2011 Fantasy: Chris Sale Will Reclaim Chisox Closer Role from Matt Thornton
Matt Thornton was just named the closer by Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. Sometime in late April or early May Chris Sale will begin to get save opportunities, pitch well and never look back, as he will put a strangle hold on the closer's job for the Chicago White Sox for the remainder of the season. In keeper leagues you must continue to consider the possibility of the young hurler being placed back into the starting rotation next year.
Since Ozzie Guillen just made a proclamation that Matt Thornton has won the closers job, the opportunity now exists to get a cheap closer by grabbing Chris Sale at the very end of your standard mixed league draft or as a middle reliever in much deeper AL only drafts. You will be rewarded with a pitcher that will provide you with 30 plus saves this year.
Ozzie Guillen will eventually switch closers when he sees it will make his club stronger. That realization will begin to take hold in his mind when Chris Sale begins pitching dominantly for the Chisox in middle relief as the season is underway. Sale in his short time with the big club in 2010 demonstrated his talent with an ERA of 1.92 and a WHIP of 1.07 and 32 K's in just 23 innings. Preseason success, which was disappointing for Sale, is usually forgotten once the first pitch of the regular season is thrown.
The productivity of the pitchers during the regular season will dictate who is used where by the manager. I believe Guillen gave the job to Thornton based on his solid body of work the last few years in the pen added to an unimpressive spring showing by Sale. With this decision Guillen is challenging young Chris Sale to step up and take the job back, unwilling to just give him the spot without him earning it.
As the season progresses, Guillen will miss having Matt Thornton available to pitch every day. As the closer, he will generally not be available to pitch in the 7th and 8th innings. In April, when a few tough lefties get key hits in the 7th or 8th inning off of Sergio Santos or Jessie Crain, Ozzie will begin to realize he needs Thornton in the 7th and 8th innings to get out these hitters in crucial points of a game. He will eventually, however reluctantly, make the switch to put Sale in the closer's role and put Thornton back in the set up role allowing more flexibility to utilize Thornton in many different situations.
Leagues are won when owners go against convention and take a player with big upside. In this case, taking Chris Sale at the very end of the draft could barely be considered a risk. He does however, possess a huge upside in productivity.
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