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AL Closer Watch

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2003 12:05 pm
by zoozam
AL Closer Watch

Wednesday, June 18, 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 June 18)

Boston Red Sox

Brandon Lyon
Security: Low

Boston Clubhouse

2003 Stats
8 0 35.2 3.53 31 12

6/11 - 6/18: 4 G, 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, BB, 6 K (0-0, 2 Sv).

Status: Lyon keeps on keeping on. Ryan Rupe's positive start gives the Red Sox another reason to consider moving Byung-Hyun Kim to the bullpen when Casey Fossum is healthy, but for now, Kim is locked in the rotation. For his part, Lyon has pitched well, picking up two saves in his last three appearances (two hits and a walk in four innings).

Fantasy Insurance: Mike Timlin. The Boston Globe reports manager Grady Little will consider using Timlin to close games at times but perhaps only when Lyon was unavailable. Timlin has given up at least a hit in his last six appearances, but he does have a 1.86 ERA in June.

Other Options: Alan Embree has settled in as the left-handed complement to Timlin in set-up work. It's reasonable to think Embree could join the mix with Lyon and Timlin and close out a few games. Chad Fox remains on the DL but is set to begin a rehab assignment. Robert Person is no longer a factor in the saves mix.

Detroit Tigers

Franklyn German
Security: Low

Detroit Clubhouse

2003 Stats
5 2 28.1 3.18 30 27

6/11 - 6/18: 2 G, 1.2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, BB, K (0-0, 0 Sv).

Status: Manager Alan Trammell has said that German isn't his full-time closer yet, and now he's proven it. German was pulled with two outs in the ninth on June 14th after turning a four-run lead into a two-run lead. Fantasy owners can expect him to continue getting the majority of chances as long as he avoids many more similar performances, but the roller-coaster ride isn't over.

Fantasy Insurance: Chris Spurling. Far more consistent than German, Spurling gives Trammell a nice insurance policy. He finished off the game in which German was pulled, earning his third save. He's only a (very) part-time closer for the time being, but AL-only owners could do worse than the five or six additional saves he'll get.

Other Options: Steve Sparks pitches a lot of innings, but he also gives up his fair share of runs. He last picked up a save on May 22 and seems to have fallen far behind German and Spurling in the closing mix. Matt Roney is now part of the starting rotation. Matt Anderson continues to pitch at Triple-A, posting a 3.51 ERA and 18 strikeouts in his first 25.2 innings. He's been pitching better of late.

Kansas City Royals

Mike MacDougal
Security: Medium

Kansas City Clubhouse

2003 Stats
14 5 30.2 3.52 24 16

6/11 - 6/18: 4 G, 4 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K (2-0, 0 Sv, 1 BS).

Status: MacDougal isn't in danger just yet, but he can see it on the horizon. Rumors have the Royals talking to the Brewers about Curtis Leskanic. Any such move could be purely to bolster the set-up crew, but MacDougal has converted just four of nine chances send the end of April. His latest failing was a three-run disaster against the Twins on June 16. He'll keep the job for now, but a new arrival could cloud the picture.

Fantasy Insurance: Jason Grimsley. It's hard to imagine anything but a string of meltdowns from MacDougal giving Grimsley the job, but he's not pitching all that poorly after a dreadful May.

Other Options: D.J. Carrasco continues seeing work as a spot-starter, not the sort of stuff you'd expect from a potential closer. His June 16 start was his second of the season. Albie Lopez has been recalled from a rehab assignment, and while he'll likely play a role in the starting rotation, he's a potential sleeper in the bullpen.

Seattle Mariners

Jeff Nelson
Security: Filling In

Seattle Clubhouse

2003 Stats
5 2 23.2 2.28 26 10

6/11 - 6/18: 3 G, 2.1 IP, 2 H, ER, 0 BB, 2 K (0-0, 2 Sv).

Status: Kazuhiro Sasaki has made only slight progress in rehabbing his injury, and it appears he won't come off the DL when eligible on June 27. That likely means at least two more weeks of Nelson and Arthur Rhodes platooning. Rumors had the team interested in Ugueth Urbina, but Mariners management dismissed the speculation. Nelson has pitched well with Sasaki out.

Fantasy Insurance: Rhodes. He's really as much the closer as Nelson, as proved by two saves in a recent five-day stretch. He's the left-handed complement to Nelson, but he's been almost equally good against right-handed hitters. Manager Bob Melvin's use of the two has almost as much to do with keeping both fresh. He should be owned in every fantasy league for the short term.

Other Options: The Mariners sometimes try, but Nelson and Rhodes can't work every day. Shigetoshi Hasegawa is the third member of the team's core relievers and he could conceivably pick up one or two saves if Sasaski misses a few weeks. Worth a look in deep AL-only leagues. Rafael Soriano is back in Seattle, but the team's potential future closer won't figure in the mix this season.

Texas Rangers

Ugueth Urbina
Security: High

Texas Clubhouse

2003 Stats
18 2 26.1 3.08 24 12

6/11 - 6/18 1 G, 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, K (0-0, 0 Sv).

