2014 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper: RP Nate Jones
After the trade of closer Addison Reed to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Chicago White Sox now have a pretty big piece missing from their bullpen. The team has a handful of potential candidates, but the uncertainty around the team’s closer can prove to be maddening for fantasy baseball fans trying to formulate a game plan for the 2014 season.
The team has several names currently fighting for the closing job, including Matt Lindstrom, Nate Jones, Daniel Webb, and even Ronald Belisario. The frontrunner for the job right now, though, is obviously Mr. Jones.
At first glance, Jones doesn’t have the most impressive stat line last year. He recorded just 18 holds and ended up blowing four saves. He also posted an incredibly high 4.15 ERA with a near worthless 0.5 WAR. Not exactly the numbers that would prompt a team to promote a pitcher to their full-time closer.
However, Jones has been a strikeout machine throughout his professional career. In 78 innings, Jones fanned 89 batters. He recorded a career-high 10.27 K/9 in 2013 and this kind of stellar production is ideal in the ninth inning.
Jones has a fastball that averages 97.7 MPH and it has even been known to touch 99 MPH on the radar gun. He has also developed a devastating slider as well, and accordingly to FanGraphs, he used it 42.1% of the time in 2013. The mixture of these two deadly pitches makes Jones one of the most intriguing strikeout artists in fantasy and will instantly make him a top-15 closer if he can win the closer role.
There are a half dozen team’s with question marks at the closing position and it will leave many owners hesitant from drafting a couple of them. However, Jones is one reliever worth locking onto at the end of 2014 drafts. He will get first crack at the closing job and I don’t see him relinquishing it anytime soon.