Leo Nunez leads all closers with 18 saves. He was considered one of the shakier closers heading into the season. J.J. Putz has 15 followed by  Francisco Rodriguez and Craig Kimbrel with 15. K-Rod was the only one considered a top end closer, but even he had question marks thanks to his clubhouse drama last year.
Brandon League, Joel Hanrahan, and Chris Perez all have 14. That trio wasn’t expected to start the year with so many saves. Brian Wilson and Huston Street, who also have 14, join K-Rod as highly rated closers headed into the year that are in the top nine in saves.
Mariano Rivera, who some (including myself) thought would have a lighter workload, has 13 saves. Jose Valverde, Heath Bell, and John Axford also have 13 to make up a tie for tenth place.
Some highly rated closers like Jonathan Papelbon and Carlos Marmol only have ten. Jonathan Broxton, Joe Nathan, and Joakim Soria are already out of a job. Andrew Bailey just can’t get healthy. Neftali Felix has dealt with injuries.
The list goes on.
Meanwhile Jordan Walden comes out of nowhere to collect 12 saves already for the Angels. Ryan Madson wasn’t the first choice when Brad Lidge went down, but he has 12 as well. Brian Fuentes has 11 for the A’s, but even he lost his gig before Bailey came back.
Kyle Farnsworth and Drew Storen seized control of their closer by committee situations. Fernando Salas is the current leader in the clubhouse for the Cardinals’ turbulent closer situation. Sergio Santos emerged as the White Sox’ top closing option despite not being one of their top two choices heading into the year.
I’m not saying that you should avoid closers in fantasy drafts, but don’t chase for them. They are the most volatile position in baseball. If you are active on the waiver wire and can stay ahead of the game, you can still be a player in the saves category without compromising your team elsewhere.

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 | Posted by | Categories: fantasy baseball, MLB | Tagged: Closers, fantasy baseball, MLB |

By Matt Carpenter

Figuring out who gets the last three outs may have never been as volatile as it could be this year. Closer by committee’s have been announced in Atlanta and Tampa Bay, to go along with injuries to established closers such as Brian Wilson, Andrew Bailey, David Aardsma, Brad Lidge and Frank Francisco. Add to this the usual array of shaky closers and you have fantasy owners losing sleep over how to draft players that basically contribute in only one category.
Assuming that you have decided not to punt saves altogether, the temptation maybe to go ahead and pay for saves and take a couple of sure fire guys early. If you do this however you are losing out on quality bats and starting arms. To take a Rivera, Soria, Bell type of guy means losing out on a Verlander, Hanson, Uggla, Konerko type, who are going to contribute in multiple categories.
The best way to secure saves this year maybe to do the following: Find one or two established guys, take a chance on a rising star or underrated guy, and then take a handcuff or closer by committee. First, take an established guy who is going later than a stud, but is less likely to lose his job than a shaky guy. Guys that can be had in the middle rounds are Jose Valverde, Huston Street, Chris Perez, and even Kevin Gregg.
Unless there is an injury, they will more than likely keep the job the entire year and not cost you a high pick.
The next step is taking a chance in the late middle rounds. Drew Storen, John Axford, and Matt Thornton are power arms that have been given the closer job recently and have risk, but there is a lot of upside with the capability of being a top five closer. You can also take chances on guys like Jonathon Broxton, and Joe Nathan. These guys have been top five closers in the past, but have fallen off due to injury or recent performance.
The third step is taking a handcuff or closer by committee as a whole in the late rounds. You can handcuff Andrew Bailey and Brian Fuentes in Oakland, David Aarsdma and Brandon League in Seattle, Joe Nathan and Matt Capps in Minnesota, Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch in Toronto, Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo in LA. You can also take the committee approach and grab Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters or Tampa
Bay’s Jake McGee and Kyle Farnsworth.
As always, you have to pay attention throughout the year as saves will come into the league. Have a plan on who to drop if a new closer enters the mix. If you follow this approach of you will not have to pay top dollar for saves and should still be highly competitive in saves.

Brian Wilson, my top rated closer, is struggling with an oblique injury that could force him to miss Opening Day. The injury isn’t considered serious, but he could miss a week or two. It’s also an injury that could be aggravated so keep that in mind. That said, I’m not knocking Wilson out of the top slot just yet. Heath Bell (#2) could potentially be traded at some point this year and Joakim Soria (#3) may struggle to get save opportunities for the lowly Royals.
If you are the type of fantasy player that scoops up short-term saves then Sergio Romo is probably the player you want to add. Romo had a 2.18 ERA last year and a 0.97 WHIP. He also had 70 strikeouts in 62 innings.

