Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat

by Tim Heaney on April 21, 2009 @ 01:00:01 PDT

 


Also see: Fantasy baseball closer depth charts

In fantasy baseball, the closer position remains volatile. Rarely does every closer hang on to the job for the entire season - injury, poor performance or managerial decisions can 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? KFFL.com's Closer Hot Seat keeps you informed.

Key

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

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

Baltimore Orioles

Closer: George Sherrill

Next in line: Chris Ray

Other possibilities: Jim Miller, Jim Johnson

Ray has shown improvement in his last three outings after making a mechanical adjustment: seven K's, two walks and three hits allowed in 3 1/3 shutout frames.

This turnaround offers flashbacks of Ray's dominant 2006. Sherrill, however, still has the reins on the job despite his penchant for making things interesting. He has allowed at least one baserunner in every inning pitched so far. Ray should be owned in deep formats.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 4

Chicago Cubs

Closer: Kevin Gregg

Next in line: Carlos Marmol

Gregg (knee) has produced five K's and one walk in three scoreless innings over his last two appearances. The outing to note was his two-inning performance Saturday, April 18, especially after concern over his knee prompted manager Lou Piniella to declare he would only use Gregg for one frame.

The Cubs bullpen had been overworked. Neither Gregg nor Marmol probably would have been available Sunday, April 19, but luckily the game was rained out.

Given Marmol's recent saves, Piniella apparently wants to avoid warming up both potential closers in the same game if possible, so this keeps Marmol in the running for the occasional save if the game falls in his favor, especially if Gregg's knee continues to bite.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 7

Colorado Rockies

Closer: Manny Corpas

Next in line: Jason Grilli, Alan Embree

Other possibilities: Huston Street

Disabled list: Taylor Buchholz

Corpas was given the closer's job Friday, April 17, but he hasn't done much to endear himself to manager Clint Hurdle this season (6.75 ERA, three K's and one free pass through 5 1/3 innings). Opponents are smacking him around at a .368 clip, but he has allowed fewer baserunners than Street.

Street pitched himself out of the stopper role (9.64 ERA) but has only walked one batter in 4 2/3 innings - the three homers surrendered, however, cloud any command ratio joy. In the new alignment, he'll toss in non-pressure, middle-inning appearances, with Grilli and Embree holding things down before Corpas comes in.

Given Hurdle's historically quick reflex in making bullpen changes, Corpas isn't 100 percent safe here, especially if he takes his opportunity for granted and Street improves.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 7

Detroit Tigers

Closer: Fernando Rodney

Next in line: Brandon Lyon

Other possibilities: Ryan Perry

Disabled list: Joel Zumaya

Rodney continued his near-spotless start to the season with a scoreless save Saturday, April 18. He hasn't given up a hit or run in five innings of work.

The notion of a stable Tigers bullpen seems confounding; believe it. 'Do-Rod is holding things down. Perry continues to impress despite stumbling in his Sunday, April 19, outing, and Lyon has calmed down a bit after a terrible first appearance. New pitching coach Rick Knapp is working his magic.

Will Zumaya (shoulder) finally show up to the office? He tossed two shutout innings for Triple-A Toledo Sunday, but he must prove he can pitch on back-to-back days there this week in order to return. Deep leaguers take note.

Durability grade: 7

Job security grade: 7

Florida Marlins

Closer: Matt Lindstrom

Next in line: Leo Nunez

Other possibilities: Logan Kensing, Kiko Calero, Jose Ceda, Ryan Tucker, Hayden Penn

Disabled list: Scott Proctor

It looks like a clean bill of health for Lindstrom. He pitched three games in a four-day span, recording two saves and giving opponents goose eggs in the runs column. His arm strength is returning and still has room to reach its maximum oomph.

The success of the setup men has been somewhat ignored. Calero, who suffered a torn right rotator cuff in 2007 that marred his 2008 comeback attempt, has delighted LIMA prospectors with seven K's and just two walks along with one run allowed in 6 2/3 frames. He's useful in deep leagues.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 8 (last week: 7)

Houston Astros

Closer: Jose Valverde

Next in line: LaTroy Hawkins

Disabled list: Doug Brocail

Valverde hasn't exactly received many save chances (he blew his only opportunity Friday, April 17), but a balky back had kept him from contributing the previous day, when Hawkins stepped in to steal the lowly Astros' first save of 2009.

V looked fine in a nine-pitch one-two-three ninth in a non-save opportunity Monday, April 20. There have been no reports of any negative fallout with his back, but keep an eye on this situation and Hawkins.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 10

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Closer: Brian Fuentes

Next in line: Scot Shields

Other possibilities: Jose Arredondo

Though the entire bullpen has been devilishly bad, Fuentes' seat is probably tepid at best, especially since Shields (five walks, four earned runs in five innings) and Arredondo (7.20 ERA but seven K's in five innings) aren't posing much of a challenge. No back-end blabber to report here. 

