Oct 27, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher John Axford (34) throws against the Boston Red Sox during the eighth inning of game four of the MLB baseball World Series at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy Baseball: Can John Axford rebound in 2014?

One of the best strategies I can offer to fantasy baseball owners on draft day is to not reach for closers to early. There will be a run on them in the early to middle rounds and it is more beneficial to not get caught in the middle of a run when you can find saves later in the draft.

Oct 11, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher John Axford (34) reacts after retiring the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 11th inning in game one of the National League Championship Series baseball game at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

One guy to keep an eye on that you can grab late in Cleveland Indians’ reliever John Axford, who is looking to rebound after a tough 2013 season.

He settled down last year after going from Milwaukee to St. Louis. The long ball problems he had suffered for two seasons vanished as he didn’t allow a homer for the Cardinals. While that was a small sample size, only 10.1 IP, Axford’s BB/9 of 2.61 for the Cards was almost half of what he posted in 2012 (5.06.).

Axford is a guy that could benefit greatly from a change of scenery as he landed himself a golden opportunity this winter, scoring a one-year deal with the Indians to fill their ninth-inning void.

When keeping an eye on Axford, note that the Cards helped him discover a mechanical issue that caused him to tip his pitches to opposing hitters.

The Indians are banking on him being closer to the pitcher who led the National League in saves two seasons ago (46 in 2011) than the one who led the majors in blown saves the past two years combined (16).

With the Cardinals, he leaned more heavily upon his ground-ball-inducing two-seam fastball. The result was a 1.69 ERA in 19 appearances for them, postseason included.

That should be a positive sign for Axford heading forward.

It should also be a positive sign for you considering Axford has an ADP of 212.4 and is the 28th closer off the board on average.

He’s a guy who I project to save around 30-35 games and will have more strike outs than innings pitched.

If you are looking for a cheap closer late, it can’t hurt to take a shot on Axford, who has a real good chance of rebounding this year.

He did allow a solo home run in one inning of work as the Indians defeated the White Sox 5-4 on Tuesday, but it was a positive sign that Axford recorded two strike outs in the effort, a good sign for the Indians’ new closer.

However if you do take a flier on Axford, it also couldn’t hurt to grab Cody Allen or Bryan Shaw, who could be next in line if Axford falters.

Tags: Cleveland Indians Fantasy Baseball John Axford

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