Closer Hot Seat

by Ryan Dodson on March 23, 2007 @ 16:00:00 PDT

 


Welcome to the first installment of the Closer Hot Seat. This will be a weekly report once the season kicks off detailing the unpredictable closer position. In this special feature for KFFL's 2007 Baseball Draft Guide, we'll look at each team's closer situation. We'll forecast how much job security they have in their situation as well as prepare you for players that are waiting in the wings to close out games. Each player will receive a job security grade with 10 being the lowest possibility that the closer is replaced. This grade is based on variables such as age and performance, and doesn't account for durability. The durability meter is based on time spent on the disabled list over the last three seasons. The durability grade of 1 is the lowest and means the player is injury-prone. The grade of 10 dictates the player is extremely durable.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Closer: Jose Valverde

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
49.1
2
18
5.84
1.46
69
2007
61
3
20
3.88
1.20
77

Next in line: Jorge Julio

Other possibilities: Brandon Lyon

Analysis: Valverde has a mid-90s fastball, a sharp slider and a split-finger fastball that lefties can't lay off of. He struck out 12.59 batters per nine innings in 2006, but he has had some control problems. The control issues and his lack of durability have kept the 27-year-old from being a dominant closer. Jorge Julio is waiting in the setup role should Valverde falter. Julio saved 16 games last season and struck out 12 batters per nine innings. So they have two of the more underrated arms at the end of the bullpen in the majors. The team wants Valverde to be the man. If he can stay healthy, he will be explosive. He is a risky fantasy pick though so make sure you have him in a depth position.

Durability grade: 3

Job security grade: 5

Atlanta Braves

Closer: Bob Wickman

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
54
1
33
2.67
1.22
42
2007
50
1
33
3.06
1.24
38

Next in line: Mike Gonzalez

Other possibilities: Rafael Soriano

Analysis: The Braves have struggled to replace starter John Smoltz when he was one of the best closers in the game for a couple of years. Wickman definitely won't be that stopgap, but with Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez in front of him, they have two really good young arms from each side. Wickman was money when he came over from Cleveland with a 1.04 ERA, 18 saves and 25 strikeouts in 26 innings. Don't count on Wickman to match that strikeout rate this season, but he proved two years ago that he can still be an effective closer. He had 45 saves and a 2.47 ERA that season, tying for the league save title. If Wickman fails, expect Gonzalez, who saved all 24 opportunities while with Pittsburgh last season, to step in and finish games.

Durability grade: 5

Job security grade: 7

Baltimore Orioles

Closer: Chris Ray

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
66
4
33
2.73
1.09
51
2007
70
4
37
2.49
1.13
63

Next in line: Danys Baez

Other possibilities: Jamie Walker

Analysis: Ray flourished in his first season as a closer. He converted 33 of 38 save chances and had a good ERA and a good WHIP. What hurt Ray a bit was his 6.96 Ks per nine innings. After striking out 9.52 batters per nine innings in 2005, he slipped a bit last season. He's only 25, so there is time to develop his out-pitch. Now he has Danys Baez bridging the gap to him. Baez has been extremely vocal about his insistence of closing during his career, so he's waiting for Ray to slip up. Ray shows mental toughness though. He is a good option as your second closer.

Durability grade: 10

Job security grade: 10

Boston Red Sox

Closer: Jon Papelbon

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
68.33
4
35
0.92
0.71
75
2007
74
4
41
2.41
1.08
82

Next in line: Mike Timlin

Other possibilities: None

Analysis: The big mystery in baseball this spring was who will close for Boston. The Joel Pineiro experiment has failed, and the team went back to Papelbon. He brings some risk because his shoulder gave out late last season, and the team will be very careful with him. He won't throw three games in a row, and they won't use him for more than an inning very often. Papelbon was great as a starter this spring, and moving to closer only enhances his value. He's a top 10 closer and will probably be taken in the fifth or sixth round.

