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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: JAKE McGEE OUT OF EARLY SAVES PICTURE FOR TAMPA BAY AFTER ELBOW SURGERY

The 2015 fantasy baseball season will take shaper focus soon enough now that fantasy football is almost in the books.  We continue to follow all of the offseason news and signings but also the injuries.  Under the latter heading. word came out of Tampa Bay today that 2014 second-half close Jake McGee was forced to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left pitching elbow which will have him sitting on the DL for the start of the 2015 season.  McGee was coming off a terrific breakout season for the Rays when he pitched to a 1.89 ERA and collected 19 saves while striking out 90 batters in 71.1 innings.  The Rays have refused to say how long McGee could be out but they did acknowledge that he will not be ready to go at the start of April.  The real shame is that McGee was shaping up as a terrific value play at closer where you really want to be when it comes to addressing this position in your draft.  The injury now forces us to push McGee down quite a bit in the closer rankings but we also don't suggest you avoid him altogether either as even if he comes back in May, you would still get a very cheap five months out of the guy.  For now though, we have to try and figure out who will step up for saves in McGee's place and with Joe Maddon and his tendency to love committee's now in Chicago, the hope is that one guy will emerge. 

As far as the possible options are concerned, the one that clearly stands out is Ernesto Frieri who was a dominant closer at times for the Los Angeles Angels over the three seasons.  Unfortunately he melted down in epic fashion last season which cost him his closer job and got him eventually shipped out to the Pittsburgh Pirates where he pitched even worse.  Frieri is a clear reclamation project at this point but one who has a tremendous K rate that goes well with the closer role.  Should be considered the front-runner due to his experience.

Two other names to look at would be Kevin Jepsen and Brad Boxburger.  On results and stuff alone, Boxberger should be the clear choice as he pitched to a 2.37 ERA and 0.84 WHIP as a rookie in 2014.  In addition, Boxberger struck out a ridiculous 104 batters in only 64.2 innings.  Boxberger has big-time heat under his fastball and again his stuff clearly passes the smell test when it comes to being a closer.  He has little to no experience at the major league level however which could hurt him, especially considering it will be early in the season when managers want their teams to get off to as good a start as possible.  Meanwhile Jepsen just came over in a deal for outfielder Matt Joyce and the veteran setup man and the veteran himself comes off a nice 2014 campaign where he pitched to a 2.63 ERA and 1.05 WHIP while striking out 75 batters in 65 innings.  Jepsen has gotten hit hard in the past but also had put up some dominant seasons.  Again his stuff looks closer-worthy which means he could get a look also.

When you look at this situation closely, any one of these three could emerge as the early closer.  We still think Frieri will get the gig due to his experience but we want Boxberger to get a shot.  If Boxberger does get a chance, he could run with the gig if he dominates early on.  This should be watched very closely in spring training and in the meantime be sure to add all three to your draft queue. 

 
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