The preseason favorite for the St. Louis Cardinals closer job was 23-year-old right-hander Chris Perez, and though he didn't get the Opening Day job, his time should be coming soon.
Perez is the long-awaited closing savior since being drafted in the first round out of the University of Miami. He went on to dominate the Minor Leagues as a closer, posting 61 saves and 2.71 ERA while blowing away 151 batters in 113.1 innings.
Perez's rookie year wasn't as dominating, but it was an overall success when you consider he was just 22-years-old. He had 7 saves, 6 holds, a 3.46 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 41.2 innings. Those are very solid numbers for a young pitcher. He did blow four saves and was still a bit green, and thus some questions arose coming into Spring Training 2009.
Enter the sore shoulder of Chris Perez and then the sudden ascension of Jason Motte, and suddenly Perez fell of the fantasy radar. Motte came onto the scene, coming back after Tommy John Surgery, and lit it up in Spring Training. Perez was subsequently sent down to AAA to rest and rehab while Motte was given his shot to close. The only problem was, it was Spring Training!
SPLAT! Who is to blame? Manager Tony La Russa? Maybe. Overzealous fantasy mangers and writers? Probably. What is the result of all this other than a wasted late draft pick? Ryan Franklin. Aye Carumba.
But in every disaster there is an opportunity. The time to pick up Chris Perez is now. If you are in any need of saves, this could be your chance of getting a player who is considered the top closing prospect in baseball. If he can stay healthy, he could be one of the better pitching talents in baseball for awhile.