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When looking to develop talent in a dynasty league, there are two paths to follow. The first is to select prospects. The depth of your league will determine how far you have to reach into the minors. In a 12-team league, you're probably looking to find the next Fernando Tatis Jr. In a 20-team league, you might be scrounging around for a premium 15-year-old. Alternatively, you can search for a post-hype or no-hype breakout. The owners of Zack Godley, Chris Taylor, and Justin Smoak are feeling pretty happy these days.

That serves as a general rule of thumb for most positions. It's different for closers. Go ahead and try to organically grow a closer from a relief prospect. It happens from time to time. Ken Giles comes to mind. So does Bruce Rondon. And Joe Jimenez. Those latter two are bad examples.

Most relief prospects wind up in setup or middle relief roles. Many of the best closers were actually starting pitcher prospects who never found a third pitch. It's a tricky proposition, so how do you determine which relievers have the best chance for future success?

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Searching for Saves

Looking around the league, current closers follow one of three archetypes: former starting pitcher prospect, former relief prospect, or non-prospect reliever. The latter category includes veterans like Brad Ziegler, Luke Gregerson, and Brad Brach. You can think of them as opportunists - they've earned saves mostly because somebody had to do it. They happened to be the best option on hand.

In some ways, these are the easiest to acquire even though they're relatively rare at the start of a season. All you have to do is search for a merely decent veteran who regularly works the eighth inning. They aren't sexy targets since they're often blocked by an established closer. However, even Aroldis Chapman briefly lost his job last season. Anybody could suffer an injury or a sudden decline in performance.

While you can pick up a couple fistfuls of saves from these players, they're temporary solutions. Their real world team will eventually find a shinier alternative. And for the few who continually find opportunities like Ziegler or Fernando Rodney, well... nobody wants to waste a roster slot on them.

When searching for a lasting solution for your saves needs, it's useful to identify currently vulnerable closers. Again, let's use Ziegler as an example. Assuming the Marlins eventually trade him, either Kyle Barraclough or Drew Steckenrider appear to be next in line. Both have most of the raw attributes you want from a closer candidate, although they also have their flaws. Unless they improve, the Marlins bullpen is a great place to monitor for an unsuspected breakout.

Scuffling starting pitchers on teams with overly deep rotations are another useful asset class to monitor. While the Yankees certainly don't lack elite relievers, the emergence of Chad Green is due in part to not needing him in the rotation. Even though he's blocked, he's a closer-quality pitcher.


A Bunch of Recommendations

This offseason is a little unusual. Most teams appear to have a stable back end of the bullpen. Actual games action will quickly put the lie to that analysis, but for now there aren't many obvious places to go prospecting for saves. Here are a few I'm watching closely.

Ryan Madson - Nationals incumbent Sean Doolittle has a history of shoulder issues. While Doolittle deserves to close, Madson actually out-pitched him in 2017.

Anthony Swarzak - Jeurys Familia suffered from terrible command after returning from a blood clot. A.J. Ramos always felt like a weird closer due to a terrible fastball. Swarzak was better than both last year.

Marlins bullpen - As covered above, I'm waiting for a dark horse to emerge. For now, it doesn't hurt to snag shares of Barraclough and Steckenrider.

Braves bullpen - Arodys Vizcaino appears to be the lone high leverage reliever on that team. He's battled many injuries over the years. Search for the next guy in line.

Cardinals bullpen - I think they'll sign Greg Holland to supplant Gregerson.

Carl Edwards Jr. - He may be fourth in line for the Cubs job, but nobody ahead of him has his elite upside. Perhaps their 'pen depth will help to keep his cost reasonable.

Archie Bradley - Does anybody believe Brad Boxberger can close? Then again, they got away with using Rodney last year.

Carson Smith - Buried behind Craig Kimbrel. Injuries happen.

Orioles bullpen - A three-headed mini-monster of Brach, Darren O'Day, and Mychal Givens will vie for saves. At least until Zach Britton returns.

Rays bullpen - See Marlins and Braves. Alex Colome seems destined for the trade block.

Brandon Maurer - Kelvin Herrera also seems destined for a trade.

Nate Jones - Is he finally healthy? He's been teasing us forever. Currently behind Joakim Soria on the depth chart.

Addison Reed - Is Rodney really going to hold back another closer?

Tiger bullpen - Gross. Maybe somebody finally steps forward besides middle reliever Shane Greene. Jimenez couldn't buy an out last season.

Santiago Casilla - One of those boring vets who could be needed to close games. Blake Treinen is far from consistent.

Rangers bullpen - For the amount of talented relievers they produce, Texas sure has a hard time finding a closer. Alex Claudio is more of a multi-inning middle reliever.

Cam Bedrosian or Blake Parker - Mike Scioscia is inscrutable when it comes to bullpen strategy.


More 2018 Dynasty Baseball Strategy