The New York Mets had another disappointing season in 2012, going 74-88 and finishing fourth in the National League East. They made a notable move this winter, trading reigning Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays, which took away one of the top fantasy options on the roster as well.
Dickey’s departure leaves the Mets’ pitching staff fairly thin on good fantasy options, but fantasy owners should not forget about the Mets’ closer situation, especially since saves can be tough to find for those that do not secure a top closer or two in their draft or auction.
Right now the top three candidates for the closer role with the Mets are Frank Francisco, Bobby Parnell and Brandon Lyon. Is one of the three clearly a better fantasy option than the others?
Francisco had 23 saves in 26 opportunities for the Mets last season along with a nice strikeout rate (10.0 K/9), but otherwise his numbers were not great (5.53 ERA, 4.5 BB/9 rate). He also spent time on the disabled list for the fourth straight season in 2012, and did not pitch after September 16 due to tendinitis in his right elbow. He had surgery in December to remove a bone spur from the elbow, but is reportedly still dealing with some inflammation early in spring training.
Parnell had the best season of his career in 2012, posting a 2.49 ERA in 74 appearances (68.2 innings) while going 7-for-12 in save opportunities. He has been a valuable piece of the Mets’ bullpen over the last two seasons, with a 3.02 ERA, 29 holds and 13 saves (in 24 opportunities) over that span. Parnell showed improved control last season (2.6 BB/9 rate; 4.1 in 2011) and also induced more ground balls (62 percent ground ball rate; 51 percent in 2011), which made up for a drop in strikeout proficiency (8.0 K/9 in 2012; 9.7 in 2011).
Lyon signed with the Mets as a free agent after a solid 2012 season (3.10 ERA, 63:20 K/BB ratio) with the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays. He has just five saves over the last two seasons, but he does have two seasons with 20 or more saves in his career (2008 and 2010). Lyon’s 9.3 K/9 rate last season was clearly a career-best, but his fly ball percentage jumped significantly (44 percent; 31 percent in 2011) to take some of the luster off of that. Without injuries or ineffectiveness around him, Lyon should have a hard time finding save opportunities.
The Mets have had some reported interest in free agent Jose Valverde, but to this point nothing has come to fruition. Francisco’s progress, or lack thereof, through the rest of the spring may lead to the Mets adding Valverde prior to the season, but for now fantasy owners can disregard him.
Some fantasy owners may allow themselves to be distracted by Francisco’s save total from 2012, but that would be a serious mistake even if he has a clean bill of health prior to the season. Not that he is without value in mixed leagues, but any owner that drafts him will be crossing their fingers that Francisco has a solid save total to make up for his other warts (age, injury history, etc.)
Parnell is the most intriguing fantasy option of the group, which has a lot to do with his youth (28), relative lack of wear and tear on his arm (256.1 major league innings) and the fact he showed nice overall improvement in 2012. His early season fantasy value is tied to Francisco’s health, but I think it will only be a matter of time before Mets manager Terry Collins annoints him as full-time closer. Owners in mixed leagues should have Parnell on their radar as a potential late-round pick with nice upside.
Lyon’s prior experience as a closer is noteworthy, but he simply was not an upper tier fantasy option even when he got a lot of save opportunities. Optimistic NL-only league owners could consider Lyon a viable late-round stash on draft day, just in case he gets save chances at some point.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.