Last year four rookie relief pitchers stepped into the closer role for various teams and earned 20+ saves. Some of them, like Craig Kimbrel and Jordan Walden, were in from the start of the season. Others, such as Fernando Salas and Javy Guerra, few had heard of.
Trying to figure out which relievers will succeed is akin to having a two-year old hurl pudding at a roster and using that to choose relievers. Relievers are unpredictable. Thatâ€™s why Mariano Rivera is such an anomaly. How many guys have come and gone while Rivera keeps rolling along into his 40s? A lot.
Addison Reed would be the closer if the White Sox had any idea what they were doing. To rephrase it, the White Sox have no idea what they are doing. Reed pitched at five different levels in 2011. He climbed all the way from A-ball to the big league roster by the end of the season. Reed struck out 12 batters in a 7 â…“ inning cup of coffee in September. Reed posted a 1.26 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and 111:14 K:BB before his September call up. Reed is likely second or even third in line behind Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain for saves in Chicago. That means heâ€™ll probably be closing by the end of April.
The Oakland closer situation has been muddled since the Aâ€™s dealt Andrew Bailey to the Red Sox in December. Grant Balfour is the likely favorite to start the year with the job, but Fautino De Los Santos is also in the mix. DLS is no longer a true rookie, but he is a young reliever that fantasy GMs need to know about. the righty was an uber-prospect…until his arm blew up in 2008 after being dealt from Chicago to Oakland for Nick Swisher. A successfully rehab moved him into the bullpen in 2010 and he made his way to the major league roster in the summer of 2011.
De Los Santos struck out 43 batters in 33 â…“ innings last year, but he walked 17 and gave up four homers. The 6’2″ 220 pounder struggled in his first call up, but the raw stuff is there; he averaged 95.8 MPH on his fastball and showed a major league-quality slider. Grant Balfour has never closed before and is unlikely to finish the year with the job. Fautino could force his way into the role with a good spring.
Shawn Tolleson is a much deeper sleeper, but heâ€™s a name that fantasy GMâ€™s need to keep in mind. Tolleson threw in three levels with the Dodgers last year. He faced 56 batters in A-ball and struck out 33 of them. Then, he moved on to High A and struck out 17 of 36 batters faced. Tolleson spent most of the year at the Double A-level, striking out 55 in 44 â…“ innings with only 11 walks. Heâ€™s not even on the depth chart yet, but heâ€™ll be up at the big league level at some point. He could even find himself stealing a few saves if Guerra struggles or Kenley Jansenâ€™s health issues flare up again.
Cory Burns. If you know that name, youâ€™re either part of his family or you know more about the Cleveland Indians farm system than anyone should. Cody is a 25-year-old pitcher that has never been higher than Double-A. Burns struck out 70 batters in 59 â…” innings last year and only walked 15. Cleveland doesnâ€™t have a lot of options in the bullpen and Burns could find his way onto the roster.
A super deep sleeper is Josh Judy. No, that is not a fake name. The 26-year-old righty has spent his entire career with the Indians, but was claimed by the Reds this past off-season. He saved 23 games at Triple-A with a 59:25 K:BB in 51 â…” innings. He was absolutely lit up in a September call up, but could have value if injuries or ineffectiveness strike the Cincinnati bullpen. Heâ€™s not even close to being worth a draft pick, but heâ€™s a name worth keeping an eye on.
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