White Sox closer Nate Jones was recently placed on the 15-day DL with a strained glute. This appears to be a reaggrevation of an injury he suffered early in spring training, and one that may have been flared up after his 8 spring training appearances. This DL trip followed a disastrous start to the 2014 season. In 2 appearances, Jones did not record an out. He faced 5 batters, issued 3 walks, 2 hits and surrendered 4 runs. His ownership across ESPN leagues dropped from 80.6% to 19.1% with the news of his DL stint. But were owners too quick to cut bait with Jones?
According to FantasyPros 2014 ADP compilation, Jones was the 26th RP drafted, with an average selection at pick 205. In a 12-team league, that makes Jones a 17th round selection. As a Jones owner in several leagues, I am faced with the decision of cutting ties with the possible closer and hoping to find success on the waiver wire, or holding onto him and hoping he recovers his form when his injury has healed.
Jones is no stranger to bouts of wildness and surrendering of runs. In 2013 through his first 20 appearances, Jones surrendered 2 or more runs 5 times. Over his final 50 appearances, he did that just 4 times. In 2012, he surrendered 2 or more runs in 5 of his 65 appearances. While Jones has flashed an elite strikeout potential with a K/9 of 10.27 over 78 innings in 2013, he still had a BB/9 of 3. For his short career, his B/9 rate is 3.67.
Nate Jones has dominant stuff and according to Fangraphs, his fastball has averaged nearly 97 mph the past 2 seasons. Perhaps in part due to his injury issues this season his average was only about 90 mph, with 96.2 on his 2-seam. With a changeup averaging closer to 85 mph, Jones has a killer combination of speed change that generally keeps batters off-balance.
So, what is an owner to do with Jones? If you have a DL slot available, I am stashing him there. If you have a bench slot available, I would hold onto him. If you have to cut him and pick up someone else, who should you be targeting? Well, closers are certainly a volatile group. We have already seen our share of job changes. If you are looking for a short-term saves solution, Shawn Kelley (Yankee closer while David Robertson is on the DL) is available in 96% of ESPN leagues. Chad Qualls is owned in less than 1% of ESPN leagues and should get some chances in Houston. I just added Qualls and cut JJ Hoover who I had hoped would close some games with saves not loses while Aroldis Chapman is out, but it appears Broxton will assume that role when he comes off the DL. I also like AJ Ramos in Miami (5 Ks in 2 1/3 inning so far, with a win and an ERA of 0) and Junichi Tazawa in Boston (6 Ks in 4 innings with an ERA of 0) as guys who may get save opportunities and should help with your ratios (ERA, WHIP) in roto leagues.