Fantasy Baseball: Closer Hot Seat

by Tim Heaney on June 4, 2008 @ 09:20:57 PDT

 


Atlanta loses one of its iconic hurlers for the season and possibly beyond. The Cards and the Brew Crew have each had a very refreshing taste in the ninth inning. Finally, both surging Florida teams have some late-inning issues. Be sure to take out your sunscreen for the first June edition of the 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: Injury concerns

Atlanta Braves

Closer: Rafael Soriano

Next in Line: Manny Acosta

Other Possibilities: Will Ohman, Blaine Boyer, Jeff Bennett

Disabled List: Mike Gonzalez (elbow), Peter Moylan (elbow), John Smoltz (shoulder)

Excitement over Smoltz's return has turned into concern for the veteran's future. His new three-quarters arm angle wasn't enough to ease the pain on his shoulder, and he is scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery; his career could be over, although he's hopeful he'll pitch in 2009. The job likely will fall on the opening day closer, Soriano, who recorded a scoreless save Tuesday, June 3, and has allowed one run in four appearances since returning from the DL. Gonzalez has tossed four scoreless innings at Double-A Mississippi and could return within the next two weeks. Acosta could see some chances; the righty has allowed just one run in his last 11 outings but blew a save chance Monday, June 2, in seventh-inning work. Those who stashed Soriano can now reap the rewards.

Durability grade: 6

Job security grade: 8

Milwaukee Brewers

Closer: Salomon Torres

Next in Line: Guillermo Mota

Other Possibilities: Brian Shouse

Disabled List: Eric Gagne (shoulder)

In all fairness, Gagne's mind might not be entirely on his comeback efforts as he is dealing with complications with his wife's pregnancy. The right-hander is falling behind in his recovery from shoulder tendonitis; he has played catch but is not expected to return for at least another week, according to manager Ned Yost. Torres, meanwhile, has five straight save conversions and a win in Gagne's absence. He has walked just one batter and allowed five hits in his last eight outings. Shouse recorded a save June 3 after pitching two scoreless innings in a 7-1 victory. Yost recently said that he will consider keeping Torres as the closer even after Gagne returns while possibly working Gagne back into form in a setup role.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 8 (without Gagne; last week: 7)

St. Louis Cardinals

Closer: Ryan Franklin

Next in Line: Chris Perez, Russ Springer

Other Possibilities: Kyle McClellan, Randy Flores, Mark Worrell

Disabled List: Jason Isringhausen (hand)

Manager Tony La Russa maintained last week that he won't rush Perez into the closer role because Franklin is his best option right now. Franklin has recorded three saves since our last report and is now perfect in five tries since assuming the role. Walks were a concern for Franklin, but he hasn't allowed a free pass in three outings. However, he gave up a run in back-to-back outings (including his first home run of the season) before a scoreless closure Sunday, June 1. Isringhausen has had a productive recovery so far, and the team might toss him into rehab game action within the next week. Perez has allowed just one run in eight innings of work in his short career. Don't expect a change as long as Franklin continues his solid work, but hang onto Perez in deeper leagues if you need help in pitching ratios.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 8

Tampa Bay Rays

Closer: Dan Wheeler

Next in Line: Al Reyes

Other Possibilities: Gary Glover, Trever Miller, Grant Balfour

Disabled List: Troy Percival (hamstring)

When the 38-year-old Percival went to the DL, manager Joe Maddon stated he would use multiple options in the closer role. The only one to benefit so far has been Balfour, who posted a one-out save May 31 after being called up to replace Percival on the roster. Wheeler retired the first batter in the ninth before allowing a walk and a single. Maddon then summoned the lefty Miller and righty Balfour to negate the handedness of the upcoming batters. The guessing game won't be pleasant, but we still consider Wheeler the best fantasy option; he has a 2.08 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 26 innings and arguably has the best closer stuff of the group. Reyes (26 saves last season) would be a solid consolation prize. Those in AL-only leagues could consider any of these hurlers if they're desperate for saves.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 3 (without Percival)

Hot Seat: Lackluster performance

Florida Marlins

Closer: Kevin Gregg

Next in Line: Matt Lindstrom

Other Possibilities: Justin M. Miller

Two of Gregg's three blown saves this season have come in his last three outings. He has walked 16 in 28 1/3 innings this season after passing 40 in 84 innings last season. Lindstrom remains an intriguing factor as a setup man; many believe his high-90s fastball helps give him the perfect arsenal to be a closer. Lindstrom, however, has been tagged for three runs over his last two outings. Miller has 29 strikeouts in 27 innings but sports a 4.67 ERA (7.50 in May). Gregg's struggles don't, however, seem to concern manager Fredi Gonzalez, who said that the 'pen is going through a slump and they'll try to work through it on the mound. Gregg's grasp doesn't appear to be loosening since the setup crew has also been ineffective. Lindstrom speculators will need to hold off, but he's still viable in NL-only formats despite his recent downturn.

Durability grade: 9

Job security grade: 8

Texas Rangers

Closer: C.J. Wilson

Next in Line: Eddie Guardado

Other Possibilities: Joaquin Benoit

With one save in two scoreless appearances since we last checked in, Wilson hasn't allowed a run in a save situation since his blown attempt May 19 and has knocked his ERA down to 4.13 after it was at 5.40 May 12. He has seven strikeouts and one walk over his last five appearances, so he has at least tempered his control issues. He gave up a home run in the ninth with a six-run lead June 3. Guardado has been performing well in his setup role, allowing just two runs in his last 11 efforts, but those runs have come in his last two appearances. Wilson has saved his job for the moment. Guardado is still a reliable option for deep AL-only leagues.

Durability grade: 9

Job security grade: 6

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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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