The Qualls Quandry: Fantasy Implications Of The New Diamondbacks Closer

Grant Correspondent IAugust 31, 2009

PHOENIX - AUGUST 30:  Relief pitcher Chad Qualls #50 of the Arizona Diamondbacks is helped by a trainer and manager A.J. Hinch after Qualls was hit by a ground ball hit by the Houston Astros during the major league baseball game at Chase Field on August 30, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Astros 4-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Usually when one team sweeps another in baseball it is cause for a celebration.  Especially when the feat is done in front of the home crowd.

However, on Sunday after the Arizona Diamondbacks swept the Houston Astros in Phoenix, the celebrations were cut short. 

As the D-backs emerged from the dugout to do the ceremonial post game handshake, they were greeted by a most unwanted sight: Arizona closer Chad Qualls lying on the ground, clutching his knee in agony.

Attempting to field a grounder hit by Astros batter Jason Michaels, Qualls spun on his left knee awkwardly. This, in turn, caused his kneecap to become dislocated.

Diamondbacks trainers were able to immediately pop the patella back into place, but Qualls had to be helped off the field.

After x-rays and a MRI, management decided to place Chad on the 15 day DL.

What significance, then, does Qualls' injury have for the fantasy community?

Waiver wire fodder is about to become relevant.

Recently, Arizona traded away their two main set up men: Tony Pena and Jon Rauch.  As a result, there is no temporary heir apparent in place to assume closing duties for the Diamondbacks.

With only one month of baseball left and the D-backs well out of playoff contention, let the speculating begin.

Juan Gutierrez

According to the Arizona Republic, Gutierrez seems the most likely candidate to become the new game finisher.

This season Juan has a superb 8.63 K/9 ratio or, for the sabermetrically challenged, he is striking out roughly one batter per inning.

On the other hand, many of Gutierrez's statistics raise a caution flag. Sporting an unusually large for a reliever 4.24 ERA and an equally unflattering .340 BABIP, it is obvious Juan has some control issues.

Further evidence of this point is his frightful 4.24 BB/9.

But for adventurous owners who are starved for saves, Gutierrez is the speculative grab.

Clay Zavada

If Gutierrez is unable to handle the closer reins, 25 year old Clay Zavada would be next in line.

This year the rookie southpaw has compiled 40 strikeouts in 39.2 innings of work. Also, his 20:9 K:BB ratio is just as impressive for such a young pitcher.

But it must be noted he is allowing approximately four free passes for every nine innings he is on the mound.

Possibly the biggest factor other than Zavada's youth, which will determine his effectiveness as a closer, is his fly ball percentage.

50.9 percent of all batted balls off of Zavada result in a fly ball. Coupled with the fact that Chase Field is yielding the second most runs of any ballpark in 2009, Zavada's massive FB% appears even larger.

Daniel Schlereth

Having only 8.1 career Major League innings under his belt, Alaskan-born greenhorn Daniel Schlereth's name has somehow been mentioned in the closer mix.

Do not expect Schlereth to assume the closer duties unless all other options have been exhausted.

No matter who the Diamondbacks decided to be Qualls' successor, be ready to add whomever they name.

While Arizona has no illusions of making the playoffs, 19 of their last 31 games are against the Dodgers, Rockies, and the Giants. All three of these teams are vying for either a NL West title or a Wild Card berth.

Sometimes being the spoiler can be just as sweet.