Saturday, March 8, 2008

Fantasy Plus: JJ Putz

Next up in the Fantasy Plus series, is closer JJ Putz, coming off of his first 40 save season, and All-Star appearance.

Putz, who pitched in only two games last spring because of an elbow injury, went on to have the finest year of his career -- 40 saves, a 1.36 ERA and a 6-1 record to earn the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year award. In 2007, Putz and the Mariners were concerned about lingering soreness in his right elbow. He was having trouble getting loose after his first Cactus League performance on March 5 and didn't pitch again until March 27, when he appeared in a minor league game. The Mariners weren't at all sure that he'd be ready to go once the season started, but he threw one inning against the Cubs in Las Vegas and judged himself ready to go. He's one of the Big Three at the Fantasy closer positions this season, along with Jonathan Papelbon and Francisco Rodriguez, so draft him as such.

So much for the elbow trouble that plagued him late last spring; Putz recovered quickly and managed substantially better ERA, WHIP and batting-average against numbers than he did in his breakout 2006. Sure, his strikeout rate tumbled slightly, but when you're talking about going from 11.95 per nine innings to 10.30, are you really going to complain? Putz is now one of the game's most reliable closers, and nothing in his profile indicates a step backward is coming. He'll contend for top fantasy honors at his position.
Putz proved that his 2006 breakout season was no fluke by saving 40 games for the Mariners in dominating fashion last year. Ringing up a 22-inning scoreless streak along the way, he topped all regular relievers in ERA and WHIP while recording an overpowering K/BB ratio. Even though Putz has logged more innings than any other top closer over the past two seasons, owners shouldn't worry about him breaking down. Expect Putz to be right there at the top of the pack again in '08.

My Analysis

You should be able to count on JJ once again to be a solid closer, now that his rotation has become better. Why does the good rotation matter? Would it be easier to convert a save with a one run lead or three? That could be the difference between the save and blowing the save. Expect around 40 saves again for Putz, with atleast a strikeout per inning pitched. His ERA should also be fairly low as well. Don't be too worried when using a high draft pick on him.

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