We always say at draft time don’t overpay for saves, and that piece of advice seems to be especially important this season. Closers normally take a beating as it is the one spot on a baseball team that is sure to have the biggest turnover year after year. Not every relief pitcher is capable of closing out a game. Batters that the ABs more seriously. Umpires tend to shrink the strike zone a bit. Fans are into every pitch, and the media is sure to ask you 100 questions if you blow the save. It takes a certain type of pitchers. One who can deal with the distractions and one who isn’t afraid that he might lose his job if he has a bad week. Today we are going to take a look at the closing situation on each team.
Arizona Cardinals: JJ Putz – No worries here with Putz, plays for a good team and will get plenty of chances to finish out games. 40+ saves should be in his future.
Next in line: David Hernandez
Atlanta Braves: Craig Kimbrel - Well he’s not going to get many save opportunities if the Braves can’t win a game. Kimbrel is still a top notch closer because of the strikeouts he can provide. The Braves will turn things around shortly although their offense or lack thereof could make 40+ saves a reach this season.
Next in line: Jonny Venters
Baltimore Orioles: Jim Johnson – Now Johnson job would be anything but secure, might be a work in progress. That being said, his peripheral numbers are good, but a slip up could give Kevin Gregg another shot at the closer role or maybe even Matt Lindstrom. The Orioles are also destined to finish last in the AL East.
Next in line: Kevin Gregg
Boston Red Sox: Andrew Bailey – The Red Sox bullpen is the definition of a mess. They lose Bailey until at least the All-Star break due to thumb surgery. Daniel Bard who at one time was thought to be the future at closer is now in the starting rotation. Jed Lowrie was traded to Houston to acquire Mark Melancon who at that time was thought to be the 2012 closer but Bobby Valentine surprised us all by naming Alfredo Aceves the closer prior to the start of the season. Now Melancon and Aceves were terrible in Detroit over the weekend, but Aceves was perfect in a save situation on Monday. It’s Aceves’ job right now, but it would seem to be a tenuous one unless he pitches lights out. This situation could get even more interesting if Bard fails in his bad to make the rotation.
Next in line: Mark Melancon
Chicago Cubs: Carlos Marmol – Marmol has already blown two saves this season and his job would seem to hanging by a string if the Cubs truly had a threat behind him. Kerry Wood would seem to be next in line but he hasn’t pitched all that well either. Marmol’s problem has always been control within the strike zone. His pitches move so much that he can put quite a few runners on base with free passes.
Next in line: Kerry Wood
Chicago White Sox: Hector Santiago – Rookie manager Robin Ventura drove us crazy by not announcing a closer before the season started, he wouldn’t even announce it before Game 1. We sort of had to read the tea leaves to figure out. Matt Thornton pitched in the 7th inning, Addison Reed the 8th, that sort of left the closer role to either Santiago or Jesse Crain. Santiago was the eventual choice but not before Crain was claimed in a few leagues. So far Santiago is 2-2 in save situations, but I wouldn’t bet on him holding the job all season.
Next in line: Addison Reed
Cincinnati Reds: Sean Marshall - So much for that big signing of Ryan Madson. Tommy John surgery has taken him out of the equation for the entire season. Now you know why players like to sign long term contracts. Marshall was next in line and he got the job, but if he falters in any way one has to think Aroldis Chapman would get the job if he can get control of the strike zone.
Next in line: Aroldis Chapman
Cleveland Indians: Chris Perez – Perez was another closer who it was thought might miss the beginning of the season due to injury, but he returned from his oblique injury in time so start the season with Cleveland. He did blow his first save opportunity but he should be fine going forward.
Next in line: Vinnie Pestano
Colorado Rockies: Rafael Betancourt – Betancourt took over the job late last season in sort of an audition for the 2012 full-time role. He passed with flying colors and now has the job. I wouldn’t call his job 100% secure, but one or two blowups won’t force him out.
Next in line: Rex Brothers
Detroit Tigers: Jose Valverde – You knew it would happen, didn’t you? Valverde was perfect last season in save opportunities, so what happens in his first save chance this season? He blows it, of course. That being said, he still picked up the win and with the Tigers expected to win their division by 10+ games, this should be a banner season for saves for Valverde.
Next in line: Joaquin Benoit
Houston Astros: Brett Myers - It was a bit of a surprise that Myers was named closer for Houston. Not that he couldn’t handle the job, he did close briefly during his time in Philly, but it’s not like Houston is loaded with top starting pitchers, to take out a reliable starter to closer for a team that is expected to lose close to 100 games is a surprise. In their defense they don’t have much else to offer, Melancon was traded and Brandon Lyon is coming off of injury. Myers could be traded by the deadline to a team that needs bullpen help, but it would be unlikely to be as a closer.
