StrategyMay 15, 2009

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Closer Complex: Potential Ascensions

By Matthew Robertson

Let’s start with a quick recap. The Washington Nationals are no closer to finding a closer than they were three weeks ago. The only thing they have found out is that Joe Beimel, Kip Wells, and Julian Tavarez aren’t closers. Fantasy leaguers just need to realize that Joel Hanrahan is only reliever worth owning on that team and that is only when he can throw strikes, which has been a problem for him this year. Just hang onto Hanrahan and sit him in hopes that he’ll come around. Two caveats are that Garrett Mock has pitched decently of late and Mike MacDougal has been OK with Triple-A Syracuse since his recent acquisition, while Logan Kensing has been knocked around since his trade.

Many people are talking about the emergence of Andrew Bailey in Oakland and are betting on his eventual ascension to the closer role. It’s been impossible not to be impressed with what Bailey has done so far this year. A former starter, his conversion to relief has, as it does to many former starters, added velocity to his fastball, because he has not need to pace himself. Bailey’s fastball has gone from hitting 92-94 mph all the way up to 95-98 mph as he gets more and more comfortable. Combine that velocity with an effective cutter/curveball combo and you have the makings of a promising soon-to-be 25-year old reliever. Now, temper those details with the fact that Ziegler has done nothing to lose his job aside from being sick with the flu, and Santiago Casilla, also very effective this year, is due back this weekend, while Michael Wuertz continues to impress as well. Bailey looks a little less attractive with those things in mind. Add in that he doesn’t have a lot of end-game experience and I still think he’s currently third in line for saves. I think Ziegler will eventually be exploited due to lack of stuff, and that will leave Casilla, Bailey, and maybe Wuertz, with the edge going to Casilla if he’s healthy. Still, 22-year-old Henry Rodriguez is uber-talented and waiting in the wings at Triple-A. As he improves his control, Rodriguez should see time in the majors this year. Think last year’s Jose Arredondo.

I thought it would be fun to look at a few non-closer relievers that are emerging this year. Now, a few of these guys could be trade bait for non-contending teams or teams well established at closer. The first one is Arizona’s Tony Pena, as he’s just been simply dominant since he altered his mechanics and added movement to his slider. He’s looking like that closer-of-the-future now. It’s not that Chad Qualls has been bad — it’s that Pena has just been better so far this season. Pena will help in all formats right now.

Former North Carolina Tar Heel Daniel Bard has rocketed through the minors since his conversion to relief, and now the former first-Rounder finds himself in the majors, as a future Super-Two no less. Boston keeps getting richer and richer with their pitching talent, and Bard consistently hits triple-digits on the radar gun with amazingly good control. The fact that the Red Sox respect his talent so much as to actually lose money by calling him up early just speaks volume of his talent. Papelbon isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and Bard figures to be very attractive to many teams. It’d almost be a waste to see him in setup duty instead of mowing down batters in the ninth. He figures to be high on the wish lists of teams in need of future closers. I think I hear Manny Acta drooling and crying at the same time right now.

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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