Fantasy Baseball Closer Report

Aaron JacksonContributor IIApril 30, 2012

Fantasy Baseball Closer Report

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    Closers—if you're a fantasy baseball player like me, they're the players you love to hate. Other than a few elite guys, many of the closers drafted before the season will lose the job at some point or another. That's the bad news. 

    The good news? Whenever one closer loses his job another steps in to take his place. That leaves the door open for savvy fantasy players to get saves simply by staying on top of the waiver wire. Here, I'll break down each team's closer situation to help you when you're dumpster diving into the depths of relief pitchers.

Closer Report: Boston Red Sox

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    I don't want to toot my own horn here, but as soon as Andrew Bailey went down with thumb surgery I had Alfredo Aceves on my team. Most speculated it would be Mark Melancon getting the saves at that time, but it was pretty obvious Aceves has the better stuff. 

    I know he's had a few shaky/terrible outings, but I think his job is pretty safe. Right now there's no one in the Boston bullpen that could be considered closer material, and Aceves (or as I call him, Alfie Aces) has the makeup to get the job done. 

    His fastball has hit 98 in recent outings with decent movement, and his breaking ball is pretty good too. I'd hold onto him.

    Next In Line: Likely would be Franklin Morales at this point.

Closer Report: New York Yankees

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    Mariano Rivera hasn't been perfect this year, but he's still an elite-level arm. There will come a time when he no longer gets the job done, but it's not now.

    Next In Line: Rafael Soriano would probably be the guy if Rivera gets hurt. He's pitching well and has closing experience in the AL East.

Closer Report: Toronto Blue Jays

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    Right now, Francisco Cordero is the guy to add if you can, and he's certainly available in a number of leagues. He took over the role from Sergio Santos who is on the DL for shoulder inflammation

    However, Santos had an ERA of 9.00 and didn't exactly have a firm grasp of the job before he went down. Cordero could certainly retain the position if he can be effective, though he's given up runs in his last two outings after converting his first two opportunities. 

    Next In Line: Believe it or not, Darren Oliver is still going strong.  He'd likely fill in if Cordero loses the gig, though Luis Perez could get a look.

Closer Report: Tampa Bay Rays

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    Who would've thought Fernando Rodney would not just be the closer, but would be one of the best in the AL? He's got six saves since the Rays announced that Kyle Farnsworth would be shut down with elbow issues.

    At the time the Rays said they'd use closer by committee, but it's been all Rodney. He has a WHIP of 0.60 and an ERA of 1.08 so far, and likely has a decent hold on the job.

    If he's still available, grab him and ride the hot streak, but be aware it will likely come to an end eventually.  

    Next In Line: J.P. Howell is pitching well right now so he'd likely get the first chance.

Closer Report: Baltimore Orioles

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    Speaking of career rejuvenation, look no further than Jim Johnson. He's 7-for-7 in save opportunities so far without allowing a run.

    He's certainly shored up the back of the Orioles bullpen so far, but how long that continues remains to be seen.  He'd be a great trade high candidate if you are okay with losing a closer.

    Next In Line: Pedro Strop was 2-3 in save opportunities when Johnson was dealing with the flu. He'd be the first to get a shot at the job.

Closer Report: Chicago White Sox

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    Here's where things get really interesting. I'll admit that with a week left in Spring Training, I was all over Hector Santiago, so when the season started I did a fair amount of patting myself on the back.

    Then all of a sudden, Santiago started to struggle, and now his ERA has ballooned to a putrid 8.53. Add to that the fact that he has two guys nipping at his heels (Matt Thornton and Addison Reed) who have both been lights out, and it seems Santiago's days may be numbered. 

    He did get a vote of confidence from Robin Ventura earlier this week, but today it was Thornton recording the four-out save in Boston. Do what I did and trade Santiago now while he still has some value.

    Next In Line: There's no doubt Reed is being groomed as the future closer, but Thornton will likely get the opportunities for now. Grab him if you can.

Closer Report: Cleveland Indians

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    I'm not sure anyone knows how he continues to get it done, but Chris Perez has pitched well so far. He's 7-for-8 in save opportunities and likely has a decent-sized leash on the job for now. 

    Next In Line: Before the season I would've said Tony Sipp would be the guy, but now it seems Vinnie Pestano will likely get the first chance.

Closer Report: Minnesota Twins

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    If you like roller coasters then you'll love Matt Capps. He has an ERA in the mid-5.00s and hitters are batting .273 against him, but he's 4-for-4 in save opportunities which is all that really matters for the time being.

