Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat

by Tim Heaney on April 7, 2009 @ 01:01:02 PDT


Also see: Fantasy baseball closer depth charts

In fantasy baseball, the closer position remains volatile. Rarely does every closer hang on to the job for the entire season - injury, poor performance or managerial decisions can cloud a team's bullpen picture.

Should you be concerned about a struggling stopper? Which setup men are climbing the depth chart? Any lingering injuries popping up?'s Closer Hot Seat keeps you informed when looking for saves.


Durability grade: 1 (very injury-prone) to 10 (extremely durable)

Job security grade: 1 (very shaky) to 10 (firm grasp)

Chicago Cubs

Closer: Kevin Gregg

Next in line: Carlos Marmol

On the heels of his surprising fantasy (but logical real-life) ascension to the closer role, Gregg had a rough start to his Cubs debut Monday, April 6, but recorded three straight outs for the save.

On the contrary, in the eighth Marmol let up a walk but nothing else.

There's nothing to see here yet. This will probably be the norm: Marmol dominates to make things easier for Gregg, who'll probably create some excitement in the ninth. Don't expect a switch to come anytime soon as long as Gregg shuts the door, no matter how ugly it may be.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 8

Detroit Tigers

Closer: Fernando Rodney

Next in line: Brandon Lyon

Other possibilities: Ryan Perry

Disabled list: Joel Zumaya

'Do-Rod was handed the gig despite his rough spring - a gift from Lyon's even worse performance - but you can't rely on him for long-term security since manager Jim Leyland hasn't decided on a long-term stopper.

Sleeper alert: Perry shocked many (but not KFFL) when he made the Opening Day roster. We know the Tigers have ridden young players who have exceeded early-career expectations (see: 2006), and this concept would probably come true this season if Rodney revisits his erratic demons.

Zumaya (shoulder) probably will need a bit more time on the DL, but there's more optimism in his progress. He tossed two innings in extended spring training action Saturday, April 4, and is expected to make a few minor league rehab assignments. He's aiming to pitch on back-to-back days before returning.

Durability grade: 7

Job security grade: 7

Florida Marlins

Closer: Matt Lindstrom

Next in line: Leo Nunez

Other possibilities: Logan Kensing, Renyel Pinto, Jose Ceda, Ryan Tucker

Disabled list: Scott Proctor

Though he wasn't needed on Opening Day, Lindstrom was reportedly ready to go if called upon. His recovery has been strong; his status was in doubt only several weeks ago.

Lindstrom's successful workout Sunday, April 5, assured the team that he was ready. Unfortunately, he probably won't be pitching back-to-back games anytime soon, meaning you'll have to limit your expectations before he proves he can do that.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez recently said Nunez would be the backup stopper if they must spell or replace Lindstrom. You may want to pluck the setup man if you have the space and the need.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 7 (last week: 6)

Milwaukee Brewers

Closer: Carlos Villanueva

Next in line: Seth McClung

Other possibilities: David Riske, Todd Coffey, Jorge Julio

Disabled list: Trevor Hoffman

Transaction rules say Hoffman (oblique) can come off the DL Saturday, April 11, but that probably won't happen. Hoff threw off a flat surface Monday, April 6, and reports say it went well. The Brewer bigwigs might map out his rehab to start working from a mound Tuesday, April 7.

The recovery process could last several weeks, which brings long-term intrigue to Villanueva, who will see the first shot at shutting the door in Hoffman's stead. Last year he proved his preference for coming out of the 'pen. Grab him if your leaguemates are still sleeping.

Durability grade (Hoffman): 6

Job security grade: 9

Oakland Athletics

Closer: Brad Ziegler

Next in line: Santiago Casilla, Russ Springer

Other possibilities: Michael Wuertz, Jerry Blevins

Disabled list: Joey Devine

"To err is human, but forgiving yourself for drafting Devine isn't so easy," or something like that.

A visit to Dr. James Andrews (yikes) looms Wednesday, April 8, for the promising but brittle reliever, who was placed on the 60-day DL before the season started. Could TJ (Tommy John surgery, not Tijuana) be in his future? Stash Devine for now in AL-only until further news comes, but you can cut him elsewhere if you can't DL him.

We'll say it again: Manager Bob Geren isn't afraid to plug in a variety of relievers in save situations depending on matchups. You can probably rent someone to replace Devine (preferably Casilla) in AL universes. This on-the-fly management devalues Ziegler slightly, though he'll probably still find the majority of chances at his disposal.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 8

Seattle Mariners

Closer: Brandon Morrow

Next in line: Mark Lowe

Other possibilities: Chad Cordero, David Aardsma, Chris Jakubauskas, Roy Corcoran, Miguel Batista, Shawn Kelley

The countdown for the Morrow-to-closer move didn't last long; over the weekend, manager Don Wakamatsu said if he faced a save situation Monday, April 6, he would call on Morrow and use a combination of setup men to build the bridge.

Though Morrow appears good to go in terms of his bothersome forearm, you should expect some hiccups with throwing him in right away; he mustered a 10.80 ERA in five awkward camp innings (seven walks, five strikeouts). Now that he'll have stability in his role, though, we could see flashes of his 2008 dominance sooner rather than later.

The other mess of players should enter their rightful AL-only dominion, though Cordero should remain on your mixed notepad.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 9

St. Louis Cardinals

Closer: Jason Motte

Next in line: Ryan Franklin

Other possibilities: Chris Perez, Josh Kinney, Brad Thompson, Kyle McClellan

It doesn't look like the Cards bullpen has flipped the calendar to 2009.

After posting an outstanding March, Motte made his first regular season appearance in a save situation Monday, April 6. He promptly coughed up four hits and four runs to earn the dreaded "L, BS."

On the bright side, he displayed his improved slider - well, he proved it exists; adding a semblance of off-speed stuff will help Motte adjust. Still, his fastball resembled a crow's path.

We're not rushing to judgment, but you can't believe Motte has fully maintained manager Tony La Russa's confidence. This compounds TLR's hesitance to name an official eraser heading into the year.

"He'll be out there again at some point, but it's not going to be about, 'Hey, let's get Jason Motte ready,'" the skip told reporters following Motte's meltdown. "That's not the way it is.... He'll be back there, assuming he's got a good attitude about what's wrong and then fixes it. Some of it is giving the batters too much credit."

In no way can you discard Motte; bumps are expected along the line, and it was Opening Day. Given the makeshift 'pen management La Russa showed last year, though, you may want to at least bookmark Franklin on your league page or take the plunge if you have a spot for him.

Durability grade: 10

Job security grade: 5

Toronto Blue Jays

Closer: B.J. Ryan

Next in line: Scott Downs

Other possibilities: Jesse Carlson, Jeremy Accardo

General manager J.P. Ricciardi and skipper Cito Gaston did their best to put out the flames surrounding Ryan's suddenly dormant heater, saying they have complete confidence in the tall lefty despite validating reports of Ryan's speed decrease.

When you're pleased about a pitcher's velocity moving UP to 87 mph, there's some reason to be concerned.

The good news for Ryan: His cutter regained some bite as spring play wound down, and his efforts to correct a mechanical flaw continue.

You can't ignore the fleeting discussions of removing Ryan from at least a share of the backend position. Downs remains a prudent investment for saves speculation.

Durability grade: 7

Job security grade: 7

Also see: Fantasy baseball closer depth charts

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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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