Closers are really the only ballplayers who do as much in Spring Training as they do during the regular season. I mean, closers begin the Spring by pitching one inning so that they can build up their endurance in order to make it to the regular season and pitch...one inning. But the light workload doesn't mean there aren't a number of closers who are beat up and trying to come back from injury. Let's take a spin around the Cactus & Grapefruit Leagues and see just how some of the more interesting fantasy closers are doing these days.
Dodgers closer Jonathen Broxton began the spring by tossing three straight scoreless and hitless innings before having a meltdown against the Padres this afternoon. Broxton gave up three hits including a homerun to Jarrett Hoffpauir, four runs, a walk and hit a batter in just one-third of an inning. Don Mattingly has professed to forget about Broxton's miserable finish to the 2010 season, but there is no doubt that a couple more performances like this will have him thinking differently. Hong Chih Kuo would be next up if Broxton falters this spring and would be a good late round pick in NL only leagues. Also, keep an eye on former Twins setup man Matt Guerrier who was singed this off-season. If Broxton fails and the Dodgers other lefty specialists can't cut it this spring the closer job just might fall to Guerrier.
Rangers GM Jon Daniels told CBS Sports that he believes his team is better off if power armed righty Neftali Feliz is a starter instead of the teams closer this season. I wonder if Daniels is paying attention to his team lately as young starters such as Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter and Matt Harrison have been impressive so far in camp and other hopefuls like Alexi Ogando and Michael Kirkman have been lights out as well. Feliz made the All-Star team last season as a closer and his stuff has proven to be dominate in that role therefore he should remain right where he is in the back of the bullpen. Feliz is also much more valuable in fantasy as a closer as opposed to a starter where his stamina and repertoire might get the best of him.
Brian Wilson appears to be over his back discomfort that held him back in the early stages of Spring Training. Wilson gave up two hits and a walk but managed to get out of the jam by striking out two in the inning of work. Sure he has been partying with Charlie Sheen this off-season (allegedly!), but Wilson seems to be recovering just in time to regain his #2 fantasy reliever ranking.
The Braves have been extremely confident about their closer situation all winter long but Craig Kimbrel's recent struggles might be just the opportunity second year man Jonny Venters needs to take over the closer job. Kimbrel has been off than on all spring thus far and has accumulated a robust 10.80 ERA and given up four hits while tossing just 3.1 innings. Venters has only given up one hit in 5 innings this spring and has struck out four. Kimbrel's biggest problem right now is in commanding his fastball, something many scouts believe he will have a hard time doing due to its violent natural movement. Keep an eye on Kimbrel the rest of the way and don't be too surprised if Venters gets the call to close if Kimbrel continues to falter.
The Nationals young closer Drew Storen put in 1 1/3 scoreless innings against the Mets today which was a welcome relief over the destruction that had been his previous performances. Storen had given up three hits or more in each of his first three preseason appearances but fanned three in today's appearance. There's no doubt that Storen has the stuff and the makeup of being a top notch prospect but he will have to be able to find the strikezone early and often if he plans on keeping major league hitters off guard. I still think Storen can do well in terms of ERA and WHIP, but I don't think that he is a prime saves guy this season. Washington is a year or two away from making their run but it sure will be fun to watch as they develop some real good young players.
Finally tonight, Mariners closer David Aardsma played catch for the first time since having hip surgery in January. Aardsma threw softly from about 40 feet and reported no lingering issues at this place and time. Aardsma will be on the disabled list until at least mid-April and is a risk to be replaced permanently by Brandon League. League is a good sleeper choice that you can get real late in your drafts this year and stash into your third bullpen role until better options step up.
Jeff Mans is a Bleacher Report contributor and Senior Writer at Fantasy Alarm.
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