This week’s Closer Complex installment features some insight into the closer situations of all National League teams. As we draw closer to completing the 4th full week, it must be said that the current closer climate is looking to change. Injured closers are starting to get healthy, normally reliable veterans have been getting hit hard, some youngsters might be knocking on the door and there might possibly be a few closer movements on the horizon.
Atlanta Braves: Last year, the Braves had two closer-worthy pitchers on their rosters in the forms of Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez. The biggest problem wasn’t necessarily their effectiveness, but instead their health. Well, a year later, Soriano is closing in Tampa Bay while Gonzalez, currently injured, has laid claim to the Baltimore 9th inning role. What did the Braves do? Go out and sign lefty flame-thrower Billy Wagner of course. At 38, Wagner isn’t the same closer he once was, but his showing last year proved he’s still got it. Injuries always need to be monitored for the rare lefty closer, and Takashi Saito looks to be next in line with Peter Moylan after that. Craig Kimbrel has been mowing batters down in AAA, so look for him to be the future closer in Atlanta in the coming seasons.
Florida Marlins: Like most Marlins players, they appear pretty replaceable and interchangeable. The team typically builds up the value of a player and then sells him off for prospects. Now, this strategy has worked very well for the team, but doesn’t really bode well for fantasy owners in search of closer stability. Currently, Leo Nunez mans the 9th inning role. Nunez has done a good job so far, and he’s one of the few closers yet to give up an earned run, but he has blown a save. He’s a hard thrower but can be wild at times and really lacks upside. Dan Meyer and Brian Bandenhop are likely next in line if needed but the system has some young talented arms that could easily push Nunez in the future.
New York Mets: The Mets have had their problems lately, but, luckily, closer hasn’t been one of them. A few years ago, they spent big bucks on Francisco Rodriguez, and he’s been pretty automatic since making the leap to the National League. While he might not be worth quite the money they spent on him, he has elite closer stuff. A problem the Mets have had is getting the ball to K-Rod though. With Kelvim Escobar and Ryota Igarashi on the DL, the best arm in the pen belongs to Jenrry Mejia, likely destined for the rotation one day. Prospect Jeurys Familia could be a dominant factor in relief.
Philadelphia Phillies: One of the few weaknesses so far this season for the Phillies has been the end of the bullpen. Interim closer Ryan Madson just isn’t a closer, and Denys Baez has experience closing but can’t be counted on. The good news is that Brad Lidge has looked stellar in his rehab outings and was activated by the Phillies on Friday, May 30. Lidge has suffered from season-to-season Jekyll & Hyde syndrome, so he’s due for 2010 to be a good season. We’ll see, but nobody in the Philly pen has near the talent that Lidge does. With young Phillipe Aumont moved back to the rotation, AAA closer Scott Mathieson could be a viable closer option if necessary.
Washington Nationals: I’ve quickly grown disgusted with the Nationals closing situation over the last few seasons. Its been tough to discuss a situation where there doesn’t appear to be a clear answer. Well, the addition of Matt Capps has hopefully brought that discussion to an end. Capps started the season badly but he has come on strong, which likely meant he still had a little bit of rust. In other news, relievers Tyler Walker (remember him?) and Tyler Clippard have had fabulous seasons thus far, and are potentially becoming reliable options in the DC pen. Still, 2009 1st round draftee Drew Storen is the heir to the closer role at some point.
Chicago Cubs: Carlos Marmol is finally entrenched as the Cubs closer and rightfully so. Yes, he’s overly wild at times, but that can also work to the team’s advantage. Marmol doesn’t do favors to anyone’s WHIP, but he’s effective and should notch a large amount of saves. Unfortunately, stud setup man Angel Guzman is out for the season, so the Cubs take their best starter and move him to the bullpen. Look for Carlos Zambrano’s stay in the pen to be brief and informative for Big Z. John Grabow would be the guy in a pinch, but Jeff Samardzija has the nest best arm after Z and Marmol. Andrew Cashner would be a great closer if starting doesn’t work out.
Cincinnati Reds: Francisco Cordero has easily been one of the best closers in baseball. He has converted all but 1 save with relative ease and has looked impressive of late. Still, he’s been used a lot. He’d be a borderline tier 1 closer if he can cut down on the walks. Arthur Rhodes would be the next in line with Nick Masset waiting, if he can reclaim his 2009 form. AA closer Donnie Joseph likely has their best relief arm in the minors.