Written by
Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

Last time we checked out the Nationals League closers (click here to view), so this week we turn to the American League (all stats given are through Monday):

Baltimore Orioles – George Sherrill
Rumors persist that he could be traded before the deadline.  Unless that happens, he’s going to remain a solid #2 closer in all formats.  He has 20 saves on the season, to go along with a 2.35 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and nearly a strikeout per inning.  You can also throw in his control, having not walked a batter in his last six outings.  Jim Johnson and Danys Baez could see opportunities if Sherrill is dealt, as could the newly acquired Cla Meredith.  Johnson has been the best of the group, with a 3.05 ERA, and is the guy I would stash if you are desperate for saves.

Boston Red Sox – Jonathan Papelbon
What negative can we really say about him?  He’s proven to be one of the elite closers in the league since 2006, amassing a career 1.83 ERA and 0.99 WHIP.  If you want to nitpick, he’s struggled with his control, already setting a career high with 18 walks (his previous high was 17 in 2005 when he made 3 starts among his 34 innings), but that’s easily overlooked given what else he’s done.

Chicago White Sox – Bobby Jenks
You don’t always feel safe with him taking the ball with the game on the line, but he generally gets the job done.  He has 22 saves on the season and is completely secure in his position as closer.  While he’s struggled lately, giving up runs in three straight outings before loading the bases on 7/20 and escaping the jam, he’s a must use closer in all formats.

Cleveland Indians – Kerry Wood
He hasn’t been the lock down closers the Indians were hoping for.  He has picked up just 12 saves, though part of that is due to the struggles of the Indians in general.  That isn’t an excuse for his 5.23 ERA and 1.44 WHIP, including having given up runs in two of his last three outings, however.  His job is safe, though they did likely acquire his eventual replacement in Chris Perez (as part of the Mark DeRosa deal).  He’s usable, especially with 37 Ks in 32.2 innings, but he’s no better then a #2 at this point.

Detroit Tiger – Fernando Rodney
He hasn’t been terrible, posting a 3.92 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, but he has been far from elite.  In July he’s allowed just one earned run over six innings, going 0-1 with 2 saves.  His job is safe, making him a solid #2 option, but that’s about it.  As a side note, if you are an owner holding out hope that Joel Zumaya may become the closer, just how long are we going to believe that illusion?  He’s hurt yet again and is just incapable of staying on the field.

Kansas City Royals – Joakim Soria
The only thing that is limiting his numbers are injuries and the teams inability to win.  He’s pitched just 24 innings, but done so with a 1.88 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.  Yes, he allowed a run in his last outing, but prior to that he had saves in six straight games and seven of his previous eight outings.  He is one of the elite closers in the game, all he needs is the opportunity to show it.

Los Angeles Angels – Brian Fuentes
He struggled early on, but he’s settled in and has been lights out recently.  He hasn’t allowed a run since May, with saves in seven straight games and 15 of his last 16.  His ERA is down to 3.03 and WHIP to 1.13 as he performs like one of the elite.  After yearning for K-Rod to come back earlier in the season, people in LA are now asking Francisco who?

Minnesota Twins – Joe Nathan
He hasn’t allowed a run since May 15, helping him to 25 saves with a 1.24 ERA and 0.74 WHIP.  He has 45 Ks and 7 BBs, as he continues to be one of the elite closers in the game.  Only twice since 2003 has he posted a WHIP above 1.00 (1.06 in ‘03 & 1.03 in ‘07).  Yeah, he could regress there, but he’s certainly not going to blow up either.

New York Yankees – Mariano Rivera
Probably the best closer in the history of the game.  He’s already saved 26 games while striking out 44 batters against 4 walks.  No, that wasn’t a typo.  In 40 innings he has allowed just 4 free passes.  Sooner or later he’s going to show signs of age and slow down, but from the way he’s pitching right now 2009 is not going to be the year.

Oakland Athletics – Andrew Bailey
Did anyone expect this type of performance from Bailey, who is sporting a 1.98 ERA and 0.95 WHIP to go along with 65 K over 54.2 innings?  He’s had multiple strikeout games in five of his last seven appearances.  Brad Ziegler is still waiting in the wings, having settled down after struggling mightily.  He had an ERA of 4.00 as recently as 6/16, but he’s seen it fall to 3.12 over the past month (he actually had it down to 2.95 before getting hit a little bit).  If Bailey struggles, Ziegler will be there to step in, but for now Bailey looks solid and obviously is a must use in all formats.

Seattle Mariners – David Aardsma
I’ve been talking about selling high on him for a while now, and I’m still going to say it.  He has saves in four of his last five outings, without giving up a run, allowing just 1 hit and 1 walk.  He still has a low BABIP (.265) and strand rate (81.0%).  How about a fly ball rate of 55.3% and just 1.8% HR/FB?  Something is going to give, so sell now before the regression comes.

