Fantasy Baseball NL Bullpen Report: Looking At the Closers & Closers in Wait

Eric StashinSenior Writer IJanuary 8, 2010

PHOENIX - JULY 28:  Relief pitcher Brad Lidge #54 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the major league baseball game at Chase Field on July 28, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Phillies defeated the Diamondbacks 4-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Many fantasy owners feel it’s unnecessary to draft stable closers since you can always find someone either late in your draft or in free agency.  You don’t have to look further than Ryan Franklin or David Aardsma from 2009 as support. 

So, this week we’ll take a look at the National League bullpen situations and next week we’ll shift our focus to the American League, looking at each team’s closer and those who could step in if something were to happen.  Additionally, we’ll continue to update these columns as draft day moves closer.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Closer - Chad Qualls

There have been rumors of the Diamondbacks potentially reuniting with Jose Valverde, if his price falls far enough, so I wouldn’t say Qualls is a lock to open 2010 as the team’s closer.  Monitor the situation closely, but there’s no blow away candidate to replace Qualls if he were to struggle (barring a free agent signing).  Juan Gutierrez?  Aaron Heilman?  Clay Zavada?  Watch what Arizona does closely before committing here.

Atlanta Braves
Closer - Billy Wagner

The Braves restocked their bullpen, adding Wagner and Takashi Saito and letting Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez go.  Will it prove to be for the best?  There’s no questioning that Wagner has the potential to be a strikeout machine, returning from Tommy John surgery to produce a 14.94 K/9 in 15.2 innings in 2009. 

Obviously, expecting that would be a bit much, but he does have a career K/9 of 11.79.  As long as he stays healthy, he should be a solid option, but if you find yourself desperate for saves, Saito may be a good place to look.  I certainly could see the Braves trying not to stretch Wagner too far, like pitching him three straight days, so Saito could be in line for some vulture saves, especially early in the year.

Chicago Cubs
Closer - Carlos Marmol

His major question is his control.  If he throws strikes, he could be a Top 10 closer.  If he doesn’t, he won’t last a month in the role.  Last season he had a BB/9 of 7.91 and for his career he’s at 5.85.  Jeff Samardzjia or John Grabow could emerge as a potential replacement, though we’ll have to watch closely in the early going.

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Cincinnati Reds
Closer - Francisco Cordero

He’s 100 percent safe in his role and one of the better, consistent closers in the game.  His worst ERA since 2002 is a 3.70.  He’s had a WHIP over 1.32 only twice over that span.  His career K/9 is at 9.72 (though he was at just 7.83 last season).  There’s really not much not to like.

Colorado Rockies
Closer - Huston Street

Street entered 2009 as a temporary closer, with Manny Corpas expected to overtake him for the role at some point.  Corpas, however, was a disappointment and injured while Street emerged as a tremendous closing option. 

Coming off a season with a 3.06 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 10.22 K/9, you may expect a regression but he should remain solid.  He should be safe, but if he does struggle it would appear that Franklin Morales is now the player laying in wait to take over.

Florida Marlins
Closer - Leo Nunez

He may have one of the most tenuous holds on a closers role in baseball.  He took the job from Matt Lindstrom last season and while he did have 26 saves, he also blew seven with an ERA over four.  He’s not a blow away pitcher, with a career K/9 of 6.40 and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him lose the job quite quickly.

Dan Meyer is among those who could challenge him, though bringing in someone before the season starts is also possible.  I’d wait and see what happens here at this point before committing.

Houston Astros
Closer - Matt Lindstrom/Brandon Lyon?

While Jose Valverde still sits as a free agent, the Astros traded for Lindstrom and signed Lyon to a surprisingly lucrative free agent deal.  My money is on Lyon getting the job early on, considering the three-year, $15 million contract he signed, but neither of these pitchers really excites me much. 

Consider Lyon a desperation, late round pick if you miss out on other closers, while Lindstrom is a big-time flyer if you are looking to stash someone on the bench with potential to get saves.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Closer - Jonathan Broxton

What exactly is there to say?  He was my top rated closer and no matter how you slice it, one of the best in the game.  There’s really little else to say at this point.

Milwaukee Brewers
Closer - Trevor Hoffman

He’s getting up there in years, but he just continues to produce, doesn’t he?  There’s something to be said about knowing his job is safe as long as he’s healthy, which certainly adds to his value.  Then again, the fact that he continues to get things done gives him value all on its own.  Latroy Hawkins, newly signed, would like step in if Hoffman were to get hurt.

New York Mets
Closer - Francisco Rodriguez

It’s his job and we all know it.  He’s one of the best in the game and assuming the Mets can stay healthy, he should get ample opportunities to pile up the saves.  The Mets have added two pitchers to fill the void left by J.J. Putz, adding Kelvim Escobar and Ryota Igarashi, either of which could potentially grab a few saves during the season for the desperate or take over of Rodriguez were to go down.

Philadelphia Phillies
Closer - Brad Lidge

What’s there to say?  The Phillies bullpen was a complete disaster last season, with Brad Lidge doing everything possible to lose the job, yet always seemed to have another chance.  It wasn’t like Ryan Madsen was much better, either.  There was talk about adding another veteran arm, for added security, but that hasn’t happened yet. 

At this point it wouldn’t be surprising to see Phillippe Aumont get a chance before the season is out, though that’s a long ways off.  Either way, for such a good team, this is one glaring question mark hanging over them.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Closer - ??

With Matt Capps non-tendered, there really is no clear-cut leader to take the job at this point.  We’ll have to take a wait and see approach.

San Diego Padres
Closer - Heath Bell

Rumors continue to persist of Bell potentially being traded, with the likelihood that he’d go somewhere as a setup option.  It’s important to monitor this closely.  He’s one of the better options, but if he’s not closing he loses a bulk of his value.  The Padres always manage to find arms to fill their bullpen and they have any number of options who would be capable of stepping in, including Edward Mujica and Aaron Poreda.

San Francisco Giants
Closer - Brian Wilson

The Giants have proven that they are committed to him as their closer.  After pitching to a 4.62 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 2008, the Giants never wavered and were rewarded with a 2.74 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 10.33 K/9.  He’s clearly emerged as one of the better closing options in the game and should remain the Giants closer for the foreseeable future.

St. Louis Cardinals
Closer - Ryan Franklin

Mediocre pitcher bursts onto the scene and appears to emerge as an elite closer.  He was extremely successful, but I just can’t bank on him repeating.  It’s not like he was terrible, posting 3.04 and 3.55 ERAs the prior two seasons, but he also lacks the big strikeout potential that fantasy owners generally look for in closers (4.95 K/9 for his career). 

He’s a low-end option and if he should struggle, look for Jason Motte to potentially get a shot again.

Washington Nationals
Closer - Matt Capps

Capps struggled in Pittsburgh, posting a 5.66 ERA and 1.66 WHIP and the Nationals certainly aren’t married to handing him the job for the entire season.  Brian Brunney could get a shot, as well as 2009 top draft pick and future closer Drew Storen. 

Storen is probably the most talented of the three and the long-term answer.  He’s certainly worth stashing in long-term keeper formats.

What are your thoughts on the NL closing situations?  Who is most at risk?  Who could surprisingly emerge?

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