Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat - AL

by Nicholas Minnix on March 16, 2011 @ 04:14:03 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)

Baltimore Orioles

Closer: TBD

Understudy: Kevin Gregg, Koji Uehara

Lurkers: Mike Gonzalez

Storen, Kimbrel beg for patience:

NL Hot Seat | Depth charts

Uehara has thrown three side sessions in the past week and expects to take the next step - game action - this weekend. The O's have maintained that they have simply been quite cautious with the fragile righty. Barring a setback, he has some time to prove to Buck Showalter that he's ready to close, but the odds aren't in his favor.

That's because Gregg was pretty effective in his first four ST outings. In his last two, the opposition has absolutely destroyed him. Coincidentally, in both of them, the goggled right-hander was experimenting with some altered mechanics that were supposed to aid his sinker. He and pitching coach Mark Connor have backed off that, for now; gradual change appears to be more in order. Gregg can probably easily regain the staff's faith if he's effective in his next appearance or two.

Gregg is a cool character, but a reversion to his old motion isn't a fix-all. Eventually, he'll probably fall apart in a crucial situation or three. Uehara would probably pick up the pieces, but will he be available? Meanwhile, the nasty Gonzalez, no picture of health either, is also lingering.

Job security score: TBD

Health score: TBD

Chicago White Sox

Closer: Matt Thornton

Understudy: Chris Sale, Sergio Santos

Lurkers: Jesse Crain

Oakland Athletics RP Andrew Bailey
ABC: Andrew Bailey-less Committee

Sale has had a few rough excursions (7 1/3 innings, 11 hits, six earned runs) in his first professional spring camp. The southpaw has had problems with location. Ozzie Guillen has urged observers to be patient with the 21-year-old, who reminds us of his stupendous promise (nine K's against one walk). Given his struggles and the time until opening day, however, it's not likely that Sale will convince the staff that he's the best choice for the top bullpen role right away.

Guillen is steadfast: He has great confidence in his club's relievers. As he probably should. Santos, in particular, has been impressive early on. But as far as the closer role, the skipper will probably feel comfortable with only one of them as his closer, at least from the start, and that man is Thornton.

Job security score: TBD

Health score: TBD

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Closer: Fernando Rodney

Understudy: Kevin Jepsen

Lurkers: Jordan Walden, Hisanori Takahashi

Disabled list: Scott Downs

It's probably pure coincidence. Rodney settled down a bit after Mike Scioscia shared with the press his lack of concern about his pseudo-closer's struggles this spring. Don't forget that Rodney has been effective in that role before, even last season. It's how he performs over the long haul that has the roto buzzards circling. For dicey saves, Rodney is still your guy, though.

The fantasy scavengers have lost one man of interest for a few weeks. Downs broke the big toe on his left foot in a home incident. He has had issues with that digit before, so expect the Halos to be in no rush to let him put stress on it. He should maintain arm strength; once he has recovered, he'll be up to speed quickly. He's still worth an end-game acquisition in AL leagues.

Job security score: 3

Health score: 4

Minnesota Twins

Closer: TBD

Understudy: Joe Nathan, Matt Capps

The Philadelphia Phillies demolished Nathan on Sunday (five hits, six runs allowed, only one out recorded). It's the first on-field adversity the right-hander has faced in his recovery from elbow ligament replacement surgery. A setback or a tough appearance was inevitable, but the important thing is that there was no harm done (other than perhaps, momentarily, to Nathan's ego).

Consider that experience a chance to test Nathan's resolve. How would you assess it, after his scoreless stanza today? He remains a solid target for profit potential, but most roto owners are catching on. We may come to a point at which he's no longer a bargain, if we haven't reached it already.

Job security score: TBD

Health score: TBD

Oakland Athletics

Closer: TBD

Understudy: Brian Fuentes, Michael Wuertz, Grant Balfour

Lurkers: Craig Breslow, Brad Ziegler

Disabled list: Andrew Bailey

It turns out, Bailey (elbow) isn't dead. In fantasy baseball drafts, however, he has probably become the neglected bathtub drain stopper. No one wants to touch it, but someone's gotta do it, and you might be willing to pay someone else to do it. The task: Determine whether that's rational.

