Clearing The Bases
On April 10 I wrote at column detailing the closer situation for each team because there had been a few injuries during spring training that took a couple of closers out for the season. Well a month later half of baseball no longer has the same pitcher closing for them that they planned on to start the season. So once again we will take a look at each team’s closer situation, both who is closing now and who was slated to close on Opening Day.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Opening Day: JJ Putz Now: JJ Putz – A couple of blown saves had some thinking that Putz could lose his job. With the way the season is going for closers so far, anything is possible, but outside of injury Putz is a safe bet to remain the Dbacks closer.
Next in line: David Hernandez
Atlanta Braves: Opening Day: Craig Kimbrel Now: Craig Kimbrel - Not that there was any doubt coming into the season, but Kimbrel is one if not the best closer in the National League, probably even in all of baseball.
Next in line: Jonny Venters
Baltimore Orioles: Opening Day: Jim Johnson Now: Jim Johnson – Johnson was sort of an afterthought for saves at draft time, but with the surprising O’s sitting atop the American League East, he has become a solid option at closer. He did miss about a week’s worth of action with an illness, but he’s back in the 9th inning role now.
Next in line: Pedro Strop
Boston Red Sox: Opening Day: Andrew Bailey Now: Alfredo Aceves – It took about a month in to the season, but Aceves has finally settled into the closer’s role. Aceves also seems to be throwing harder than at any point in this past with the radar gun reading 95+ at times. Bailey is hoping to return around the All-Star break which would put Aceves back in a setup/spot starter role. If Daniel Bard were to be taken out of the rotation he could compete with Aceves for the closer’s job, but the Sox seemed determined to give Bard every chance to succeed as a starter.
Next in line: Vicente Padilla
Chicago Cubs: Opening Day: Carlos Marmol Now: Rafael Dolis/John Russell – Anyone who has watched Marmol pitch the past two seasons can’t be surprised that he was finally removed from the closer’s role. When you can’t throw strikes, you certainly can’t be relied upon in one run games. Wood may have gotten first crack at replacing Marmol if he wasn’t on the DL at the time of Marmol’s latest meltdown. Instead the opportunity went to Dolis. Russell could also be in the mix when the opposing team has a few left-handers due up.
Next in line: Kerry Wood
Chicago White Sox: Opening Day: Hector Santiago Now: Chris Sale – The 9th inning role has been an adventure for Chicago all season. Manager Robin Ventura never named a closer, we figured it out when a save situation arose and Santiago was brought in. Santiago was nothing special but it seemed Ventura preferred him over the unproven Reed and Matt Thornton. Then Sale came up with a tender elbow and the Sox decided it was best to protect Sale by taking him out of the starting rotation and putting him as the stopper. How is that working out so far you ask? In Sale’s first save attempt came in the 8th inning with two runners on, a three run lead, and nobody out. By the end of the inning the score was tied, ooops.
Next in line: Addison Reed
Cincinnati Reds: Opening Day: Ryan Madson Now: Sean Marshall - Marshall’s numbers don’t look all that impressive, 4.35 ERA, 1.355 WHIP, but he has gotten the job done. You do have to wonder if at some point during the season manager Dusty Baker realizes that he is wasting Chapman in a setup role and gives him a shot at the closer role, especially if Marshall struggles.
Next in line: Aroldis Chapman
Cleveland Indians: Opening Day: Chris Perez Now: Chris Perez – Raise your hand if you thought Perez would have the most saves in MLB at this point in the season. Yeah, unless you ‘re an Indians fan you didn’t see this coming, especially when at draft time we weren’t even sure Perez would be healthy enough to open the season with Cleveland.
Next in line: Vinnie Pestano
Colorado Rockies: Opening Day: Rafael Betancourt Now: Rafael Betancourt – Betancourt took over the job late last season in sort of an audition for the 2012 full-time role. He passed with flying colors and now has the job. He has pitched well, would be nice however if the team could hand him a few more opportunities.
Next in line: Rex Brothers
Detroit Tigers: Opening Day: Jose Valverde Now: Jose Valverde – Valverde has been extremely unreliable so far this season as he only has five saves to go along with an ERA of almost six and a WHIP approaching two. He has plenty of leeway after having a perfect 2011 season, but he and the team need to play a hell of a lot better.
Next in line: Joaquin Benoit
Houston Astros: Opening Day: Brett Myers Now: Brett Myers - Myers has been the benefit of an Astros offense that has been better than expected so far this season and has given his fantasy owners more than they could have hoped for so far. Problem is, he is going to be traded, and the team that acquires him probably won’t use him as a closer. Sell high.
Next in line: Brandon Lyon
Kansas City Royals: Opening Day: Jonathan Broxton Now: Jonathan Broxton – Coming into the season we didn’t know if it would be Broxton or Holland that would get the job once Joakim Soria went down. Early struggles by Holland and then an injury of his own made that choice easy. Broxton can still bring the heat but it doesn’t always go where he would like it to. Holland should be back shortly but once again it makes sense for KC to keep Broxton in the closer’s role to build up his trade value should they decide to go that route.
Next in line: Greg Holland
Los Angeles Angels: Opening Day: Jordan Walden Now: Scott Downs – Not sure what manager Mike Scioscia was thinking when he yanked Walden from the closer’s role after only three weeks on the job. Not like he was terrible, just as bad as the rest of the team. Downs looked good in his limited time but then suffered a knee contusion Sunday (should be back later this week), then Latroy Hawkins broke a finger, also Sunday. What a mess. New addition Ernesto Frieri could get a save or two in the short term.
