Mariners hiding saves jewels in Emerald City bullpen

      February 14, 2012 @ 22:25:30 PDT

Brandon League stands as a solid No. 3 mixed closer, but he's a free agent following this season. Given the way the Seattle Mariners can cultivate and flip pitchers - starter or relief - and the fact they're not looking like a strong postseason contender, it's not a bad bet that League will be dealt somewhere near this year's deadline.

Seattle Mariners RP Brandon League
League of extraordinary alternatives

That shouldn't discourage you from plucking him at his current value; it's merely something to watch and prepare for as the season progresses.

Few are talking about how good Seattle's bullpen could be this season, so I'll show them a little love on Valentine's Day.

Full of promising arms, the stable has many a potential closer in tow:

  • Shawn Kelley - Coming off Tommy John surgery in 2010 and a few other maladies before that, Kelley has posted closer-like numbers in each of his last three MLB seasons - or, parts of them. If he can regain his mid-90s velo touching at the rate he had a few years ago, he could take the lead if a League replacement is needed.
  • Tom Wilhelmsen - Did you read what I wrote back in September? He never pitched higher than A ball but was a fixture on the M's staff last season. Jack Zduriencik acknowledged the 28-year-old, 6-foot-6 righty as a future closer candidate.
  • Chance Ruffin - One of the acquisitions from the Detroit Tigers in the Doug Fister deal, the former University of Texas stopper has the stuff to jump into regular MLB duty at age 23. He can gun it into the mid- to upper 90s.

Don't forget George Sherrill, who doesn't really have overpowering stuff anymore but has the guile to induce high K rates. He could be used in matchup situations should they need a lefty-on-lefty savior.

The first three, more enticing members of this quartet are worth a basement-level speculation in AL-only leagues. Ruffin has the most upside long term and could have a Rex Brothers-like impact soon.

Their peripherals prove they can help your ratios and chip in relief K's even without closing opportunities. It's difficult to pinpoint one as a clear League successor, so that could be a dangerous draft-day game to play. But Seattle will be a late-season hub for save monitors.

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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 the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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