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AL Closer Watch

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AL Closer Watch

Postby zoozam » Thu Jul 10, 2003 7:57 am

AL Closer Watch

Wednesday, July 9, 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 AL teams.

Updated every Wednesday

MAKING NOISE (Updated on July 9)

Chicago White Sox

Billy Koch
Security: Low

Chicago Clubhouse

2003 Stats
11 4 37.1 5.30 29 18

7/2 - 7/8: 2 G, 2.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, BB, 3 K (1-1, 0 Sv, 1 BS).

Status: Koch is probably as close as a closer can get to losing his job. Manager Jerry Manuel has said Tom Gordon and Damaso Marte will get more save opportunities, although that doesn't mean Koch won't get any. The final blow to Koch's security came in a meltdown against Tampa Bay on July 4, when he earned his fourth blown save while recoding just one out. Given Koch's history and the prospect that he'll still be part of the mix, fantasy owners may want to keep him around.

Fantasy Insurance: Marte and Gordon. Trade rumors that had Gordon going to the Yankees have cooled in the wake of Manuel's decision to open up the closing job. Marte has curious numbers, in that he's been dominant -- 1.91 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and .201 average against -- but has also been charged with seven blown saves. Gordon is right-handed and has a history of closing, but Manuel seems to favor the lefty Marte. Until things settle down, both are worthy fantasy additions for teams that need saves.

Other Options: Rick White struggled early but has been sharp of late. He could slip into the mix if the Sox do move Gordon.

Detroit Tigers

Jamie Walker
Security: None

Detroit Clubhouse

2003 Stats
2 2 32.0 3.38 20 9

7/2 - 7/8: 3 G, 3.2 IP, 2 H, ER, 0 BB, K (0-0, 1 Sv).

Status: Who knows what's going on in Alan Trammell's bullpen. Walker picked up the team's first two saves of July, but having pitched in back-to-back games -- with an off-day between them -- he wasn't called on to preserve Detroit's 2-1 lead against the White Sox on July 8. Clearly, no single pitcher has a firm hold on the role of closer, but Walker is probably the closest to the top of the ladder at this point.

Fantasy Insurance: Chris Mears. The rookie has been brilliant since coming up from Toledo, so much so that Trammell gave him a chance to earn a two-inning save on July 8. Mears responded by allowing just one hit while striking out three to earn his first save. AL-only owners may want to take a chance on short-term success. Others should just monitor the situation. He had a 2.92 ERA at Toledo but wasn't viewed as one of Detroit's best prospects.

Other Options: Chris Spurling has been in a serious funk of late, allowing five earned runs in his last 5.1 innings. That has relegated him to set-up work and may keep him out of Trammell's closing plans. Veteran Steve Sparks remains a last-ditch option.

Seattle Mariners

Shigetoshi Hasegawa
Security: Filling in

Seattle Clubhouse

2003 Stats
4 0 45.2 0.79 21 7

7/2 - 7/8: 2 G, 2.1 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, K (0-0, 2 Sv).

Status: The Mariners have all but officially anointed Hasegawa the closer until Kazuhiro Sasaki returns. Manager Bob Melvin thinks the bullpen works best with Jeff Nelson and Arthur Rhodes in set-up roles, and Hasegawa's strong performance all season gives him that luxury. While there is still no target for Sasaki's return from fractured ribs, it's almost impossible to believe he'll return before August. The team is hoping he'll be able to play catch before the All-Star break.

Fantasy Insurance: Rhodes and Nelson. Things didn't work out so well when the two shared the closing job, but that doesn't mean Melvin will be afraid to use either in the ninth inning. Both continue to battle slumps but are worth owning in AL-only leagues, especially the right-handed Nelson.

Other Options: Rafael Soriano throws hard -- 14 strikeouts in 11 innings -- and has done little since returning from the minors to suggest he can't someday be a closer. But for now, he's probably too raw. Hard-throwing Aaron Taylor also deserves some attention. He had 16 saves for Tacoma and was very sharp in his first two outing with the Mariners.

Toronto Blue Jays

Juan Acevedo
Security: Filling In

Toronto Clubhouse

2003 Stats
6 1 31.1 6.32 23 12

7/2 - 7/8: 3 G, 3.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, BB, 3 K (1-0, 0 Sv).

Status: Cliff Politte continues to mend his sore shoulder and hopes to be off the DL after the minimum 15 days, putting him back in the bullpen early next week. Until then, manager Carlos Tosca thinks Acevedo is his best bet. And while Acevedo has allowed seven hits in 6.1 innings with the Jays, he has yet to allow a run. Assuming he pitches well in the role -- and assuming he ever gets a save opportunity -- it's not impossible to imagine him sharing the job with a healthy Politte.

Fantasy Insurance: Aquilino Lopez. Although by sticking with Politte and then turning to Acevedo, Tosca has made it pretty clear he doesn't see Lopez in a closing role at this point in time. And given Lopez's recent struggles, that's not hard to justify.