    That said, eventually the peripherals will lead to blown saves. He's a closer I will likely never own in any leagues.

    Next In Line: This one's tough to figure out, but my money is on Alex Burnett. He's pitched well early on while Glen Perkins has struggled mightily.

Closer Report: Kansas City Royals

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    Consider me one of the skeptics on Jonathan Broxton. I expected that Greg Holland or Aaron Crow would've already taken over the closer role by now, but Broxton has been good so far (2-for-3 in save ops, 7/3 K/BB rate).

    Still, the memory of his last two seasons with the Dodgers looms. He may be another good trade candidate if you can spare a closer.

    Next In Line: With Holland on the DL I think Crow would likely get the nod if Broxton falters.

Closer Report: Detroit Tigers

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    So far Jose Valverde's only blown one save, but he certainly doesn't look like the record-setting pitcher he was last year. He gave up three more runs against the Yankees in his last outing and has looked like a pitcher that's been overworked over the past few seasons.

    Still, his past performance has certainly earned him plenty of time to turn things around. He could be a good buy low candidate if you're willing to take a risk.

    Next In Line: Octavio Dotel has looked awfully good so far this season. He'd be the guy to look at.

Closer Report: Texas Rangers

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    Consider me among the many skeptical of Joe Nathan's ability as a closer at this point in his career. Many thought there was no way he'd hold onto the role, and I was certainly one of them. I even stashed away Mike Adams for when that day came.

    And it hasn't.

    Nathan has calmed down since struggling early on, and seemingly has earned himself some wiggle room in the back of the Rangers bullpen. Still, it's worth watching him closely to see if he falters. 

    Next In Line: I still think it's Mike Adams, though Koji Uehara could get the first look.

Closer Report: Los Angeles Angels

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    Raise your hand if you were shocked to learn that Jordan Walden lost the closers job to Scott Downs? Yeah, me too. He's had two bad outings and I would've thought he'd be given a chance to rebound.

    Then again, it was a mild surprise when Walden took over the role last year, so clearly Mike Scioscia isn't one to wait long when it comes to struggling relievers. The Angels say this is a temporary move, but if Downs pitches well I doubt they'd take the job away. Grab him if you can.

    Also, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says the Angels are interested in Grant Balfour, amongst other closers. Something to keep an eye on.

    Next In Line: With Downs as the closer Walden would be considered the next-in-line. 

Closer Report: Oakland Athletics

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    Grant Balfour is still the guy, though he's blown two of his last three save opportunities. As mentioned on the previous slide, he's definitely a trade candidate, especially as the All-Star break approaches.

    For now, expect him to remain as the ninth inning guy if for no other reason than it gives him better trade status. 

    Next In Line: If they do replace him or trade him, they could go to Brian Fuentes. Don't sleep on Fautino De Los Santos either, though he was just sent back to the minors. 

Closer Report: Seattle Mariners

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    Brandon League is 7-for-8 in save opportunities and there's no reason to think his job is in jeopardy. He's not striking out guys at the rate you'd expect from a pitcher of his caliber, but he's certainly getting the job done.

    Next In Line: Tom Wilhelmsen.

Closer Report: Atlanta Braves

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    If you drafted Craig Kimbrel, chances are you're on easy street right now when it comes to saves. He's as dominant as it gets.

    Next In Line: Jonny Venters may be the most unlucky pitcher in baseball. He'd likely be a closer for just about every other team in the league. If Kimbrel gets injured, Venters would immediately be an elite-level fantasy closer.

Closer Report: Philadelphia Phillies

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    Jonathan Papelbon has been as advertised for the Phillies: one of the few elite fantasy closers out there today.

    Next In Line: Antonio Bastardo filled in as closer and did well last year. He'd be the guy to add.

Closer Report: New York Mets

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    How Frank Francisco has held onto this job is beyond me—nine innings pitched, eight earned runs. He's only blown one save so far, but he's given up runs in six of his last seven appearances.

    Manager Terry Collins has said he's sticking with Francisco for now according to NBC Sports, but that may not last long. 

    Next In Line: In deeper leagues you want to consider adding Jon Rauch now. He could be the Mets' closer before long.

Closer Report: Miami Marlins

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    Heath Bell has been bad. He's 2-for-5 in save opportunities with an ERA north of 9.00. The Marlins clearly signed him as their closer to a big money contract, so he's going to get every chance to turn things around.

    He's also been one of the best closers in baseball over the past few years, so he could be a great buy low candidate if you need saves. 

    Next In Line: Edward Mujica is likely the guy who'd benefit from Bell losing the job, though he's not exactly pitching well either.