Durability grade: 5

Job security grade: 10

Chicago Cubs

Closer: Ryan Dempster

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
75
1
24
4.80
1.51
67
2007
66
3
27
4.73
1.48
59

Next in line: Kerry Wood

Other possibilities: Bobby Howry

Analysis: Dempster had a rough year last year as he blew nine save chances and converted 24. His control was shaky with 36 walks on top of more than a hit per inning. With Kerry Wood now in the bullpen, if he gets on any kind of roll, the Cubs are just waiting to get something out of their investment. Wood can be a dominant closer like Eric Gagne was for the Dodgers for a few years. He has always had shaky control, which hurts more in relief, but his strikeout propensity could be phenomenal. He threw from 95 to 98 mph as a starter. A pitcher is able to really let it go in relief, so Wood could approach 98 or 99 mph in regularity as a reliever. His health is the key point, as it is every season. Why did we spend so much of this analysis on Wood? Simple - we think he will steal the job from Dempster at some point this season. Wood is being taken before Dempster in most drafts. Wood is a high 20-round pick, and you can get Dempster in the last couple of rounds.

Durability grade: 7

Job security grade: 3

Chicago White Sox

Closer: Bobby Jenks

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
69.2
3
41
4.00
1.39
80
2007
72
2
43
3.39
1.32
86

Next in line: Mike MacDougal

Other possibilities: David Aardsma

Analysis: Jenks had a pretty decent season in his first year of closing last year. His 41 saves were among the league leaders, he blew only four chances and he struck out 10.33 batters per nine innings. His WHIP was pretty high, but that should improve as the 26-year-old gains experience. The White Sox acquired KC closer Mike MacDougal to set Jenks up, and he is a good safety valve. We foresee bigger and better things for Jenks this season. With the offense behind him, and a pretty good rotation that goes deep into games, he can set a new career high in saves this season.

Durability grade: 9

Job security grade: 8

Cincinnati Reds

Closer: Mike Stanton

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
67.2
7
8
3.99
1.43
48
2007
65
4
10
4.49
1.48
47

Next in line: David Weathers

Other possibilities: Dustin Hermanson

Analysis: Cincinnati is a bit of a relief pitcher graveyard. They have Stanton, David Weathers, Dustin Hermanson, and Eddie Guardado all in camp approaching or surpassing the age of 40. When Stanton signed, the team had intentions of making him their closer after he successfully filled in for Armando Benitez with the Giants last season. Todd Coffey was spectacular in the role before falling flat on his face last season. Also, the lefty they acquired from the Nationals, and the only good piece in the Austin Kearns deal, Bill Bray could have an outside chance to snag the job. However, we see Stanton getting the bulk of the work at closer. We don't expect great numbers from him in the bandbox that is the Great American Ball Park, but he makes a serviceable depth closer.

Durability grade: 7

Job security grade: 1

Cleveland Indians

Closer: Joe Borowski

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
69.2
3
36
3.75
1.38
64
2007
60
3
22
4.26
1.43
57

Next in line: Fernando Cabrera

Other possibilities: Tom Mastny

Analysis: Borowski and Keith Foulke were supposed to battle it out for the closer gig in camp. However, Foulke retired Feb. 16. We initially felt Borowski would gain the most closing chances whether Foulke wins the job or not. Borowski was a very serviceable closer in Florida last year. A lot of experts thought Foulke would win the job, but we have felt all offseason that Borowski was the eventual closer. Borowski will be moving to the American League, which could help his value as hitters aren't used to seeing him. However, he leaves a pitchers' park in Dolphin Stadium for a hitters' park in Jacobs Field. We're concerned with his shoulder, which nullified a multi-year offer from Philadelphia. In the long run, we like Fernando Cabrera. He could take over late in the season once he gets that 5.19 ERA down. Borowski makes a decent No. 2 closer, and his draft status will continue to elevate now that Foulke has retired.