Tampa Bay Rays – J.P. Howell
He had saves in back-to-back games against the Royals over the weekend as he seemingly has emerged as the closer at this point.  Dan Wheeler did have a save in July 9, though Randy Choate hasn’t had one since June.  While Howell may not be the only one to pick up saves, he’s getting the bulk of the opportunities.  He’s pitched well, allowing earned runs in just one of his last 23 outings.  That makes him worth using as a #3 closer for sure, but with the uncertainty still there I wouldn’t be depending on him.

Texas Rangers – C.J. Wilson
Can you believe Frank Francisco is on the DL for the third time this season?  This time at least it isn’t a physical problem, as he has come down with pneumonia.  He’s actually eligible to return this Sunday, so don’t panic.  Wilson will get the save opportunities for the next week, but with a 2.28 ERA and 0.94 WHIP, Francisco should again regain to the closer’s role upon his return to the line-up.  Have a back up in place, however, because at this point you can’t be sure he’s going to stay on the field.  For that same reason, if you are a Wilson owner, I’d keep him stashed in all formats.

Toronto Blue Jays – Scott Downs
He’s the closer, but has just one save since returning from the DL on July 8.  He’s posted a 1.84 ERA and 0.92 WHIP while striking out 31 vs. just 5 walks.  Jason Frasor is the #2 man, especially now that the team shockingly released B.J. Ryan, despite a significant amount of cash still left on his contract.  Frasor could get a vulture save from time-to-time, but Downs is the man and worth owning as a #2 closer in all formats.

What do you think?  Which American League closer is most likely to lose his job next?

Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Written by
Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

Last week we checked out the National League closers (click here to view), so this week we turn to the American League (all stats given are through Wednesday):

Baltimore Orioles – George Sherrill - He had been tremendous, of course until his last outing when the Red Sox got to him for 2 earned runs in 0.2 innings.  He had allowed just one earned run over his previous 21 innings, so this one game clearly shouldn’t worry you much.  His job appears 100% safe, unless the Orioles do ship him out at the deadline (as has been rumored).  There’s no clear replacement if that was to happen, so we’d just have to wait and see.

Boston Red Sox – Jonathan Papelbon - He’s one of the best closer’s in the game, and we all know it.  There’s not much analysis needed here.  His 1.80 ERA and 20 saves say it all.

Chicago White Sox – Bobby Jenks - Every time we do an AL Closer’s Report, I feel like the same thing is said about Jenks, his job is among the safest in baseball.  It’s not that the White Sox don’t have other options, with both Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel setting up for him, it’s just that he continues to excel.  He has 18 saves to go with a 3.21 ERA and 1.07 WHIP.  The only way he’s not closing games would be an injury, that’s about it.

Cleveland Indians – Kerry Wood - While newly acquired Chris Perez could be the long-term solution in Cleveland, Wood is the present, albeit one that unfortunately doesn’t offer much for fantasy owners right now.  The Indians are struggling, not offering many save opportunities to anyone.  The ones that Wood has gotten, haven’t gone all that well recently.  In the past 4 weeks, he has just one save while blowing two.  Since he’s the closer, he’s still a fantasy option, but a low-end one for now. 

Detroit Tigers – Fernando Rodney - Here is a closer with a 4.36 ERA and 1.39 WHIP.  Yet, he has 17 saves and a job that is relatively safe at the moment.  Where are they going to go?  The man everyone wants to see, Joel Zumaya, has a WHIP of 1.59.  Brandon Lyon has been equally unspectacular, with a 4.03 ERA, though a much better 1.21 WHIP.  He is the likely next in line, but a change really is unlikely at the moment.  Rodney is not a top option, but he’s usable.

Kansas City Royals – Joakim Soria - He’s started to get going, finally.  In his last four times to the mound he’s picked up 3 saves and a win (albeit it one that was a gift from his teammates after he allowed a run).  He has at least one strikeout in each of his past 8 outings, totaling 12 over 8.1 innings.  He has the potential to be among the games elite closers, all he needs is opportunity to get there. 

Los Angeles Angels – Brian Fuentes - For a while it looked like they may really regret letting Francisco Rodriguez bolt to New York, but Fuentes has rebounded in a big way.  He did not allow a run in June over 8.2 innings, picking up 9 saves in the process.  In fact, he allowed just 3 hits and 3 walks, striking out 11.  The Angels are likely to continue to offer him ample opportunity to rack up the saves, making him that much more valuable.

Minnesota Twins – Joe Nathan - The last time he posted a WHIP of over 1.06 was in 2000 when he was a starting pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.  Does that tell you enough about him?  He just continues to perform like one of the elite in the game, and that’s exactly what he is.  He’s on his way towards another 35+ save season.  There just is no reason to comment on the rest of the bullpen.

New York Yankees – Mariano Rivera - He recently recorded save #500, just cementing his place in history.  Everyone continues to wait for the league to figure him out, but they really haven’t shown any signs of being able to do so.  He’s been tremendous once again, with a 2.76 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 40 K and 20 saves in just 32.2 innings.  He remains one of the elite closers in the game at 39-years old.

