Mar 5, 2014; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Grant Balfour (50) throws a pitch during the fourth inning against the New York Yankees at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy Baseball: Rays' closer Grant Balfour is being undervalued in fantasy drafts

grant balfour

Rays’ closer Grant Balfour has sleeper status in middle rounds of fantasy drafts (Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

We’re getting closer to the start of the baseball season, and although there are less “surprises” out there, some players are still falling under the radar in fantasy drafts.

Tampa Bay Rays’ closer Grant Balfour is one player that is getting the cold shoulder in fantasy baseball drafts and can still be had on the cheap.

» Grant Balfour, CL (current ADP: #153):

There was quite a hubbub surrounding Grant Balfour’s free agency this winter, and that has been one of the main reasons the Rays’ closer is being overlooked in drafts.

The Baltimore Orioles had agreed to terms with Balfour on a two-year, $15 million deal in December, but after undergoing a physical, they decided to rescind the offer.

Apparently Balfour’s shoulder was in question, and with the Orioles out of the picture, he was put back on the open market.

The Rays, being one of the more opportunistic teams around, took a chance on him, signing the right-hander to a two-year contract worth $12 million.

Balfour is familiar with the Rays organization — he played in Tampa for a portion of 2007 (after being traded from the Brewers) and then from 2008-10.

When he was previously with the Rays, though, he hadn’t taken on the closer role yet.  He did have eight saves, but he mostly worked in middle relief, compiling a 3.33 ERA with 237 K in 203 IP.

He’s garnered more experience since his last time with the club.  In fact, he was one of the more dominant closers in the game while playing for the Oakland A’s the past three seasons.

The 36-year-old Australian followed up an impressive 2012 season (24 saves) with an even better 2013, accumulating 38 saves while striking out 72 batters.  From April 29, 2012 to July 23, 2013, Balfour converted 44 consecutive saves, the sixth-longest streak in MLB history.

After a rough start to the spring, Balfour has pitched 1.1 scoreless innings over his last two outings.  He maintains the “dead arm” issues he had this winter are behind him and there’s no reason for fantasy owners to believe he can’t pick up where he left off in Oakland.

As of Monday, Grant Balfour is being selected 153rd overall and is the 19th closer coming off the board.  I prefer him over guys like Rafael Soriano (137), Jonathan Papelbon (141), and Steve Cishek (146).

The Rays have made the playoffs in four of the last six years, have an excellent pitching staff, and afforded 85 saves to perennial bust Fernando Rodney during his two-year tenure in Tampa.

Draft Grant Balfour now, and laugh at all the Papelbon owners on your way out.

2014 Projections: 4-2, 34 SV, 2.50 ERA, 69 K, 1.12 WHIP

» Missed any of my earlier picks?  Please click here for links to all the sleepers I’ve have covered from each team so far.

Tags: Fantasy Baseball Fantasy Baseball Sleepers Grant Balfour Tampa Bay Rays

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