Setting the Trends: The unending chase for saves

There's an old truism that some Fantasy owners have developed over the years: never pay for saves.

The logic behind it is simple -- closers are constantly getting hurt or yanked from their roles, making early-to-mid season replacements, who can be plucked off the waiver wire or added via FAAB, fairly plentiful.

Most Owned Minor Leaguers (as of 5/8)
Player % owned
1. Trevor Bauer, SP, D-Backs 47
2. Andy Pettitte, SP, Yankees 41
3. Jair Jurrjens, SP, Braves 34
4. Julio Teheran, SP, Braves 27
5. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies 27
6. Shelby Miller, SP, Cardinals 26
7. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs 26
8. Brett Jackson, OF, Cubs 19
9. Danny Hultzen, SP, Mariners 17
10. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Indians 16

This season, the first half of that mantra has held up -- every day, it seems, a new closer is either injured or replaced. But choosing the replacement before the hordes of fellow owners zero in on the situation has become increasingly difficult. Even if, for instance, you could travel back in time to just moments before Mariano Rivera was carted off the warning track in Kansas City, you wouldn't be able to tell your past self who to pick up just yet, as no replacement has been named. It's the same situation in Miami, Anaheim, Chicago, and San Diego. Time travel will do you no good; a mixture of logic and lucky guesswork will.

This new trend of not having a closer named immediately after an injury doesn't necessarily mean that "don't pay for saves" is necessarily wrong -- Mariano Rivera and Heath Bell were two of he more popular preseason closer picks and were just as susceptible to poor performance and injury as some of the less-hyped closers, like Huston Street, Jordan Walden, and Carlos Marmol. It means, instead, that more attention will be paid in points leagues to that sneaky strategy of slotting starters with RP eligibility into those RP positions. And the idea of punting saves in Rotisserie Leagues (the practice of just not competing in that category) might be somewhat sound now, as it looks like more teams will be practicing it, which helps to level that category more than if just one team did it.

However these situations play out, Roster Trends can at least help owners figure out where the masses are going and aid in determining what the popular opinion may be when it comes to replacing fallen closers.

Most added highlights

David Robertson, RP, Yankees
Jump in ownership: 61 percent (from 23 percent to 84)
Reason for the jump: He might be the new closer for the Yankees.
Why you should join the crowd: Robertson is arguably the best reliever on the Yankees, averaging 15.8 strikeouts per nine innings so far this year, along with a 0.00 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. His K/BB ratio is 7.00, and his role as the direct set-up man for the injured Mariano Rivera seems to place him as the obvious successor.
Devil's Advocate: There's also a chance that Rafael Soriano, who saw his ownership jump from 10 percent to 49 percent, gets the job. He had twice as many saves in 2011 (two) as Robertson (one), and has 90 career saves to Robertson's three. So far this season, Soriano is a member of the "Same ERA and WHIP Club," carrying a 1.80 in both categories. He doesn't strike out as many batters as Robertson, but he has experience in the role. And then there's this stat: since 2008, Soriano has four appearances of more than an inning; Robertson has 40. There are dueling theories here: either this makes Robertson more suited for a closer role, as Rivera would go more than one inning many times in his career; or it makes Robertson more valuable as a middle reliever, when manager Joe Girardi can use his flexibility earlier in games and have Soriano come in at the start of the ninth to shut the door. In other words, Girardi can use Robertson in the seventh with an out to get out of a jam, keep him in the eighth to hold the game, and Soriano can come in to close the game in the ninth. Their usage over the last four years suggests that the opposite would not be true.

Less than 50, more than 50
Players owned in less than 50% of leagues who should be owned in more than 50%
Player % owned
1. Yonder Alonso, OF/1B, Padres 44
2. Geovany Soto, C, Cubs 44
3. Jonathan LuCroy, C, Brewers 42
4. Travis Hafner, DH, Indians 31
5. Tony Campana, OF, Cubs 23

