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(ESPN INSIDER) NL Closers June 12

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(ESPN INSIDER) NL Closers June 12

Postby jebatzel » Fri Jun 13, 2003 11:39 am

"NL Closer Watch


Thursday, June 12, 2003


No category causes fantasy owners more angst than saves. With big-names closers carrying exorbitant price tags in trade talks, it pays to be aware of who is line for cheap saves. Here's a look at the closer hierarchy for all 16 NL teams.


Updated every Thursday


MAKING NOISE (Updated on June 12)



Arizona Diamondbacks

Jose Valverde
Security: Filling in

Profile
Arizona Clubhouse


2003 Stats
Sv BlSv IP ERA K BB
3 0 4.0 4.50 8 3


6/05 - 6/11: 2 G, 2 IP, 2 H, ER, BB, 5 K, (0-0, 2 Sv)


Status: Matt Mantei is eligible to return Thursday, but the reliever said his shoulder didn't respond well in a recent throwing session. No return date has been set. Rookie Jose Valverde has responded well to the challenge, meaning the Diamondbacks don't need to rush Mantei. Valverde has allowed two runs in four appearances, but he's converted all three save opportunities and struck out eight in four innings.


Fantasy Insurance: Scott Service. There's a reason the Diamondbacks turned to their Triple-A closer. Injuries have depleted their bullpen to the point that Service would be a legitimate alternative if something happened to Valverde.


Other Options: Mike Koplove is likely to return in the next few days after his own stint on the DL. A closing option before getting hurt, he'll likely need to prove himself healthy and on top of his game before figuring in the mix. And by then, Mantei may be back. Right-hander Oscar Villarreal has produced mixed results in recent games, although he hasn't allowed an earned run since May 17. Lefty Mike Myers gets mauled by right-handed hitting. Bret Prinz remains on the 60-day DL but continues to make progress in throwing sessions.






Chicago Cubs

Joe Borowski
Security: Low

Profile
Chicago Clubhouse


2003 Stats
Sv BlSv IP ERA K BB
12 2 31.2 2.27 34 7


6/05 - 6/11: 4 G, 4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, BB, 4 K (0-0, 2 Sv).


Status: If Dusty Baker is looking for an excuse to switch closers, Borowski is trying to provide one. While he's converted his last six chances, Borowski has allowed eight hits and three earned runs in his last 4.2 innings. But Baker keeps handing him the ball, and there has been little recent speculation about a switch.


Fantasy Insurance: Antonio Alfonseca. And perhaps this is why Baker hasn't been talking about changing closers. Alfonseca hasn't been getting shelled, but he likewise hasn't been blowing away hitters. And after a good start, his control seems to be slipping. Five of his eight walks have come in his last 5.1 innings.


Other Options: The Cubs have no shortage of sleeper closer candidates. Kyle Farnsworth took a beating against Baltimore on June 11, but he has 38 strikeouts in 29.2 innings and a 2.73 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. Despite 13 strikeouts and no walks in 7.2, Todd Wellemeyer hasn't pitched in June. Veteran Mike Remlinger also continues to pitch well out of the bullpen.







St. Louis Cardinals

Cal Eldred
Security: None

Profile
St. Louis Clubhouse


2003 Stats
Sv BlSv IP ERA K BB
8 2 26.0 4.46 25 9


6/05 - 6/11: 3 G, 3.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K (0-0, 3 Sv).


Status: That's right, we're leaving Eldred's mug up here for another week. Jason Isringhausen is back, activated on June 10, but has yet to pitch. The good news is he reported feeling great in a minor-league rehab stint and has been given a clean bill of health. The bad news for anxious owners is that everyone in St. Louis appears content to let Isringhausen ease back into his role. The could mean another week of save chances for Eldred, who has converted his last four chances.


Fantasy Insurance: Jeff Fassero. With Isringhausen back and Eldred pitching well, there isn't much reason to pick up any other Cardinals relievers. Fassero may be the next-best option, although he's allowed four hits and three walks in his last three appearances (2.2 IP).


Other Options: Kiko Calero was effective in long relief on June 11, sparking talk the Cards might send him to Triple-A Memphis to get a few starts. Lefty Steve Kline hasn't allowed a run in his last five appearances (4.2 innings) and could get back in the mix. Mike Crudale continues to pitch well in the minors.








San Diego Padres

Rod Beck
Security: Low

Profile
San Diego Clubhouse


2003 Stats
Sv BlSv IP ERA K BB
0 0 3.1 5.40 4 1


6/05 - 6/11: 3 G, 3 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, BB, 4 K (0-1, 0 Sv).