Other Options: Veterans Trever Miller and Jeff Tam remain late-inning set-up options, although it's difficult to envision either closing with any success. Brian Bowles continues to throw well as the closer at Triple-A Syracuse, but he didn't fare so well in an earlier stint with the Jays.

POTENTIAL NOISE (Updated on July 9)

Baltimore Orioles

Jorge Julio
Security: High

Baltimore Clubhouse

2003 Stats
18 5 34.0 4.19 31 18

7/2 - 7/8: 3 G, 3.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K (0-0, 2 Sv, 1 BS).

Status: There's nothing to suggest Julio is in any danger of losing his job, but he continues to do just enough -- like allowing two home runs while blowing a save on July 6 -- to leave fantasy owners a little unsettled. Count on him continuing to get saves, just don't count on great all-around numbers.

Fantasy Insurance: Kerry Ligtenberg. He gives up a fair number of hits, but he strikes out enough hitters and walks few enough hitters to survive. He'd be a viable fantasy alternative if Julio got hurt, but he's not going to steal away the job.

Other Options: Southpaws Buddy Groom and B.J. Ryan aren't good enough against right-handed hitters, or at times this season, left-handed hitters. Willis Roberts is out of the mix after landing on the DL. Well-traveled Hector Carrasco is in town, but he's nothing to get excited about.

Boston Red Sox

Byung-Hyun Kim
Security: Medium

Boston Clubhouse

2003 Stats
2 0 81.1 3.65 58 25

7/2 - 7/8: 4 G, 4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, BB, 4 K (0-1, 2 Sv).

Status: Kim hasn't been perfect in his brief tenure as closer, but the Red Sox aren't asking for perfection. He took the loss after entering a key game against the Yankees with the score tied, but Kim has been generally solid. After all the drama with the position in the first half, fantasy owners can rest assured the Sox will be very patient with this regime.

Fantasy Insurance: Mike Timlin. It's tough to imagine manager Grady Little turning over the long-term job to Timlin if Kim were injured, but it's tough to overlook Timlin's numbers for occasional ninth-inning duty. He's had some memorable meltdowns but has stellar overall numbers -- 3.42 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, .247 average against and 38 strikeouts to just five walks.

Other Options: To say Brandon Lyon hasn't reacted well to losing his job is an understatement. He's allowed nine earned runs in his last six innings and is ticketed for mop-up duty until he recovers his form. Alan Embree is as viable a candidate as Timlin, especially with a .217 average against.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Lance Carter
Security: Medium

Tampa Bay Clubhouse

2003 Stats
14 6 45.1 4.17 30 13

7/2 - 7/8: 1 G, 1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, K (0-0, 1 Sv).

Status: Carter is going to the All-Star Game, but will he return as a closer? In short, yes. But Carter's leash grows ever shorter with each bad outing. He hasn't pitched since nearly blowing a save against the White Sox on July 5. We're not ready to say a change is in the works, but fantasy owners counting on his saves have a right to feel anxious.

Fantasy Insurance: Jesus Colome. This sleeper candidate is picking the wrong time to get on the roller coaster. After righting the ship following a miserable start to the season, Colome has allowed home runs in back-to-back outings. He still has decent overall numbers, but the recent performances won't push Piniella toward making a switch at closer.

Other Options: Al Levine has the best numbers in Tampa Bay's bullpen, although he owes some of that 1.67 ERA to six unearned runs. Still, if both Carter and Colome continue falling on hard times, he's a viable option. Travis Harper falls in line right behind Levine.

Texas Rangers

Ugueth Urbina
Security: High

Texas Clubhouse

2003 Stats
25 4 37.2 4.30 39 17

7/2 - 7/8 4 G, 3.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, BB, 6 K (0-1, 3 Sv).

Status: Nothing new on the Urbina trade front. The Dallas Morning News reports the Rangers are still perfectly willing to part with Urbina but feel they'll get a better return by waiting until closer to the deadline. That leaves fantasy owners in limbo, wondering if some team will pay the price to make Urbina a set-up guy (i.e. the Yankees). But if the Rangers are asking top dollar, it likely means Urbina will move to a closing role. Meanwhile, he continues piling up saves but isn't pitching nearly as well as he did in April and May.

Fantasy Insurance: Francisco Cordero. Fantasy owners keep holding Cordero on the bench, waiting for Urbina to get dealt. It's not a bad move considering a deal is likely, and it's easier now that Cordero is pitching well again. He's allowed just one hit and one walk in his last 4.2 innings. He's no lock as a closer, but he's going to get a shot.

Other Options: Just to make things interesting, Jeff Zimmerman continues to make progress in his return from major arm surgery. He could soon pitch a simulated game. But he's really just wishful thinking from a fantasy perspective. Southpaws Aaron Fultz and Brian Shouse have decent numbers, but former Triple-A closer Rosman Garcia might be next in line after Cordero.

ALL QUIET (Updated on July 9)

Anaheim Angels

Troy Percival
Security: High

Anaheim Clubhouse

2003 Stats
19 1 27.0 2.67 26 8

7/2 - 7/8: 2 G, 2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, K (0-0, 2 Sv).

