Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat

by Tim Heaney on April 14, 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.


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

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

Baltimore Orioles

Closer: George Sherrill

Next in line: Chris Ray

Other possibilities: Jim Miller, Jim Johnson

As expected, Sherrill has made his first four appearances interesting, surrendering at least one hit or walk in each, including a homer in his outing Friday, April 10. He settled down for his third save Monday, April 13.

Ray's 2009 performance (15.43 ERA in three appearances) makes Sherrill look like Goose Gossage. On the bright side, the righty discovered he was off-balance in his delivery. His initial adjustment produced a three-strikeout inning Saturday, April 11, though he still surrendered a hit and a free pass.

Despite Ray's hot spring, his progress has been halted by his slow start, but it's promising that he potentially identified his hitch. He isn't threatening Sherrill yet, but he remains a solid long-term investment in all leagues.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 4 (last week: 3)

Chicago Cubs

Closer: Kevin Gregg

Next in line: Carlos Marmol

Marmol recorded a save Saturday, April 11, but it was because manager Lou Piniella didn't want to warm up both pitchers in case that game went into extras. Don't read into it, Piniella says.

You SHOULD remember Gregg's shaky save appearances (12.00 ERA in four appearances) and newest health woe. When sitting on the bench, Gregg's left knee tightens up (sort of like his nerve during save opps). Piniella said he will try to restrict Gregg to ninth-inning duty. That didn't stop him from inserting the righty into the last frame in a non-save situation April 13.

Keep in mind: That was the same knee that caused Gregg to miss nine games toward the end of last season. He has already walked four batters in three frames, but he struck out the side while finishing said non-closure appearance.

Even with Gregg's recent success, you knew his trips to the mound would be rough; he will surely test Lou's loyalty.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 7 (last week: 8)

Detroit Tigers

Closer: Fernando Rodney

Next in line: Brandon Lyon

Other possibilities: Ryan Perry

Disabled list: Joel Zumaya

We couldn't believe it either: This bullpen went 21 straight innings without allowing a run before April 13.

Nerves were calm for at least the first week as Rodney recorded saves on back-to-back days; he has three strikeouts in three shutout appearances. He may earn the official title if he keeps this up; lock him into your roster for now.

Lyon, whose ERA roared through the first week of the season, tamed his wild side a bit following a pregame 'pen session Sunday, April 12. He tossed a pair of scoreless frames after that, and manager Jim Leyland cited Lyon's improved fastball location and curveball.

Meanwhile, Zumaya (shoulder) came out strong in his latest rehab work. While battling the flu, his heat ranged from 94 to 97 mph in 33 pitches of a minor league game. An optimistic timeline has him rejoining Detroit in April, maybe even within the next 10 days, but Leyland said he wants to take his time with Zumaya.

Durability grade: 7

Job security grade: 7

Florida Marlins

Closer: Matt Lindstrom

Next in line: Leo Nunez

Other possibilities: Logan Kensing, Kiko Calero, Jose Ceda, Ryan Tucker

Disabled list: Scott Proctor

Lindstrom looks healthy, but he's making his closing times interesting while coming back from his strained right rotator cuff. He has struggled at putting his secondary pitches over, and his typically triple-digit gas has hovered in the mid-90s.

He blew a save chance April 10. The team is confident his stuff will return when his arm loosens up, but Florida probably won't let him pitch on consecutive days until next week. His lack of work may mean some more excitement.

Nunez, who recovered after a disastrous opening outing, probably remains the next in line if they need a savior to give Lindstrom a break. 

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 7

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Closer: Brian Fuentes

Next in line: Scot Shields

Other possibilities: Jose Arredondo

Shields registered a four-out closure Friday, April 10, but it was mainly because manager Scioscia was riding the hot hand and didn't want to warm up Fuentes. He moved up to the understudy role on our board; Arredondo hasn't entered a game later than the seventh inning this year.

Fuentes has allowed four runs in his last two outings, splitting a pair of save chances.

Scoop up Shields if you're in speculative mode or own Fuentes. For as much closer-friendly talent as Arredondo has, Shields' name may be the first called upon given his veteran presence. All three should be owned.

