Fantasy Baseball: Early Insurance

One of the biggest Opening Day follies of fantasy baseball owners is the irresistible urge to overreact. Yes, Ramón Hernández’s walk-off homer off of Brewers closer John Axford was exciting and his 4-5 day at the plate was a great way to kick off the season. Does that make the narrowly owned backstop an immediate pick up to your team? In a 10 or 12 team mixer, chances are there are better talent on the wire despite the heroic start to Hernández’s 2011 campaign. In the past two seasons, the 34-year-old veteran has seen limited action in Cincinnati logging just 313 ABs in 97 games last season.

While overreacting could be consider the fantasy owners vice, looking ahead at unstable closing situations could net early returns in the wildest category in fantasy baseball: saves. With so much turnover occurring every season at the majority of team’s bullpens, sources of a high volume of saves could be a mere pluck of the waiver wire away. Here are a few options for fantasy owners scraping for saves early in the season.

Percentage of players available taken from Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball leagues

Takashi Saito (MIL-RP): Six percent owned

Axford’s heir apparent should he repeat his Opening Day disaster appears to be the veteran Saito. The Japanese import hurled a scoreless frame in the eighth inning by striking out a pair while allowing two hits. Combine Saito’s position as hedge to the closer position with his effectiveness as a pitcher in the late innings. Throughout his career, Saito is 84 of 97 save chances while posting a 2.19 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, so he won’t hurt you even if a chance to close doesn’t materialize right away. At just six percent owned, he’s certainly valuable enough to be stashed away in deeper formats.

José Contreras (PHI-RP): 58 percent owned

Following Chase Utley onto the DL, Brad Lidge (right posterior rotator cuff strain) is expected to be out until late April. The injury opens the door for former Yankees and White Sox starter turned reliever, José Contreras.

“Right now, with the way it looks, here lately we’ve been using Contreras,” Manuel said. “Of course, Madson is still there. At the same time, to start the season, it looks like it might be Contreras. I don’t know yet. But I’d say right now, if I had to pick somebody tonight, it would probably be Contreras,” according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

Contreras converted three of three save opportunities last season and is still available in a little less than half of Yahoo! leagues. Until Lidge returns from injury, Contreras is the add with Ryan Madson as the alternative save option in Philadelphia.

Sergio Romo (SF-RP): 24 percent owned

Brian Wilson entered the season as the consensus number one closer and begins his season on the DL with an oblique strain. Enter Brian Wilson’s lookalike, Sergio Romo. Beard and all, Romo is expected to shoulder most of the save opportunities in Wilson’s absence.

Romo emerged as a reliable bridge to Wilson last season, holding 21 games with 70 Ks in 62 innings of work while posting a microscopic 0.97 WHIP and 2.18 ERA. A modestly owned reliever with save potential is owned in only 24 percent of leagues.