Houston Astros: When the Brandon Lyon signing was announced I think most people thought that he’d be the closer to enter the 2010 season. That didn’t happen as Lyon was sidelined for most of the spring and current closer Matt Lindstrom produced an excellent spring. Lindstrom has done enough to keep the closers job but I think some people don’t trust his durability. Look for Lyon and Lindstrom to be the main guys. Felipe Paulino has maybe the best arm in the system and could be moved to relief if need be. Sammy Gervacio is back from the DL and could be a late inning reliever for many years to come.
Milwaukee Brewers: Who has the most saves in baseball history? No, it’s not Mariano Rivera. It’s Trevor Hoffman. Hoffman gets that distinction but things haven’t been going well for him as of late. He’s allowed four blown saves so far, and they haven’t been bloop singles, either. Hoffman has been getting drilled. If Hoffman needs a rest, look for LaTroy Hawkins to get the ball. If Hoffman is replaced as the closer, look for Carlos Villanueva to be the closer. Former 1st round selection Mark Rogers might have a future in the relief.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Newly signed Octavio Dotel is firmly latched on as the Pirates closer. Dotel has 2 blown saves so far this season but some of his awful stats have come in non-save situations. Some of this is because the Pirates wanted to give him some time, but it can’t be good for his confidence to get blown up in a non-save outing and then be in save situations. His job is fairly safe, as the Pirates really don’t have a reliable second option. Joel Hanrahan has the best talent after Dotel, but we all saw what happened to him in DC last season. Evan Meek could be an option, but I implore you to not add him anytime soon. Single-A pitcher Victor Black might be on the fast track.
St. Louis Cardinals: I think it can be said that not many people saw Ryan Franklin’s season last year, but Dave Duncan sure does do wonders. Franklin may be the closer right now, but he lacks a lot of upside, and bullpen mate Jason Motte has to be chomping at the bit to get the closers job. I’m not sure LaRussa would trust Motte out of the gate if Franklin proves ineffective, so Kyle McClellan might get the call at first. Still, the Cards liked what they had enough to trade relief prospects Chris Perez and Jess Todd.
Arizona Diamondbacks: This is another interesting closer situation. I’ve never personally been a fan of Chad Qualls closing. It appears his surgically repaired knee injury is still lingering and causing him trouble. Qualls has been very hittable, and has been given rest of late in hopes that he recovers. Juan Gutierrez has benefited from the troubles of Qualls but he’s hasn’t been dynamite either. Bobby Howry remains an option and AA prospect Roque Mercedes might see major league time 2010.
Colorado Rockies: Huston Street opened the season on the DL. It appears he’s not going to come back this week, which was the earliest ETA. Street has begun to throw the ball again and I think he’s going to be back towards the end of May, as he’ll probably have a rehab assignment. This leaves youngster Franklin Morales with the role for probably most of May. Morales has gone through some growing pains, but he’s a future starter with a great arm. If needed, Manny Corpas and Rafael Betancourt can carry some of the load. Most likely Betancourt in a jam or Corpas if a new closer is needed.
Los Angeles Dodgers: This is probably the easiest National League closer situation to write about. As long as Jonathan Broxton is healthy, he will be the Dodgers closer. Their other options in the pen don’t really have closer talent. Ramon Troncoso has Torre’s trust, and George Sherrill has closed before, but honestly it would be a huge step down from Broxton. Scott Elbert would be an interesting relief option. While AAA starter Josh Lindbolm has some good stuff and might get a big league audition sometime in 2010.
San Diego Padres: One of the biggest questions in baseball is if current Padres closer Heath Bell will be traded. There have been multiple rumors involving multiple teams. I don’t expect that clamor to stop anytime soon, but it’s very early for the Padres to give up. In fact, just a few days ago the Padres had won 8 straight games. On paper the Padres look defunct, but who knows? Bell could be an excellent get near the deadline. Also, I think, if he is dealt, It’ll probably be to a contending team with an established closer, meaning Bell would lose value unless an injury happens. Mike Adams would get the next ball and Luke Gregorson would be next after that. I think prospect Wynn Pelzer is the future elite closer on the Padres.
San Francisco Giants: Let’s just say that Beach Boy Brian Wilson probably surprised me the most of anybody last year. He struggled with his location for much of his career but last year seemed to have gotten it under control and improved in almost every relief category. Wilson was recently rewarded with a new contract, and looks to gain a stranglehold on the closer spot in San Fran for the foreseeable future. If Wilson falters, Jeremy Affeldt or Sergio Romo look to be next in line. Prospect Henry Sosa would be an excellent closer if the Giants brass decides his future is in the pen.
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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