Looking back on seasons past, what would you give to know how bullpens would ultimately shake out in advance? You’ll find the fearless closer predictions of the Cafe’s resident ninth-inning guru below.
BAL – When healthy, the best reliever in on this team is Michael Gonzalez. Manager Buck Showalter sees this and makes the switch in early May.
BOS – Daniel Bard shows he is the better closer and pushes Jonathan Papelbon to setup duty in June. Papelbon proves a distraction for the rest of the season until traded.
NYY – The Yankees find their heir apparent in Rafael Soriano, as Mariano Rivera finally proves mortal.
TB – Jake McGee emerges from a committee including Kyle Farnsworth, J.P. Howell, and Juan Cruz to post 28 saves during the season.
TOR – Jon Rauch is the most valuable reliever on the Jays, but Octavio Dotel and Frank Francisco alternate injuries and share closer duties throughout the year.
CHW – Matt Thornton starts the year as the closer but with manager Ozzie Guillen up to his normal antics, Thornton doesn’t get full-time duty and the talented Chris Sale rises to the top.
CLE – Chris Perez cements himself as one of the best young closers in the game and saves 30+ games for the lowly Indians.
DET – Valverde has a slightly worse season than 2010 and struggles mid-season but is picked up by the rest of the Tigers bullpen and finishes strong.
KC – The Royals continue to lose and the rebuilding continues with Joakim Soria being dealt to a contender for prospects at the trade deadline. Jeremy Jeffress becomes the closer and runs with it.
MIN – After last year’s Tommy John Surgery, Joe Nathan returns to form but is monitored and his workload is limited, which makes Matt Capps essential.
LAA – Fernando Rodney proves ineffective early and Kevin Jepsen takes over but struggles. Enter Jordan Walden and the rest is history.
OAK – Andrew Bailey starts the season on the DL and can’t fully get healthy during the season. With Bailey teetering back and forth from the DL, Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour are adequate replacements, but a mid-season trade helps cement the ninth inning.
SEA – David Aardsma recovers from his DL stint and returns to the ninth inning. Aardsma is traded to a contender for setup duty and Brandon League takes over as closer, though Dan Cortes or Josh Fields prove to be the future at the position.
TEX – Nefali Feliz remains in the bullpen for one more season while the rest of the talented Rangers bullpen steps up. Prospect Tanner Scheppers makes his MLB debut.
ATL – After some early closer by committee, Craig Kimbrel eventually forces Jonny Venters to valuable setup duty and proves a surprise contributor.
FLA – Leo Nunez is ousted from the closer mantle in favor of Ryan Webb in May. Jose Ceda, now healthy, proves to be the most talented closer on the Marlins and takes hold of the job.
PHI – Brad Lidge has a peak year rather than a valley and is surprisingly one of the few bright sports on the underperforming and quickly aging Phillies team.
NYM – Likely pitching for a contract, K-Rod rebounds from a topsy-turvy 2010 and has an excellent 2011 season for the Metropolitans.
WAS – After some ups and downs, former first-round pick Drew Storen pitches to his talent and becomes the present and future closer for the Nationals.
CHC – Carlos Marmol pitches like the dominant closer he is and leads the NL in saves.
CIN – Francisco Cordero continues his hot spring throughout the season, which allows Aroldis Chapman the opportunity to enter the rotation at some point.
HOU – Brandon Lyon provides a good mid-season stopgap for eventual closer Mark Melancon, and Lyon moves back to setup duties.
MIL – John Axford suffers a sophomore slump and shuffles from setup back to closer duty during the season with Takashi Saito. Meanwhile, Zack Braddock lurks.
PIT – The Pirates find out that Joel Hanrahan just doesn’t have what it takes to be a closer and put Evan Meek in the ninth inning, but neither is that effective as they search from some consistency.
STL – Ryan Franklin finally turns into a pumpkin and the more talented Jason Motte ends the season as the closer.
ARI – J.J. Putz brings some consistency and the Kurt Gibson coached D’Backs surprise many with their tenacity.
COL – Huston Street remains a valuable cog on this team and has a strong second half of the season, with Felipe Paulino and not Matt Lindstrom helping out when Street has his annual DL visit.
LAD – Jonathan Broxton shakes off the cobwebs and turns into the closer he has been in the past while Kenley Jansen becomes one of the best setup men in baseball and the closer in waiting.
SD – Heath Bell’s mid-season trade completes the Padres exodus and makes those that drafted Luke Gregerson look very smart.
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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