Oakland Athletics – Andrew Bailey - He’s not a top option, no matter how well he’s been pitching.  He’s tossed 9 consecutive scoreless innings, but hasn’t had a save since June 20, thanks in part to the A’s struggles.  Brad Ziegler has also gotten extremely hot, not allowing a run in his last six outings (6.2 innings), allowing 4 hits and 1 walk, including getting a 6-out save.  Could he make a push to reclaim the job?  Absolutely.  Bailey is far from a safe closer, and any little stumble could lead to a switch.  If you are desperate for saves, Ziegler is certainly worth stashing, just in case.

Seattle Mariners – David Aardsma - He has been fantastic thus far, and with Brandon Morrow in the rotation, he is clearly the man in Seattle.  However, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical that he can continue his success.  The biggest thing is his HR/9, currently sitting at 0.25, despite the fact that he’s seen his fly ball rate, which is at 43.1% for his career, jump all the way to 56.4%.  Something there has got to give, and when the balls start to carry over the fences, his sparkling 1.49 ERA is going to take a hit.  Yes, I would be using him, but if you could sell high, it wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Tampa Bay Rays – J.P. Howell - No, he hasn’t been dubbed the full-time closer, but he’s clearly performing like he deserves the job.  He hasn’t allowed an earned run since 5/23, spanning 17.2 innings.  In fact, he has 4 wins and 4 saves during that span, while allowing just 7 hits and 8 walks.  He has saves in his last two appearances.  While Dan Wheeler or Randy Choate or some other miscellaneous reliever could get an opportunity here or there, I’d expect him to start seeing more and more chances.

Texas Rangers – Frank Francisco - They had been easing him back into the closer’s role since returning from the DL, and of course he got bombed last night to the tune of 3 earned runs on 2 hits and 2 walks to blow the save.  Of course, he was rewarded with a victory in the end, softening the blow for fantasy owners, but having allowed 5 earned runs over his last 2 innings is certainly not a good sign.  C.J. Wilson could continue to see a few opportunities, but unless Francisco really continues to struggle, I don’t see a permanent move being made.  Francisco should still be seen as a #2 option at this point.

Toronto Blue Jays – Jason Frasor - He’s a placeholder for Scott Downs, but I’m still a little bit surprised that it isn’t B.J. Ryan getting the opportunity.  Maybe they are trying to avoid any potential controversy.  Frasor has only picked up one save since Downs went down, so I certainly wouldn’t consider him a top option by any stretch.  Either way, Downs is the long-term answer, so Frasor is just a short-term fill-in for the Blue Jays and your fantasy roster.

What do you think?  Which American League closer is most likely to lose his job next?

Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Written by
Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

Last week we checked out the American League closers (click here to view), so this week we turn to the National League (all stats given are through Monday):

Arizona Diamondbacks – Chad Qualls - He gave up runs in three out of five outings from 6/7 – 6/18, which certainly should bring question to his ability to hold down the job.  Tony Pena, who would have likely been his replacement, has allowed 4 runs in his last two innings, so scratch that.  Qualls has blown three saves, and while he’s worth using while he holds the job, he’s a low-end option right now.

Atlanta Braves – Mike Gonzalez/Rafael Soriano - This one continues to just bounce back and forth, depending on the match-ups.  It appears like Bobby Cox may never settle on one clear-cut #1 closer, so both will hold value in fantasy formats, but more of a last resort option.  If either one were to ever emerge as the guy in Atlanta, they would be a solid #2 option.

Chicago Cubs – Kevin Gregg - For all those expecting him to lose his job at any moment, he has actually settled in of late.  He hasn’t allowed an earned run since 6/2, spanning 9 outings, reducing his ERA to a respectable 3.66.  His prime replacement, Carlos Marmol, continues to walk batters at an alarming rate, now carrying a BB/9 of 9.09.  There’s just no way that Lou Pinella puts that type of control problem into the ninth inning.  Never going to happen.  Gregg’s job is definitely safe for now, barring a complete breakdown.

Cincinnati Reds – Francisco Cordero - Here is one of the safest closers in the NL.  Even if his numbers weren’t as impressive as they’ve been (2.10 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) in converting 17 of 18 opportunities, he’d be a solid option.  Right now, he’s pitching like one of the elite.

Colorado Rockies – Huston Street - There has always been speculation that the Rockies wanted Manny Corpas to emerge with the job at some point this season, but he is now on the DL and has struggled at times.  Street, on the other hand, has been solid all year, with a 3.19 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.  If the Rockies appear to fall out of the race, Corpas will be worth stashing because a trade of Street would become significantly more likely.  As of right now, he has little value.