Durability grade: 7

Job security grade: 7

Milwaukee Brewers

Closer: Carlos Villanueva

Next in line: Todd Coffey

Other possibilities: Seth McClung, Jorge Julio

Disabled list: Trevor Hoffman, David Riske

The Hoff's return couldn't come soon enough for a skunky Brew Crew 'pen (4.54 ERA this year). He'll make two minor league appearances and is slated to come off the DL Sunday, April 26.

Villa has surrendered six runs in his last four innings of work, including two losses and a botched closure opportunity. You should still stash him until Hoffman proves capable of handling the role upon his return.

NL-only fodder: Coffey hasn't allowed a run in 9 2/3 frames and gave the rest of the 'pen a respite with a three-inning save Sunday, April 19.

Durability grade (Hoffman): 6

Job security grade: 9

Oakland Athletics

Closer: Brad Ziegler

Next in line: Santiago Casilla, Andrew Bailey

Other possibilities: Michael Wuertz, Jerry Blevins

Disabled list: Joey Devine

Even with his 1.43 WHIP and continued struggles against lefties, Ziegler doesn't appear to be in jeopardy of losing the majority share of saves.

Deep mixed and AL leaguers should keep track of - or sign - Bailey (11 K's, two walks in 8 1/3 frames) and Wuertz (nine K's, no walks in seven innings), who are offering excellent LIMA reliever value. 

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 8

Seattle Mariners

Closer: Brandon Morrow

Next in line: David Aardsma

Other possibilities: Chad Cordero, Mark Lowe, Shawn Kelley, Roy Corcoran, Miguel Batista

Morrow looks like he's back with three straight successful save conversions and heat that has topped out at 98 mph through the first two weeks. 

Though he has walked four hitters, Aardsma has let up just one hit and fanned five in 5 2/3 frames. He has rediscovered a mechanical adjustment that gave him a 2.77 ERA in the first half last year.

Not much to see here besides these two. In deep leagues, Aardsma remains a solid pickup for the occasional save, but keep in mind that his value is affixed to Morrow's ability to pitch on back-to-back days.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 9

St. Louis Cardinals

Closer: N/A

Next in line: Ryan Franklin

Other possibilities: Jason Motte, Chris Perez, Dennys Reyes, Kyle McClellan, Josh Kinney

Franklin has been the best-behaved student in this raucous class, tossing 5 2/3 scoreless frames with five K's and just one free pass to kick off 2009. Professor Tony La Russa probably considers Franklin the valedictorian for save chances.

Motte is slowly working his way back; he hasn't let a runner cross home in his last two trips to the rubber. Perez hasn't endeared himself to the staff since his call-up (four walks, four K's, one blown save and a 4.50 ERA in four frames).

Stash Perez and Motte in deep mixed. Franklin should be picked up everywhere.

Durability grade: N/A

Job security grade: 3

Toronto Blue Jays

Closer: B.J. Ryan

Next in line: Scott Downs

Other possibilities: Jesse Carlson, Jason Frasor, Jeremy Accardo

The tall lefty rebounded a bit, completing his second straight save chance Sunday, April 19. He has based one batter on balls in his last three appearances, all scoreless. He has regained his aggressiveness around the strike zone and reportedly feels much better than he did this past spring.

Frasor bailed Ryan out April 11 for a one-out save but probably won't be much of a factor otherwise despite implementing a splitter-changeup hybrid that has improved his performance.

If Downs (12 K's, no walks, 0.00 ERA in 7 2/3 innings), the TRUE closer understudy, is still single, pick him up.

Durability grade: 7

Job security grade: 8 (last week: 7)

Washington Nationals

Closer: Joel Hanrahan

Next in line: Garrett Mock

Other possibilities: Jason Bergmann

Hanrahan blew saves Friday, April 17, and Saturday, April 18, but recovered for a scoreless save April 20. His two blowups (four runs allowed) tarnished an otherwise sturdy season (nine strikeouts, two walks in six innings).

The rest of the 'pen was reeling. The Nats cleaned house, demoting Saul Rivera and Wilfredo Ledezma while designating Steven Shell for assignment. They brought up Mock, Bergmann and Kip Wells.

Mock has been groomed for the closer role; he showed he has the stuff in an MLB stint last year, fanning 46 in 41 frames. He didn't show much control, though, walking 23 in that time as well and has struggled in the minors.

Removing Hanrahan would be hasty for the Nats, especially since he (relatively) stabilized the role in 2008 and showed poise in his latest appearance. Hang tight for now, but you may want to scoop up Mock as insurance in deep games.

Durability grade: 10

Job security grade: 7 (last week: 8)

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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 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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