Texas Rangers RP Neftali Feliz
Feliz flip-flop

The A's are encouraged after hearing the diagnosis: strained right forearm. He'll probably begin the season on the DL, but he may resume throwing when he no longer feels pain. One report cited the similar case of Brett Anderson, who missed a little more than a month last year with a left forearm strain.

OK, so the news isn't all bad. But later in the campaign, Anderson missed nearly two more months with inflammation in his elbow, and he hasn't had TJS (yet). On one hand, the Bailey news is encouraging; on the other, he's not out of the woods once the pain subsides. Given that he had both bone chips and spurs removed at the end of last season, we probably haven't heard the last from the righty's elbow.

Bailey is no longer a draft day bargain. That doesn't mean avoid him; just don't let a chunk of your cash ride on him. Fuentes is the logical alternative target. Oakland's environment makes him a safe, if not sexy, addition. The A's have a number of relievers, righties and lefties, who have closed, though. They'll probably let one or two in this group head a committee for any stretches in which they're without Bailey.

Seattle Mariners

Closer: Brandon League

Understudy: Chris Ray, Josh Lueke

Lurkers: Daniel Cortes, Manny Delcarmen

Disabled list: David Aardsma

It has been slow going for Aardsma (hip), but he has thrown on a few occasions in the time since last week's edition. As he slowly stretches it out, interest in him seems to wane. It's as if roto players have had more time to think about the other dangers that come with Aardsma - the high walk rate, the good fortune just dying for some correction, the trade rumors - while he moves, leisurely, toward availability.

Is the first guy in your program really No. 1 in anyone's heart? Is he at least, say, No. 30? League is the interim dude (maybe barely), not the long-term solution. Maybe Aardsma is out until May. Maybe his hip acts up in June. Maybe he's pitching somewhere else in July. Maybe the opposition tattoos him all summer. At some point, it's worth finding out if any of that will actually happen.

Job security score: TBD

Health score: TBD

Texas Rangers

Closer: Neftali Feliz

Understudy: Alexi Ogando, Mark Lowe

Lurkers: Darren O'Day, Tanner Scheppers

Feliz, buoyed by the confidence he has gained in a new pitch he's calling a cutter and after speaking with some staff members, wants to be a starter. His goal is to make the rotation. Given the paint palette, it's hard to believe that he won't paint something the Rangers can work with if he's putting his mind to it. He has been pretty nasty as a starter this spring, and he was in the minors, for long stretches. In his most recent appearance, against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he had a bit of a rocky first frame. He became frustrated with himself, righted the ship and then blew the Blue away.

Ron Washington is ready to hit the panic button if Feliz makes the rotation. "I have confidence in Jon Daniels and our scouts. If that's the case, I'm 100 percent sure they'll go out there and find somebody to close ballgames down for us." But the Rangers don't necessarily have the resources (save a difficult-to-deal Michael Young) to get him one. The club is probably better off letting its current crop sorting this out, at least initially, unless Wash throws a fit. Actually, then the Rangers might be better off looking for another manager instead.

Ogando has been solid in his efforts to stretch out, and he has wanted to be a starter all along. Unfortunately for him, that's just not going to happen. Lowe has kind of been the flavor of the month. His history of injury issues and inconsistency could easily change those views, once they rear their heads. He and Ogando are seemingly neck and neck in this imaginary contest, and at least from this vantage point, the latter is the better option. If O'Day becomes part of the saves picture, it's because Texas has gone committee on us, with Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver in the mix, too.

Job security score: 5

Health score: 5

Toronto Blue Jays

Closer: TBD

Understudy: Frank Francisco

Lurkers: Octavio Dotel, Jon Rauch

Francisco hasn't been able to pitch for several days. He reported feeling better on a couple of occasions since he was scratched from an appearance for what the club originally called a shoulder issue. A report from the team's official site today pinpointed the issue in his right pectoral muscle. If that's the case, the injury we're dealing with here is probably much less of a concern, although it's still a concern, given Frank Frank's history.

The Jays are aiming to have the right-hander throw on Saturday and appear in an ST contest on Tuesday. They seem to acknowledge that the schedule might be a tad optimistic, but they don't seem to be worried. If he comes close to punctuality on that program, he can probably be ready for opening day.

This bit isn't enough to scare you away from Francisco anymore than you already were. Dotel (hamstring) is taking it easy, too; it's spring training, he's old, and he's the backup plan.

Job security score: TBD

Health score: TBD

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

About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.


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