John Axford has rapidly become one of the game’s best closers. Breaking news! Milwaukee’s acquiring Francisco Rodriguez! Who’s going to close?! Axford took one look at K-Rod and said, “Nice goggles, but where’s your ‘stache?” That was that. He’s posted FIPs of 2.13 and 2.41 in each of the last two seasons and saved 46 games last year for the NL Central champs. He’s an elite strikeout pitcher, greatly improved his walk rate and his worst career OBA is .211. But wait, he’s only ranked 120? Ah, the life of a closer in fantasy baseball. Saves are unpredictable, and anything can happen with relievers. Axford could repeat last season’s success and rank in the top 50 overall again, but he could also turn in a 30-save season, post an ERA in the 2.50-3.00 range and generally underwhelm. On a fantasy team, Axford’s production can be replaced…unless one of your league’s categories is Facial Hair.
Best case scenario: Repeat of 2011 season
Similar players: J.J. Putz (ARI), Sergio Santos (TOR), Jonathan Papelbon (PHI)
Worst case scenario: 2011 version of Brian Wilson (SF)
K, SV. Anyone who strikes out over a batter per inning is in pretty elite company, and relievers that can top 10-plus K/9 are truly elite. Just five relievers had a strikeout rate over 10 K/9 and saved more than 11 games. Axford was one of them. Milwaukee should continue to be one of the best team’s in the NL, and that should mean plenty of save chances.
WHIP (I guess). A 1.14 WHIP is nothing to scoff at, but when there were 10 other relievers who saved 25-plus games with WHIPs under 1.10, you can’t be considered elite (in that category at least).
ADP Report (91.1)
I wouldn’t take Axford here, but that’s because I wouldn’t take any closer not named Craig Kimbrel this early. From a pure value perspective, Axford is probably worth this pick, so it all comes down to what your strategy is with closers.