Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Banter: Who Is the Likely Replacement for Joakim Soria?

Eric StashinSenior Writer IMarch 20, 2012

KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 6:  Reliever Greg Holland #56 of the Kansas City Royals throws a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays at Kauffman Stadium on June 5, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)
G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images

The news surrounding Joakim Soria appears to be getting more ominous by the day.  Yesterday came this quote from GM Drayton Moore courtesy of (click here for the article):

“There’s damage to the ulnar collateral ligament, the MRIs revealed, and he’s to see Dr. [Lewis] Yocum [on Tuesday in Los Angeles] for a second opinion,” Moore said.

The article goes on to say that a second Tommy John surgery could be in Soria’s future (he first had it in 2003), which obviously would end his season over before it started.  Lucky for the Royals they have two in-house candidates who could potentially claim the job and run with it (three if you want to include Aaron Crowe, though he is a long-shot).  Unfortunately for fantasy owners, there is no word yet as to which one will be given the first opportunity.

The decision comes down to Jonathan Broxton and Greg Holland.  For me, I tend to think that Holland will get the first opportunity to close, though there is no guarantee that he would hold the job all season long.

Let us not forget that Jonathan Broxton has not pitched in a Major League game since May 3 due to an elbow injury and has been handled cautiously thus far in Spring Training.  While both pitchers have looked good thus far, Holland has done it in more time on the mound:

  • Holland – 5.1 IP, 1.69 ERA, 0.56 WHIP, 7 K, 0 BB
  • Broxton – 2.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, 3 K, 1 BB

It’s hard for me to imagine the Royals looking to put that much pressure on Broxton right from the start.  Yes, he has done the job before and done it extremely well, but it still is a lot to ask from someone given his time away.

Holland, remember, was one of the elite setup men in the game last season and also got a chance to close games.  In 60.0 innings he posted a 1.80 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 4 SV, 11.10 K/9 and 2.85 BB/9.

Of course, that isn’t to say that there aren’t potential problems.  For one, there was some luck involved in the numbers (.250 BABIP, 83.3% strand rate).  However with his strikeout ability, even a regression in those numbers shouldn’t lead to unusable peripherals or a major failure.

The bigger potential issue is his control.  Though you wouldn’t know it based on what he’s done, Holland posted a 4.13 BB/9 over his minor league career and 4.74 mark at Triple-A (87.1 IP).  The issue was even prevalent prior to being recalled in ’11, with a 4.57 BB/9 over 21.2 IP at Triple-A.

That’s not to say that he hasn’t simply figured it out, as he has continued to avoid the free pass this spring.  It is something that needs to be monitored just in case, however, though at this point it is beginning to become believable.

Even with that concern, his 9.69 K/9 in the minor leagues and 94.9 mph average fastball in ’11 are very good reasons to believe in his stuff. 

For the first few weeks of the season I would put my money on the Royals giving him the chance to close out games.  He was tremendous for them in 2011 and has done nothing this spring to lose that confidence.  Throw in the layoff that Jonathan Broxton has had, and it just makes sense.

Of course, Broxton could easily take the job away rather quickly, so if you can stash both it would be in your best interest.  However, if you are just looking for saves over the first few weeks Holland is the way I would go.  If he starts strong, it also is not impossible that he can hold the job all year long.

What are your thoughts of the situation?  Who do you think will get the first crack at the job?  Which relief pitcher are you targeting?

Make sure to check out all of our 2012 rankings: