Fantasy Baseball: Closer Hot Seat

by Tim Heaney on April 23, 2008 @ 10:31:32 PDT


A member of the elite closer class saw his first game action in several weeks and restored order to a disorganized bullpen. Another stopper has to do some more digging into his recent velocity troubles. Finally, an NL Central bullpen is quickly becoming flat. It's just another week in the life of the Closer Hot Seat.


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: Manny Acosta

Next in Line: Will Ohman

Disabled List: Rafael Soriano (elbow), Peter Moylan (elbow), Mike Gonzalez (elbow)

Since assuming the role from the injured Moylan, Acosta converted his only save chance Saturday, April 19. He has a string of eight scoreless appearances in 8 1/3 innings of work. Moylan could undergo Tommy John surgery if he feels discomfort while testing his elbow sometime next week. Soriano was eligible to come off the disabled list Tuesday, April 22, but he won't be activated because he still needs some more work. He hopes to throw off a mound by the end of the week. Acosta has rebounded from a rough first outing (four earned runs in two-thirds of an inning March 31), and you need to keep him on roster as long as he has the job - perhaps even after that. Soriano's timetable is still unknown at this point, so you could squeeze another few save chances from Acosta if he's still available.

Durability grade: 9

Job security grade: 8 (without Soriano; Last Week: 5)

Cleveland Indians

Closer: Rafael Betancourt

Next in Line: Rafael Perez

Other Possibilities: Jensen Lewis, Masahide Kobayashi, Jorge Julio

Disabled List: Joe Borowski (triceps)

Fantasy owners haven't seen immediate results from this situation since Borowski hit the disabled list last week. Betancourt has not had a save opportunity but pitched two scoreless innings of work in blowout games to stay fresh. Perez suffered a loss while giving up a run in a two-inning outing Sunday, April 20, against the Minnesota Twins. Betancourt hasn't let up a run in four of his last five appearances and has walked just one batter in his last 7 1/3 innings. Fantasy owners should be patient with Betancourt by keeping him in their lineup or plucking him from the wire because he is showing shades of his dominant 2007 form.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 8 (without Borowski)

Seattle Mariners

Closer: J.J. Putz

Next in Line: Ryan Rowland-Smith

Other Possibilities: Mark Lowe, Brandon Morrow

Putz returned at the right time and in the right mode for the M's April 22, recording his second save of the season hours after being activated from the disabled list. He rebounded after allowing a leadoff double, recording back-to-back strikeouts before inducing the game-ending groundout. It's now safe to put Putz back in your lineup. You now can ditch his stand-in relievers unless your league values setup men.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 10

Toronto Blue Jays

Closer: B.J. Ryan

Next in Line: Jeremy Accardo

Other Possibilities: Scott Downs, Brandon League

The Jays have kept their promise to hold off on pitching Ryan in back-to-back days since his return from the disabled list. The southpaw hasn't allowed a run in his three appearances this year, which have included two saves. In his save April 19, Ryan allowed two hits but struck out the side. Accardo, currently 0-3 on the season, took the loss in a blown save (two earned runs allowed in two-thirds of an inning) April 18 but rebounded for a scoreless inning April 20 for a successful conversion. Accardo's sinker has disappointed him so far, but he relied more on his cutter in his last save outing to fill the gap. Both relievers are still worth playing for the time being since the Jays have not said when Ryan will be ready to work consecutive days.

Durability grade: 6

Job security grade: 8

Washington Nationals

Closer: Jon Rauch

Next in Line: Chad Cordero

Other Possibilities: Luis Ayala

Last week, the Nationals said that they would keep Rauch in the closer role until Cordero regained his arm strength after suffering from shoulder tendonitis. Rauch split his two save opportunities since the announcement but hasn't allowed a run in his last four appearances. Manager Manny Acta recently said Cordero is close to regaining his job after showing improvement in a scoreless inning of work April 21. Cordero didn't touch 87 mph on the radar gun until the third batter he faced. Despite his questionable arm strength, he still hasn't allowed a run this season in three innings of work. The right-hander, however, has felt a "clicking" in his shoulder and was scheduled to see orthopedist Dr. James Andrews for an examination Wednesday, April 23. Cordero's medical visit sounds scary to his owners, who can't really do much for the moment except wait for a decision on his status. You should pull a pre-emptive strike here and grab Rauch for if for some reason he's available. Those who own him should also hang with him in case Cordero's prognosis sends him back to the sidelines.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 6

