Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat - NL

by Bryce McRae on March 30, 2010 @ 13:00:00 PDT


Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: AL | NL

Fantasy baseball closer depth charts: AL | NL

In fantasy baseball, the closer position remains volatile. Few closers hang on to the job for the entire season. Injuries, poor performance and managerial decisions cloud a team's bullpen picture.

Should you be concerned about a struggling stopper? Which setup men are climbing the depth chart? Any lingering injuries popping up?'s Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat series keeps you informed when you're looking for saves.


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


Arizona Diamondbacks

Closer: Chad Qualls

Understudy: Juan Gutierrez

Qualls has looked sharp, according to reports, after offseason knee surgeries and should be ready for April. The biggest concern might be whether the D-backs will take it easy on him early. Well, it's a concern for some, maybe. Not you. Anything to do with his knee post-op appears to be purely residual and therefore no cause for alarm.

Gutierrez filled in nicely when Qualls was injured last year but still needs to cut down on walks. The club considers him closer-capable, but he hasn't shown evidence that he can be a quality long-term solution.

Fantasy drafters appear to be overlooking Qualls. The problem was with his knee, not his arm, which is nearly in peak form. He's a safe, late source for saves as a No. 2 stopper.

Job security score: 4

Health score: 3

Atlanta Braves

Closer: Billy Wagner

Understudy: Takashi Saito

Chicago Cubs RP Carlos Marmol
Is Marmol in control?

Wags' control during his '09 stint should right itself after he shakes off post-Tommy John surgery cobwebs. Drafters appear to be cold on Wagner, a potential No. 1 closer who could be had for the price of a No. 2.

Saito might see sporadic save opps if Atlanta doesn't feel comfortable working the hard-throwing Wagner too much, but this shouldn't deter you from a Wagner commitment.

Job security score: 4

Health score: 2

Chicago Cubs

Closer: Carlos Marmol

Understudy: John Grabow

Dominance is Marmol's strong suit. Control is not. Skipper Lou Piniella stuck with Kevin Gregg until August last year; it's safe to think he'll give the more talented Marmol at least as long a leash. Take him as a No. 2 mixed stopper and hope he corrects his control issues. He sounds much more confident in his ability to do so than he has in past camps.

Grabow, who has served as an interim stopper before, would probably earn chances if Marmol pitches himself out of the job.

Job security score: 4

Health score: 5

Cincinnati Reds

Closer: Francisco Cordero

Trade rumors came up over the offseason, but there isn't an immediate challenger to the 34-year-old. He's a stable midrange mixed option, even with his regression, that won't cost an exorbitant fee.

Job security score: 5

Health score: 4

UPDATE - Colorado Rockies

Closer: Huston Street (inj.)

Understudy: Franklin Morales, Manuel Corpas

A setback will likely see Street start the season on the DL; an MRI on his shoulder came back clean, though, showing only inflammation. The injury is worrisome since he has a somewhat extensive injury history, including biceps inflammation late last season. It is part of the package, though.

Morales, a southpaw, performed admirably when filling in for Street last year; he's expected to be the first option to close. Manager Jim Tracy won't give him every opportunity, leaving the door open for the right-handed Corpas, if the situation dictates. Betancourt will remain in a setup role.

We had already factored injury risk into Street's projections this year; he can be drafted as a No. 2 (maybe lower depending on your leaguemates' fears) and when healthy can perform as a No. 1. Though there's some risk given his injury history, he is hoping to return before the end of April.

As for the rest, Morales will probably be drafted as a low-end No. 3, but he won't be closing often and for long enough to have value all season. Corpas is a late-round, deep-league speculation. When Street comes back, deep rosters should have room to keep Morales as a handcuff or Corpas as a prospect. Shallow? Probably not for Corpas. Betancourt is solely a late-round NL-only flier.

Job security score: 5

Health score: 3

Florida Marlins

Closer: Leo Nunez

Understudy: Dan Meyer, Renyel Pinto

Nunez enters the 2010 season as the closer. That much we know. He throws hard, yes, but his skills don't necessarily translate to long-term success. The Fish don't really have any other options, though.

Colorado Rockies RP Huston Street
Bumps in Street, but don't be afraid

Meyer flashed it during some good stretches but faltered late. Mike MacDougal, a former closer, was given a tryout but didn't make the cut. Who else could close should Nunez falter or hurt himself? Well, a committee approach sounded like the first option for manager Fredi Gonzalez. Meyer still looks like the best choice because of his (partially lucky) success against both righties and lefties last year.

At least you can wait for Nunez, typically one of the last mixed closers taken, if you choose to roll the dice. You shouldn't have high expectations that far down the totem pole; beware an in-season change.

Job security score: 3

Health score: 4

Houston Astros

Closer: N/A

Understudy: Matt Lindstrom, Brandon Lyon

It's an open competition: Lindstrom probably has the leg up for now based on his skills and Lyon's (shoulder) January surgery. Both have experience closing.

