MLB Baseball Column: Closer By Committee
Swamping the Opposition
With nearly four months of the Fantasy baseball season in the books, a leader atop the Fantrax Silver Points Salary Cap Challenge has emerged. As of Saturday night, “Swamp People” sits in first place with a 78.33 point lead over “Brown Thrashers II” and a 94.33 point lead over the third place team – “Moto’s Men”.
There is no team in the Top 35 of the Silver Points game with more than four player purchases remaining – a testament to a year that has been full of closer turmoil, struggling stars, and seemingly more injuries to high profile players than normal. Swamp has three player purchases remaining – a healthy amount considering the state of the rest of the field. While there is still plenty of time for teams in the top ten overall to make a move for the top spot in the Silver Points game, Swamp surely has to be considered the favorite to win it all. This week, I thought it would be a fun exercise to take a look at the overall leader’s roster and the moves that he has made throughout the season.
Note: Players who have been purchased are indicated by a “+” and players who have been dropped have their name accompanied by a strikethrough.
Despite Avila and Santana being disappointments for much of the season, Swamp stuck with them until the former fell to an injury in early June. He made a nice pickup with Yadier Molina and will have a solid combination behind the plate if Santana can continue the turnaround that he’s shown over the last two weeks. The only concern is that Swamp has no back up catcher and will need to keep that in mind as he makes his final buys down the stretch.
Like most teams, Swamp has had to deal with Eric Hosmer’s disappointing sophomore campaign, but made the jump to White Sox slugger Adam Dunn fairly early. Since picking up Dunn on May 21st, Swamp has enjoyed a solid 3.88 PPG clip from baseball’s home run leader. However, Swamp is definitely missing the production of Joey Votto as he is being forced to play Hosmer while Votto is recovering from surgery on his left knee. This might be an opportunity for Swamp to add the red-hot Miguel Cabrera to his team as his squad’s salary for this week is just $55,160. He would easily have enough cap space to fit Cabrera in his lineup even after Votto returns at some point in August.
One of the reasons Swamp finds himself at the top of the standings is his excellent preseason call of rostering Jason Kipnis. He figured out pretty early on that all he had to do at this position is plug in Kinsler and Kipnis, who are arguably the top two Fantasy options at the position behind Robinson Cano.
Swamp’s best move so far has easily been picking up Encarnacion way back on May 14th. “E-5” is still owned by just 20.5% of the Silver Points game, rendering the third base position a place where Swamp has been able to gain a big advantage on the majority of the field. Since adding him to his roster, Encarnacion has scored 4.24 PPG and trails only David Wright among third basemen in total Fantasy points scored since May 14th.
Along with the catcher and second base positions, Swamp essentially has no back up at shortstop as long as Tulowitzki is out with a groin injury. There’s a possibility that the Rockies shortstop does not return this season, which is bad news for Swamp should either of his base stealing shortstop options get nicked up or find themselves on the disabled list.
Swamp was a little late aboard both the Josh Hamilton and Carlos Beltran bandwagon as they have both struggled by their standards since being added by our overall leader. However he’s gotten very good mileage out of Fantasy superstar Mike Trout and has some extra firepower coming back soon in Jose Bautista and Giancarlo Stanton. Swamp easily has the greatest depth in the outfield out of all his hitting positions and it should not be a problem for his team going forward.
Matt Moore Cory Luebke
Swamp has done an excellent job at choosing matchups for his starters as his starting rotation has amassed 79 wins in 151 starts – a win in over 50 percent of its starts. Notable successes for Swamp have included eight wins in nine starts from David Price, eight wins in ten starts from Justin Verlander, seven wins in eleven starts from Madison Bumgarner, and six wins in ten starts from Mat Latos. Swamp has a solid rotation from top to bottom and can only be excited about Zack Greinke switching from Milwaukee to the suddenly potent Los Angeles Angels. Additionally, Swamp won’t have to think twice about who to drop when he makes his next player purchase as Brandon Beachy – who has been ruled out for the season – is currently sitting on his bench.
Grant Balfour Sean Marshall
The one critique that I have for Swamp’s team is that I feel he has held on to Rafael Betancourt for too long. Normally I hate to drop a healthy closer, but Colorado is simply not a good saves team. To put in perspective how poor of a Fantasy option Betancourt has been, Aroldis Chapman has scored more points since being picked up by Swamp on May 21st than Betancourt has scored the whole season. It is one of the few spots on Swamp’s roster where he is losing significant ground to the field. There are currently nine weeks left in the Fantasy season – the same number of weeks since May 21st. The three most widely owned closers that Swamp doesn’t have on his team are Craig Kimbrel, Jason Motte, and Santiago Casilla. In the last nine weeks, Kimbrel has outscored Betancourt by 92 points, Motte by 94.33, and Casilla by 86. With the ridiculous amount of cap space that Swamp has, one option that is certainly at his disposal is to purchase Kimbrel – arguably the sturdiest closer option in the game.
Swamp’s team has recently been bitten by the injury bug, as four of his five bench hitters are currently on the disabled list – leaving him with little flexibility in the way he constructs his weekly hitting lineup. It is probably for this reason and the fact that he has just three buys left that Swamp has been hesitant about dropping the aforementioned Betancourt. However, with many of the top teams in the Silver Points game going with a fairly thin hitting bench and the amount of injuries to highly owned players, he is certainly not alone. Swamp has a solid all-around roster and a healthy lead over his competition. If he can avoid injuries down the stretch, he may be well on his way to the coveted top overall honors. However, there is still a lot of ball left to be played, and as always, it should be an exciting race to see who will finish atop the leaderboard at season’s end.
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