Durability grade: 7

Job security grade: 7 (last week: 8)

Milwaukee Brewers

Closer: Carlos Villanueva

Next in line: Seth McClung

Other possibilities: David Riske, Todd Coffey, Jorge Julio

Disabled list: Trevor Hoffman

Villy was roughed up April 11 for a blown save-loss combo, but manager Ken Macha stood firm regarding the righty's security as interim closer. Villanueva struck out three in his previous two perfect innings, so you shouldn't be too discouraged.

Hoffman (oblique) threw off flat ground April 13 from a distance of 120 feet and is slated to toss from a mound Wednesday, April 15. He will probably participate in several mound trips before tossing batting practice and minor league assignments. He could be back with the Crew by the end of April.

Durability grade (Hoffman): 6

Job security grade: 9

New York Mets

Closer: Francisco Rodriguez

Next in line: J.J. Putz

Other possibilities: Eddie Kunz

Disabled list: Billy Wagner

Mets skipper Jerry Manuel said he'll use K-Rod in non-save situations this season, putting Putz in line to replace some of those abandoned services. Most drafted Putz for this purpose anyway, but now that this assertion is officially out there, it's worth noting. Go about your business.

Durability grade: 9

Job security grade: 10

Oakland Athletics

Closer: Brad Ziegler

Next in line: Santiago Casilla, Russ Springer

Other possibilities: Michael Wuertz, Jerry Blevins

Disabled list: Joey Devine

Ziegler blew a save April 11 when he entered in the eighth inning but recovered for a scoreless frame in a non-save situation April 13. This shows manager Bob Geren's willingness to play matchups; he said he brought the righty in because he induces grounders.

Devine (elbow) visited with Dr. James Andrews last week and was ordered to have a bone scan and a CT scan on his throwing elbow. There have been no reports of him undergoing those tests as of April 14. Stashing Devine in AL leagues remains an OK move, though it's hard to put much stock in him helping you much in the first half.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 8

Philadelphia Phillies

Closer: Brad Lidge

Next in line: Ryan Madson

Other possibilities: Chad Durbin

Despite posting a command ratio of 7.00 so far in 2009, Lidge was touched up April 13, giving up a two-run jack while still recording the save. Lidge has been prone to rough stretches in his career; however, he's still an elite fantasy option, so don't worry about a change in his role.

Durability grade: 9

Job security grade: 10

Seattle Mariners

Closer: Brandon Morrow

Next in line: David Aardsma

Other possibilities: Chad Cordero, Mark Lowe, Chris Jakubauskas, Roy Corcoran, Miguel Batista, Shawn Kelley

Aardsma finally cashed in on his strong spring, recording a save in each of his last two outings. Morrow probably won't be ready to close things out on back-to-back days for awhile, meaning the hard-throwing No. 1 alphabetical player should be picked up in deep mixed and AL leagues.

Morrow hasn't been too bad, either, throwing back-to-back scoreless saves after his loss Tuesday, April 7. He threw 27 pitches Saturday, April 11, which opened the door for Aardsma the next day. Follow Morrow's pitch counts, which will directly determine his schedule until he's back at full strength.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 9

St. Louis Cardinals

Closer: N/A

Next in line: Ryan Franklin

Other possibilities: Jason Motte, Chris Perez, Dennys Reyes, Kyle McClellan, Josh Kinney

Motte improved in his latest outing by mixing in more breaking stuff to balance out his arrow-like fastball, but that doesn't mean manager Tony La Russa is ushering him back into the role. McClellan, Reyes and Franklin recorded matchup saves in the last week.

The Redbirds have started off well, so it's hard to think La Russa will rush to change his current bullpen square dance. However, Franklin has been warming up late often this season. He was stable in the interim role last year, so he's the best speculative target.

Durability grade: N/A

Job security grade: 3 (last week: 5)

Toronto Blue Jays

Closer: B.J. Ryan

Next in line: Scott Downs

Other possibilities: Jesse Carlson, Jeremy Accardo

Ryan backed up manager Cito Gaston's vote of confidence with a save April 13, his first of the year. Questions linger about his velocity, especially after he gave up four runs in his previous 1 2/3 innings and blew his first save chance of the season Tuesday, April 7.

The lefty's heater has reportedly returned to the 89 mph range. The Jays assert Ryan's problems rest more with falling behind in counts and faltering on his location.

Gaston backed Ryan, but he said he wouldn't hesitate to insert someone else into the role if the ninth goes more awry. Beware Downs.

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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