This MLB spring training season has been brutal on teams and their bullpens. There are three teams that have already confirmed that their closers will start the season on the 15-day DL. What does this mean in terms of fantasy impact?
We started the season knowing that David Aardsma was recovering from offseason hip surgery. While his rehab is progressing at pace, his spot is up for grabs for at least the first two weeks of the season if not longer. The likely candidates for the job will be Brandon League and Chris Ray. Both have been used as late-inning relievers before and could hold the job down respectfully.
To start spring training, Seattle was looking at giving League the closer role, but after a rocky spring training look to Chris Ray to steal the job with his solid numbers.
In unsurprising news, a report was issued by the Philadelphia Phillies that Brad Lidge will be out for four to six weeks to start the season. Lidge's departure leaves a hole for the ninth inning that will have to be filled. This role will likely be filled by either Ryan Madson or Jose Contreras. Both of these players have been given save opportunities in the past for the Phillies.
In terms of fantasy baseball, look for Contreras to get the bulk of the saves. While Madson has been given the role in the past, he has not done a lot to earn another tour of duty in the role. Look for Contreras to find some cheap saves early in the season.
On the opposite side of the country, news of Brian Wilson starting the season on the 15-day DL also broke. The San Francisco Giants are seeking a second consecutive championship, but they will have to do so without their All-Star closer for the first half of April.
Two players tend to come to mind to step up into the role for the Giants: Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo. Both players are having a tremendous spring.
As far as fantasy outlooks are concerned, they may end up with a closer by committee situation in San Francisco until Wilson gets back. Since Romo is right-handed and Affeldt a lefty, they may play the lefty-righty split for the first few weeks. If you are in need of saves early on, grab one of the players and hope they see the most opportunities.
While Arizona has not seen J.J. Putz go on the DL yet, the newly-acquired closer has been having back spasms this spring. Back spasms tend to be an issue that will bother a pitcher into the season if not allowed to heal properly. Keep an eye on Putz, because it is very conceivable that he could end up on the 15-day DL at some point in April or May.
As far as fantasy is concerned, this situation could give a player a chance at some risky saves at some point this season. If Putz is to go down at any point, the likely candidates for the job will be Juan Gutierrez and Aaron Heilman.
Both served as closers for Arizona last year at different points. Neither was tremendously successful, but Gutierrez was definitely better in the role than Heilman. Look to pick up Gutierrez if Putz gets hurt at all this season.
Oakland has also now found themselves without their regular closer. Andrew Bailey was placed on the 15-day DL to start the season. Oakland will have to use one of their abundance of solid arms in the bull pen to lock down the ninth inning until he gets back.
In fantasy terms, this means pick up Brian Fuentes. With closer experience on his resume for at least the past six seasons, Fuentes will be the first choice to close out games. With the way Oakland’s club is built, Fuentes could definitely notch a few saves before Bailey returns to his assumed role.