Closer Report: Washington Nationals

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    Henry Rodriguez has the makeup of a top-tier closer: a fastball that can hit 100 and decent breaking pitches. I've been watching him as a fantasy prospect for some time now, and grabbed him as soon as the rumblings of a Drew Storen injury popped up.

    I had been reaping the rewards of that decision...until last night. Anyone that tuned in to see the Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper show last night also received a free ticket to the Henry Rodriguez meltdown.

    He was incredibly terrible, throwing three wild pitches on the way to blowing a two-run lead and the save. With Brad Lidge on the DL he's still the guy, but his epic failure could leave some doubts in his head the next time he takes the mound.

    Next In Line: My guess is Sean Burnett would get a look if Rodriguez struggles.

Closer Report: Chicago Cubs

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    You take the good with the bad with a guy like Carlos Marmol. He has electric stuff and can strikeout anyone in the league. He also could walk the bases loaded.

    Last year he showed signs that he may not be the long-term solution at closer, and this year he's gotten worse. He's 1-for-3 in save opportunities with an ERA closing in on 6.00. He's secure in the position for now according to the Chicago Sun-Times, but it's definitely a situation to keep an eye on.

    Next In Line: James Russell has been great so far. He'd likely be the go-to guy.

Closer Report: Cincinnati Reds

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    If you're among the unlucky people that drafted Ryan Madson (me in a couple of leagues) before he went down, hopefully you got your hands on Sean Marshall.

    He's struggled a bit, but 5-for-6 in save opportunities isn't too bad and he's still learning the closers role. 

    Next In Line: If Marshall loses the role Aroldis Chapman immediately becomes a must-own. In fact, he may be a guy to grab now, as he has value as just a set up guy with 21 K's in 12 innings.

Closer Report: John Axford

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    John Axford hasn't been perfect, but he has yet to blow a save opportunity. Plus, just look at that hair. That's closer hair.

    Next In Line: Francisco Rodriguez. He's struggled so far but is still the guy to go to.

Closer Report: Houston Astros

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    If a closer gets a save but there's no one there to see it, does it still count? Of course. Brett Myers is pitching well in Houston, and he has SP eligibility which is nice. 

    Next In Line: Wilton Lopez.

Closer Report: Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Joel Hanrahan dealt with some hamstrings injuries early on, but has found his rhythm now and is quietly one of the most consistent closers in baseball. Could be a buy low candidate if someone is still concerned with the injury.

    Next In Line: Juan Cruz closed when Hanrahan rested, so they'd likely go to him again.

Closer Report: St. Louis Cardinals

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    Jason Motte hasn't fared quite as well as fellow playoff hero David Freese, but he's still the closer for now. Marc Rzepczynski did pick up a save opportunity recently, but failed to close the door, likely cementing Motte in the role for at least the near future.

    Next In Line: Mitchell Boggs and Fernando Salas would likely both get consideration.

Closer Report: San Francisco Giants

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    With Brian Wilson out for the year Santiago Casilla is the guy, though he's likely long gone in most leagues. If not, grab him, though he likely won't be the only reliever to get saves for the Giants. Casilla is the go-to guy most nights, but Sergio Romo and others may get some opportunities as well.

    Next In Line: Sergio Romo.

Closer Report: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    When you ask Don Mattingly who his closer is, he says Javy Guerra, at least according to the LA Times. But over the last few games it's been Kenley Jansen. Now, Guerra was hit with a line drive recently, so there's some leeway here, but his last few appearances (some in non-save situations) have not been pretty.

    That being said, Jansen has struggled whenever he's given closer's role. This is a situation to watch closely, and if either is available in any league and you have a roster spot, I would grab them and see what happens.

    Next In Line: For now, Jansen, but it could be Guerra soon.

Closer Report: Arizona Diamondbacks

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    J.J. Putz has struggled a little early on, but his season last year has certainly earned him some job security. Don't expect him to lose the job right away.

    Next In Line: David Hernandez is 0-for-2 in save opportunities when filling in for Putz, but he'd likely still get the first chance.

Closer Report: Colorado Rockies

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    Rafael Betancourt has given owners no reason to worry. It looks like the Rockies made the right decision giving him the job instead of bringing Huston Street back.

    Next In Line: Matt Belisle.

Closer Report: San Diego Padres

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    And the Padres likely made the right move by signing Huston Street. He's looked great so far, and they can likely get some value for him at the trade deadline before he suffers his yearly injury. If I had him in fantasy I'd likely do the same. 

    Next In Line: Andrew Cashner would be the guy when Street gets hurt/traded.