The Philadelphia Phillies made one of the biggest off-season acquisitions, signing Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year deal worth $50 million. That shored up their bullpen, which is facing the losses of Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson. While Lidge can use a change of scenery, losing Madson will be felt at some point in the season. Going forward, Papelbon will be the closer for the Phillies with setup man Antonio Bastardo backing him up.
Papelbon was one of the most effective closers over the past 5 years. He has 219 career saves, completing 88% of his opportunities. He did that while in the AL East, which along with the rest of the AL can challenge closers for that coveted save in the 9th inning. Going to the NL East, pitching will be considerably easier for the ACE closer. Papelbon will no longer face stacked lineups that are deep and built with a DH. He will face weaker lineups in most cases and get a cold hitter off the bench rather than a power hitting DH.
Papelbon’s strength as a closer is locating his 96 MPH fastball high in the strike zone and complementing it with his splitter. While he mixes in a slider and change-up now and then, most of the time he uses his two primary pitches.
Some have commented that Papelbon is losing his effectiveness and isn’t the dominant closer he once was. I disagree. After going 37 of 45 in saves for 2010, he made a much improved comeback in 2011 going 31/34 in saves. He will be reinvigorated in Philadelphia and with that pitching staff giving him plenty of opportunities, Papelbon will easily eclipse 40 saves in 2012 as long as he remains healthy. At 31, Papelbon is in the tail end of the prime of his career. He is built like a Roger Clemens, so likely has quite a few years left in that arm.
2012 Fantasy Draft Analysis: Papelbon was already a high value target in fantasy drafts, normally being selected near the 6th round. He is an instant 4-6th round value in 2012. He will give you 40+ saves and likely 80+ Ks with a strong WHIP and ERA.