Closer Hot Seat

by Ryan Dodson on April 11, 2007 @ 16:00:00 PDT

 


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. So sit back, relax and put your feet up as we fire up this week's 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 STATUS: INJURY QUESTIONS

Kansas City Royals

Closer: Octavio Dotel

Next in line: David Riske

Other possibilities: Joakim Soria

Analysis: Riske nailed down his first save opportunity in relief of Dotel, who's on the disabled list due to an oblique injury. However, he blew his next opportunity. Riske also has four strikeouts in three innings. He may be yielding to Soria, who wrapped up the club's 6-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday. Soria pitched two innings, striking out three, for the save. He has now pitched five innings, allowing no runs, one hit and fanning five. Manager Buddy Bell left Soria in the game for the ninth, even though he had Riske warming up in the pen. Meanwhile, Dotel is tentatively slated to test his oblique April 11 in extended spring training. The Royals now consider April 20 as the best-case scenario for Dotel's return. Once he does, he should reclaim his closer spot. Soria's presence may have already rendered Riske useless.

Durability grade: 3

Job security grade: 8

Texas Rangers

Closer: Eric Gagne

Next in line: Akinori Otsuka

Other possibilities: Joaquin Benoit

Analysis: Otsuka hasn't been able to thrive in the spotlight with Gagne on the disabled list. He has just one save and has pitched only two innings due to the team's slow start. Gagne says he feels better than expected after pitching back-to-back days for the first time in two years in the minors. He's expected to travel with the team Thursday and be activated from the disabled list Friday. There were reports that he wouldn't close out games initially, but manager Ron Washington denied them. The Rangers say they plan to use him in the role as soon as Gagne gets back. Even when Gagne is activated, though, use caution for a week or so.

Durability grade: 2

Job security grade: 6

HOT SEAT STATUS: LACKLUSTER PRODUCTION

Houston Astros

Closer: Dan Wheeler

Next in line: Chad Qualls

Other possibilities: Brad Lidge

Analysis: Lidge was demoted to middle relief work after giving up five runs (only two were earned) to the St. Louis Cardinals in an appearance over the weekend. Honestly, it's befuddling why manager Phil Garner went with Wheeler this early. If Lidge was on that short of a leash, why didn't the team trade him in the offseason? On top of that, Wheeler blew a save chance last week and gave up four hits and two runs to the Chicago Cubs Tuesday. Lidge's demotion makes him close to useless in fantasy baseball. His strikeout potential gives him some value, but he has only recorded one punchout and has given up five hits and three walks. Wheeler has good value right now and shouldn't be scattered on many waiver wires. We haven't heard the last from Lidge though.

Durability grade: 10

Job security grade: 5

Florida Marlins

Closer: Jorge Julio

Next in line: Henry Owens

Other possibilities: Taylor Tankersley

Analysis: To say that Julio has been awful this season is an understatement. He has allowed nine hits, four walks and hasn't fanned a batter in 3 2/3 innings. That leads to a 14.73 ERA and a 4.36 WHIP. This has left fantasy owners scrambling to pick up other Marlins pitchers. Owens and Lee Gardner have picked up saves in the last week. However, the one Owens recorded was on Julio's day off. Gardner's save came in relief of Julio, but Gardner was only thrust into the situation based on need. The team used five other relievers before Gardner came in. Give Julio a couple of weeks to work out his kinks. It could be at least a month before the team does anything drastic with their closer situation, but as Julio's problems mount, it's hard to ignore Florida's other options as potential fantasy adds. Keep an eye on Tankersley (shoulder). He appears ready to return from the DL Friday.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 5

Chicago Cubs

Closer: Ryan Dempster

Next in line: Bobby Howry

Other possibilities: Kerry Wood

Analysis: Dempster certainly wasn't the most popular choice as a fantasy closer entering the spring. However, he has pitched well. He has not allowed a run or a hit in three innings, walked one batter and struck out five. He has converted both of his save chances. Don't get too content though. If this streak continues, he's a good trading piece to use.

Durability grade: 7

Job security grade: 6 (Last week: 5)

Detroit Tigers

Closer: Todd Jones

Next in line: Joel Zumaya

Other possibilities: Fernando Rodney

Analysis: Jones is another closer many fantasy owners didn't want on draft day. He has performed well with four saves in five scoreless innings. His 0.80 WHIP is good as well. If Jones continues pitching this well, he could easily save 40-45 games this season. However, if you own him, hold on to him for a bit so his trade stock can enhance - then unload him.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 6 (last week: 4)

Arizona Diamondbacks

Closer: Jose Valverde

Next in line: Brandon Lyon

Other possibilities: Tony Pena

Analysis: Valverde has been a mixed bag early on this season. He has converted four of five save chances and has a 1.93 ERA but a gaudy 1.50 WHIP. In his last three outings, though, he has a 1.00 WHIP in three scoreless innings with three strikeouts. The team is impressed with Valverde's showing thus far, but his velocity has been down due to the cold weather. If you own him, keep him in your lineup.

Durability grade: 3

Job security grade: 6

HOT SEAT STATUS: COMMITTEE SITUATIONS

Cincinnati Reds

Frontrunner: David Weathers

Next in line: Mike Stanton

Others: Victor Santos

Analysis: Weathers, having converted two saves in two chances, leads this fantasy nightmare for the time being. He has a 1.93 ERA and 0.64 WHIP after 4 2/3 innings. Most of the damage came in his last outing, Tuesday, when pitched 1 2/3 innings, gave up a run and took the loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Fantasy owners looking for short-term saves could do worse than pick up Weathers. In save situations he's still perfect, but don't get your hopes up based on the small sample size. Reds manager Jerry Narron noted recently that he needs to keep his guys in the bullpen rested and play the matchups, which means the committee approach is far from over. Stanton is still the southpaw alternative in the ninth. He has fanned two in two innings while allowing one hit and issuing one walk. He hasn't given up a run either. In fact, the entire bullpen has been nearly flawless. It's the Reds, so expect that to change. The man getting the save opportunities will likely be different sooner or later, too.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Frontrunner: Al Reyes

Next in line: Shawn Camp

Others: Chad Orvella

Analysis: Reyes converted his first save chance of the season, and his first since 2005, last week. He has allowed one hit and struck out one batter in two innings. While there hasn't been a clear vision of Tampa's closer situation in quite some time, that's not the only obstacle to fantasy relevance here. The Rays have trouble getting leads to their guy in the ninth, so save ops could be few and far between. It's not outside the realm of possibility that Reyes could hold onto this job, especially if he continues to pitch effectively. He's worth owning because even if he doesn't deliver saves very often, he may not hurt your ratios much. Reyes didn't pitch at all last year, though, so expecting him to maintain form is a gamble. Manager Joe Maddon said that he's comfortable using Shawn Camp, Brian Stokes and Juan Salas late in games, too, so Reyes may get many a night off.

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About Ryan Dodson

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


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