OpinionJune 13, 2010

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Closers Complex: Filling the Void

By Matthew Robertson

If there were one thing to remember about MLB closer situations, it would be that they are fickle investments. Closers that were once steady as the come one season can become loosey-goosey the next season just as easily. This happening should make the measure of a pitcher’s skills instead of just results all the more important. Let’s look at a few situations of interest…

Brewers: In other news, John Axford has been a pleasant surprise in the Milwaukee bullpen. Axford’s ascension has clearly made the Brewers reconsider putting Trevor Hoffman back in the closer spot. While I’m not that impressed with Axford’s stuff, he can throw four different pitches and has a prepotency to get the strikeout, which is what you want from a fantasy closer. I think time will tell just how good Axford is, but he’s pretty good right now.

Diamondbacks: Once again, this is clearly one of the worst closer situations in baseball and it is without a clear solution. Chad Qualls has been trusted and endorsed over and over with horrible results. There isn’t much to say other than the D’Backs traded two of their best potential closer candidates last year in Tony Pena and Daniel Schlereth. Juan Gutierrez and the newly acquired Aaron Heilman have been inserted in the backup closer positions with Heilman having the best season so far. Still, Qualls can’t be counted on with the way he’s pitching but until someone steps up, expect him to unfortunately get the call.

Orioles: What a mess! I feel sorry for all those owners chasing saves who invested in Will Ohman. It was suggested that everyone avoid the situation until Mike Gonzalez or a legitimate replacement was found. It has been reported that David Hernandez will finally become the closer until Gonzalez or Alfredo Simon come back from the disabled list. If Baltimore is intent on keeping Hernandez in the pen, I personally feel he’d be a more formidable closer than Simon and potentially more durable than Gonzo.

Phillies: The biggest news here is that one of the most skilled yet often one of the most inconsistent closers from season-to-season, Brad Lidge, has return to the ninth inning helm. So far, Lidge has proven himself healthy and has pitched quite effectively since coming back. This means that it is likely safe to drop Jose Contreras as his only use going forward will be to backup Lidge or net some holds.

2010 MLB Draft: Every year after the draft, I like to identify some potential closers that were drafted. This year was no different as there were multiple closer worthy pitchers selected. Maybe the most important is Texas Longhorn Chance Ruffin who was selected in 1st Supplemental round by the Detroit Tigers. So far this year Ruffin has a 0.73 ERA while striking out 96 in 61 2/3 innings pitched while at Texas. Chance is the son of former MLB closer Bruce Ruffin and should follow other Texas closers like Huston Street to the majors. Other potential closer prospects of interest include Addison Reed (White Sox), Daniel Tillman (Angels), Tommy Kahnle (Yankees), and Kevin Munson (Diamondbacks).

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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