Durability grade: 3

Job security grade: 6

Colorado Rockies

Closer: Brian Fuentes

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
65.1
3
30
3.44
1.16
73
2007
65
3
33
3.28
1.23
75

Next in line: LaTroy Hawkins

Other possibilities: Byung-Hyun Kim

Analysis: It's hard to find a pitcher with more success in Coors Field than Fuentes. Outside of his down year in 2004, he has had ERAs of 2.75, 2.91 and 3.44 since 2003. He struck out 10.06 batters per nine innings last season and converted 30 of 36 save chances. His numbers are falling a bit, and at the age of 31, one must wonder how much he can continue to be effective before teams master his awkward delivery. Fuentes has little chance of losing his job though. LaTroy Hawkins is bound to get absolutely shelled in Coors Field, and after him, they don't have a lot of replacements available. Enter Byung-Hyun Kim. The Rockies picked up a couple of really good prospect starters from Houston for Jason Jennings. If Fuentes should fail, Kim could be inserted back into the closer role to make room for Jason Hirsh and Taylor Buchholz. We don't see that happening however. Fuentes is a good second closer.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 9

Detroit Tigers

Closer: Todd Jones

Year IP W SV ERA WHIP K
2006 64 2 37 3.94 1.27 28
2007 58 3 19 5.30 1.39 24

Next in line: Joel Zumaya

Other possibilities: Fernando Rodney

Analysis: Jones had an atrocious first half last season when he had a 5.82 ERA but somehow managed to save 23 of 26 games. He turned the corner the second half and went 14-for-17 with a 1.80 ERA. However, this season, the pressure is on him with flame-throwing Joel Zumaya waiting in the setup role. Jones has pinpoint control with his fastball, cutter and curveball with just 11 walks last year. The cutter is what really resurrected his career. He doesn't strike many batters out though with just 28 in 64 innings last year. If he struggles out the gate this year, it's hard to imagine the team not making the switch to Zumaya. Jones is a bit of a risk, but if he can keep the job, he's going to be a real bargain on draft day as your third closer.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 4

Florida Marlins

Closer: Taylor Tankersley

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
41
2
3
2.85
1.44
46
2007
70
4
30
3.47
1.33
80

Next in line: Kevin Gregg

Other possibilities: Ricky Nolasco

Analysis: The 24-year-old lefty made the jump from Double-A and instantly made his presence felt. He struck out 10.10 batters per nine innings while mostly in a setup role. He just destroyed batters at Double-A before the call up as he struck out 40 batters in 28.1 innings and had a 0.95 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP. Tankersley has been hampered by a shoulder injury this spring and likely won't start the season as a closer. We think he'll eventually fill the role. The team tried to acquire Armando Benitez from the Giants to close out games. However, they were reluctant to give up Tankersley or fellow reliever Sergio Mitre. Tankersley doesn't throw extremely hard, consistently at 93 mph, but he's a former starter and can manufacture outs. The Marlins are a young team with talent all around. Tankersley could be a good second or third closer.

Durability grade: 6

Job security grade: 2

Houston Astros

Closer: Brad Lidge

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
75
1
32
5.28
1.40
104
2007
69
3
38
2.77
1.16
91

Next in line: Dan Wheeler

Other possibilities: Chad Qualls

Analysis: Lidge was never the same after St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols took a hanging slider for a colossal home run in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series in 2005. The Astros ended up winning Game 7 and going to the World Series behind one of the most masterful performances of our time from Roy Oswalt. However, Lidge had an ERA over four in every month but August and rattled off a 6.75 ERA in September. His confidence is clearly shaken and his slider was flat, but he has a tremendous arm. Dan Wheeler, who had nine saves and a 2.52 ERA last season, is there if Lidge continues to struggle. However, the Astros will give Lidge every opportunity to remain the closer. He has worked out with Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan during the offseason and worked on his mechanics. Expect Lidge to bounce back this season.

