Im not exactly sure when they posted this, but I saw it there on 1/20 so here it is:
Team: Anaheim Angels
Closer: Troy Percival
Stability: Very High
Next in line: Brendan Donnelly, Francisco Rodriguez, Ben Weber
Notes: Donnelly served as the closer when Percival went on the DL earlier this season with a hip injury. Percival is signed through 2004, so his long-term status is fairly secure. Donnelly is the better closer-in-waiting for the short-term, Rodriguez has more upside. Percival has converted three straight save opportunities after giving up four runs in a single inning against the White Sox on August 11. Donnelly had been battling a bruised left hand but appears to be healed.
Team: Atlanta Braves
Closer: John Smoltz
Stability: Very High
Next in line: Will Cunnane, Antonio Alfonseca, Trey Hodges, Jaret Wright
Notes: Smoltz had surgery to repair scar tissue in his elbow as soon as the Braves' season ended in October. He started throwing again in January, and will meet with Dr. James Andrews before spring training to check on his status. Cunnane filled in well last August when Smoltz was on the DL, following a solid season at Triple-A Richmond. Alfonseca has the closing experience, and now gets to work with pitching guru Leo Mazzone. Wright showed glimpses of a turnaround last September, and Leo Mazzone has worked miracles with less in the past (see Pena, Alejandro), so he's a darkhorse candidate as well.
Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
Closer: Matt Mantei
Next in line: Jose Valverde, Oscar Villarreal, Brandon Lyon
Notes: Mantei’s $7 million salary in 2004 makes him a prime trade candidate, with the Diamondbacks looking to shave costs. Given his injury history, they’ll have hard time finding a team that will take on his entire salary. Mantei’s injury history also makes Valverde an attractive target for saves speculators. Valverde’s sterling rookie numbers probably are a little too good to be true, due to his high walk rate. Villarreal might be a starter this year, but if not he’ll remain a top option in late-inning situations.
Team: Baltimore Orioles
Closer: Jorge Julio
Next in line: Mike DeJean, B.J. Ryan, John Parrish
Notes: Julio saved 37 games last year, despite once losing the O’s closing job for two weeks. Both Julio’s walk rate and his home runs allowed are too high for a closer. His deficiencies and the signing of DeJean makes Julio one of the least stable closers in the AL. DeJean has mediocre closing credentials in his own right, losing the Brewers job to Dan Kolb and Leo Estrella last season. Ryan has surpassed Buddy Groom as the top left-handed option. Parrish might emerge as a darkhorse, following a tremendous Double-A season.
Team: Boston Red Sox
Closer: Keith Foulke
Stability: Very High
Next in line: Scott Williamson, Alan Embree, Mike Timlin, Byung-Hyun Kim
Notes: Last season's least-stable high-profile closer situation is among the most stable this season. The Red Sox eschewed the bullpen experiment they ran last year, paying big bucks to sign Foulke away from the A's. Part of the appeal of Foulke is ability to pitch multiple innings for a save. Look for either Williamson or Kim to be traded, perhaps both.
Team: Chicago White Sox
Closer: Damaso Marte
Next in line: Billy Koch, Cliff Politte
Notes: Marte is the incumbent, and while there's nothing really wrong with him as a pitcher, his status as the closer is fragile. The White Sox would like to use him in a number of situations, particularly when the scenario calls for a lefty. White Sox GM Kenny Williams hinted that the team would enter the season using a committee, with Koch and Politte getting their chances as well.
Team: Chicago Cubs
Closer: Joe Borowski
Next in line: Latroy Hawkins, Kyle Farnsworth, Mike Remlinger
Notes: Borowski was given a vote of confidence following the signing of Hawkins, but Hawkins was signed for a premium, and his contract includes bonus clauses for the number of saves he records. Hawkins traditionally has pitched better in a set-up role than as a closer, but his peripheral stats have improved considerably in the last two years. Farnsworth has the best stuff and was the most dominant of the group, but his walk rate has prevented him from being seriously considered for the role.
