Welcome to the closer speculation edition of the deep league waiver wire! We all hate paying for saves on draft day, which often results in having to chase them all season song, which also fuels hatred. So the best option is to speculate on potential closers during the season, buying current middle relievers cheaply in the hopes that they see some save opps in a couple of weeks.
Nick Anderson | RP MIA | CBS 6% Owned
Since I only really pay attention to non-closing middle relievers in my two AL-Only leagues, I had no idea who Anderson was or what he was doing until Ben Clemens introduced him to us two weeks ago. Since that article, Anderson has continued his insane dominance, striking out 45.5% of the batters he has faced, while walking just 4.6% of them. Although it remains a tiny sample of 9.2 innings, he has struck out 20 batters (48.8%), while walking just two (4.9%). Adding to the extreme results, he has allowed a 41% line drive rate and has yet to induce a pop-up. That helps to explain his inflated .438 BABIP. These are crazy-pants stats!
While in the high minors with the Twins, Anderson posted strong SwStk% and strikeout rates, so this isn’t totally out of nowhere. His repertoire is easy to discuss — it’s composed of just a four-seamer that he has averaged 95.8 MPH with and a slider that he has thrown 42.6% of the time. While the fastball has been as excellent from a whiff perspective as you would expect given its velocity, it’s been the slider that has led to his ridiculous success so far. That pitch has resulted in a 31.9% SwStk%. Combine such effectiveness with throwing it over 40% and you get such eye-popping overall results.
Since these are the first 9.2 innings of Anderson’s career, I wouldn’t expect saves just yet. But the Marlins don’t exactly have a set closer, as Sergio Romo, who has saved two games, owns a 7.71 ERA with deteriorating skills. Even if he turned things around, it’s likely the team would flip him at some point and give someone else, like Anderson, a shot at closing games. While you wait, enjoy the excellent ratios and gobs of strikeouts.
Jake Newberry | RP KC | 0% Owned
It’s not often that I recommend a player owned in 0% of leagues. The 0% is probably rounding, as I’m sure some owner in a CBS league owns him. The Royals bullpen has been an absolute mess, as they sport the third highest relief ERA in baseball. Heading into the season, the closer battle seemed to be between last year’s surprise Wily Peralta and the closer-experienced Brad Boxberger. Both have been terrible. At one point, it even looked like Ian Kennedy was the new closer, but he has saved just that one game and has continued to enter early in games. So who’s left?
Enter Jake Newberry, who was just recalled from Triple-A on April 11. Newberry failed to make the Royals top prospects list and has had nothing written about him until now. It’s been just five innings and 19 batters faced, but he has already punched out 9 of those batters (47.4% strikeout rates), while walking just one. Sounds Nick Anderson-esque! He’s also similar in that he throws a four-seamer and slider, but he has thrown his slider even more frequently at a crazy 54.3% of the time! That’s key because the pitch has been just as difficult to make contact with, sporting a 31.8% SwStk%.
The one big difference between he and Anderson is that so far, Newberry’s fastball has stunk. While it has averaged 94.1 MPH, it has generated just a 2.7% SwStk% over 37 pitches thrown. That’s bad and raises the risk if his slider loses effectiveness. For now though, all those sliders are working. With the Royals having no obvious candidate to close games, Newberry has as good a chance of any to earn the role over the next couple of weeks.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.