Most modern fantasy baseball owners got their start in a rotisserie league. I haven’t seen the actual numbers, but I’d be willing to guess that at least half of leagues are still roto-based. Many leagues, no matter what the scoring structure, have Relief Pitcher positions, forcing you to fill out your lineup with closers. Many points leagues, however, simply have pitcher slots, with no differentiation between Starters and Relievers. While points are still awarded for Saves, Starting Pitchers still drastically outscore Closers in these leagues.
How can you use this to your advantage? Since humans are creatures of habit, and most fantasy baseball owners are used to needing Closers, they will continue to draft them. While they’re busy drafting players that they don’t need, they’re leaving all of your sleepers on the board.
My advice is to not draft a single Closer. Fill your entire pitching staff with Starting Pitchers. Since you can scratch Closers off of your draft list, every other player will move up in your rankings. If you have a player pegged to go in the 10th round, you should be able to snag him in the 9th without worrying about over-drafting, or having to forego another aspect of your team.
Last season, due to a 2-round auto draft mishap, my team had an awful offense. However, I was so pitching-heavy that I still made it to the league’s championship game. My staff included Halladay, Lincecum, Haren, Price, Gallardo, Richard, Jurrjens, Minor, Wilson, Buehrle, and Burnett. The year before, in the same league, I had a much stronger offense with a weaker pitching staff (Hamels, Floyd, Buehrle, Vazquez, Garland Hanson, etc…), and I won the league. Once again, I didn’t draft any closers. Because of that, I had much more talent to choose from with every pick. It feels like I’m drafting a round ahead of everybody else, which offers a solid advantage.
The fact of the matter is Closers are traditionally volatile and inconsistent. In a roto league, they carry enough value to warrant middle round selections, but they can still cost you at other positions.
The choice may come down to Billy Wagner and Buster Posey. There is such a big drop off at Catcher that if you miss out on Posey, you’ll probably wait til the late rounds to draft a backstop. If you draft the Closer, you might wind up filling your Catcher spot with Kurt Suzuki. On the other hand, if you take Posey, you can fill that pitcher spot in the late rounds with one of the many sleeper Starting Pitchers like Jeremy Hellickson or Brett Cecil.
So, if you’re thinking about drafting a closer in a points league, ask yourself this, “Would I rather have Posey and Hellickson, or Wagner and Suzuki?” I think you’ll choose wisely.