Durability grade: 10

Job security grade: 6

Kansas City Royals

Closer: Octavio Dotel

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
10
0
0
10.80
2.90
7
2007
61
3
27
3.67
1.22
70

Next in line: David Riske

Other possibilities: Ryan Z. Braun

Analysis: Dotel wanted to close again, and the Royals were about the only team that offered him the chance. Dotel was an amazing setup man with the Astros from 2001-2003 and was Houston's closer before being traded to Oakland. He converted 22 of 28 save chances with Oakland in 2004 and struck out 72 batters in 50 2/3 innings. He blew four chances and converted seven in 2005 before blowing out his arm. Dotel has always been an excellent source for strikeouts as shown by his 10.79 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio over his career. He is in a low-stress atmosphere with the young Royals and could quietly post 30 saves in hopes of cashing in somewhere else to close in 2008. We think Dotel will be all right, but he's a weaker No. 2 closer and a good third closer.

Durability grade: 5

Job security grade: 8

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Closer: Francisco Rodriguez

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
73
2
47
1.73
1.10
98
2007
72
3
50
1.56
1.03
104

Next in line: Scot Shields

Other possibilities: Justin Speier

Analysis: It's hard to believe, but after four years of dominance, plus a masterful postseason, but K-Rod is only 25 years old. Rodriguez has the best setup man in baseball nailing down the eighth inning for him. However, I would still say K-Rod has the most job security in baseball outside of Yankees hammer Mariano Rivera. He had the best season of his career in 2006 with a 1.73 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP and 47 saves. He was sidelined in 2005 with a forearm strain, but he has a clean bill of health besides that. A concern is his 310 1/3 innings pitched the last four years. However, He has maintained his performance and has blown just nine saves while converting 92 saves the last two years. K-Rod is likely to be the first closer taken - for good reason.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 10

Los Angeles Dodgers

Closer: Takashi Saito

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
78.1
6
24
2.07
0.91
107
2007
76
4
33
2.90
1.10
95

Next in line: Jonathan Broxton

Other possibilities: Chin-hui Tsao

Analysis: Foreign pitchers that come to the majors have a pretty short shelf life. Starters Hideo Nomo, Kazuhisa Ishii, Hideki Irabu (in short flashes) and closer Shingo Takatsu all dominated early in their careers and flamed out once hitters mastered their delivery. Former closer Kazuhiro Sasaki was an exception, but even he struggled in his last season in the majors. The 37-year-old Saito had an amazing season last year with 12.29 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2.07 ERA. Jonathan Broxton is waiting in the wings and had a great rookie season last year. The 22-year-old struck out 97 batters in 76 1/3 innings with a 2.59 ERA. He's better suited to be a closer, but that probably won't happen until late in the season. Saito is a good second closer this season, but he comes with some risk.

Durability grade: 7

Job security grade: 6

Milwaukee Brewers

Closer: Francisco Cordero

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
75.1
10
22
3.70
1.34
84
2007
73
5
36
3.95
1.34
84

Next in line: Derrick Turnbow

Other possibilities: Jose Capellan

Analysis: Cordero was traded mid-season from the Texas Rangers, in a move he said was stupid, and proved that by posting a 1.69 ERA and 16 saves with the Brewers. He blew nine saves with the Rangers last year and two with the Brewers. While this is a bit of an anomaly, he blew eight saves in 2005. He is still pretty reliable though and struck out 10.04 batters per nine innings. Derrick Turnbow fell on his face after a masterful 2005 season and doesn't appear to be getting another chance unless "Coco" fails miserably. The Brewers revamped their starting rotation, and Cordero should have plenty of save opportunities. He's a good second closer.