Florida Marlins – TBD 
Lester’s Update:
Matt Lindstrom went on the DL.  Leo Nunez is a likely option, but Dan Meyer pitched a perfect ninth last night against Baltimore with one Strikeout for his first career Save.  It could be Meyer’s job until Nunez is available.  Depending on how many opportunities he gets, it could be Meyer’s job to loe.

Houston Astros – Jose Valverde - He’s back and pitching with a vengeance.  He’s pitched 5.1 innings since coming off the DL, picking up 3 saves while not allowing an earned run.  In fact, he’s allowed just 3 hits and 0 walks, striking out 7.  He’s a must use option once again, plain and simple.  If you are a LaTroy Hawkins owner, while he may pick up a vulture save now and then, he has little value outside of formats that value holds.  There have been rumors of Valverde being dealt, but with Houston just 5 games out of first and their belief that they are never out of a pennant race, that seems unlikely right now.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Jonathan Broxton - His statistics speak for themselves.  6 Wins.  17 Saves.  56 Strikeouts (in just 35.1 innings).  2.29 ERA.  0.82 WHIP.  He is the best closer in the league in 2009.  That’s the bottom line.

Milwaukee Brewers – Trevor Hoffman – Well, he is mortal after all.  He’s allowed runs in two of his last three outings, including being saddled with his first loss of the season.  Still, he is currently holding a 1.31 ERA and 0.77 WHIP.  Who is going to complain?  At his age, it is possible he wears down as the season progresses, so if you have an opportunity for an upgrade, I would not necessarily avoid it.

New York Mets – Francisco Rodriguez – I know, he’s blown two saves since the last time we discussed him, but one of them should be on the statistics of Luis Castillo, not K-Rod.  Everyone is going to blow saves occasionally, so the one legitimate blown save doesn’t bother me in the least.  He’s been fantastic this season and is among the best in the league once again.

Philadelphia Phillies – Ryan Madson - There is absolutely no controversy in Philly.  Madson looked good early on, but has given up runs in his last three outings, chalking up a pair of loses.  Upon his return, Brad Lidge will be given the opportunity to immediately to take back his closers role.  If he can rebound is another story, but he’s going to be the man.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Matt Capps - He’s got 16 saves, but done it with a 5.16 ERA and 1.59 WHIP.  If he pitched for another franchise I’d be worried about him being yanked from the role, but it’s the Pirates, so he appears to be safe.  He’s usable, since he’s going to get saves, but he’s certainly not one of the better options right now.  If something happens, John Grabow figures to step into the role, so keep that in mind if you are desperate.

San Diego Padres – Heath Bell - There have been rumors/speculation that he could be moved prior to the trade deadline, so that is certainly something worth watching.  He has been spectacular thus far, picking up 19 saves with a 1.19 ERA and 0.92 WHIP.  If he were to be moved for whatever reason, it would likely be a free-for-all as to who takes over, so basically hope that doesn’t happen.

San Francisco Giants – Brian Wilson - He has picked up a save in ten of his last eleven outings.  His ERA, which sat at 4.87 on 5/21 is all the way down to 2.94.  He’s been perfect over his last four innings.  He has 13 Ks in 9.1 innings in June.  He is putting it all together right now, to say the least.  He could sputter back down to earth, but right now he is a great option in all formats.

St. Louis Cardinals – Ryan Franklin - Talk about coming out of nowhere to emerge as a must use closer, he is the prime example for those who believe in not drafting a closer early.  He has a 1.00 ERA and 0.89 WHIP.  He’s only allowed an earned run in two appearances all season, the last of which came on 5/20.  Those young Cardinals relievers clearly missed their opportunity to claim the job, because Franklin seems unlikely to relinquish it.

Washington Nationals – Mike MacDougal – Is this role finally settled in DC?  In his last three appearances (3.2 innings), he has given up just 1 hit and 2 walks, picking up 2 saves in the process.  Of course, he hasn’t struck a batter out in those games, but we’re just splitting hairs now, aren’t we?  If he’s going to hold onto the job, then he’s going to have value to fill out your staff, but I’m going to believe it when I see it.  Check back in with me in two weeks and let’s see what’s going on.

What do you think?  Which National League closer is most likely to lose his job next?

Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Written by
Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

Last week we checked out the National League closers, so this week we turn to the American League (all stats given are through Monday):

Baltimore Orioles – George Sherrill – Trade rumors aside, he has been a solid option in all formats.  The problem is that the Orioles have little chance of doing anything in 2009, so they may consider moving their closer to a team looking for help in the bullpen.  Jim Johnson or Danys Baez would likely be among the potential replacements, so keep an eye on this situation just in case.

Boston Red Sox – Jonathan Papelbon - Exactly what needs to be said here?  Like him or not, he’s one of the elite and there’s no chance of that changing.  They have one of the deepest bullpens around, but don’t look for many save chances for his understudies.