Status: Beck hasn't had a save opportunity yet -- welcome to life as San Diego's closer -- but he has picked up a loss. There's little in his initial outings to breed great confidence that he has much left as a closer, although he does have four strikeouts in 3.1 innings. Fantasy owners can count on him getting at least a couple of chances to prove himself.


Fantasy Insurance: Matt Herges. He had the job before Beck arrived and wasn't completely awful. There's more competition now, but it's not out of line to think Herges might get another shot down the line. NL-only owners might want to stash him on their bench.



Other Options: Although Beck is the choice of the moment and Herges was the main option for most of May, Jay Witasick might have the most long-term potential. A candidate for the job before getting hurt late in the spring, he returned from the DL with two strikeouts in one inning during his first game.







Montreal Expos

Rocky Biddle
Security: Medium

Profile
Montreal Clubhouse


2003 Stats
Sv BlSv IP ERA K BB
17 2 34.0 3.44 34 18


6/05 - 6/11: 4 G, 5.2 IP, 3 H, ER, 3 BB, 8 K (0-0, 2 Sv, 1 BS).


Status: Fantasy owners took notice when Luis Ayala picked up a pair of saves in quick succession, but Biddle was as much a victim of circumstances and bad pitching. He blew a save June 5 and pitched the seventh and eighth inning of his next appearance, but he was back closing games on June 8 and 11. Having Ayala around puts pressure on Biddle to pitch well, but he generally has to this point.


Fantasy Insurance: Ayala. Like Damaso Marte in Chicago, Ayala is worth owning in save-starved leagues until it's clear the Expos are completely sold on Biddle. Ayala's 0.81 WHIP makes him a safe choice in close games. The rookie has plenty of talent and has been brilliant since posting a 4.26 ERA in April.


Other Options: Is there room for another option? There might be with Scott Stewart, who is trying to rebound from a slow May. Also available are T.J. Tucker and Joey Eischen.








POTNETIAL NOISE (Updated on May 29)



Cincinnati Reds

Scott Williamson
Security: High

Profile
Cincinnati Clubhouse


2003 Stats
Sv BlSv IP ERA K BB
13 1 23.0 3.52 28 14


5/29 - 6/05: 2 G, 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (0-0, 2 Sv).


Status: Williamson hasn't pitched much since an elbow scare on May 26, but his two subsequent appearances were spotless and resulted in a pair of saves. He's obviously safe as long as he's healthy -- and for now he looks relatively healthy.


Fantasy Insurance: The Three Amigos. Gabe White, Kent Mercker and Felix Heredia have the best ERAs among Cincinnati pitchers. All have thrown well and all are southpaws. But not one leaps out as a clear closer candidate should Williamson miss extended time. Heredia has the best numbers against right-handed hitters, but he faded in May. It's probably not worth the roster space to try and guess which one would emerge at this point. And given the way Danny Graves has pitched as a starter, the team might consider moving him back to the bullpen if Williamson was hurt.









Colorado Rockies

Jose Jimenez
Security: Medium

Profile
Colorado Clubhouse


2003 Stats
Sv BlSv IP ERA K BB
14 1 27.2 5.53 17 8


5/29- 6/05: 4 G, 3.1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K (0-0, 3 Sv).
Status: Slowly but surely, Jimenez is solidifying his hold on the job. After a dreadful April, he's been pitching well. Considering the Rockies stuck with him -- although a few concerns were voiced -- he's pretty locked in as the closer. He hasn't walked a batter in his last 13.1 innings.



Fantasy Insurance: Javier Lopez. At some point, Lopez will surrender a run. After all, he pitches half his games in Colorado. But its been 14.1 innings since the rookie last allowed an earned run. With a 0.65 WHIP and 20 strikeouts in 23 innings, he sure looks like closer material.


Other Options: Todd Jones has a 8.19 ERA and 2.02 WHIP. Some guys get what they deserve. Veteran Steve Reed would be an option if the Rockies wanted to replace Jimenez with someone more proven than Lopez, while unproven lefty Brian Fuentes has also pitched well out of the bullpen.








Milwaukee Brewers

Mike DeJean
Security: Medium

Profile
Milwaukee Clubhouse


2003 Stats
Sv BlSv IP ERA K BB
14 4 31.1 4.60 26 13


5/30 - 6/07: 5 G, 5 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, BB, 6 K (0-0, 4 Sv, 1 BS).