Status: Rumors continue to swirl around Urbina, but nothing appears likely in the short term. The bad news for fantasy owners is that not all the suitors -- namely the Yankees -- are looking at Urbina as a closer. A move to Boston would be more beneficial to his fantasy value (Seattle and San Francisco have also popped up as destinations). As it stands in Texas, Urbina is pitching well, although he's not seeing much action. It's tough to envision a team paying the asking price for Urbina, only to use him in set-up work.

Fantasy Insurance: Francisco Cordero. Urbina doesn't seem bothered by the rumors, but Cordero sure isn't doing well in trying to prove himself ready for the closing job. He's allowed seven earned runs in 4.2 June innings. The control problems that bothered him in April have returned in full force. Unless the Urbina rumors heat up, Coredero's not worth stashing.

Other Options: Who will step forward if Cordero continues down this path? Southpaws Aaron Fultz and Brian Shouse have the bullpen's best numbers, but neither veteran has a resume that suggests closing is a likely future. But after those two, it's hard to pick and candidates out of the mess. Triple-A closer Rosman Garcia, recalled in late May, hasn't been very good in Texas. Jeff Zimmerman may be ready to pitch a simulated game, but he's a long way from closing.

Toronto Blue Jays

Cliff Politte
Security: Low

Toronto Clubhouse

2003 Stats
10 4 29.0 5.90 27 10

6/11 - 6/18: 2 G, 2 IP, H, ER, 0 BB, K (0-0, 1 Sv).

Status: Politte's failing job security is based on his recent numbers, but not necessarily on any rumblings out of Toronto. Manager Carlos Tosca has been largely supportive of Politte and doesn't appear inclined to make another switch. But even with all that good will, Politte needs a string of scoreless appearances to climb off this list.

Fantasy Insurance: Aquilino Lopez. Lopez continues to shine, including 2.2 innings of one-hit relief on June 15. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 17 innings, allowing just six hits and six walks during that span. Granted he was a career minor leaguer before this season, but he was always a good minor leaguer. AL-only owners should still use him for quality middle relief innings and strikeouts, while hoping Politte's slide continues.

Other Options: There's fresh arms, if not necessarily good arm. The Blue Jays spent little in acquiring Scott Service and Juan Acevedo, and it may show. Acevedo was awful for the Yankees, but he has plenty of recent closing experience.

POTENTIAL NOISE (Updated on June 18)

Baltimore Orioles

Jorge Julio
Security: Medium

Baltimore Clubhouse

2003 Stats
15 4 26.1 4.44 26 16

6/11 - 6/18: 1 G, 1 IP, 2 H, ER, 0 BB, K (0-0, 1 Sv).

Status: Julio has just two saves in June, but the Orioles just haven't created many chances. Julio isn't always clean about his saves, and has blown four chances, but he's not in danger of losing his hold on the job.

Fantasy Insurance: Kerry Ligtenberg. A proven option if Julio falters -- although his closing days are in the distant past -- Ligtenberg has been a relatively consistent option for Mike Hargrove. Recently, he's bounced back after a rough start to June.

Other Options: Left-handed hitters still struggle against southpaws Buddy Groom and B.J. Ryan, but right-handed hitters own Groom and do well against Ryan. That makes both closing liabilities. Ryan has better overall numbers but has allowed 11 earned runs in his last 8.2 innings. Willis Roberts has similar trouble against left-handed hitters but might rank as the third option behind Julio and Ligtenberg.

Chicago White Sox

Billy Koch
Security: Low

Chicago Clubhouse

2003 Stats
8 2 29.1 4.60 23 14

6/11 - 6/18: 3 G, 3 IP, H, 0 ER, 3 BB, K (0-0, 2 Sv).

Status:It might have looked interesting in the box score, but don't read too much into Tom Gordon's save on June 16. Koch had pitched the previous three days -- converting a pair of save opportunities -- and simply wasn't available. He's been throwing well recently and has a good hold on the job.

Fantasy Insurance: Damaso Marte. This might be the guy most impacted by Gordon's save. Marte had seen extensive use prior to that game, but he could have pitched. Marte hasn't been bad recently, but he hasn't been as untouchable as early in the season. He's probably safe as the main set-up guy, but don't look for many save chances in the near future.

Other Options: Gordon finally gets a save after posting solid numbers in set-up work -- including 45 strikeouts in 33 innings. Just don't expect many more with Koch and Marte around.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Lance Carter
Security: Medium

Tampa Bay Clubhouse

2003 Stats
11 4 35.1 2.80 23 10

6/11 - 6/18: 2 G, 3 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, BB, 3 K (0-0, 0 Sv).

Status: The Devil Rays aren't winning often, and when they do, it's by a lot of runs. Carter hasn't seen a save opportunity since May 30. He's given up eight hits in his last six innings -- not awful but not great. Bu there's nothing to suggest he's anything but safe as Tampa Bay's closer.

Fantasy Insurance: Al Levine. You've got to love unearned runs. Levine took the loss and gave up four hits and four runs on June 15 against Pittsburgh, but his ERA remains a healthy 1.54 because all the runs were unearned.

