In fantasy baseball, the closer position remains volatile. Rarely does every closer hang on to the job for an entire season - injuries, poor performance and managerial decisions cloud a team's bullpen picture.
Should you be concerned about a struggling stopper? Which relievers are climbing the depth chart? Have any injuries popped up? KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat keeps you informed when you're looking for saves.
|Job security (JS) score
||1 (unstable) to 5 (untouchable)
|Health (H) score
||1 (injury-prone) to 5 (durable)
Closer: Leo Nunez
Understudy: Clay Hensley
Lurkers: Ryan Webb, Edward Mujica, Jhan Marinez
Nunez's revamped slider, which he worked on this winter, is making waves in camp. Even umpire Angel Hernandez raved. Nunez's grip on the slider looks like that of a four-seamer; the added deception of his fastball-like hand positioning can give opponents more difficulty in picking up the pitch.
No need to bump him far up your cheat sheet, but among low-end mixed options, Nunez is quite secure. The righty struggled with his arsenal and pitch selection at times, but he showed how on he can be at the beginning of 2010. Since those behind him aren't draftable, it's OK to take a chance on him at his price and keep track of this situation.
Job security score: 3
Health score: 4
Closer: Jonathan Broxton
Understudy: Hong-Chih Kuo
Lurkers: Kenley Jansen
Brox was rocked Thursday. In the sixth inning, he didn't retire any of his five opposing hitters. He walked one, plunked one and allowed three hits, including a homer; he was charged with four plate crossings. For what it's worth, he gave up all of his spring runs in that outing, but Broxton hasn't struck out a batter in 2 1/3 innings (four appearances).
That isn't much work to judge, but after his disastrous 2010, there's reason to be concerned if he can't show progress in upcoming appearances. Bright side: His price might continue to drop if this persists. The risk-reward payoff remains if you can land him on the cheap, but this is a case that necessitates ample March monitoring and handcuff consideration for your draft.
Job security score: 3
Health score: 4
Understudy: Drew Storen
Lurkers: Tyler Clippard, Todd Coffey, Sean Burnett, Henry Rodriguez
Just Storen it for later
There isn't officially a closer yet, but Storen, Washington's best bet, has been working on using his fastball more, which helps explain how hittable he has been this spring (12.46 ERA and 10 hits yielded in 4 1/3 innings). His slider, unfortunately, also has been giving him issues. Some in the know speculate that because he backed off his throwing program this winter while attending classes at Stanford, it might take him longer to regain the feel for his breaking ball. There are rumblings that the Nats rushed him and he isn't ready to close full-time yet.
Relax. Storen's stuff was still troublesome for hitters last season, and he handled both sides of the batter's box well. There's a reason it's called spring training. His March sample size is small, and even if you wanted to use it, he hasn't walked a batter and has fanned four. If he's trying to fine-tune his stuff, he's better off giving up hits than walks, anyway. If we're still seeing these issues in the last week of March, maybe it's worth re-evaluating.
Despite Coffey's impressive spring and manager Jim Riggleman's assertion that he "wouldn't hesitate" to use Coffey in the ninth, you can't go targeting the righty, or anyone else behind Storen, in mixed. In NL-only? Not a bad reserve speculation. Even if Washington decides Storen needs a future farm trip, it won't be for long, and for the price you're paying, it isn't a reason to reduce your confidence in him. Draft Storen as you normally would.
(PS - Cole Kimball, the late-season closer for Double-A Harrisburg last year, doesn't fit on this crowded list just yet, but gosh darn, he flings gas.)
Job security score: TBD
Health score: TBD
- Huston Street struggled last week. Let the speculation of a hidden injury start flying around the Colorado Rockies' stopper. Well, at least he rebounded with a scoreless, one-hit inning Wednesday. He has been pleased with how his right shoulder has responded so far. Street's training is on track without any reported health issues, unlike last season. For now, there's little reason to be more cautious than usual.
- Brian Wilson (back) has thrown two solid outings since the last report. The San Francisco Giants' righty worked a clean inning Sunday and escaped a two-hit, one-walk jam in a Wednesday frame, while totaling four K's over those outings.
- The San Diego Padres' Heath Bell (calf) also has thrown two innings since last Thursday, striking out three and walking none despite giving up three hits and a run. Another productive revelation: Bell is more confident in his changeup.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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