Durability grade: 10

Job security grade: 7

Minnesota Twins

Closer: Joe Nathan

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
68.1
7
36
1.58
0.79
95
2007
69
5
38
1.98
0.89
91

Next in line: Juan Rincon

Other possibilities: Pat Neshek

Analysis: Nathan had one of the best seasons for a reliever across the board in the last few years. He didn't have an ERA above 2.45 in any single month, and a 0.79 WHIP is almost unheard of. He kept batters to a .158 batting average and struck out 12.51 batters per nine innings - the most of his career. At 32, there are some questions as to whether he will start slowing down. However, he has been extremely durable the last four years, and his seven wins last season made him the best all-around reliever in fantasy baseball. Nathan will probably be the second closer taken and is on par with K-Rod as the elite closers.

Durability grade: 10

Job security grade: 10

New York Mets

Closer: Billy Wagner

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
72.1
3
40
2.24
1.11
94
2007
72
3
44
2.17
1.01
96

Next in line: Duaner Sanchez

Other possibilities: Ambiorix Burgos

Analysis: For as much as Mets fans hated him, Wagner had another great season in 2006. It's likely that manager Willie Randolph learned from Game 7 of the NLCS when he left Aaron Heilman in to face St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who hit the go-ahead home run in the top of the ninth. So expect Wagner to be used often this season. Wagner struck out 11.70 batters per nine innings last year, which was his highest ratio since 1999. He's 35 years old, but he hasn't had an ERA above 2.52 since 2001. He had some injury concerns two years ago but has been durable each of the last two seasons. Look for Wagner to have another really good season in 2007.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 10

New York Yankees

Closer: Mariano Rivera

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
75
5
34
1.80
0.96
55
2007
75
5
40
1.75
1.01
62

Next in line: Kyle Farnsworth

Other possibilities: Scott Proctor

Analysis: We could go on forever about how legendary Rivera is. His ERA has been under two for four straight years. However, the team let him down a lot last season by not giving him a lot of save chances. His 34 saves were the fewest over his career as the team's closer excluding 2002's injury-plagued season. After spiking his strikeout ratio to 9.19 per nine innings in 2005, it fell to 6.60 last season - the lowest since 1998. Now at 37, Rivera has some risk involved with injuries, and his strikeouts aren't a guarantee. He is still an elite closer and is being taken pretty late for his elite status in drafts.

Durability grade: 7

Job security grade: 10

Oakland Athletics

Closer: Huston Street

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
70.2
4
37
3.31
1.09
67
2007
71
4
39
2.62
1.05
68

Next in line: Justin Duchscherer

Other possibilities: Kiko Calero

Analysis: Street blew 11 save chances last year. This is a little-known fact that hasn't gotten much recognition. Now that he has his sophomore slump and his first trip to the disabled list out of the way, the 23-year-old should come back with a good season. Justin Duchscherer is a favorite of ours, and he and Kiko Calero make up a great setup crew. So Street has a good supporting cast in the pen to hold leads for him. Street struck out less than a batter per inning, and there's a possibility that could get over the hump. Street is an OK first closer but a great second closer.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 10

Philadelphia Phillies

Closer: Tom Gordon

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
59.1
3
34
3.34
1.26
68
2007
61
5
36
2.82
1.23
73

Next in line: Ryan Madson

Other possibilities: None

Analysis: Last season, owners really napped on Flash Gordon during the draft. He was phenomenal before getting hurt. He had 21 saves and a 2.17 ERA in the first half of last season. His 10.32 Ks per nine innings was the most he has put up since 2003. The bullpen in front of him is really awful though. The starting rotation is improved, and the offense will continue to grow. However, if Gordon goes down again, the Phillies are in deep trouble. Gordon is a risk to get injured at 39, but he has an electric arm. He should be a good value again on draft day. Look for him to be your second closer.