Other Options: Just when Jesus Colome appears to be back in the mix, he gets charged with a blown save on June 15 after allowing two runs in 1.1 innings. Still, he's been solid since a terrible start to April and could get the nod ahead of Levine if anything happened to Carter. Travis Harper has been up and down recently, dimming his chances of late-inning duty.

ALL QUIET (Updated on June 18)

Anaheim Angels

Troy Percival
Security: High

Anaheim Clubhouse

2003 Stats
10 1 18.0 3.50 16 8

6/11 - 6/18: 1 G, 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, BB, 0 K (0-0, 1 Sv).

Status: All things go in cycles, and with the Angels in a funk, Percival hasn't seen much recent work. But Percival is healthy again and that means he's one of fantasy's better closers.

Fantasy Insurance: Brendan Donnelly. Like Percival, Donnelly isn't getting much work with the Angels struggling. But that just means his role as the primary set-up guy remains intact. Not that there's much doubt for a guy who has allowed one earned run in 34.2 innings.

Other Options: A rough outing against Seattle on June 16 -- two runs on a homer in one inning of work -- put a stop to Francisco Rodriguez's resurgence, but he's still back in the mix behind Percival and Donnelly. There's no reason for fantasy owners to pick him up as long as both guys ahead of him are healthy, but keep his name in mind should anything happen. Scott Shields also continues to throw brilliant innings, mostly in long relief.

Cleveland Indians

Danys Baez
Security: High

Cleveland Clubhouse

2003 Stats
15 3 33.0 3.55 26 11

6/11 - 6/18: 3 G, 3 IP, H, 0 ER, 0 BB, K (0-0, 2 Sv).

Status: It's time to recognize the hold Baez has seized when it comes to the closing duties in Cleveland. He's been simply brilliant since blowing a save on May 18, working 11 shutout innings while allowing just five hits. He's ready to join the upper echelon of fantasy closers.

Fantasy Insurance: David Riske. His fantasy utility is hurt by Baez's fine pitching, but Riske has been terrific in set-up work all season. He's given up a few hits recently but still has a four-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio and looks like a future closer.

Other Options: There's a lot of distance between the Baez-Riske combination and the rest of the bullpen. Dan Miceli and Terry Mulholland are veteran options in a pinch. Newcomer Nick Bierbrodt -- formerly of Tampa Bay -- merits watching if he stays in the bullpen.

Minnesota Twins

Eddie Guardado
Security: High

Minnesota Clubhouse

2003 Stats
19 1 29.2 3.03 28 5

6/11 - 6/18: 4 G, 3 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, BB, 2 K (0-1, 2 Sv).

Status: Guardado's ERA continues its steady climb, but there's nothing really wrong with his numbers. He remains an elite option with complete job security.

Fantasy Insurance: LaTroy Hawkins. Although he has endured a pair of four-run outings in the last 10 days, Hawkins is safe as the team's top set-up option thanks to a 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a .236 average-against. But unless Guardado gets hurt, he's only worth owning in deep AL-only leagues.

Other Options: Surprising lefty Juan Rincon may be back on track after 3.1 scoreless innings against Arizona on June 14. 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.

New York Yankees

Mariano Rivera
Security: High

New York Clubhouse

2003 Stats
9 1 18.1 1.96 18 3

6/11 - 6/18: 3 G, 3 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (0-0, 3 Sv).

Status: The Yankees need bullpen depth, but now that Rivera is healthy, there's no problem at the top.

Fantasy Insurance: Antonio Osuna. Yankees fans may not feel comfortable relying on Osuna in close games, but he continues to pitch well. He's allowed just two earned runs in his last 10.2 innings and looks like the No. 2 guy until the Yanks make a trade.

Other Options: Southpaw Chris Hammond gives up some hits but he has terrific control and does respectable work against right-handed hitters. Al Reyes has seen lots of work recently, but it's hard to picture him ever closing.

Oakland Athletics

Keith Foulke
Security: High

Oakland Clubhouse

2003 Stats
17 3 35.2 2.78 38 6

6/11 - 6/18: 3 G, 3.0 IP, 5 H, ER, 0 BB, 2 K (0-0, 2 Sv).

Status: A few rough spots recently, but Foulke is in no danger.

Fantasy Insurance: Chad Bradford. Oakland's most-used reliever after Foulke, Bradford could step in and fill the void if Foulke got hurt. Opponents are hitting just .183 against him.

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.

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2003 1:23 pm
by Guest
So would hanging on to Kim be in hopes he closes be a good idea? I'm sure there are better SP choices on waivers.

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2003 1:35 pm
by CaptainJenks
why isnt there an NL closer watch?

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2003 3:02 pm
by zoozam
bump for ev'one

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2003 4:37 pm
by Longshot
Danny Baez is close to elite status? I wasnt aware of this.. but he is on my team, so rock on danny

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2003 5:10 pm
by DGroundhog
I've been quite happy with Baez. I stated that once before a few weeks into the season and he promptly got tagged for 5 runs. I've been quiet about him since.

People still knock him over that 5er, but he's a solid RP.

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2003 9:42 pm
by Madison
Thank you for the info. Zoozam. It is appreciated. ;-D

PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2003 9:52 pm
by kentx12
Thanks. That is great information.