Hot Seat: Lackluster Performance

Arizona Diamondbacks

Closer: Brandon Lyon

Next in Line: Chad Qualls

Other Possibilities: Tony Pena

Since the last report, Lyon has converted three saves in four scoreless innings of work. He hasn't allowed a run in his last six appearances and hasn't walked a batter in his last four. Qualls has not allowed an earned run in 11 1/3 innings pitched this season and has switched spots in our depth chart with Pena, who has allowed seven runs in his last five innings. A four-run debacle April 13 negatively tilted the numbers, but he allowed a run in three of his next four outings after that. Lyon recorded two strikeouts in his April 22 save appearance and should have a firmer grasp in starting fantasy lineups with his recent success. Qualls could be a target for those in deep leagues that employ setup men, but Pena now could be expendable in mixed leagues.

Durability grade: 7

Job security grade: 8 (Last Week: 7)

Colorado Rockies

Closer: Manny Corpas

Next in Line: Brian Fuentes

Corpas has now blown two of his last three save chances and has three total miscues for the season, with his latest opportunity spoiled by a three-run comeback victory by the Philadelphia Phillies April 22. Last year he blew just one save in 20 chances. There have been no indications that Corpas would lose the job, but Fuentes recorded 20 saves before the 2007 All-Star break until Corpas overthrew his reign. However, Fuentes has struggled with blown saves in his last two opportunities; one of them saw him give up his only three runs of the season in a loss. Fuentes has proven capable of handling the role if needed and might be worth stashing in deep mixed leagues if Corpas continues to struggle. Corpas owners shouldn't start to panic yet.

Durability grade: 9

Job security grade: 8

Houston Astros

Closer: Jose Valverde

Next in Line: Doug Brocail

Valverde's post remains a bit shaky following last week's report, having blown a save in two of his last four outings. In his April 22 appearance, he came on with five outs left and blew a save by allowing the tying run to cross the plate. However, he would earn the win in 1 2/3 innings pitched along with three K's when the 'Stros tallied four runs in the bottom of the eighth. Brocail registered a save April 16 to throw Valverde's owners into a frenzy, but the team said that it was giving Valverde the night off to clear his mind. If you desperately need the saves, you pretty much have to play him. Those who are in dire shape in the ratio categories, however, might want to let Valverde regain command before putting him into the lineup.

Durability grade: 7

Job security grade: 8

Milwaukee Brewers

Closer: Eric Gagne

Next in Line: Salomon Torres

Other Possibilities: David Riske, Derrick Turnbow

There's some skunky beer in the Miller Park pen. Gagne has blown his last two save opportunities, and the bullpen in general has been shaky ahead of him. Gagne was pitching for the fourth consecutive day when he blew a save and lost to the Cincinnati Reds April 20; he allowed three runs and back-to-back without recording an out. He also blew a save April 22 by allowing the game-tying run on an unsuccessful double-play groundball. Gagne isn't the only one stumbling; Riske has surrendered five runs combined in his last two outings and is quickly losing grasp of his setup role. The cold Turnbow entered a game April 21 for the first time in six days and ended up with the loss after allowing the game-winning run on two hits. Torres surrendered the game-winning run in the ninth inning April 22, but he had not allowed a run in his previous four outings. The Brewers might have jumped the gun on Gagne's reliability by using him so often, but he had registered five straight saves before his meltdown started. This is a setback for Gagne owners, and the Brewers might have to give him a day or two off in the near future.

Durability grade: 5

Job security grade: 7 (Last Week: 8)

St. Louis Cardinals

Closer: Jason Isringhausen

Next in Line: Ryan Franklin

Other Possibilities: Russ Springer, Ron Flores

Izzy has now allowed five runs combined in his last four outings; in his latest rough patch, April 22, he allowed the game-winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning. Isringhausen had five days of rest between his back-to-back save appearances prior to recording his latest loss. The effective Cardinals staff has already lined him up for seven saves this season, and he has held his opponents scoreless in seven of his 10 appearances this year. There isn't anyone to realistically challenge Isringhausen for time in the ninth inning, so expect the Cardinals to stick with him through these bumps in the road. Feel free to leave him in your lineup.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 9

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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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