Status: Healthy and safe.

Fantasy Insurance: Brendan Donnelly. One of the few set-up guys worth owning in all leagues regardless of the closer's health, Donnelly continues pitching brilliantly. He earned his All-Star berth.

Other Options: Francisco Rodriguez is heating up, to the extent that AL-only owners should have him on the roster. He's allowed just two earned runs in his last 20 innings. Like Brad Lidge in Houston, he's a ways removed from save chances, but he'd be a viable option if the need arose.

Cleveland Indians

Danys Baez
Security: High

Cleveland Clubhouse

2003 Stats
20 5 42.0 3.43 34 13

7/2 - 7/8: 1 G, 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (0-0, 1 Sv).

Status: Ignore the 0-6 record. He's not perfect, but he's been pretty darn good this season. Cleveland has many worries, but closer isn't one of them.

Fantasy Insurance: David Riske. Rounding back into shape after flirting with a slump, Riske is an underrated set-up pitcher with closing potential. Unfortunately, unless Baez gets injured, he's worth following but not owning in fantasy leagues.

Other Options: There's a lot of distance between the Baez-Riske combination and the rest of the bullpen. Veteran Terry Mulholland may be the best short-term option behind Baez and Riske.

Kansas City Royals

Mike MacDougal
Security: High

Kansas City Clubhouse

2003 Stats
24 5 39.2 2.72 31 21

7/2 - 7/8: 3 G, 2.1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, BB, 0 K (0-0, 3 Sv).

Status: MacDougal is headed to the All-Star Game and deservedly so. He endured a long funk after a brilliant start to the season, but the key is he survived and is back on top of his game. Kansas City's faith paid off and fantasy owners can rest easy.

Fantasy Insurance: Jason Grimsley. He is what he is. Grimsley gives up too many hits, but he has good strikeout numbers and isn't too much worse against left-handed hitters than right-handed hitters. Should MacDougal get hurt, he could fill in for a week or two. Until then, don't touch him.

Other Options: D.J. Carrasco is back in the bullpen and throwing decently. If MacDougal had a complete meltdown or a serious injury, Carrasco might be a better long-term experiment than Grimsley.

Minnesota Twins

Eddie Guardado
Security: High

Minnesota Clubhouse

2003 Stats
20 2 35.1 3.82 31 7

7/2 - 7/8: 2 G, 2.2 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, BB, 2 K (0-2, 1 BS).

Status: In all honesty, Guardado has been awful lately. But he's headed to the All-Star Game and has earned the right to a slump. Give him another week or two before getting worried.

Fantasy Insurance: LaTroy Hawkins. But if you insist on worrying about Guardado, Hawkins is probably the way to go. He has 52 strikeouts -- and just nine walks -- in 44.1 innings and a 1.83 ERA. His closing history is a little scary but there is at least a history there.

Other Options: Up-and-down lefty Juan Rincon is working mostly long relief. Command remains an issue for him. J.C. Romero has worse overall numbers than Rincon but would probably get the closing call ahead of him in an emergency. Johan Santana is back in the bullpen but hasn't pitched brilliantly since leaving the rotation.

New York Yankees

Mariano Rivera
Security: High

New York Clubhouse

2003 Stats
15 1 32.1 1.67 31 4

7/2 - 7/8: 2 G, 2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (1-0, 0 Sv).

Status: Missed time probably cost him an All-Star berth, but nobody is better in the AL.

Fantasy Insurance: Antonio Osuna. He's actually just starting a rehab assignment in the minors, but Osuna should be back soon and has been the team's most reliable reliever after Rivera. But should Rivera get hurt again, the team would likely speed up trade talks for a proven closer.

Other Options: Chris Hammond, Al Reyes, Sterling Hitchcock? Again, the Yankees have the money to hit the trade market if the need arose for a fill-in closer.

Oakland Athletics

Keith Foulke
Security: High

Oakland Clubhouse

2003 Stats
22 4 47.1 2.85 51 11

7/2 - 7/8: 2 G, 2.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K (1-0, 1 Sv, 1 BS).

Status: He pitches a ton of innings, and he pitches them well most of the time. A gold fantasy closer, even with a few recent struggles.

Fantasy Insurance: Chad Bradford. Oakland's most-used reliever after Foulke, Bradford is on a cold streak -- 7 ER in his last 6.1 IP -- but remains the most likely fill-in if Foulke were hurt.

Other Options: Lefty Ricardo Rincon struggles against right-handed hitters but owns lefties and could pick up a few situational saves. Right-hander Mike Neu has good numbers but works mostly long relief mop-up duty.
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Postby Madison » Fri Jul 11, 2003 3:10 pm

;-D Thanks for passing along the info. Zoozam! ;-D I'm sure everyone appreciates it.
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Yes doctor, an army is forming.
Yes doctor, there will be a war.
Yes doctor, there will be blood.....
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