Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Fantasy owners are really buying into the "don't pay for saves" motto this season.
In Yahoo! leagues, only three closers are being drafted in the first 100 picks -- the Atlanta Braves' Craig Kimbrel (ADP: 45.4), the Philadelphia Phillies' Jonathan Papelbon (78.3) and the St. Louis Cardinals' Jason Motte (89.7).
The rest of MLB's ninth-inning men can be had in the ninth round or later depending on league size.
That includes Fernando Rodney, who saved 48 games, struck out 76 batters in 74 2/3 innings and, oh yeah, posted the lowest ERA by a reliever in MLB history with a 0.60 last season. Rodney had more saves than hits allowed (43), yet he isn't being drafted until pick No. 102.
Owners are probably wary of Rodney since he had an ERA of 4.24 or higher in five straight seasons prior to 2012, but I think the low ADP has more to do with Rodney's 2012 season than any of his previous campaigns.
Rodney's 2012 is just the latest example of a reliever stepping out of the shadows (and off waiver wires) to lead fantasy bullpens. Fantasy owners know there will be more Rodneys this season, so there's no reason to overpay for the real one.
Just look at the closers you can snag after pick 175:
Jason Grilli, Pittsburgh Pirates (ADP: 177.2) - The trade of Joel Hanrahan to the Boston Red Sox has left the 36-year-old Grilli, who has five career saves, as Pittsburgh's ninth-inning man. Grilli has posted an ERA of 2.76 with 127 strikeouts in 91 1/3 innings over the last two seasons. Hanrahan was at 2.24 with 128 strikeouts in 128 1/3 innings over that same timeframe and had 76 saves to show for it.
Grant Balfour, Oakland Athletics (184.2) - Balfour started out last season as the closer as well but lost it in midseason to Ryan Cook. He also had knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in February, so fantasy owners are obviously wary of taking him. But Balfour was ultra-reliable down the stretch after getting his job back -- he had 17 saves and a 2.08 ERA in the final two months of the season during the Athletics' surprising run to an AL West crown -- and he's on track to be ready for Opening Day.
Jonathan Broxton, Cincinnati Reds (195.2) - Aroldis Chapman will move to the rotation, giving Broxton sole ownership of the closer role in Cincinnati. Broxton was erratic at times for Kansas City but he did save 23 games and wiggled out of plenty of jams to post a 2.27 ERA. He displayed more control when he joined the Reds with a 20/3 K/BB in 22 1/3 innings.
Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins (195.6) - Perkins quietly saved 16 games for the Twins last season as a fill-in for Matt Capps. He finished the season with 78 strikeouts in 70 1/3 innings and has no competition for the job right now.
Brandon League, Los Angeles Dodgers (210.7) - Even though the Dodgers announced that League would be their closer when they signed him in November, he's still being drafted after Kenley Jansen. With Jansen looming, League's job certainly isn't safe, but he's going to get the first shot on a team that could win 100 games. League pitched well after Los Angeles acquired him last season, posting a 2.30 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings.
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