Durability grade: 7

Job security grade: 10

Pittsburgh Pirates

Closer: Salomon Torres

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
93.1
3
12
3.28
1.46
72
2007
82
3
26
3.51
1.35
59

Next in line: Matt Capps

Other possibilities: Damaso Marte, Shawn Chacon

Analysis: The Pirates may have made a mistake when they traded closer Mike Gonzalez to the Atlanta Braves. While I think getting first baseman Adam LaRoche is a great move, they don't have the prototypical arm to get the job done on a consistent basis. Torres did a respectable job closing 12 games last season. However, he has thrown at least 92 innings in each of the last four seasons, and he'll be 35 when the season begins. However, he struck out 6.94 batters per nine innings - which was the highest total of his career. The Pirates have meager options outside of him, and they may have to address this issue in the near future. For now, we expect Torres to be on par with last season's numbers. He makes a good third closer.

Durability grade: 10

Job security grade: 8

St. Louis Cardinals

Closer: Jason Isringhausen

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
58.1
4
33
3.55
1.46
52
2007
59
2
38
2.95
1.33
52

Next in line: Randy Flores

Other possibilities: None

Analysis: If you follow Cardinals games at all, you know what a rollercoaster it was when Isringhausen entered the game last season. He blew 10 save chances and converted 33 with the highest ERA he has posted since 2000. He has been pitching with a degenerative hip condition and has lost velocity on his fastball. This has forced him to rely on his cutter far too much, which got pummeled last season. He has a great overhand knuckle-curve and a good bullpen in front of him. He says he will be ready for opening day. Izzy will fall far down a lot of drafts, and you can probably count on him to approach 40 saves if he's healthy. He will probably end up being your third closer, but he has the potential to be a good second closer.

Durability grade: 5

Job security grade: 8

San Diego Padres

Closer: Trevor Hoffman

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
63
0
46
2.14
0.97
50
2007
64
2
41
2.54
1.04
52

Next in line: Scott Linebrink

Other possibilities: Cla Meredith

Analysis: The all-time saves leader had another phenomenal season last year with 46 saves (highest since 1998) and a 2.14 ERA. However, his 7.14 strikeouts per nine innings was the lowest ratio of his career. The 39-year-old has a really good supporting cast in the bullpen, but the team may trade Scott Linebrink to get an outfielder in spring training. Cla Meredith had a great rookie season, but he isn't a sure thing as your primary setup man. That transaction may hurt Hoffman's value. However, he is still bankable to approach 40 saves and has been very durable since missing most of the 2003 season with shoulder surgery. He's no longer an elite closer, but he's an elite source of saves as your first closer.

Durability grade: 9

Job security grade: 10

San Francisco Giants

Closer: Armando Benitez

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
38.1
4
17
3.52
1.57
31
2007
46
2
18
4.30
1.47
37

Next in line: Brian Wilson

Other possibilities: None

Analysis: Benitez has two arthritic knees that really hindered him last season. The team has flame-throwing Brian Wilson waiting to be their stopper, and the team wants to trade Armando Benitez if the Marlins ante up. Benitez has pitched just 68 1/3 innings the last two seasons, but he managed 36 saves in that time. He had 17 last year and blew eight chances in 2006. If healthy, he can still be a good closer. It just doesn't seem that the 34-year-old will have the chance to be healthy on a consistent basis. We expect Wilson to take over at some point this season, whether it's because Benitez is traded or goes down due to injury. Wilson isn't getting a lot of exposure, so look to grab him later in your draft. Benitez is a last-round flier.

Durability grade: 1

Job security grade: 3

Seattle Mariners

Closer: J.J. Putz

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
78.1
4
36
2.30
0.92
104
2007
81
4
34
2.75
1.18
99

Next in line: Chris Reitsma

Other possibilities: George Sherrill

Analysis: Putz had an amazing season last year. However, the misconception is that he's this young up-and-comer. He's not - he'll be 30 when the season opens. He nearly doubled his strikeouts-per-nine-inning ratio last year from 6.75 to 11.95 after taking over for Eddie Guardado. He walked only 13 batters in 78 1/3 innings, aiding his 0.92 WHIP. His setup corps is suspect, but his starting rotation has improved. Thirty-six saves with a below-average team is a tremendous amount, and he blew seven more chances. So the opportunities are there. He has been bothered by elbow soreness this spring. He will probably be drafted among the elite closers. We're not ready to put him in that class. Putz's numbers spiked far too much to spend the seventh-round pick on him.

