Welcome to Closer Complex, a Cafe column that focuses on the happenings of various closers and closing situations. I will do my best to steer you in the ways of the closer as well as what I think will and should happen. Hopefully this leads you all to fantasy glory. Let’s start by trying to focus on a recent development that has occurred. Anyone reading the Closers Thread in Leftovers would tell you that the current most popular topic centers on the closing situation in St. Louis. The Cardinals won 86 games last year without a reliable closer, both due to injury or ineffectiveness, and if a closer could maintain some consistency, he could get a lot of save chances as the Cardinals look to compete.
With the Jason Motte experiment apparently over, it appears Tony LaRussa is going to layup instead of going for the green right now. This means that Ryan Franklin is likely going to be used as closer until a better option surfaces. With 17 saves last year, Franklin proved that he can get the job done, but with 8 blown saves in ’08 he proved that he is susceptible to bouts of ineffectiveness and not a great option, but a closer with a job is still a closer.
In response to the closer struggle in St. Louis, Chris Perez was brought back up from Triple-A after proving his good health as he was recovering from an injury in spring training. Make no mistake, the Cardinals brass still believe that Perez is the heir-apparent to 9th inning duties, but the question is: when will he be ready for that ascension? He’s obviously the most talented reliever on the team, and it shouldn’t be too long until he’s closing. Franklin should close until Perez proves he’s ready.
A few people are clamoring for the once-again injured Chris Carpenter to try his hand at closing when (or if) he returns. Carpenter is reportedly out for 4-8 weeks with a torn oblique muscle, but no one knows in what condition he’ll return, and I’m sure some rehab in the minors is in Carpenter’s future as well. Even when he returns, the Cardinals rotation might need him more than the pen if the talented Perez, Motte, and minor league prospect Jess Todd all pitch to their capabilities.
My prediction is that Franklin closes with mixed results till early June and will be surpassed by Perez on the depth chart before mid-season. Franklin will not give fantasy owners much more than saves, and the stuff and talent of Perez should eventually shine through as the cream rises to the top. If all goes well, Perez will hold the role as he gives the Cardinals and fantasy owners a much better chance to compete.
Matthew Robertson is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Matthew in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Havok1517.
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