StrategyAugust 21, 2009

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Closer Complex: It’s Never Too Soon, Part 2

By Matthew Robertson

Okay, when we last talked in Closer Complex: It’s Never Too Soon, Part 1, we discussed a few possible diamonds in the rough like Billy Wagner, Felipe Paulino, B.J. Ryan, and Keith Foulke, as well as likely foreign import Ryota Igarashi. In Part 2, I’d like to point out some stud relief prospects chomping at bit to get a closer gig, and a few free agent situations that may bear our attention for the future.

The Atlanta Braves are currently blessed and cursed with the talents and injuries of Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez. Both have served as the Braves closer this year, with Soriano currently the pitcher with the most clout in the ninth inning. But Soriano is once again ailing and Gonzalez is just now returning from an injury. The great thing about these two is that they actually make a powerful and effective tandem, since one pitches from the left and the other pitches from the right. Both are K pitchers that keep their ERAs down. Of course, something else they both have in common is that both are free agents for 2010. The Braves will likely attempt to sign one or the other which should lead to one, or possibly both, seeking a closer job elsewhere. As of right now, Atlanta is 6.5 games back in the NL East, but I don’t see them coming close to the Phillies when the whistle is blown. If both leave, prospect Stephen Marek could become a very hot commodity.

Want to know who has been one of the best closers recently? Mike MacDougal. I know, weird huh? But it is true, and his performance has likely given him the closer job at the start of spring training for the 2010 season at the very least. But then again, the Nationals selected Drew Storen very early in the first round during this season’s draft. Storen was a standout reliever at Stanford and I very much like his chances to close in the future. I don’t believe MacDougal will pitch consistently enough to hold to job long-term and that’s sad, because Washington has been looking for a closer for basically the entire season. Still, Storen will be the closer, possibly as soon as 2010.

At some point in time, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera will prove to actually be human and an heir will have to be found. Some believe that either Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain will ascend to the spot, but I do not. Both young pitchers will be needed in the rotation in the coming years. In the past, the Yankees would simply select a closer from a high-profile free agency class, but recent trends suggest that the Yankees might want to continue to build from within, and the current best option is righty prospect Mark Melancon. Those in very deep dynasty and keeper leagues might want to stash Melancon on the bench for the next few years.

Other fearless predictions: Henry Rodriguez becomes the Oakland closer by June of 2010, Chris Ray once again becomes the Orioles closer in ‘10 Spring Training, Daniel Bard becomes a hot commodity for teams in search of a future closer and is traded somewhere in ‘10 to be a closer.

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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