Durability grade: 6

Job security grade: 9

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Closer: Seth McClung

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006*
22.1
4
6
4.43
1.93
21
2007
66
3
24
4.07
1.54
71

*Stats as a reliever

Next in line: Al Reyes

Other possibilities: Dan Miceli

Analysis: McClung was extremely promising in the closer role late last season. He flamed out as a starter, and the team sent him to the minors to become a reliever. He came back up late in the year, and aside from a couple bad outings, he pitched well. He can hit the mid-90s and could surprise some folks with his strikeout total this season. The 26-year-old is a nice sleeper. The question remains whether his bullpen can preserve leads in front of him. McClung is being drafted in the 23rd round on average and makes a good choice as your third closer.

Durability grade: 7

Job security grade: 6

Texas Rangers

Closer: Eric Gagne

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
2
0
1
0.00
0.50
3
2007
62
4
37
3.34
1.17
76

Next in line: Akinori Otsuka

Other possibilities: Joaquin Benoit

Analysis: Gagne is the huge wild card this season. Impeccable when he's healthy, Gagne has not been such in two years. He has been plagued by elbow, knee and back injuries the past two years, and now at 31 he's hoping to rejuvenate his career in a hitters' league and a hitters' park. The Rangers provided former closer Francisco Cordero a lot of save opportunities, and there's no reason to believe they won't provide Gagne the same. Akinori Otsuka was brilliant as their closer last season and is upset they replaced him. So it's possible the team trades him at some point, which would severely weaken Gagne's setup corps. He's being drafted in the 11th round, which is risky due to his injury history. He's much better served going two rounds later unless you have K-Rod or Nathan secured ahead of him.

Durability grade: 2

Job security grade: 7

Toronto Blue Jays

Closer: B.J. Ryan

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
72.1
2
38
1.37
0.86
86
2007
73
2
42
1.98
0.95
97

Next in line: Jason Frasor

Other possibilities: Jeremy Accardo

Analysis: Ryan was absolutely unhittable in the first half of the season last year. He had a 0.84 ERA, a 0.70 WHIP, 24 saves in 25 chances and struck out 54 batters in 42 2/3 innings. He slipped a bit in the second half with a 2.12 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP, 32 Ks in 29 2/3 innings and 14 saves in 17 chances. This is a little worrisome with the amount of work on his 31-year-old arm. His setup crew is decent, and his offense and rotation is above average. Ryan's 10.70 Ks per nine innings dropped from 12.80 the season before. He's being taken in the middle of the sixth round, and it's questionable if he's an elite closer. Nonetheless, he has been dominant the last three seasons with an ERA no higher than 2.43. He's a good choice as your first closer.

Durability grade: 10

Job security grade: 10

Washington Nationals

Closer: Chad Cordero

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
73.1
7
29
3.19
1.10
69
2007
76
6
34
3.33
1.17
71

Next in line: Ryan Wagner

Other possibilities: Jon Rauch

Analysis: The 25-year-old Cordero had a hard time receiving save opportunities last season. This may occur again this season after losing three key offensive players and possibly the most suspect starting rotation in the majors. Cordero started off a little sluggish with 13 saves in 16 opportunities and a 3.86 ERA before the All-Star break. He finished the season nicely with 16 saves in 17 chances and a 2.30 ERA. His strikeout rate has tailed off a little to 8.47 Ks per nine innings, which is probably as good as it's going to get. Cordero is going in the ninth round, which is around where you'd take lower No. 1 closers and higher No. 2 closers. We're not sure Cordero fits the billing of a good second closer due to his limited save chances.

Durability grade: 10

Job security grade: 10

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About Ryan Dodson

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


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