Team: Cincinnati Reds
Closer: Danny Graves
Next in line: Chris Reitsma, Ryan Wagner, John Riedling
Notes: Graves returns to closing after a failed experiment as a starter. He’s coming off of a shoulder injury, so his status bears watching this spring. In a perfect world, the Reds would be able trade Graves for a starter, but his contract will probably prohibit that. The situation with Reitsma and Wagner might be similar to that of the Angels with Brendan Donnelly and Francisco Rodriguez – Reitsma is the next in line and was effective in the role last year, but Wagner is the man for the future. The Reds are flirting with the idea of using Wagner as a starter.
Team: Cleveland Indians
Closer: Bob Wickman
Next in line: David Riske, Jose Jimenez, Scott Stewart, Rafael Betancourt, Bobby Howry
Notes: Wickman is still recovering from Tommy John surgery after missing all of the 2003 season and half the 2002 season. Riske is waiting in the wings after a stellar 2003 season – one might argue that he’s the better candidate for the job anyhow, given his ability to dominate hitters. Jimenez might develop into a serviceable reliever again after escaping high altitude. Quietly the Indians have constructed a quality bullpen with a number of useable options.
Team: Colorado Rockies
Closer: Shawn Chacon
Next in line: Steve Reed, Brian Fuentes
Notes: Chacon has no experience closing, and is coming off of a season-ending elbow surgery. Factor in Coors Field, and he becomes as risky as any closer out there. Reed has made a career out of succeeding beyond expectations in Coors. Fuentes split the duties with Justin Speier late in 2003, and should get any saves when the situation calls for a left-hander.
Team: Detroit Tigers
Closer: Danny Patterson
Stability: Very Low
Next in line: Fernando Rodney, Al Levine, Franklyn German, Matt Anderson, Jamie Walker
Notes: There’s no real clear favorite for the job in Detroit, and manager Alan Trammell did his best to keep speculators on their toes last year anyhow. Patterson might get the first shot, based on his performance in 2003 and his general seniority. He was shut down in September with elbow problems, however, after missing most of 2002 after having Tommy John surgery. Rodney’s strikeout numbers are cause for optimism, but he hasn’t mastered his control at the major league level. This is another wide-open situation.
Team: Florida Marlins
Closer: Armando Benitez
Stability: Very High
Next in line: Chad Fox
Notes: The Marlins got a possible bargain when signing Benitez, whose career stats belie his reputation as an unreliable closer. A few high-profile blown saves have skewed his reputation. Beyond the oft-injured Fox, the Marlins don’t have any readily identifiable alternatives. Look for the team to sign a veteran free agent reliever before the start of spring training.
Team: Houston Astros
Closer: Octavio Dotel
Next in line: Brad Lidge, Dan Miceli, Ricky Stone
Notes: Dotel finally settles into the role that his fantasy owners have hoped for the last three years. A small concern is his declining (but still good) strikeout rate, accompanied by an increase in the number of homers he’s allowed. Lidge wore down some in the middle of 2003, but he’ll now assume the role Dotel held backing up Billy Wagner. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get five to 10 saves.
Team: Kansas City Royals
Closer: Mike MacDougal
Stability: Very Low
Next in line: Curtis Leskanic, Al Levine, Jeremy Affeldt, D.J. Carrasco, Jason Grimsley
Notes: MacDougal’s splits tell it all: in the first half, he had 24 saves, a 2.59 ERA, a 1.37 WHIP, and batters hit .233 against him; in the second half, he had three saves, a 6.85 ERA, a 1.75 WHIP, and batters hit .322 against him. Leskanic’s career-renaissance accelerated upon being traded to the Royals, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take over. Affeldt will probably get another shot at starting, but his recurring blister problems and previous success in the bullpen make him a nice darkhorse candidate.
Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Closer: Eric Gagne
Stability: Very High
Next in line: Guillermo Mota, Paul Shuey
Notes: Generally closers are devalued in 5x5 leagues, because they don’t pitch enough innings to help in the strikeouts category. Gagne’s sublime 2003 season even allowed him to help out even there. Mota finally harnessed his blazing fastball in 2003, and his role with the team will increase in significance following the free agent departure of Paul Quantrill. Behind the brilliance of Gagne and Mota’s breakout season, Shuey gets lost in the shuffle, but he’s quietly reliable when healthy and could be used in a pinch with few negative repercussions.
Team: Milwaukee Brewers
Closer: Danny Kolb
Next in line: Mike Crudale, Leo Estrella, Luis Vizcaino
Notes: Kolb rewarded fantasy owners who took a chance on him in July, converting 21 of his 23 save opportunities, with his first save coming on July 19th. 2003 was his first taste of real success at the major league level, so his margin for error won’t be as great other closers in the league. Crudale might not be the first in line behind Kolb, but his career numbers indicate that he has the requisite skills for the job. Vizcaino might have better stuff, but until his actual performance improves, his potential is fools gold.
Team: Minnesota Twins
Closer: Joe Nathan
Next in line: Joe Nathan, J.C. Romero, Jesse Crain
Notes: The Twins bullpen is in flux with both Latroy Hawkins and Eddie Guardardo lost in free agency. Recently acquired Nathan and Romero would close if no one is signed. Watch for quick riser Jesse Crain, who could be this year's Francisco Rodriguez, after advancing through three levels in the minor leagues last year.
Team: Montreal Expos
Closer: Rocky Biddle
Next in line: Chad Cordero, Luis Ayala, Joey Eischen
Notes: Biddle lost the job on a couple of occasions in 2003, and manager Frank Robinson has been willing to both pull a struggling closer out of the role, and try nearly anyone else out for the job. Cordero was fast-tracked to the majors after being drafted in the first round by the Expos in 2003, and thrived upon his arrival, posting a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings, picking up a save in September. Ayala quietly picked up 10 wins in his rookie season, despite missing a month with a shoulder injury.
Team: New York Yankees
Closer: Mariano Rivera
Stability: Very High
Next in line: Tom Gordon, Paul Quantrill, Felix Heredia, Steve Karsay
Notes: Rivera should be healty at the start of the season. Gordon would seem to be the number two choice for saves in a deep, veteran-laden bullpen, but the pecking order will be decided this spring.
Team: New York Mets
Closer: Braden Looper
Next in line: David Weathers, Mike Stanton, John Franco, Orber Moreno, Royce Ring.
Notes: Looper never has posted the strikeout numbers you might expect from a pitcher with his fastball. He’s had the closer job and lost it already a couple of times in his career, and now moves to New York, where every misstep will be magnified. Pay attention to Art Howe’s bullpen usage early in the season – Weathers and Stanton probably will be the first choices to get the game to Looper, but Moreno and Ring are being groomed for future late-inning roles.
Team: Oakland A's
Closer: Arthur Rhodes
Next in line: Chad Bradford, Ricardo Rincon, Jim Mecir
Notes: With the departure of Keith Foulke, the Oakland closer job should go to Rhodes. He could be a nice bargain signing, but he's not a lock to hold the job if he fails to rebound from a sub-par 2003 season.
Team: Philadelphia Phillies
Closer: Billy Wagner
Stability: Very High
Next in line: Tim Worrell, Roberto Hernandez
Notes: Acquiring a solid closer was the Phillies’ top offseason priority, and Wagner certainly fits that bill. He no longer shows any signs of the elbow injury that sidelined him in 2000, and his strikeout rate has improved over the last two years. If Wagner is hurt or unavailable, Worrell will be a more-than-adequate alternative.
Team: Pittsburgh Pirates
Closer: Juan Acevedo
Stability: Very Low
Next in line: Joe Beimel, Mark Corey, Brian Boehringer, Mike Gonzalez
Notes: This is perhaps the most unsettled bullpen situation in the majors. Putting Acevedo as the closer here is no more than an educated guess, based on the fact that he has some major league experience closing. If Julian Tavarez and Mike Lincoln can get shots closing for this team, anyone can. Of those listed, Gonzalez is fairly intriguing, based on his high minor league strikeout numbers.
