by Ryan Dodson
on March 28, 2007 @ 16:00:00
Welcome to KFFL's Closer Hot Seat. We'll forecast every sketchy closer situation in the majors each week, and we'll let you know who is next in line for the job in the very volatile closer situations across baseball. For the first week, we have included the closers' stats from last season and their projections for this season. So sit back, relax and put your feet up as we fire up this week's Closer Hot Seat.
HOT SEAT STATUS: INJURY QUESTIONS
Closer: Eric Gagne
Next in line: Akinori Otsuka
Other possibilities: Joaquin Benoit
Analysis: Gagne got demolished Tuesday to a tune of four runs on five hits in just one inning. It was only his third appearance of the spring, but it bloomed his ERA to 15.00. We still feel Gagne has a good grip on the job. However, it would be smart to own setup man Otsuka as well. In order to do so, you'll have to draft him a little higher than one would like - say the 16th round or so - where you ordinarily could grab a chip with upside for your roster. So far, Gagne looks healthy. His mechanics are out of whack from being out for basically two years due to elbow and back injuries. Stay tuned and see if he can work out his flaws.
Durability grade: 2
Job security grade: 6
Closer: Jason Isringhausen
Next in line: Tyler Johnson
Other possibilities: None
Analysis: Isringhausen is attempting to return from surgery on his degenerative hip, and he's ahead of schedule. He's slated to be ready for opening day and has looked pretty good so far this spring. In five innings, he has a 1.80 ERA and three strikeouts. Isringhausen is the team's only legitimate option at closer. They simply have no one else ready and capable. The team is loyal to Isringhausen and will ride him until the wheels fall off.
Durability grade: 5
Job security grade: 8
Closer: Armando Benitez
Next in line: Brian Wilson
Other possibilities: Kevin Correia
Analysis: Can Benitez really resurrect his career once again? Once believed to be close to retiring due to arthritic knees, Benitez has compiled a 1.23 ERA and nine strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings this spring. Sure, it's only spring training, and there's a long season ahead, but this is fabulous. Wilson was having a good spring as well, but a couple of bad outings raised his ERA to 8.44. Benitez is a nice closing option that can be acquired cheaply, or perhaps even on the waiver wire.
Durability grade: 1
Job security grade: 3
Closer: J.J. Putz
Next in line: Chris Reitsma
Other possibilities: George Sherrill
Analysis: Putz has been limited to one inning this spring due to elbow soreness. He has declared that he'll be ready for the season. It's going to be close if he does. Reitsma and Sherrill have not been good this spring, and the Mariners are starting to worry. A dark horse option should Putz miss an extended period is Brandon Morrow. The fifth overall pick in 2006 has impressed the team with 8 1/3 solid innings in which he allowed just four hits, one run and struck out eight. Putz should be fine though, even if he comes out of the gates slowly.
Durability grade: 6
Job security grade: 9
HOT SEAT STATUS: LACKLUSTER PRODUCTION
Closer: Ryan Dempster
Next in line: Bobby Howry
Other possibilities: Kerry Wood
Analysis: Dempster was another player the baseball world was down on entering spring training. In fact, he wasn't even being drafted in a lot of leagues. However, he opened with a good spring, with seven strikeouts in as many innings and a 1.29 ERA. Then, just like Dempster owners are used to, he blew a save Tuesday in a poor outing. He allowed three hits, two runs and struck out two in one inning to increase his ERA to 3.38. With Wood (triceps) beginning the season on the disabled list and Howry having a poor spring, Dempster looks like the best option for the Cubs. He should be a cheap option for saves if you didn't overvalue saves in your draft and thought you were left out.
Durability grade: 7
Job security grade: 5
Closer: Brad Lidge
Next in line: Dan Wheeler
Other possibilities: Chad Qualls
Analysis: Lidge is having a horrible spring, and one has to begin to wonder if his time is running out in manager Phil Garner's loyalty halo. Lidge has been tattooed for 13 hits and a 12.38 ERA in eight spring innings. In contrast, Wheeler has a 2.84 ERA and five strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. It's too early to call Lidge a modern-day Mitch Williams, but he is 30 years old and has a lot of innings on his right arm. If I were a Lidge owner, and I am, I'd be a little worried right now.
Durability grade: 10
Job security grade: 5
Closer: Todd Jones
Next in line: Joel Zumaya
Other possibilities: Fernando Rodney
Analysis: Not to sound like a broken record or anything, but Jones is another closer people were down on that's having a good spring! He has thrown 10 1/3 innings and has a 1.74 ERA with seven strikeouts. Yes, he's actually striking batters out right now. Zumaya threw nine shutout innings while allowing five hits, two walks and striking out 10. This was before Tuesday, when he allowed two solo homers to the Atlanta Braves. A lot of fantasy owners snatched up Zumaya in hopes that he will take over as closer sometime this season. Manager Jim Leyland is probably unlikely to do that unless Jones gets hurt. However, at some point Leyland must understand that Zumaya has a better chance at recording the final three outs.
Durability grade: 8
Job security grade: 4
Closer: Jose Valverde
Next in line: Brandon Lyon
Other possibilities: Tony Pena
Analysis: Valverde got a big confidence boost when the team traded his biggest foe for the closer role to the Florida Marlins. Jorge Julio will close for the Fish now, while Valverde has the security of being Arizona's guy. Valverde has an absolutely electric arm, but he can't stay healthy and is inconsistent. Valverde has had an OK spring, with a 2.70 ERA and seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. He also allowed seven hits and four walks during that time, which isn't good. If he falters, Lyon, who closed for the team in a brief stint a couple of years ago, is an option. It's now or never for Valverde.
Durability grade: 3
Job security grade: 6
HOT SEAT STATUS: COMMITTEE SITUATIONS
Frontrunner: David Weathers
Next in line: Mike Stanton
Others: Dustin Hermanson
Analysis: What a mess here in Cincinnati. The story of camp has been non-roster invitee Hermanson, who has tossed six innings and allowed just two runs. The team wants him to win the closing job. However, it's Weathers' to lose right now. Weathers has lowered his ERA three years in a row and has really been an effective pitcher. Is he effective enough to be a closer? The answer is no over the long haul. Don't be surprised if you see Victor Santos' name in the mix at some point. He has thrown 11 2/3 shutout innings and allowed just five hits. At this point, anything is possible.
Frontrunner: Chad Orvella
Next in line: Al Reyes
Others: Dan Miceli
Analysis: The Rays had long hoped to give Orvella the closing job, but the last two seasons ended in disappointment. However, he is off to a great spring. He has allowed just one run in 9 1/3 innings for a 0.96 ERA and has struck out seven. The feel-good story that's picking up wind, though, is non-roster invitee Reyes. Reyes blew out his elbow in September 2005 during a great season with the St. Louis Cardinals. The doctor that performed the Tommy John surgery said Reyes' elbow was among the worst cases he had ever seen. Reyes is hoping to make it all the way back and has had a great spring. He has a 2.00 ERA in nine innings. There is still some uncertainty, but we feel Orvella will win the job.
About Ryan Dodson
Dodson is a KFFL Contributor and has been with KFFL since 2002.
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