Chicago White Sox – Bobby Jenks - He’s been solid, picking up 4 saves and 1 win over his previous five outings.  The ERA (3.68) and WHIP (1.23) are solid and his job is absolutely 100% at this point, having collected 115 saves since 2006, his first season as the full-time closer.

Cleveland Indians – Kerry Wood – He has been alright in his first season in Cleveland, having blown two of his ten chances.  The lack of opportunity hurts, but his job is safe, as long as he’s healthy.  That alone makes him a solid #2 option in mixed formats, considering the state of numerous other bullpens around the league.

Detroit Tigers – Fernando Rodney - Owners continue to hope that Joel Zumaya will ultimately get this job, and the fact that he has avoided the DL is adding to that.  He’s walked at least one batter in each of his last six appearances, however, and that’s not going to get it done.  Rodney has struggled of late, giving up 6 earned runs in his last four outings, though he hasn’t been credited with a blown save.  His job appears safe for the time being.

Kansas City Royals – Joakim Soria - Injuries have hindered his performance, but don’t mistake the fact that he is among the best closers in the game.  He’s been limited to just 12.2 innings, picking up 7 saves to go along with a 2.13 ERA and 1.26 WHIP.  Now that he’s back in the line-up, look for the saves to slowly accumulate.

Los Angeles Angels – Brian Fuentes – How much do you think they regret allowing Francisco Rodriguez to bolt to New York?  Granted, Fuentes does have 17 saves, but he’s done so with a 4.64 ERA and 1.45 WHIP.  He’s also blown 3 saves and picked up 2 losses.  He has been far from the elite, but there is no reason to worry about his job.

Minnesota Twins – Joe Nathan - He’s one of those closers that you just stick in your line-up and don’t think twice about it.  He’s carrying a 1.78 ERA and 0.91 WHIP along with 15 saves and 29 K over 25.1 innings.  How much more can you ask?

New York Yankees – Mariano Rivera – Talk about his age all you want, when push comes to shove, how many other closers would you like to own in fantasy formats?  He’s blown just 1 save and has done so with an ERA of 3.38 and WHIP of 1.12.  If for some reason the Yankees did need a replacement, their best option is likely Joba Chamberlain, but that’s a different issue all together.

Oakland Athletics – Andrew Bailey - He has just 5 saves while blowing 3, but also has 4 wins, 47 K in 39.1 innings, 2.52 ERA and 1.02 WHIP.  He clearly has value.  Brad Ziegler continues to wait in the wings to regain his job, but there’s no guarantee that time will come.  His WHIP is an ugly 1.59, which certainly is a big negative in him returning to the role.  In June he has posted a slightly more manageable 1.35, but even that is not overly impressive.

Seattle Mariners – David Aardsma - Brandon Morrow has been shifted back to the rotation, meaning the job appears to be Aardsma’s without competition.  He had been great anyways, with a 1.78 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, so it is not like his job was in jeopardy to begin with.  He’s worth using in all formats at this point.

Tampa Bay Rays – J.P. Howell - Or is it?  He picked up the last save chance, on 6/14, striking out the side against the Nationals, but is that really enough to claim the job as his own?  They continue to go by committee, with Randy Choate, Dan Wheeler and others potentially seeing an opportunity to claim saves.  This is not the team to turn to if you are looking for a consistent source of saves, but if you are desperate, considering he has not allowed an earned run since 5/23 with at least one strikeout in fourteen of his last fifteen outings, Howell is worth owning.

Texas Rangers – C.J. Wilson - He’s been solid, taking advantage of Frank Francisco’s arm woes, but his hold on the job will be a short one.  Francisco is said to be ready to return in the near future, and having given up just 1 earned run in 19 appearances, the job is his when healthy.  Wilson is worth stashing, as he will likely get the occasional save, he already has 6 on the season, but he is not going to be the full-time closer.

Toronto Blue Jays – Scott Downs - He continues to hold off B.J. Ryan, and he’s done so in lights out fashion.  He hasn’t given up a run over his last six outings, and overall has a 2.05 ERA and 0.91 WHIP.  Not impressive enough?  How about a 27 to 4 strikeout to walk ratio?  Ryan has been impressive in his own right, working 6.2 consecutive scoreless innings, allowing just 2 hits and 1 walk.  He seems to have himself back on track after a rough start and if Downs falters he easily could step back into the role.  That makes him worth stashing in deeper formats if you are in need of some saves.

What do you think?  Which American League closer is most likely to lose his job next?

Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Written by Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

The Rotoprofessor revisits the National League Closer Report.

Arizona Diamondbacks – Chad Qualls - He’s allowed 5 earned runs in his last 5.2 innings, to go along with 9 hits, 0 walks and 1 strikeout.  Those are dicey numbers, but with 23 Ks and 4 BBs over 22.2 innings, it appears it is just a blip on the radar.  Continue to use him with confidence right now, but I’d monitor to make sure this cold spell doesn’t last much longer.