Team: San Diego Padres
Closer: Trevor Hoffman
Next in line: Rod Beck, Akinori Ohtsuka
Notes: Hoffman returned from two shoulder operations ahead of schedule, pitching in nine games in September, and will be the first choice to regain his closing role. Manager Bruce Bochy will probably use Hoffman judiciously, and the team re-signed Beck just for that purpose. Ohtsuka was a closer in Japan, saving 137 games over seven seasons there, striking out 12.2 batters per nine innings in the process.
Team: Seattle Mariners
Closer: Eddie Guardado
Next in line: Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Rafael Soriano
Notes: With Kazuhiro Sasaki deciding not to return this season and play in Japan, the Mariners have two reliable veteran options in Guardado and Hasegawa. Guardado has the lead on the closer job heading into the spring. Soriano is targeted for the starting rotation eventually, but right now there’s no spot open. He has the best stuff of anyone currently in the Mariners’ pen.
Team: San Francisco Giants
Closer: Robb Nen
Next in line: Felix Rodriguez, Matt Herges, Jim Brower
Notes: Nen is coming off of three shoulder surgeries over the course of 14 months, the latest in May to repair a torn rotator cuff. The Giants have been tight-lipped about his status this offseason, but they are operating under the assumption that he’ll be ready to start the season. We’re not so confident, given the nature of shoulder injuries and their tendency to have a long-lasting effect. Rodriguez is next in line, but was rumored to be on the trading block due to his salary, has hidden injuries in each of the last two years, and has seen his strikeout rate evaporate over the last two years. Herges might leapfrog him if/when Nen has any setbacks.
Team: St. Louis Cardinals
Closer: Jason Isringhausen
Next in line: Cal Eldred, Julian Tavarez, Steve Kline
Notes: Isringhausen answered the bell since coming back from a shoulder injury last June, but as with any pitcher with a shoulder injury, has to be watched carefully. Ignore Tavarez's 11 saves from last year and treat them as fool's gold - his strikeout rate is too low and his walk rate is too high. His strongest aspect is his ability to keep the ball in the yard, something he took to an extreme in 2003, and not a rate that should be expected to be repeated.
Team: Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Closer: Danys Baez
Next in line: Lance Carter, Travis Harper, Seth McClung
Notes: Baez pitched better than his won-loss record might have indicated in 2003, but nonetheless lost the Indians’ closer’s job to David Riske in mid-August. He’ll start the year as the Devil Rays’ new closer, but might have a short leash with Carter around. Carter’s late season struggles encouraged the Devil Rays to search for a closer this offseason, but he’ll still have a prominent late-inning role. Harper’s struggles with the longball prevent him from being a serious closer candidate. Seth McClung is probably the team's closer of the future, but he won't be back until at least late 2004 as a result of Tommy John surgery in July 2003.
Team: Texas Rangers
Closer: Francisco Cordero
Next in line: Jeff Zimmerman, Jeff Nelson
Notes: Cordero converted 13 of his 17 save opportunities over the last three months of the season, following the trade of Ugueth Urbina. He strikes out opposing hitters at a good rate, and keeps the ball in the park. Zimmerman last pitched in the majors in 2001, having lost the last two seasons to an elbow injury. Before the injury, he was exceptional in the role. Nelson would probably be used only if Cordero falters and Zimmerman can’t make it all the way back.
Team: Toronto Blue Jays
Closer: Aquilino Lopez
Next in line: Justin Speier, Kerry Ligtenberg, Jason Kershner, Valerio De Los Santos, Terry Adams
Notes: The Blue Jays radically revamped their bullpen over the offseason, with only Lopez and Kershner remaining as holdovers from 2003. The team plans to go with a committee approach in save situations. Lopez and Speier will probably get the majority of opportunities, but expect the roles in the Jays’ pen to remain fluid.