Fantasy Baseball: Latest Updates on MLB's Biggest Closer Battles

Eric Matula@EricMatula11Contributor IIApril 19, 2012

Fantasy Baseball: Latest Updates on MLB's Biggest Closer Battles

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    We are only a couple weeks into the 2012 MLB season, and some bullpens are already a mess. Whether it be injuries or ineffectiveness, some teams are still trying to find a closer.

    Some closers are set in stone, some are trying to shake off some early-season struggles and some are stuck in a closer-by-committee logjam.

    Here's an in-depth look at the closer battles that are currently brewing around the MLB. 

Boston Red Sox

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    Current Closer: Alfredo Aceves: 3 IP, 9.00 ERA, 2-for-3 in save chances

    Lurking: Franklin Morales, Vicente Padilla, Daniel Bard

    Filling in for an injured Andrew Bailey, Alfredo Aceves hasn't exactly been a shutdown closer. He's already blown a save and opponents are hitting .308 against him.

    The most important thing going for him is the fact that Mark Melancon is doing even worse. The former Astros closer owns a 49.50 ERA after giving up 10 hits in just two innings so far. His poor performance has led to a demotion to Triple-A. 

    Franklin Morales (10 career saves) and Vicente Padilla (five career saves) have both been pitching pretty well and have some experience closing out games. 

    Daniel Bard, who made the move to the rotation this year, is still the wild card to close for the Sox.

Chicago White Sox

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    Current Closer: Hector Santiago: 4 IP, 6.75 ERA, 3-for-4 in save chances

    Lurking: Matt Thornton, Addison Reed, Jesse Crain

    Hector Santiago looked great in the spring, but he's having trouble keeping the ball in the park—something that is pretty imperative for closing. He's now allowed three long balls in four innings.

    With a trio of solid relievers behind Santiago, it's going to be important to watch how he overcomes adversity.

    Crain has also been touched up, giving up two homers in six innings, but Addison Reed and Matt Thornton have unblemished ERAs thus far.

    The hard-throwing Reed has five strikeouts in 4.2 innings, and Thornton has four strikeouts in 6.1 innings.

Cleveland Indians

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    Current Closer: Chris Perez: 4.2 IP, 5.79 ERA, 3-for-4 in save chances

    Lurking: Vinnie Pestano

    Chris Perez's velocity is getting slower by the season. In 2008, Perez was throwing 95 mph. Now, in 2012, Perez is barely reaching 92 mph. Because of this velocity drop, his strikeout totals are also taking a dip. He now owns a K/9 rate equivalent to soft-ballers like Bruce Chen and Jason Vargas, and his BB/9 is at 7.7 so far.

    That's not closer material.

    Meanwhile, Vinnie Pestano has struck out eight batters and walked none in 5.2 innings. He does have a blown save, but he's holding hitters to a .190 average.

    Keep an eye on this battle as the season continues. If Perez continues to make things interesting, Pestano has the ability to fill in.

Kansas City Royals

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    Current Closer: Jonathan Broxton: 3.2 IP, 2.45 ERA, 1-for-2 in save chances

    Lurking: Aaron Crow, Greg Holland

    Jonathan Broxton has been pretty good this season with the exception of an extra-innings meltdown when he hit back-to-back batters. 

    However, he will be on a short leash this season as he hasn't been a full-time closer since 2010. Broxton finished that year with a 4.04 ERA and seven blown saves in 29 chances.

    Aaron Crow, who throws around 95 mph, is lurking. He has already picked up a save this season and has six strikeouts in 5.1 innings.

    Greg Holland, who is struggling so far with a 7.11 ERA, is also a candidate to replace Broxton. He's not off to a good start, but he does have 10 Ks in 6.1 innings.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Current Closer: Javy Guerra: 6.1 IP, 2.84 ERA, 5-for-6 in save chances

    Lurking: Kenley Jansen

    Unlike the other closers on this list, Javy Guerra is actually off to a very good start. Up until Tuesday, Guerra was a perfect 5-for-5 in save chances.

    But even though he's been lights out for the most part, Kenley Jansen is still in the background racking up the strikeouts.

    Jansen has given up a pair of home runs in eight innings this year, but he's also compiled 11 strikeouts and just two walks.

    Jansen set the MLB record for highest K/9 with a 16.10 rate last season. When you have a guy with that kind of arm, he's always a threat to take over closing duties. 

San Francisco Giants

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    Current Closer: Santiago Casilla: 3.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1-for-1 in save chances

    Lurking: Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez

    Brian Wilson was the latest closer to hit the shelf for the rest of the season, opening the door for a very solid relief corps.

    As expected, Santiago Casilla got the first chance on Tuesday night when he picked up a save against the Phillies. When Wilson missed time last year, Casilla picked up six saves in seven opportunities.

    Sergio Romo is a guy who could eventually fall into the role if Casilla struggles. Romo has had elbow problems in the past, but he's arguably the best reliever on the staff even when Wilson is healthy. Romo had 70 Ks and five BBs last season and posted an incredible 0.71 WHIP.

    Javier Lopez is the third guy in the mix. The southpaw might sneak in for a few saves if a string of left-handed batters are due up in the ninth. 

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Current Closer: Sergio Santos: 4 IP, 9.00 ERA, 1-for-3 in save chances

    Lurking: Francisco Cordero, Jason Frasor

    Sergio Santos was converted from an infielder to a closer last year, and he was brilliant, turning in 30 saves with a 3.55 ERA for the White Sox. 

    This year hasn't gone quite as well. He's blown two of his three opportunities, and he's having trouble throwing strikes.

    While it's too early to panic, there are two guys with experience behind him.

    Cordero has 327 career saves and has saved 30-plus games in each of the last five years. He's not off to a good start (5.40 ERA), but he has proven that he can get the job done.

    Jason Frasor is the other guy. Frasor also has some closing experience, with 36 career saves. 

Washington Nationals

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    Current Closer: Closer by Committee

    Who's Rotating: Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez

    Davey Johnson has held true to his word. He said Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez would alternate save chances, and that's exactly what has happened.

    Brad Lidge has the experience. He has 225 career saves, and was a perfect 48-for-48 during the Phillies' World Series run in 2008.

    But he's not the same pitcher anymore. Lidge, who once threw 95 mph and higher, sits at 89 mph in the present day.

    Then there's Henry Rodriguez. The young flamethrower can touch triple digits and regularly sits in the high 90s. If Rodriguez can keep his control problems in check, as he has this season, he can be a lights-out closer while Drew Storen is on the DL.

    Either player is a good option if you need saves, but keep a close eye on both of them. One of them could eventually earn full-time duties.