Manager Brad Mills would prefer a single stopper; we recommend that if you must look to this situation, target Lindstrom. He has the better closer arm and will be more dangerous if he can maintain the progress he made with his control last year.

Desperate drafters shouldn't shy away from Lyon if every other closer is off the board. Beware: Lyon's value is fixed on save chances; don't expect him to help you if he doesn't earn the job.

Job security score: N/A

Health score: 3

Los Angeles Dodgers

Closer: Jonathan Broxton

A few issues cropped up last year with Broxton's control and velocity, possibly because of lingering nerve issues in his toe, but his skills make him an elite stopper.

Job security score: 5

Health score: 4

Milwaukee Brewers

Closer: Trevor Hoffman

Veteran stopper keeps chugging along at 42; no reason to expect him to lose his role. Don't draft him as your top mixed closer - he's too risky, especially with his age and lack of a real fastball - but he suffices as a No. 2.

Job security score: 5

Health score: 4

New York Mets

Closer: Francisco Rodriguez

K-Rod's skills are sliding, but there is no one to challenge him for saves in New York.

Job security score: 5

Health score: 5

UPDATE - Philadelphia Phillies

Closer: Brad Lidge (inj.)

Understudy: Ryan Madson

New York Mets RP Francisco Rodriguez
K-Rod unchallenged, unstable

Obviously there is plenty of reason to be skeptical of Lidge, especially with Madson breathing down his neck. However, Lidge's skills didn't deteriorate as much as his ERA did. He was a victim of bad luck, nagging injuries and poor focus.

That's not to say everything will go back to rosy in 2010. Charlie Manuel has been loyal to him and will probably remain so at first, but the degree of it has dwindled. Just remember that Madson hasn't proven he deserves the role either. His stuff is good; his makeup for the role is still in question.

Lidge (knee) presents potentially great value in fantasy drafts because he should bounce back a bit, but his 2009 issues haven't completely gone away. He'll remain in Florida when the team breaks camp, but he's not expected to miss more than two or three weeks. It shouldn't knock him down your draft board considering he's already a good value pick - it might even increase that value.

Job security score: 4

Health score: 3

UPDATE - Pittsburgh Pirates

Closer: Octavio Dotel (inj.)

Dotel, 36, can dominate; control, homers and injuries have been his biggest issues. His draft status appears shaken by the Pittsburgh label, concerns about his age and an oblique injury - though he is on track for Opening Day, so don't let that your influence your bid.

The first two reasons shouldn't sway you, especially because of his change in locale, and his competitors aren't that strong. Injury, given his history, is a concern, one that's mitigated, however, by his low draft price. He's a capable No. 3 option that won't cost much late in your mixed draft. Anything more than that is probably too risky.

Job security score: 4

Health score: 3

San Diego Padres

Closer: Heath Bell

Understudy: Luke Gregerson

Lurkers: Mike M. Adams

Despite persistent trade rumors, draft Bell with confidence as your top closer. Gregerson and Adams are useful LIMA rentals; Gregerson would probably be the best choice should Bell be dealt.

Job security score: 5

Health score: 5

San Francisco Giants

Closer: Brian Wilson

Improvement across the board hasn't deterred Wilson from continuing to work on his pitches, mainly a two-seamer and changeup. Wilson is a low-end No. 1 mixed closer. We'd like to see another year of stability from the 27-year-old before he joins the ranks of the elite, but his bettered control rate puts him on the right track.

Job security score: 5

Health score: 4

St. Louis Cardinals

Closer: Ryan Franklin

Understudy: Jason Motte

Part of Franklin's job security last year was due to lack of other options; he faltered down the stretch. Franklin doesn't have blistering stuff; plenty of his indicators are primed to regress, too.

Motte has the skills to close and is working on developing secondary stuff. The hype for him might've come too early.

Franklin is often drafted as a No. 2 mixed closer, but you should let someone else grab him at that price. Don't be fooled by last year's stats; there's risk here.

Job security score: 4

Health score: 5

UPDATE - Washington Nationals

Closer: Matt Capps

Understudy: Brian Bruney

Capps plans on working his fastball more after relying too heavily on his breaking stuff last year. That and an elbow injury were the main culprits in his dismal year. Other indicators point to improvement, or rather return to form, in 2010.

Sure, he might just be keeping the seat warm for Drew Storen, but a late-round pick for Capps as a No. 3 closer could pay off big. Storen will begin the year at Double-A Harrisburg, which will probably increase his period of dead roster weight if you choose to stash him in mixed leagues. He's still worth drafting and tucking away in deeps, especially in NL-only leagues. This bullpen could be unstable, and he is the future.

Mike MacDougal, who saved 20 games for the club last year, was signed but is not expected to make the Opening Day roster. Only if he does should he be on NL-only watch lists.

Job security score: 4

Health score: 3

Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: AL | NL

Fantasy baseball closer depth charts: AL | NL

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About Bryce McRae

Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.

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