This is the newest feature I am going to be doing as we head towards fantasy drafts. In an effort to target which closers could be in jeopardy of losing their jobs, who to target for vulture saves, etc., we will be breaking down each team’s bullpen. Let’s kick things off with a look at the Red Sox:
The Closer: Jonathan Papelbon
Since assuming the Red Sox closer’s role in 2006 Papelbon has been one of the elite options in the league totaling 188 saves (at least 35 a season). However, after blowing eight saves in 2010 to go along with a career worst ERA (3.90) and WHIP (1.27), his leash will be extremely short in 2011.
Over the past two years his control has been an issue (walk rates of 3.18 and 3.76), which helps to explain his increased WHIP (from 2006-2008 he had posted WHIPs of 0.78, 0.77 & 0.95). Last season he also suffered from a below average strand rate of 68.7%, which helps to explain his higher ERA. Prior to 2010 his worst ERA was 2.34.
His strikeout rate has been consistently above 10.0 per nine innings, which does help to offset things. He also consistently works a lot of innings (67.0 innings or more in four of the past five seasons).
There certainly are enough positives to continue ranking him among the Top 10 options, but you have to do so with an asterisk. The Red Sox are built to win now, so the first time he has an extended slump could mark the end of his run as the team’s closer.
Next in Line: Daniel Bard, Bobby Jenks
Bard was electric over 74.2 innings in 2010 while posting a 1.93 ERA and 1.00 WHIP (Papelbon-esque numbers). His K/9 was at 9.16, though with a fastball that averages close to 98 mph, seeing that number improve is extremely realistic.
His control was alright, with a walk rate of 3.62, and he certainly benefitted from a .225 BABIP. Still, with his strikeout rate, even if the latter regresses there he should be more than capable of posting a solid WHIP.
At 25-years old he is the team’s future at the position. The question is if the future is now?
Bobby Jenks, the former White Sox closer, could easily have something to say about that. He was brought in to help setup for Papelbon, but with the Red Sox built to win they could opt for his experience should Papelbon struggle.
Yes, he had a 4.44 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 2010, but he also suffered from some terrible luck (.368 BABIP, 65.4% strand rate). He has a good strikeout rate (8.80 K/9 for his career) and solid control (2.90 BB/9 for his career). There certainly is a good chance he rebounds and could post an extremely solid 2011 campaign.
The Rest: Dan Wheeler, Tim Wakefield, Michael Bowden, Scott Atchison among others
Given the three options at the top of the bullpen, no one here holds fantasy appeal. Wheeler would be the sleeper, but it just seems unlikely he makes any type of major impact at the end of ballgames.
While Jonathan Papelbon will open 2011 as the team’s closer, it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see a change made at some point. Jenks’ experience may win out as the next in line, but Bard’s ability is too much to overlook. Bard is the long-term solution and if Papelbon does falter, I would expect the Red Sox to go with the hot hand. Keep that in mind, but for now Jenks would appear to be the better handcuff.
What are your thoughts of Boston’s bullpen? Will Papelbon hold the job for the entire 2011 season? If not, who do you see getting the first chance to replace him?
**** Make sure to pre-order your copy of the Rotoprofessor 2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide, selling for just $5, by clicking here. ****
Make sure to check out our 2011 rankings: