Fantasy baseball GMs have seen 11 out of 30 teams in Major League Baseball change closers since spring training. A few of those teams have already moved from closer #2 to closer #3. The lesson learned here is that it’s okay to wait until very late on closers or not draft a closer at all.
Some guys have had 11 chances to add saves to their roster since their draft and it’s only May 3rd. Relief pitching is perhaps the most random aspect of a baseball season. guys with solid pedigrees(we’re looking at you, Jordan Walden) can find themselves watching as some middle reliever vultures saves while guys who look shakier than Katy Perry on American Idol (a Katy Perry reference! Take that, ESPN!) can start the season with a perfect ERA andÂ hand fullÂ of saves.Â
Speaking of shaky, Orioles closer Jim Johnson is back and throwing in games again. Heâ€™s thrown in two games since coming back from a severe case of food poisoning and has two clean innings. Pedro Strop did a solid job in his absence, but heâ€™s likely headed back into set up duty. Johnson still has a perfect 0.00 ERA. Itâ€™s like heâ€™s going out of his way to show us how random relief pitching is. Johnson is the guy in Baltimore, but at least we know what the line of succession looks like. Matt Lindstrom and Kevin Gregg don’t really figure into the picture for saves in Baltimore right now.Â
Hector Santiago is hanging on to the White Sox closing job by the thinnest of threads. Weâ€™re talking a small little piece of thread hanging onto the end of a threadbare polo shirt. Addison Reed has been lights out in a set up role this year and appears to be the handcuff. Reed owns a 0.00 ERA in 11 games with a 11:3 K:BB ratio. Matt Thornton is once again on the outside looking in. Thornton only has four consecutive years of solid set up work and only about a month’s work as a closer to show for it.
Detroit Tigers closer Jose Valverde only has one appearance since April 22nd and it was a gross outing in which he gave up three runs in one inning of work. The problem is that the line of succession in Detroit is muddled. Joaquin Benoit has been ineffective, Octavio Dotel has been hurt and Phil Coke is more likely to be a fifth starter than a closer. The job is still Papa Grandeâ€™s and it would take an injury to get him out of the job, but there isnâ€™t a clear handcuff right now.
Kansas City Royals closer Jonathan Broxton has converted his last three saves. We call that a closinâ€™ streak! The average velocity on his fastball is over 95 MPH so far this year. We call that “settling into the job.”
Los Angeles Angels relieve Jordan Walden has gone from one of the better closing options in baseball a month ago to being replaced by Scott Downs. Downs is basically the 2012 version of Sweaty Joe Borowski. Heâ€™s basically a guy who can take the ball in the ninth inning, get his brains beat in, shake it off and try again the next day. Â
Oaklandâ€™s Grant Balfour blew two straight saves and appears to be out of a job for the short term. Brian Fuentes converted the Aâ€™s last save in true Brian Fuentes fashion. He gave up a run on two hits, but still managed to get the save. Fuentes is a short term add, but the long term guy is still Grant Balfour. Balfour is simply the better pitcher at this stage of the game and talent usually wins out.
The Fernando Rodney as closer era in Tampa Bay will go on at least until June 5th. Kyle Farnsworth was moved from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL. Rodney has eight saves with a 0.79 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP. It should scare you to read this, but Rodney may very well be legit. Heâ€™s currently posting a swinging strike % over 13%. Heâ€™s missing bats again and looks like he could very well hang on to the Rays closer job.
Cubs closer Carlos Marmol earned his second save of the year, but heâ€™s still on shaky ground as a closer. His swinging strike % is below 10% for the first time in his career and heâ€™s sporting a 5.19 ERA with a 8:9 K:BB ratio. Rafael Dolis is the set up guy and a name worth knowing in NL-only leagues, but heâ€™s walked eight while only striking out three in 12 appearances.
Javy Guerra is still the closer in Los Angeles even though Kenley Jansen notched the last save attempt for the Dodgers. Guerra is nursing a sore foot and should return to the closer role as soon as this week. Heâ€™s had a few adventures in the ninth inning recently and he did get the dreaded vote of confidence from manager Don Mattingly, but heâ€™s still a solid option. Guerra has a 14:4 K:BB ratio in 13 appearances. His peripheral stats are better than last year. Heâ€™s simply been a victim of small sample size with his 5.56 ERA.
Miami closer Heath Bell is one more blown save away from being this yearâ€™s first mystery ailment on the DL. Bell has given up multiple runs in three of his last four outings. Bell is currently rocking a 5:8 K:BB ratio with an ERA(11.74) higher than the number of homers that the Cubs currently have(11). Steve Cishek and Edward Mujica are the two obvious handcuffs. Cishek has a 0.79 ERA in 12 appearances with a 12:4 K:BB. Mujica has six holds in 12 appearances, but he owns a 3.97 ERA with a 6:4 K:BB ratio. Juan Carlos Oviedo(A.K.A. Leo Nunez) still doesnâ€™t have a visa to the US and heâ€™s facing an eight-week suspension once he does return. Juan Carlos isnâ€™t worth a roster spot in any format right now.
Mets closer Frank Francisco returned to action from a hamstring injury. He gave up two hits, but struck out one and didnâ€™t give up any runs in a non-save apperance. To be fair, it was against the Astros. Francisco is actually a fairly safe option given some of the players weâ€™ve already discussed, but heâ€™s always one awkward landing away from a 15-day vacation.
Giants closer Santiago Casilla had converted three straight save attempts before giving up a solo homer in the tenth inning to Giancarlo Stanton on Tuesday. Casilla is still the guy, but the leash has to be a little shorter than it was. Sergio Romo is the handcuff and a must own in most formats. Romo has a perfect ERA in seven appearances with a 4:2 K:BB.