Status: DeJean appears back on track after suffering through a brief slump. The Brewers stuck with him through the fade, suggesting they have confidence in him finishing the year as their closer if he isn't dealt.


Fantasy Insurance: Curtis Leskanic. The former closer could fill the role in Milwaukee if DeJean leaves, but Leskanic hasn't pitched since May 19, when he allowed three earned runs in 0.2 innings. He's not listed as injured.


Other Options: Southpaw Matt Ford doesn't get much work, but he's good when he does. The same goes for right-hander Leo Estrella. Valerio de los Santos is recently off the disabled list and pitching well.








Montreal Expos

Rocky Biddle
Security: Medium

Profile
Montreal Clubhouse


2003 Stats
Sv BlSv IP ERA K BB
15 1 27.1 3.95 25 14


5/22 - 5/29: 2 G, 2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, K (0-0, 2 Sv).


Status: Biddle gives up a few more hits and walks than the elite closers, but he gets the job done. And the Expos are careful how they use him, as Biddle has earned saves in eight of his last nine appearances. He quietly locking up the job for the remainder of this season and possibly beyond.


Fantasy Insurance: Scott Stewart. Still effective overall, Stewart has cooled slightly since a great start. But with his closing experience, he's the obvious first choice if anything happens to Biddle.


Other Options: Joey Eischen remains sharp, although he's struggled against left-handed hitters for some reason. T.J. Tucker has also been sharp and had four saves last season.









Philadelphia Phillies

Jose Mesa
Security: High

Profile
Philadelphia Clubhouse


2003 Stats
Sv BlSv IP ERA K BB
13 2 20 5.40 11 10


5/22 - 5/29: 2 G, 2 IP, H, 0 ER, BB, 3 K (0-0, Sv).


Status: The Phillies have been on a losing skid, and for a change, Mesa has had little to do with it. Despite his penchant for making things interesting, he's converted 13-of-15 save opportunities. And the Phillies have shown little inclination to put his job up for grabs.


Fantasy Insurance: Carlos Silva. The heir apparent, Silva hasn't been pitching well enough recently to put any pressure on Mesa.


Other Options: Were Mesa to get hurt, a lefty-righty platoon of Rheal Cormier and Turk Wendell might make more sense than Silva. Cormier has allowed just 16 hits in 25 innings, while Wendell has a 1.15 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 15.2 innings.








Pittsburgh Pirates

Mike Williams
Security: Medium

Profile
Pittsburgh Clubhouse


2003 Stats
Sv BlSv IP ERA K BB
14 3 20.1 6.64 10 13


5/22 - 5/28: 2 G, 2 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 K (0-0, 2 Sv, 1 BS).


Status: Williams isn't pitching well, but he's far from alone in that respect among Pittsburgh relievers. He's battled a leg injury which his manager says has contributed to his woes, but he has converted 14-of-17 chances. This would be a situation to watch if the Pirates had other options, but they don't.


Fantasy Insurance: Joe Beimel. This is the best the Pirates can do after Williams, and even Beimel is starting to get hit. The southpaw has allowed seven hits in his last 5.2 innings. Oh, and right-handed hitters are hitting .340 against him.


Other Options: Scott Sauerbeck might be a better option than Beimel despite a worse ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratio. The lefty has been equally effective against both left- and right-handed hitters, holding both under .200 averages. But with 13 walks in 21 innings, control is an issue.







San Francisco Giants

Tim Worrell
Security: High

Profile
San Francisco Clubhouse


2003 Stats
Sv BlSv IP ERA K BB
13 2 28.1 1.27 23 10


5/22 - 5/28: 2 G, 3 IP, H, 0 ER, BB, 3 K, (0-0, 0 Sv).

Status: After a very active stretch, Worrell has been getting some rest with the Giants on a losing streak. But he's firmly entrenched as the closer.


Fantasy Insurance: Felix Rodriguez. F-Rod simply hasn't been that special this season. Opponents are hitting nearly .270 against him, and he's walked 12 in 24 innings. But with Joe Nathan struggling, he's probably the top option behind Worrell.

Other Options: Nathan has allowed five hits and six earned runs in his last 1.2 innings. His great start is a distant memory, and it's tough to imagine Felipe Alou having much faith in his potential closing skills. Veteran lefty Scott Eyre has been consistent, but he's no closing threat.









