After a few weeks, the closer forecast is starting to see some inclement weather on the horizon. Guys that have historically been reliable are starting to look like liabilities on many fantasy rosters. Then there are those closing situations where the safest bet might be to play the wait and see game, as there isn’t a clear guy for the 9th inning. Even if there was, it might be better to leave that pitcher for another owner to add or face a big hit to your stat peripherals. So, lets examine some current situations of interest.
Brewers: It appears that age has finally started to catch up to the all-time saves leader, Trevor Hoffman. While the Milwaukee brass wants Hoffman to reclaim the job, he has been demoted in favor of Carlos Villanueva. Villanueva has the skills to succeed as closer but the Brewers will give Hoffman every chance to get back on top. Don’t expect John Axford to be a factor but newly called up lefty Zack Braddock could contribute. The team could also put Manny Parra back in the bullpen if they run out of options.
Diamondbacks: Many fantasy owners last year invested in Chad Qualls last year and was reasonably rewarded until a late season knee injury ended the closer’s season. Now, I’m not sure if that injury has carried over or if the mechanics of Qualls were altered as a result from the injury but he is obviously a very different pitcher. Though, apart from 1 mph difference in his fastball velocity, Qualls has thrown the same amount of fastball/slider combos. Still, a 91 mph fastball and 86 mph slider isn’t overwhelming for a prototypical closer. This shortcoming has left the D’Backs without a reliable option as just about everyone in the bullpen has struggled mightily. 2010 injury-replacement Juan Gutierrez has been worse than Qualls, which leaves Aaron Heilman as the best option. Arizona still seems intent on putting Qualls out there but it’s not going to last long with the way things are going.
Orioles: With Mike Gonzalez on the disabled list, Baltimore has been in dire need of stability at the closer position. Many people thought they struck gold with Alfredo Simon but the big righty has since gone down with a bad hamstring and has joined Gonzo on the DL. How ’bout Jim Johnson? Well, he’s been sent to the minors and is not close to returning. This apparently leaves the reigns to Will Ohman and Cla Meredith as the top potential closers until Gonzalez returns., which isn’t good. Kam Mickolio has been horrendous thus far and can’t be looked as an option in the present. The best current option might be the newly ‘demoted’ David Hernandez.
Phillies: Since Brad Lidge has been on the DL, Jose Contreras has been a successful alternative. So good in fact that many people are clamoring for Contreras to remain the closer even when Lidge returns. While I don’t think that will happen, it does give the Phillies a better fallback plan than the currently disabled Ryan Madson. Lidge has said that his previously inflamed elbow is feeling much better, but he has still just thrown over 3 innings total this year and won’t be back in form for awhile. Hang onto to Contreras for the time being until Lidge proves he’s back or as a long-term handcuff.
White Sox: Personally, I think much of the team’s problems is that they are just fed up with the antics of Ozzie Guillen. As such, the White Sox have bigger problems than who the closer is. I am not looking too much into the speculation that Bobby Jenks is on his way out as the Chicago closer. He’s been serviceable of late. Jenks could be traded if the team continues to slide but as long as he’s there, and healthy I think he closes. Still, if anything happens to Jenks, Thornton would be the go-to guy.
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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