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Astros Name Brett Myers Closer

With a month-plus of mock-draft data in the rearview, it's safe to say mockers before Tuesday had regarded Astros pitcher Brett Myers with general apathy. The right-hander's low draft rate of just 12.1 percent, per MockDraftCentral, indicates he was valued somewhere between late-round flier and waiver wire streaming candidate -- closer to the latter, actually.

All of that, however, has changed with an unexpected announcement made by the Astros on Tuesday.

After logging 200-plus innings as a starter in each of the past two seasons, Myers, 31, will close for Houston in 2012.  It settles once and for all the question of who'd be taking the ball in the ninth inning for the Astros this year, as we'd previously been left to speculate on the likes of luminaries such as Brandon Lyon (coming off major shoulder surgery), Wilton Lopez, David Carpenter, and Fernando Abad (after whom I've named my team "Breaking Abad" in the MLBTR league -- yes, I'm quite pleased with this).

So, the pertinent question here is not if Myers should be drafted -- after all, there are only 30 closers in baseball, so they all must go -- but rather when he should be drafted and what we can expect in regards to production.

Certainly, the combination of Myers' underwhelming strikeout rate and the fact that he'll be closing for what might be the worst team in baseball will conspire to make him less than a sexy pick, as it were. Those concerns are understandable, so while I don't think there's much room for Myers to be a value pick, per se, I do think he'll have held his own by season's end in comparison to the other closers in the bottom-third tier.

Myers has averaged about 7.0 K/9 the past two seasons as a starter, which is a respectable figure but well off from his best years as a Phillie, when he was just north of 8.50 K/9. The good news, though, is that most pitchers see an uptick in strikeouts when they move to the 'pen, and though it'd be foolish to expect anything near 10.88 K/9, which Myers posted during his lone season as a reliever in 2007, a return to the 8.00 range is perfectly reasonable. That, combined with a sub-3.00 BB/9 rate, should make Myers a useful closer, not significantly more or less prone to meltdowns than the average stopper.

As for the matter of pitching for a potential 100-loss club, I'll reiterate what I've said before regarding the tenuous correlation between a team's wins total and its closer's saves total: If there's a formula out there for predicting such a thing, I've never seen it. Sure, the Astros' closer in 2011, Mark Melancon, finished with a mere 20 saves. However, Mar-Mel didn't even take the reins till mid-May. With an extra five or six weeks of closing and a little bit of luck, it's fair to assume he might have ended up with 25 or even 30 saves. Elsewhere, in contrast, Mariners closer Brandon League netted 37 saves last season for the 95-loss M's.

Finally, it's worth noting that Myers' vesting contract option for 2013 has been restructured to reflect his new role, which indicates to me that his change is permanent rather than experimental. I suppose that Astros could always re-restructure it if things don't work out for Myers as a closer, but I seriously doubt they'll go through the trouble. All of this is to say, I expect Myers to hold onto the closer's role throughout 2012, and while that's far from guaranteed -- things can change in a hurry after a couple blown saves -- Myers must have more relative job security than the Matt Thorntons, Javy Guerras and Chris Perezes of the world, who will be facing stiff competition from up-and-comers in their own bullpens.

Those closers are currently being drafted in the 230-range, and I wouldn't be averse to drafting Myers before any of them.


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