Walden will apparently only be used in non-pressure situations for the time being.
Next in line: Jordan Walden
Los Angeles Dodgers: Opening Day: Javy Guerra Now: Kenley Jansen - We all knew this was coming. Guerra started off the season hot, but as soon as he went through a rough patch Jansen was going to take over.
Next in line: Javy Guerra
Miami Marlins: Opening Day: Heath Bell Now: Steve Cishek – It was actually painful watching Heath Bell blow save after save for Miami. Not much has gone right for the Marlins so far this season. There brand new ballpark seems to be to big and has some “thing” in left-center. Ozzie has once again made an idiot of himself with his mouth, and now the big money they spent on Bell seems to be wasted. Cishek seems to be the guy you want in the immediate future, but Mujica will be used also, and it’s just a matter of time until bell gets another shot.
Next in line: Edward Mujica
Milwaukee Brewers: Opening Day: John Axford Now: John Axford – Not much to say here. Axford is one of the top closers in the game who can pile up the strikeouts.
Next in line: Francisco Rodriguez
Minnesota Twins: Opening Day: Matt Capps Now: Matt Capps – Capps has done the job, in an extremely limited situation. The Twins are a bad team and that’s putting it nicely, meaning save opportunities will be few and far between. Like Brett Myers, I would expect Capps to be traded at some point this season and be a setup man, not a closer.
Next in line: Glen Perkins
New York Mets: Opening Day: Frank Francisco Now: Frank Francisco – Francisco’s numbers certainly don’t look good, 5.54 ERA, 1.615 WHIP, but he has eight saves and has generally gotten the job done for the surprising Mets so far this season. One might wonder however if the Mets would look to deal him as the season progresses if they fall out of the race.
Next in line: Jon Rauch
New York Yankees: Opening Day: Mariano Rivera Now: David Robertson – Rivera was lost for the season after tearing his ACL and meniscus last week in Kansas City. Huge loss for the Yankees and baseball, but they are pretty deep in the bullpen and have two closers in waiting in David Robertson and Rafael Soriano. It’s Robertson’s job for now, but Soriano should be good for a handful of saves also. Back to Mo. The good news about the injury is that he stated “I’m not going out like this”. He will be back for at least one more season when it looked like he might retire after this year.
Next in line: Rafael Soriano
Oakland Athletics: Opening Day: Grant Balfour Now: Grant Balfour – Balfour is in the same boat as Capps and Myers. Doing the job now but will most likely be dealt by the deadline to a contender that already has an established closer.
Next in line: Jordan Norberto
Philadelphia Phillies: Opening Day: Jonathan Papelbon Now: Jonathan Papelbon – Papelbon has been as good as advertised. Phillies offense is anemic however which could keep his save chances down.
Next in line: Antonio Bastardo
Pittsburgh Pirates: Opening Day: Joel Hanrahan Now: Joel Hanrahan – Hanrahan has re-discovered his fastball velocity as the season has progressed. Pirates are a bad team however. How many save chances will he get as the season moves along?
Next in line: Juan Cruz
San Diego Padres: Opening Day: Huston Street Now: Andrew Cashner – Shocking, Street is on the DL. Who didn’t see this coming? Cashner is the closer of the future, and that future may be now. They will protect him however so Gregerson is worth owning also in fantasy leagues.
Next in line: Luke Gregerson
San Francisco Giants: Opening Day: Brian Wilson Now: Santiago Casilla – Can’t say I was surprised that Wilson needed Tommy John surgery. This seemed to go back to last season. Romo may be the better pitcher, but they like him in the 8th inning role and Casilla hasn’t had any problems closing games out.
Next in line: Sergio Romo
Seattle Mariners: Opening Day: Brandon League Now: Brandon League – League doesn’t get any love, but gets the job done. Would be interesting to see where he would rank if he was closing for a good team.
Next in line: George Sherrill
St. Louis Cardinals: Opening Day: Jason Motte Now: Jason Motte – Last season the Cards played closer roulette until Motte took over the job. This season it’s all about Motte who has nothing to worry about but his own performance. Like many young hard throwing closers, it’s not about him getting hit, it’s about his ability to consistently throw strikes.
Next in line: Fernando Salas
Tampa Bay Rays: Opening Day: Kyle Farnsworth Now: Fernando Rodney – Farnsworth was put on the DL shortly before the season began with elbow soreness. Farnsworth could be back in early June, but Fernando Rodney has been lights out and seems unlikely to be removed from the closer’s role unless he has a string of poor outings.
Next in line: Joel Peralta
Texas Rangers: Opening Day: Joe Nathan Now: Joe Nathan – A smooth under the radar free agent signing by Texas which allowed them to move former closer Neftali Perez to the starting rotation. If Nathan can remain healthy and effective all season he could have a big season, that is a big if however. Nathan did deal with injury and ineffectiveness at times last season, still, he should have a long leash with Texas.
Next in line: Mike Adams
Toronto Blue Jays: Opening Day: Sergio Santos Now: Francisco Cordero – Cordero has been average at best since taking over for Santos who suffered a shoulder. Santos should be back by the end of May and put Cordero back in his setup role, where he should be.
Next in line: Sergio Santos
Washington Nationals: Opening Day: Drew Storen Now: Henry Rodriguez – Storen is still out until around the All-Star break, and Brad Lidge has been lost due to hernia surgery, but Henry Rodriguez, he of the 100 MPH fast ball has taken to the role and should keep it until Storen is healthy.
Next in line: Tyler Clippard
Remember, you can ask me any fantasy questions you like on Twitter, @GeorgeKurtz