Saves....some people care about them, some people could care less. For those that do care, it's time to take a close look at each team's closer role. It's July and the sample sizes are large enough to see some trends. So here we go...
What to watch for
Blue Jays - Either Kevin Gregg beat out Jason Frasor or Frasor lost the job to Gregg. No matter how you slice it, the Blue Jays should have a few save opportunities each week. Gregg has all the experience of a closer who has lost a job before; will they go back to Frasor if Gregg falters?
Scott Downs or Shawn Camp could get looks at the end of games, but by the time that happens the Jays would be out of contention this year and could look elsewhere. But I could be getting ahead of myself. There are a lot of reasons to think Gregg is going to continue to get the job done. Gregg is 18 for 21 so far this year, his ERA could be a concern, but if you're looking for saves...he's got them.
Mariners - The Mariners' last save was earned by Brandon League, who converted his second save of the year. David Aardsma had pitched the previous two days, so there isn't much to read into the save chance for League.
But then Aardsma went on to blow the Mariners next save opportunity. Aardsma has now blown more saves than he did all of 2009. At 3 percent owned in Y! leagues, League will be presented with more chances this summer and now is the time to take a shot.
Angels - There is nothing more frustrating than being an Angels fan with the lead in the ninth inning. Brian Fuentes has made for great baseball drama, but he still closes games out and continues to get the chances for the Angles.
In waiting is Fernando Rodney (38 percent owned in Y! leagues), who has done well when given the chance. Rodney recently blew his second save chance, but if the Angles look to move past Fuentes, Rodney will be their guy.
The move has to be coming soon. Fuentes is so good at blowing saves, he blew a save without even giving up a hit! And to top it all off.... the front office could dictate a move since Fuentes owns a contract clause which forces the Angels to pay him $3.25 million next year if he gets 59 appearances (he's made 25 so far this year).
Red Sox - Get to know Daniel Bard (23 percent owned), who is leading the Red Sox bullpen in appearances, innings, ERA, Ks, and WHIP. But the closer is Jonathan Papelbon today and he'll be the closer tomorrow. However, if a window of opportunity comes up, Bard is next in line.
White Sox - The White Sox closer, Bobby Jenks, has been on the bereavement list this week and the team just kept rolling on. Jenks has only blown one save this year, so his job isn't in jeopardy. If he is to slip up, the Sox can turn to Matt Thorton (57 percent owned) or a rejuvenated J.J. Putz (13 percent).
Nothing to see here
Orioles - There is not much to be said about the situation in Baltimore. The team doesn't win often and unfortunately, your team needs to win the game in order to qualify for a save. Alfredo Simon has saved 10 games so far, but he's only seen 19 innings of action this year. And when he's seen playing time, he hasn't put up the strikeouts and statistics that are important to us.
Indians - The Indians sit in the cellar of the AL Central, therefore there just aren't that many save opportunities to go around. Kerry Wood is getting the rare save chances today, of which he's converted eight saves.
Chris Perez was doing the closing earlier in the year and he managed to get seven. The Indians could go back to Perez, but the team won't offer up enough save situations to give either pitcher much value.
Even though they're riding a hot streak, the team figures to trade veterans this month and make moves with their future in mind. Therefore we shouldn't expect the hot streak to continue.
The closer role is on lock down...
Yankees - Death, Taxes, and Mariano Rivera....the three guarantees in life.
Rays - Reminds me of taking a kicker from a good team—you know you'll do good enough. Rafael Soranio just has to stay healthy to continue closing. If he did get hurt, someone could be in line for saves and the Rays have a few solid arms. Look for Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler to back up Soranio if he gets hurt.
Twins - The Twins haven't missed a beat since Joe Nathan was put on the shelf this spring. Jon Rauch has settled in nicely to the closer role and it doesn't appear that anyone is threatening his role.
Tigers - H is antics on the field aren't the classiest, but Jose Valverde's results are top notch. So far this year he's locked up 18 saves and posted a minuscule 0.53 ERA. Valverde is supported by one of the best bullpens in baseball, but they just lost Joel Zumaya to a fractured elbow and this could impact Valverde's opportunities. Still, he's one of the best at what he does and the Tigers win games.
Royals - A really effective closer on a bad team can be a good thing. Joakim Soria has managed to accumulate 108 saves in his four years of service with the Royals. There aren't any indicators to think that he won't keep racking up saves for the rest of the year, with 21 so far. Look for Soria to top 40 saves this year and flirt with 50 if the Royals can put together some wins.
Rangers - The Rangers close out their games with one of the hardest throwers in baseball, 22-year-old Neftali Feliz. Feliz has saved 21 games this year and he didn't even have the job out of spring training—Frank Francisco won the job out of camp.
But since taking over, Feliz has been dominant, striking out 38 in just over 35 innings. Feliz is a must-own and if you're looking for saves he should be a buy high target given the Rangers hot streak and weak division.
Athletics - The 2009 AL Rookie of the Year, Andrew Bailey, has saved 16 games so far this year and posted a 1.64 ERA. He's blown three chances, but all things considered, it is safe to say that Bailey has faded the sophomore jinx. Even if he struggles, the Athletics will stand behind Bailey and give him time to work things out.
Written by James Weston for thefantasyfix.com
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