Joe Nathan has opted to undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his 2010 season and leaving his future as an elite closer in question. While the rest of the fantasy world goes sorting through the middling relievers who could fill the role in the early weeks of the season like Jon Rauch, Matt Guerrier and Jose Mijares, you may be better served to look at the long-term solution.
Anthony Slama, a 26-year old righty who was the Twins 39th round selection back in 2006, has proven over the past two years that he has the stuff to be a successful closer in the minor leagues. He’s saved 54 games while compiling a minor league career 1.87 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 13.3 K/9. If those numbers don’t leap of the page at you I’m not sure what will.
Granted, he has his negatives:
Last season he posted a BB/9 of 4.4 between Double and Triple-A. That’s certainly an issue, though with his ability to strikeout batters it could easily be overcome. Of course, in 2008 at Single-A his BB/9 was just 3.0, so there is certainly hope that he can correct the problem.
He also gives up a decent amount of flyballs, at 44.8% overall in ’09. More specifically it was at 48.3% in 66 Double-A innings (and 30.6% in 15.2 Triple-A innings, though that’s a small sample size). While he’s allowed just five home runs in his minor league career (all during his Double-A stint last season), it could become a bigger issue in the Major Leagues.
Still, even with those issues, the good certainly outweighs the bad. The strikeout rate is just an overly impressive number that you have to take notice of. He’s done it at every level as well, so you can’t just claim that it has been coming against lower level opponents:
- 2008 – Single-A – 71.0 innings – 13.9
- 2009 – Double-A – 65.1 innings – 12.8
- 2009 – Triple-A – 15.2 innings – 10.9
The only word that comes to mind is impressive. He clearly has the stuff to generate swings and misses. He’s proven that he can successfully save games in the past and if he can get his control back in order could simply be unstoppable at the backend of the bullpen.
He may not open the year as the Twins closer. They likely will give the veterans the first opportunity to replace Nathan. Sooner or later, I’d look for him to get a chance, making him worth stashing in all formats.
What are your thoughts on Slama? Could he get some saves in Minnesota? Would you be willing to stash him?
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