Steve Cishek, RP, Marlins
Jump in ownership: 48 percent (from five percent to 53)
Reason for the jump: He might be the new closer for the Marlins.
Why you should join the crowd: Like Robertson, Cishek is seemingly the obvious option out of the Marlins bullpen to close games while Heath Bell works out his problems in middle relief. He has a 2.09 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 73 1/3 major league innings while carrying a 9.0 K/9 ratio. He also racked up three saves in 2011, with two of them coming during the Leo Nunez aftermath. Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen told the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Monday that he is leaning towards using Cishek in save situations.
Devil's Advocate: In that same interview, Guillen added, "Maybe. All of a sudden, you may see someone else. I don't know yet." That someone has turned out to be Edward Mujica, who has seen his ownership rise from four percent to 19 percent. Mujica has gotten the two saves in the post-Bell era for the Marlins and hasn't given up a run since April 24. He already has six holds on the season, but a couple two-run blow-ups have his ERA at 3.38. Guillen's fellow Venezuelan countryman, Mujica has just once averaged more than a strikeout per inning pitched, in 2010, with the Padres.

Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates
Jump in ownership: 44 percent (from 29 percent to 73)
Reason for the jump: He has five home runs coming in his last 12 games.
Why you should join the crowd: Owners of Alvarez have been waiting for him to find his swing since 2010, when he hit 16 home runs in 347 at-bats for the Pirates. They suffered through 2011, when he batted just .191 over 74 games, hitting just four home runs. And groans rose up again this year, as Alvarez bottomed out at .042 on April 17. But then the 25 year-old, who was the second overall pick in the 2008 draft, began hitting. He launched a home run on April 18. Between April 21 and May 3, he rattled off seven multi-hit games. His average has risen over .200 points since April 17. It seems that Alvarez has finally unlocked his potential as a power-hitting third baseman, and his timing couldn't have been better, as he got hot just as several third basemen were dropping with various injuries.
Devil's Advocate: Up until April 17, Alvarez looked completely lost at the plate. If he regresses to his 2011 self, things could get very ugly at an accelerated rate.

Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Red Sox
Jump in ownership: 44 percent (from 17 percent to 61)
Reason for the jump: Replacing an injured Kevin Youkilis, Middlebrooks is currently batting .381, with three home runs and nine RBI in four games.
Why you should join the crowd: Middlebrooks was locked in for Pawtucket before his call up with nine home runs and 27 RBI over 24 games. Just to put that into perspective, he's still tied for third on the International League home run leaderboard.
Devil's Advocate: There are two factors at play here. First, for as much power as Middlebrooks has flexed this year, he had sported just a .276 batting average over five minor league seasons (although, in his defense, the average had gotten progressively better as he advanced through the minors). Second, when Kevin Youkilis returns, Middlebrooks will be a man without a position. Middlebrooks has played exclusively third base throughout his career. And while Youkilis has played 22 games in the outfield over his career -- most recently in 2009 -- his litany of injuries will likely keep him at the less-strenuous third base position. Still, if Middlebrooks keeps hitting (and that's a moderately-sized "if," considering his rushed ascension to the majors, combined with the media and fan over-hyping of a Boston would-be savior), there's little chance he'll be sent back down to the minors, making the best guess here one of Middlebrooks shifting to the outfield. And this is, of course, assuming Boston doesn't first pull a Nomar and trade their beloved Youkilis to a team desperately in need of a corner infielder.

Jarrod Dyson, OF, Royals
Jump in ownership: Seven percent (from one percent to eight)
Reason for the jump: He is batting leadoff for the Royals.
Why you should join the crowd: Dyson, a 50th-round pick of the Royals in 2006, is currently batting .326 with three steals in 46 at-bats. He hit .280 in the minors, but stole 38 bases in 2011 (in 319 at-bats), 24 in 2010 (294 at-bats), and 46 in 2009 (315 at-bats). In short, Dyson has a lot of speed, and, at the top of the lineup, he's getting a lot of chances to get on base. If you missed out on Tony Campana -- who is still only owned in 23 percent of leagues -- Dyson is a nice cheap speed consolation prize.
Devil's Advocate: In two previous stints with the Royals, Dyson hit .211 (in 2010) and .205 (in 2011). However, he stole a combined 20 bases in 44 games. One thing not complicating matters is the return of Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City's would-be centerfielder of the future. He had a setback in his rehab and isn't expected to return until June, possibly July.

Manny being Manny

Manny Ramirez had a one percent jump in ownership, from six percent to seven percent, as his return to the major leagues grows closer. Ramirez will embark on a 10-game rehab assignment before being eligible to return on May 30.

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