With all the recent closer questions, many felt that it was time for Closer Complex to address some of these issues while many fantasy players are drafting their teams. Perhaps the most interesting development lies in Oakland, where oft-injured closer Andrew Bailey has been sent to Dr. Andrews. This had many fantasy players scrambling for his next in line. Now, the MRI results indicate that Bailey has a strained forearm, which is good news for Bailey owners. Still, any injury to a pitcher’s arm is critical. Luckily, the A’s have seven relievers on their rosters that have closed games. This veteran presence should prove vital as the season goes along. Still, if you have the room on your roster, acquiring Brian Fuentes and/or Grant Balfour to handcuff Bailey might not be a bad idea as Bailey, if he’s proven anything, needs more time than usual to recover. Another oft-injured pitcher with something to prove is Rich Harden. Harden is also currently injured but if he recovers, it wouldn’t be out of the question to see him contribute in 2011. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bailey starts the season the DL, so hedge your bets accordingly but don’t reach too soon as it apparently is ‘just a strain’.
Now that we have the Oakland situation settled, lets get to the 2010 AL Champion Texas Rangers. Apparently, Neftali Feliz has indicated that he wants to start and the Rangers brass agrees, despite Manager Ron Washington’s wishes. Washington has said that if Feliz is moved to the rotation, he would like to look towards outside the organization for a ninth-inning anchor. While there aren’t many available relievers capable of closing for a contender, there are some. Veterans Heath Bell, Matt Capps, Jonathan Papelbon, Joakim Soria, and Mike Gonzalez all could be possible trade targets. If the Rangers go the youth route, Kenley Jansen, Jordan Walden, Henry Rodriguez, and Jess Todd could be possible gets. Still, the Rangers have a nice yield of young relievers and Feliz hasn’t been officially been moved to the rotation, but his spring training workload does indicate that he’s being somewhat stretched out. So, lets look at the potential in-house candidates to replace Feliz if he indeed is converted to a starter.
Alexi Ogando, with fellow ranger Omar Beltre, was part of the Dominican Republic visa scam and was barred from joining a MLB team for five years. Still, blessed with a near 100 mph fastball, the former outfielder does have the stuff to close and would have the highest closer upside. Being a converted OF, Ogando still has a lot to learn about pitching but, like Feliz, there has been discussion that Ogando will also be moved to rotation. Both Feliz and Ogando moving to the rotation would weaken the pen as a whole, but GM Jon Daniels has made it very clear that the rotation is the most important area of improvement on this team.
Former Mariners reliever Mark Lowe has two things going for him: he has a prototypical closer arsenal and he is the only righty on the Rangers with legitimate closing experience. Despite those attributes, Lowe does have some shortcomings. Armed with a high 90’s fastball, Lowe has shown shaky control and then starts to aim the ball, which has lead to him getting hit hard in the past. In addition, Lowe has been quite brittle during his MLB career.
The other side of the Puerto Rican visa scam is Omar Beltre, and while Beltre doesn’t have quite the arsenal of Ogando he still possess closer stuff. Beltre started a couple of games last season with interesting results as he had bouts of extreme wildness. Still, if Feliz and Ogando are instilled in the rotation, Beltre’s wildness as well as his 96 mph fastball, slider, and off-speed stuff could get the job done where situational reliever Darren O’Day and veteran lefty Arthur Rhodes may falter.
The talk of finding a replacement closer might become moot if former first-rounder Tanner Scheppers could find his grove again and prove that he’s the same pitcher he was during the first half of 2010. So far, Scheppers has had a spring to forget, but the talent is still there and with some adjustments, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him mowing down hitters at some point in 2011. On the other side, youngster Mason Tobin and his high 90’s heat has had a great spring, and while it’s doubtful he’ll be entrusted enough to close, he could eventually be a late inning worker in the future.
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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