fourth round have been bitten right in their fantasy butt.
Yes, that includes you, Brian Hoxsey.
I'm not criticizing my coworker or anyone else, really, for making that choice because they all got a great player, one that was rated not just the eighth-best pitcher by the ESPN player rater last year, but the eighth-best player overall, justifying an average draft position (ADP) of 36th in ESPN standard leagues in the early-going this year.
That he's struggled in his first two appearances — a loss and a blown save, with four earned runs allowed for an ERA of 18.00 — is an anomaly, I know, but I'm sure it's scared the pants off of people who passed on high-quality position players like the Astros' Alex Bregman, the Indians' Edwin Encarnacion, the Cardinals' Marcel Ozuna, the Phillies' Rhys Hoskins and the Angels' Justin Upton to get Jansen that high.
People think that by saying I wouldn't draft a closer that high — or even in the top 150 picks if you can help it — I think that closers aren't good pitchers, that they're not worth anything on your fantasy club or even that I hate closers as a whole because they're worthless. Not true. They are clearly very important, obviously in saves because they are generally the only ones who record them, but also in strikeouts, ERA and WHIP, though in smaller increments that starters, of course. I'm just saying you can wait to end up with quality numbers like Jansen's.
Right now, just over a week into the season, the top closer in the game with three saves is the Mariners' Edwin Diaz, whose ADP is 100.9. There are seven other closers with two saves as of Wednesday afternoon, and the only two that were drafted ahead of Diaz are the Red Sox's Craig Kimbrel and the Blue Jays' Roberto Osuna. Also included in that seven is one whose ADP is 260.0, or basically undrafted. However, I can understand that people would whiff on Hunter Strickland because San Francisco's closer was supposed to be the injured Mark Melancon. And even Melancon's ADP was a more appropriate 189.0.
OK, a quick example of what I mean: Projections don't really mean much, but consider that Jansen entered the season with an expectation of recording 42 saves, while the Rays' Alex Colome, being drafted 100 picks later, is estimated to save 41. Does that make it any clearer?
It's my preferred pitching lineup to have at least three closers, sometimes four, per team, depending on the league. The highest I drafted a closer this year was at 134, and that was in just two leagues. It was the Nationals' Sean Doolittle, whose ADP of 136 comes after a solid year following his trade from Oakland and who has a firm grip on the job for a team that figures to win a bunch of games.
I targeted some of the more consistent closers available in late rounds, guys like Colome (147.6), the Braves' Arodys Vizcaino (166.9), the Mets' Jeurys Familia (173.7) , the Cubs' Brandon Morrow (202.5) and the Royals' Kelvin Herrera (215.2). Fortunately, I was able to get Strickland and the Diamondbacks' Brad Boxberger because both were named to the post later in the spring, and I picked up Greg Holland, who was great last year but didn't sign with the Cardinals until March 29. He doesn't have a save yet but he will, just as I'm sure Jansen will when he returns to form in short order.
My purpose in saying all this is that it really doesn't make much sense to go with a closer that high. Will the closers you drafted in the top 100 net you saves? Yes. Will the guys that I drafted in the late 100s-early 200s earn me some saves? Yes.
Both will make a difference to your fantasy team, but the players you draft instead of taking a closer later rather than early could make an even bigger one.