Atlanta Braves – Mike Gonzalez or Rafael Soriano - It appeared that Mike Gonzalez had finally stepped up and taken control of the closers situation, but last night he was throwing the eighth with Soriano in the ninth.  Bobby Cox continues to flip-flop both of them, so they both will continue to have value for the time being.

Chicago Cubs – Kevin Gregg - I know he’s struggled and I know everyone wants to see Carlos Marmol take over the job, but he hasn’t been so dominant either.  While he has a 3.67 ERA, he has walked 27 batters over 27 innings.  That’s unacceptable from any relief pitcher, but especially from your closer and we all know Lou Pinella has no patience for pitchers who hand out numerous free passes.  Despite his 4.62 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, it would appear Gregg is going to hold down the job for the near future, at least.

Cincinnati Reds – Francisco Cordero - He has one of the most secure jobs in baseball, with David Weathers the closest thing the Reds have to a potential alternative.  He’s been great this season as it is, making him one of the better NL closers available.

Colorado Rockies – Huston Street - Will he be a Rockie by August?  That appears to be the only reason he would lose his role at this point.  While he has only 9 saves, that’s because the Rockies simply haven’t been all that good this season.  Manny Corpas would be the next in line, so stash him away if you are desperate for saves and are looking to take a flyer.

Florida Marlins – Matt Lindstrom - I get the feeling that he is one blown save away from being removed from the role at this point.  He’s struggled of late, giving up runs in two of his last four outings and is currently sporting a 6.17 ERA and 1.84 WHIP.  I know he has only two blown saves, but it just appears he’s skating on thin ice.  Leo Nunez would be the next in line to get a chance and he is definitely worth grabbing immediately just in case.

Houston Astros – LaTroy Hawkins - He continues to be a placeholder for the injured Jose Valverde, who could return as soon as this weekend.  Don’t get any ideas of Hawkins overtaking him and stealing the job; it just isn’t going to happen.  Hawkins has done well, but if you are in need of saves his value is going to nearly disappear shortly.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Jonathan Broxton - What superlatives can we use to describe Broxton’s success that haven’t already been said?  If the 47 strikeouts over 29 innings or his 13 saves aren’t enough, how about the 6 wins?  He may be the best closer in baseball this season, which certainly says a lot.

Milwaukee Brewers – Trevor Hoffman - Did anyone tell Hoffman that he was supposed to be too old to succeed at 41-years old?  After missing the early part of the season due to injury he has been among the best closers in baseball since returning.  He has 15 saves, 15 K, 0.00 ERA and 0.47 WHIP in 17 innings.  The most impressive number?  His one walk.  Obviously, we can’t expect this type of production all year long, but he has proven that he is still more than usable in all formats.

New York Mets – Francisco Rodriguez - The talk of his demise was certainly premature as K-Rod has excelled in New York this season.  He’s a perfect 15-for-15 in save opportunities and remains one of the elite closers in baseball.

Philadelphia Phillies – Ryan Madson - Brad Lidge was given the confidence from his manager, but now finds himself on the DL allowing Madson an opportunity.  He has been tremendous this season and is clearly worth grabbing if you are in need of some saves.  Will he remain the closer once Lidge returns?  It’s too early to tell, but after Lidge has blown six saves already, if Madson is lights out it will be an interesting controversy.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Matt Capps - Ignore the ERA (5.30), he hasn’t blown a save in nearly a month now.  He also has saves in four straight appearances allowing two hits and a walk in 3.1 innings.  He doesn’t strike out many, but is still a usable option in all formats.  Unless he is traded, it would appear that his job as a closer is safe, making him a little bit more appealing.

San Diego Padres – Heath Bell - He’s leading the league in saves with 17 and hasn’t gotten there solely on opportunity.  He’s pitched exceptionally well, with a 1.42 ERA and 0.99 WHIP.  Throw in the 31 Ks and you have yourself a solid closer in any format. 

San Francisco Giants – Brian Wilson - He has recorded a save in each of his last six outings and hasn’t allowed an earned run since May 21.  The Giants have shown no indication that they would remove Wilson from the closer’s role over the past season plus, even if he hits a little bit of a rough patch or pitches to a higher than average WHIP.  His numbers tell you that he is not an elite option, but his job security and the Giants propensity to play close games makes him a very appealing #2 option.

St. Louis Cardinals – Ryan Franklin - Now that he has his hands on this job there doesn’t appear to be any taking it away from him.  He’s posted an impressive 1.23 ERA and 0.77 WHIP thus far, after Jason Motte and Chris Perez were unable to maintain the job in the early going.  If he does start to struggle, Motte will likely get the first opportunity, but right now there has been no sign of that happening. 

