When you are looking at bullpens, few are uglier than the Houston Astros. With no clear-cut answer to who is going to rack up saves, we may need to dig deep to ultimately find the answer. I wouldn’t expect them to spend the money or trade valuable chips on an established option, considering we all know they aren’t likely to compete this season. With that in mind, let’s try to locate the best options for fantasy owners to target if they are searching for potential saves:
Recently signed as a free agent, Vera’s brings K/9 of 10.13, 10.01 and 10.61 over the past three seasons. Of course, he also did it for three separate franchises, in part due to poor control (4.92 BB/9 for his career). As if that wasn’t enough, last season he got pummeled to the tune of a 24.7% line drive rate (the second time in three years he was above 22.5%).
While a lack of a true closer could make him an option early, it is hard to imagine him doing anything of merit with the job. Consider him a potential short-term source of saves early in the season, but I wouldn’t expect him to be the solution unless he gets extremely lucky. There’s just too much potential for an implosion given the elevated walk rate and line drive rate. One he may be able to skate by with, but both makes it extremely difficult.
He’s very similar to Veras as he showed a good strikeout rate in 2012 (9.98), but lacked control (4.35). Considering the thoughts I had for Veras (though with a more palatable 18.2% line drive rate in ’12), I could almost echo them here. They both feel like they are similar to Carlos Marmol, and unless something changes neither are likely to thrive in the role.
Introducing the player who may be the best fit for the closers role, at least initially. He showed last season that he can strike batters out (9.29 K/9), but do so while not handing out numerous walks (2.92 BB/9). Throw in a impressive groundball rate (57.1% and 54.9% the past two years), which helps him keep the ball in the ballpark, and what exactly is there not to like? Yes, opponents did hit him hard last season (21.5%), but with the other numbers that can be overlooked easily.
Of course, the fact that he is left handed could actually work against him. Right-handed hitters did hit .269 against him in ’12 and the Astros could value him more as a specialist. However, if he proves he can get the job done early his overall skillset translates well.
Being a Rule 5 draft pick, Fields is likely to stay on the Astros roster so they can keep him in the organization long-term. A former first round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners, he seemed to figure it out in the minors last season as he posted a 2.01 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 78 K and 18 BB over 58.1 innings of work. Considering his past struggles and his lack of Major League experience, it could take him a little while to adjust. He also could be prone to the long ball, with a 0.85 GO/FO, something that we will want to watch (as well as his control given his past issues).
That said, given what he should last season and the potential issues with the top three options, Fields has the potential to lock down the job at some point mid-year. If you are in a deeper format and are looking for a potential source of saves to squirrel away for later, he’s the perfect candidate.
Deep League Sleeper
This is a player most have probably never heard of, but at 24-years old and having had an impressive year at Double-A in 2012, he could be a real dark horse. He notched 27 saves with a 2.33 ERA and 0.98 WHIP last season, as well as an 8.84 K/9 and 2.48 BB/9. Control has been an issue in the past, and he also benefitted from a .248 BABIP, so there are reasons to be skeptical. However, when you look at his success and his 1.30 GO/FO (a common trend over his career) there also is reason for optimism.
If he truly has figured out his control, he could arrive quickly. Given the state of the bullpen, once he arrives he could quickly develop into a high leverage reliever. It’s a name you are going to want to keep filed away, just in case.
What are your thoughts of the Astros bullpen? Who do you think will ultimately settle into the closers role? Is this a situation you are going to ignore completely?
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