ALL QUIET (Updated on May 29)



Atlanta Braves

John Smoltz
Security: High

Profile
Atlanta Clubhouse


2003 Stats
Sv BlSv IP ERA K BB
19 1 28.0 0.96 34 4


5/22 - 5/28: 3 G, 3 IP, 0 H, ER, 0 BB, 5 K (0-0, 1 Sv).
Status: Smoltz is healthy. That's all you need to know.



Fantasy Insurance: Roberto Hernandez. The Braves really hope Smoltz doesn't get hurt. Hernandez has allowed home runs in four of his last five appearances, allowing a total of seven hits, five walks and seven earned runs in 5.1 innings.


Other Options: Right-hander Trey Hodges could soon displace Hernandez, although the Braves might still prefer the veteran should Smoltz get hurt. Hodges has limited opponents to a .193 batting average. Jung Bong continues to impress. His recent save was of the three-inning variety in a blowout, but he's an interesting sleeper prospect. Then again, his future is probably as a starter. Veteran Ray King is a solid lefty option who has been tough this season against right-handed hitters, although walks are a concern.











Florida Marlins

Braden Looper
Security: Medium

Profile
Florida Clubhouse


2003 Stats
Sv BlSv IP ERA K BB
8 1 29.1 2.76 19 10


5/22 - 5/28: 4 G, 3.1 IP, 2 H, ER, BB, 3 K (0-0, 3 Sv).


Status: Looper lives in the middle class of closers. He's good but not great on a team that gets an average number of chances. But there's no need to worry about his job security.


Fantasy Insurance: Tim Spooneybarger. Opponents are hitting just .181 against Spooneybarger this season. And although he's been used for some long stints recently, he likely remains the top one-inning option should Looper get hurt.


Other Options: Lefty Armando Almanza has 29 strikeouts and just six walks in 26.1 innings, but right-handers are hitting him too well to consider him a closing option.








Houston Astros

Billy Wagner
Security: High

Profile
Houston Clubhouse


2003 Stats
Sv BlSv IP ERA K BB
15 1 30.0 1.80 36 7


5/22 - 5/29: 4 G, 4 IP, 5 H, ER, 0 BB, 5 K (0-0, 4 Sv).


Status: Wagner's job is as safe as any in baseball


Fantasy Insurance: Octavio Dotel. Virtually untouchable, Dotel has allowed a hit in less than half his appearances. Opponents are hitting just .146 against him and he has a 4:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Sound like a future closer to you?


Other Options: On most other teams, rookie Brad Lidge would have fantasy owners falling over themselves. But on Houston, he's a distant third or fourth when it comes to potential saves. But that doesn't change the fact that aside from a few more walks, his numbers look a lot like Dotel's. As if those three aren't enough, Ricky Stone has a 1.97 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 32 innings.









Los Angeles Dodgers

Eric Gagne
Security: High

Profile
Los Angeles Clubhouse


2003 Stats
Sv BlSv IP ERA K BB
18 0 26.0 2.42 46 5


5/22 - 5/29: 2 G, 1.2 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, BB, K (0-1, 1 Sv).


Status: That's 18-for-18 in save chances and nearly two strikeouts an inning, for those counting at home. Barring injury, he's all set.


Fantasy Insurance: Paul Shuey. Despite an awful history as a closer, it's tough to argue with Shuey's performance this season. He's pitched three perfect innings since coming off the DL.


Other Options: Guillermo Mota has allowed three earned runs in his last two appearances (5.0 IP) and still has a 1.60 ERA. In other words, he's been pretty good. He'd be right in the mix with Shuey if Gagne were to get hurt. Yet another Los Angeles reliever with an ERA less than 2.00, Paul Quantrill is a veteran with 19 career saves.













New York Mets

Armando Benitez
Security: High

Profile
New York Clubhouse


2003 Stats
Sv BlSv IP ERA K BB
15 4 30.1 3.56 31 18


5/22 - 5/29: 4 G, 4.1 IP, 3 H, ER, 4 BB, 7 K (0-0, 3 Sv).


Status: While Benitez continues to be mentioned in trade talks -- some of which have him ticketed for set-up duty -- he'll remain New York's closer as long as he's healthy.


Fantasy Insurance: Dave Weathers. Weathers has the kind of set-up resume you like to see in insurance closers, although he hasn't been especially sharp this season.


Other Options: Scott Strickland is expected to be out through at least June. Both Graeme Lloyd and Mike Stanton could conceivably step in and close games if necessary. Lloyd has been the better of the two this season. "

;-D

JB
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