Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat - NL

by Tim Heaney on March 24, 2011 @ 04:15:21 PDT

 


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.

Key

Job security (JS) score 1 (unstable) to 5 (untouchable)
Health (H) score 1 (injury-prone) to 5 (durable)

Arizona Diamondbacks

Closer: J.J. Putz

Understudy: Juan Gutierrez

Lurkers: David Hernandez, Sam Demel, Kam Mickolio

The injury bug has struck Putz again, this time back tightness that prompted 'Zona to scratch him from his Friday appearance. The righty played catch Monday and long toss Wednesday; he's scheduled to do bullpen work Friday, and skipper Kirk Gibson hopes to have Putz pitch in Grapefruit League action Sunday.

Aardsma, Fuentes bargains:

AL Hot Seat | Depth charts

Putz has made only two spring appearances, his last one on March 16, because he has been on a program that centers on long tossing and bullpen sessions. The Snakes are cautiously optimistic Putz will be ready for the start of the campaign, and his price shouldn't drop much, but with his injury history, take Arizona's gut feeling with a grain.

The first options they'd turn to in a Putz-less 'pen would be Gutierrez and Hernandez. Both performed saves duty last year - Guti for the D-backs, Hernandez briefly for the Baltimore Orioles. Gutierrez's experience is likelier to win out, especially since he closed games efficiently under Gibson's watch. But the hard-throwing newcomer Hernandez, who thrived after switching to a relief role in B-more, has more upside and must be at your fingertips.

Job security score: 4

Health score: 3

Atlanta Braves

Closer: Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters

Understudy: George Sherrill

The Bravos hammered it home: They're using twin stoppers to start 2011. Luckily, both relievers are ending spring on a strong note. Even in this split, Kimbrel remains the better option because as a righty, he's a more frequent matchup play, and he still holds the closer-of-the-future lead.

Lock up this pair if possible, but don't fret if you get only one and you have other sources of saves. Recall the Rafael Soriano-Mike Gonzalez pairing of '09: Kimbrel and Venters are both K-happy and ownable.

Job security score: 4

Health score: 5

Philadelphia Phillies

Closer: Brad Lidge

Understudy: Ryan Madson

Lurkers: Jose Contreras

On the heels of a Sunday bullpen session, when he threw at normal effort, Lidge (biceps) tossed 16 pitches without issues Tuesday in a minor league contest. Unfortunately, that didn't carry over into Thursday's game action, when the righty allowed one run on two hits - one a solo jack - and two walks in two-thirds of a frame. At least he fanned two.

San Francisco Giants RP Brian Wilson
Beard: magical healing powers?

Lidge has some time to establish his readiness for opening day, but his availability remains up in the air. He was already going at a discounted rate, so this really doesn't change how most fantasy drafters have viewed him. Don't count on him as your main source of stops. Madson remains the one to target for speculation and insurance.

Job security score: 4

Health score: 3

San Francisco Giants

Closer: Brian Wilson

Understudy: Sergio Romo

Lurkers: Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt

The Beard tried to play catch Wednesday following his Friday announcement of an oblique strain but was cut short when the Giants didn't like what they saw. Skipper Bruce Bochy, who didn't see Wilson's throws, called it a light session with "easy toss." Wilson said he was throwing at max effort and expected to feel sore.

He might try to play catch Thursday and hasn't been ruled out for the opener yet, but there's doubt that he can progress his efforts enough to start the season on time. Wilson, who has logged only five spring games, hasn't built up his pitch counts or appeared on back-to-back days.

Bochy has left his saves direction open if Wilson has to start 2011 on the DL. He threw around the possibility of committee work, and Casilla and Affeldt were reported as options, but Romo has the best skills in this 'pen and is the better speculation. Target him if you own Wilson.

As for the eccentric extinguisher, an oblique injury can easily resurface for a pitcher with Wilson's high-powered delivery, so expect San Fran to bring him along slowly. Luckily, closers often require shorter return timetables once they're ready to throw. He should still be one of the top closers taken.

Job security score: 5

Health score: 4

Washington Nationals

Closer: Committee

Understudy: Drew Storen

Lurkers: Tyler Clippard, Todd Coffey, Sean Burnett, Henry Rodriguez

Digging for positives in Storen's 10.38 ERA is like ... well, trying to find anything positive on Capitol Hill. At least the Nats confirmed the righty's presence on the 25-man roster, so the elephant in the room has lost some weight.

Though the possibility of an in-season demotion remains, Storen took steps toward recapturing his stuff in a perfect ninth inning Tuesday, forcing a weak grounder and two cans of corn while throwing nothing but fastballs. That's promising, considering the Nats don't want him leaning on his breaking stuff.

Storen also returned to using his slide step after watching hours of old film and receiving input from teammates and pitching coach Steve McCatty. Skipper Jim Riggleman pointed to Storen's 2010 Washington tenure as enough of a track record to warrant the benefit of the doubt; maybe Riggs is pleased that his motivational ploy worked.

It's still a committee, and Storen still has work to do, but he remains the chairman of an otherwise messy bureaucracy.

Job security score: 1

Health score: 5

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Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat | AL depth charts | NL depth charts

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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