Washington Nationals – Mike MacDougal - Yeah, he’s keeping the role warm, but does anyone really expect him to excel in the role?  Joel Hanrahan will probably get another shot, sooner or later, but the bottom line is that the back of the bullpen has been a complete disaster this season.  Whoever is holding the job may just be a temporary fix, so don’t consider any of them a very strong option.

What do you think of the National League closers?  Who is the most likely to lose his job?  Which set-up man are you eyeing?

Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Written by Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

Last week we checked out the National League closers, so this week we turn to the American League:

Baltimore Orioles - George Sherrill - There has been talk of the Orioles shopping him at some point, reopening the job for Chris Ray, so continue to monitor that possibility.  For now, Sherrill has been great, picking up 10 saves in 12 chances while striking out just over a batter per inning.  A trade seems to be the only reason he’s going to get bumped from his spot.

Boston Red Sox - Jonathan Papelbon - We all know he’s one of, if not the best closer in the game, so what do I really need to say?  If he needs a day off the team has Takashi Saito and Hideki Okajima, but their opportunities are few and far between.

Chicago White Sox - Bobby Jenks - He’s been great this season, going 12-for-13, and is extremely safe in his role, which he has now held since late in 2005.  Octavio Dotel has been amazing in a set-up role, but there’s just no chance of him getting save opportunities in Chicago.

Cleveland Indians – Kerry Wood - His job is completely safe, despite an inflated 6.00 ERA and 1.67 WHIP.  He hasn’t given up a run in his last five outings (1 win and 3 saves), so he may have finally put things together.

Detroit Tigers – Fernando Rodney - He is a perfect 10-for-10 this season with a 3.00 ERA and 1.10 WHIP.  For a team that seemingly is always looking for a closer, he’s been a blessing.  Don’t ignore Joel Zumaya, the perennial closer-to-be for this team, but then again, would it surprise anyone if he were to miss some time in the near future due to injury?  Also, with the way Rodney’s been throwing, it doesn’t really matter what anyone else is doing?

Kansas City Royals – Juan Cruz - It’s his job, but it may be a mere couple of hours until he is returned to a set-up role.  Joakim Soria is back with the team, though to date it is not known when he will return to the active roster.  Once he does, he instantly becomes a must-start, with Cruz only holding value in leagues that value middle relievers.

Los Angeles Angels – Brian Fuentes - Francisco Rodriguez he is not.  Granted, he does have 13 saves (in 16 chances), but he’s done it with a 5.30 ERA and 1.50 WHIP.  It just goes to show you that this team plays close games continually, meaning whoever is slipped into the closer role is going to be among the most useful in saves (he’s tied for the AL lead).  He’s better then the ERA and WHIP he’s posted thus far so look for him to improve.

Minnesota Twins – Joe Nathan - When you have a weapon like this, does it matter who else is in the ‘pen with him? 

New York Yankees – Mariano Rivera - The Yankees have to hope he continues to do what he has done for years, because there is little else dependable in that bullpen. 

Oakland Athletics – Andrew Bailey - What the heck happened to Brad Ziegler?  After his amazing rookie campaign he has struggled, losing his job to Bailey, at least temporarily.  Bailey’s numbers are good, but he has blown three saves while only successfully converting two chances.  That is not a recipe for a long stay in the closer’s role and it would seem that Ziegler will likely get another opportunity before long. 

Seattle Mariners - David Aardsma - Brandon Morrow has looked terrible, which allowed Aardsma to take over the job and flourish in it.  While he blew his first save of the season on Saturday, it’s going to take an awful lot for him to be bumped at this point.  He has 8 saves with a 2.13 ERA and 1.30 WHIP.

Tampa Bay Rays - Who the heck knows, honestly.  This is such a mess with Troy Percival out.  Dan Wheeler?  Jason Isringhausen?  J.P. Howell?  Any could get a chance, but recently the flavor of the week has been Randy Choate.  Sure, if you need saves you can take a flyer on him for a week or two, but be prepared to quickly move on.  This seems likely to be a revolving door for a while.

Texas Rangers - Frank Francisco - A preseason sleeper among closers, he has emerged in the early going.  He has suffered through some injuries, but he went his first 17.2 innings without giving up a run.  He has 11 saves to go with a 0.48 ERA and 0.86 WHIP, making his job completely safe and him a great option.

Toronto Blue Jays - Scott Downs - It was originally B.J. Ryan’s job, but after he missed time due to injury Downs emerged and has been able to hold onto the job.  In 23 innings of work he’s posted a 2.35 ERA and 0.91 WHIP, walking just two batters.  There’s always the chance that Ryan reclaims the spot, but as of right now it seems like it’s going to be a while before the team even considers it.

What do you think of the American League closers?  Who is the most likely to lose his job?  Which set-up man are you eyeing?

Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.

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