Keeper watch: James Hoey

About a week and a half ago, I spent a day talking a lot about keeper leagues. In one article, I focused on strategies for closers. I talked about targeting non-closers, picking up a bunch of them now and potentially having some cheap saves in 2008. I gave a list of guys who might make good targets, but there’s one I I left out.

With Chris Ray out for all of next year, the Orioles have no apparent closer. Danys Baez is currently pitching the ninth, but I don’t think his 1.24 K/BB is going to cut it for the whole 2008 season. So, that leaves us fantasy leaguers speculating on who the closer will be.

I think a good bet is James Hoey. He’s never pitched more than 30 innings at one stop—at any level—so pinpointing just how good he is could be difficult. Let’s look at his numbers.

2005 | R | 15.0 IP | 9.00 K/9 | 6.00 BB/9 | 43% GB
2006 | A- | 28.3 IP | 14.61 K/9 | 3.18 BB/9 | 50% GB
2006 | AA | 9.0 IP | 11.00 K/9 | 3.00 BB/9 | 36% GB
2006 | MLB | 9.2 IP | 5.59 K/9 | 4.66 BB/9 | 51% GB
2007 | AA | 17.0 IP | 13.24 K/9 | 2.12 BB/9 | 56% GB
2007 | AAA | 26.3 IP | 14.01 K/9 | 3.76 BB/9 | 40% GB
2007 | MLB | 9.0 IP | 5.00 K/9 | 5.00 BB/9 | 33% GB

What is going on with this guy? Pitching only a few innings at each level and not a lot per year. Still, he has shown great skills in his time in the minors. Those strikeout rates are amazing. It hasn’t translated to the majors, but—really—we’re looking at 19 innings spread out over two years. I’d probably call him a better bet than Baez next year, and considering how much scouts seem to like this guy, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a crack at the closer’s job in spring training.

Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford will likely be in the mix as well, but if Dave Trembley is still managing the O’s next year, fantasy owners might not need to worry. With Ray out this year, he chose to keep those two in middle-inning roles and let Baez close, despite clearly inferior skills. It could be because Baez has had experience closing in the past, and if that is the case, it might make it a little less likely Hoey overtakes him.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens come March. If you’re looking for another guy to pick up in the hopes of getting cheap saves next year, though, James Hoey might be a good choice. Even if Baez starts the year closing, a poor April from him and a good April from Hoey might be all it takes for a switch to be made.

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