Closer Hot Seat

by Ryan Dodson on August 1, 2007 @ 16:00:00 PDT

 


Welcome to KFFL's Closer Hot Seat. We forecast every sketchy closer situation in the majors each week, and we'll let you know who is next in line for the job in the very volatile closer situations across baseball. Sit back, relax and put your feet up as we fire up this week's Closer Hot Seat.

KEY

Durability grade: 1 (very injury-prone) to 10 (extremely durable)

Job security grade: 1 (very shaky) to 10 (firm grasp)

HOT SEAT STATUS: TRADE DEADLINE AFTERMATH

Kansas City Royals

Closer: Joakim Soria

Next in line: David Riske

Other possibilities: Zack Greinke

Analysis: We told you a couple of weeks ago to prepare for this day, and the day has come. Octavio Dotel was traded to Atlanta for Braves starter Kyle Davies, and Soria is now the closer for the rest of the season. Soria, in essence, is trying out to be the team's closer next year. He has a 1-3 record with 10 saves, a 2.44 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP and 51 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings. Soria, barring injury, has about all the job security one could have right now. My guess is that he would have to have a meltdown similar to that of Colorado Rockies closer Brian Fuentes (four blown saves in a week) in order to lose his job.

Durability grade: 7

Job security grade: 10

Texas Rangers

Closer: Joaquin Benoit (Akinori Otsuka is on the disabled list)

Next in line: C.J. Wilson

Other possibilities: Frank Francisco

Analysis: In a small shocker, Eric Gagne was traded to the Boston Red Sox. This leaves the door open for Benoit, Wilson or Francisco to close games until Otsuka returns. Public perception was that Benoit would take over. However, Wilson got the first save chance Tuesday night and nailed it down with two strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings. He is 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP and 46 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings. Benoit is 4-3 with a save, a 3.11 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and 56 strikeouts in 55 innings. Benoit, 30, is a former top prospect that never put it together as a starter. It's unknown if Otsuka (forearm) will be back this season; right now the prognosis is a mid-August return, but that seems hopeful. If he makes it back, there's probably a 50 percent chance that he takes the closing duties he had last season. It's probably smart to pick up Wilson and Benoit, if you have the room, until this gets sorted out.

Durability grade: 5

Job security grade: 3

HOT SEAT STATUS: INJURY QUESTIONS

Baltimore Orioles

Closer: Jamie Walker (Chris Ray is on the disabled list)

Next in line: Danys Baez

Other possibilities: Chad Bradford

Analysis: Walker has received the bulk of the save chances since Ray (elbow) went down. Walker has been spotless in four save chances, allowing just two hits in them. He is 1-1 with those four saves, a 2.40 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP on the season. He only has 28 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings, so he won't have much value in the strikeouts department. Baez has a lot of experience closing, but he has been awful all season. Look for Walker to continue to get the most of the save chances.

Durability grade: 9

Job security grade: 5 (Last week: 3)

Oakland Athletics

Closer: Alan Embree

Next in line: Huston Street

Other possibilities: Santiago Casilla

Analysis: Street should have taken the job by now, but he has been rocked in two of his four outings since returning from the disabled list. He has pitched 3 2/3 innings and allowed seven hits, three earned runs and a walk; he has struck out four. If he can get it together, he'll take his job back from Embree. Embree has been consistently good. He has really been an unsung hero this year. He had a 0.96 ERA with seven strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings in July. However, he only received three save chances all month, and he converted them all. Embree owners, prepare for your final days of usage as Street works back into form.

Durability grade: 9

Job security grade: 1

Philadelphia Phillies

Closer: Brett Myers

Next in line: Tom Gordon

Other possibilities: Antonio Alfonseca

Analysis: Myers finally returned July 28 after missing more than two months with a strained shoulder. He quickly took the closing job from Alfonseca, and Gordon (shoulder) wasn't ever used in that capacity once he returned in mid-July. Myers recorded the save July 30 for his seventh save on the year. It looks like the team trusts him more than Gordon and his balky shoulder; Gordon has been pitching with a slightly torn labrum. Myers is 1-0 with seven saves in eight chances and has a 2.38 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings as a reliever. Alfonseca loses all value now, and Gordon loses some. We are still hanging on to Gordon when we can, but if you need the roster spot, cut him loose.

Durability grade: 5

Job security grade: 7

Colorado Rockies

Closer: Manny Corpas (Brian Fuentes is on the disabled list)

Next in line: Jeremy Affeldt

Other possibilities: Jorge Julio

Analysis: Corpas has nailed down seven consecutive save chances since taking over for Fuentes (rib cage). He has been dynamite in July and has even increased his strikeout rate. Since the All-Star break, he has six saves and 11 strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings with a 1.08 ERA. Before the break, his K rate was well less than a strikeout per inning. One has to wonder if Fuentes will get his job back this season. Corpas is a must-start right now.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 6 (Last week: 4)

HOT SEAT STATUS: LACKLUSTER PRODUCTION

Atlanta Braves

Closer: Bob Wickman

Next in line: Octavio Dotel

Other possibilities: Rafael Soriano

Analysis: The Braves traded for Dotel minutes before the deadline. Dotel should slide right in as Wickman's primary setup man. Wickman has blown five saves and converted 17 chances. He sits at 2-2 with a 4.21 ERA, a 1.51 WHIP and 29 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings. There's a chance, if Wickman continues to slip, that Dotel could steal the job from Wickman. Wickman relies on movement and location, and his control has been iffy, as witnessed by his 15 walks. Dotel should be owned in most leagues for now.

Durability grade: 6

Job security grade: 4

Florida Marlins

Closer: Kevin Gregg

Next in line: Armando Benitez

Others: Matt Lindstrom

Analysis: There was talk that Gregg or Benitez could be dealt before the deadline - neither was. However, there's a chance one or both of them could clear waivers in order to be traded, so Gregg's not a safe bet as a closer the rest of the season yet. He blew a save July 28 but returned the next day and had a spotless save with a strikeout. After a hot start with Florida, Benitez has been pretty inconsistent. He has a 5.45 ERA, a 1.59 WHIP and 23 walks in 39 2/3 innings for the season. Gregg is safe for now.

Durability grade: 6

Job security grade: 7

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About Ryan Dodson

Dodson is a KFFL Contributor and has been with KFFL since 2002.

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