Originally written on Fantasy Sports Locker Room  |  Last updated 3/21/14

Jim Johnson and Grant Balfour make for good comparison because they are being drafted within the same range of one another and because they nearly swapped teams this offseason before the Orioles, in their binge of uncontrollable failed physicals, kaiboshed the Balfour to Maryland deal.Nevertheless, they are two of the game’s save leaders from 2013 and each finds themselves in a new context this year. With just two years in the role apiece, and a significant number of their career saves coming with the same team, how they adjust to this change may have a significant impact on their 2014 success. Knowing which will continue to thrive in the 9th inning role and which may falter is an important piece of information heading into your 2014 draft. 2014 Outlook: Jim Johnson Johnson is coming off back to back seasons with more than 50 saves in Baltimore and finds himself relocated to a team that won 96 games last year. 2012 marked his first season as a full timer closer and in the two seasons since, Johnson has excelled with those two 50+ seasons (101 total) and an ERA under there in both campaigns. He has done it though, with underwhelming K/9 numbers (7.2 last year, 5.4 in 2012). Of course, with a career 57.7% ground ball rate he doesn’t necessarily need to overpower hitters to be effective. The 30 year old closer throws hard enough, but has seen an appreciable dip in velocity over the past two seasons from 95.0 in 2011 to 93.5 last year. The challenge will be that he arrives this season in Oakland where the infield defense isn’t as strong as he is accustomed in in Baltimore – there are many measures, but one such indicator is that the A’s committed nearly twice as many errors as the O’s lats year. As a team, they supported just 38 saves from Balfour in 2013. The peripheral numbers may stay the same but if the ERA comes up a few points and the K/9 is somewhere between 2012 and 2013 totals, Johnson at 35 saves looks a lot less appealing than he did at 50. For the most part, owners aren’t paying for that on draft day with an ADP of 124 (RP12), but anyone drafting Johnson as a lock for 45-50 saves is going to wind up disappointed. 2014 Outlook: Grant Balfour We mentioned that it took Balfour a couple of tries to stick with a team this offseason, given lingering concerns over his arm health but the word now is that he is fully healthy and ready to resume his successful career as a closer with Tampa Bay. Balfour just turned 36 and has just two years as a closer on his 10 year MLB resume. He saved 38 games for Oakland last season on the heels of 24 in 2012 – a season in which he was not the full time closer, finishing just 34 games in 75 appearances. Unlike Johnson, he has put together a strong K/9 to go with plus ratios in the last two seasons – posting a highs of 2.59 ERA, 1.197 WHIP and a low of 8.7 K/9 in those two years. Though the differences in ratios aren’t vast, they do make a 35 save season much more enticing. Fernando Rodney picked up 37 saves last year despite sporting a 3.38 ERA and 1.335 WHIP (including 4.9 walks per nine) Balfour is changing teams too, but the ballpark factors are moot and he has already pitched in Tampa Bay – sandwiching an ugly 2009 with two strong campaigns out of the bullpen in 2008 and 2010 before moving on to the Athletics. This time around, he’ll anchor a bullpen that projects as one of the best in the bigs, which in theory should help the team hold leads in close games and thus present more save opportunities. The Aussie does live a little more dangerously than his American peer, with a 37.9% ground ball ratio, relative to 39.1% flies last season, but the increased strike outs help to mitigate some of this. Their career HR/FB ratios are exactly the same at 7.9% though Balfour gives up a few more flies. The Winner: Jim Johnson In terms of value relative to cost, I’m likely to take Balfour as he is coming a round or two later in most drafts, but given the opportunity to choose between the two it is hard to ignore Johnson’s knack for getting it done in the 9th in recent seasons. I’m expecting a dip in saves, and an inflation in ERA but neither number will be detrimental to his overall value. As long as owners aren’t selecting Johnson counting on a repeat of 2013 in a different uniform, he should deliver very serviceable RP numbers and given his contract, it’s going to take a lot for him to lose his job which is something that can be said for only half of the league’s day one closers, give or take a few. The post The great draft debate: Jim Johnson vs. Grant Balfour after changing of the A’s guard appeared first on Fantasy Sports Locker Room.

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