Next in line: Brandon Lyon
Kansas City Royals: Jonathan Broxton – The loss of Joakim Soria for the season due to Tommy John surgery was a blow for the Royals bullpen corps, but I don’t think it should’ve been a surprise. Something clearly seemed to be wrong with Soria last season. His numbers were certainly not good. The closing role came down to Broxton and Greg Holland and it should come as no surprise that Broxton got the nod. Managers like to take the experienced guys in these situations and Broxton has looked like his old self in his first couple of save opportunities, humming the ball in the mid to high 90s. Broxton only signed a one-year deal with KC and is playing for a long term deal next off-season. The Royals could also deal Broxton by the deadline if they aren’t in contention and Broxton is still pitching well.
Next in line: Greg Holland
Los Angeles Angels: Jordan Walden – Walden can make life interesting closing games at times, but in the end the job is his as there really isn’t anyone else on the roster to push for the job. On this team Walden could be a 40+ save guy if he can cut down on the number of blown saves, he did have 10 last season.
Next in line: Latroy Hawkins
Los Angeles Dodgers: Javy Guerra - During the off-season there was some thought that Kenley Jansen could take over the role and he still might during the season but manager Don Mattingly stopped any talk of a closer controversy right away by naming Guerra to the job early in spring training. Guerra may have Jansen looking over his shoulder but he has nasty stuff and would only lose the job if he were to stumble and Jansen were to pitch lights out. Far from a guarantee that either one happens.
Next in line: Kenley Jansen
Miami Marlins: Heath Bell – The Marlins were forced to find a new closer after Juan Oviedo’s (Leo Nunez) future was put in doubt after it was found he used a false name. Bell gives the Marlins a top closer who has notched 40+ saves in three straight seasons. Life should only get better in Miami.
Next in line: Mike Dunn
Milwaukee Brewers: John Axford – Not much to say here. Axford is one of the top closers in the game who can pile up the strikeouts.
Next in line: Francisco Rodriguez
Minnesota Twins: Matt Capps – Capps may be the closer now but that could end as soon as he blows his first save. Capps is a nice set-up man but doesn’t really have the stuff to be a closer, throw that into the fact that the Twins look to be a terrible team and you have a recipe for disaster here.
Next in line: Glen Perkins
New York Mets: Frank Francisco – Francisco had knee problems late in spring training (inflammation) which led some to believe he may not begin the season with the team. Well those thoughts were unfounded as Francisco saved the first three games of the season for the Mets. The Mets may not be a great team, but aren’t terrible either, Francisco could be a nice cheap source of saves.
Next in line: Jon Rauch
New York Yankees: Mariano Rivera – Hmmm, best closer of all time, did get off to a rough start, but is certainly not going to lose his job unless he were to get hurt.
Next in line: David Robertson
Oakland Athletics: Grant Balfour – It’s Balfour’s job for now but once again this could be short lived. Brian Fuentes is on the team although his time has come and gone. The Athletics do seem to be grooming Fautino De Los Santos for the job, question is will they give him the job this season once things start to go south for the team?
Next in line: Fautino De Los Santos
Philadelphia Phillies: Jonathan Papelbon – Well you don’t sign someone to a 4-year $50 million contract not to have him close, question is with this offense how many games will there be to close.
Next in line: Antonio Bastardo
Pittsburgh Pirates: Joel Hanrahan – Last spring Hanrahan was in a battle for the closer’s job with Evan Meek, well Hanrahan won the job and hasn’t looked back, he’s about as safe as they come.
Next in line: Chris Resop
San Diego Padres: Huston Street – Street is just one injury away from losing his job, and that injury will come, it’s just a matter of time. Andrew Cashner is the next man in line and he could take over the role at some point this season. Some might think Cashner is being groomed to be a starter, but it seems unlikely that he would be able to hold up as a starter, closer is where his future is, and he could be a very good one.
Next in line: Andrew Cashner
San Francisco Giants: Brian Wilson – There is no doubt that Wilson is the closer for the Giants, but there are some injury concerns going back to last season. Wilson pitched through elbow pain last season that seems to have lingered into this spring. If I had the roster space and Wilson was on my team, I’d want Sergio Romo also, just don’t think Wilson gets through the entire season without a DL visit.
Next in line: Sergio Romo
Seattle Mariners: Brandon League – League doesn’t get much love in fantasy leagues but he does a good job as a closer, he’s not sexy, but he also comes cheap, not much to worry about here outside of the Mariners not being the best of teams.
Next in line: George Sherrill
St. Louis Cardinals: Jason Motte – Last season the Cards played closer roulette until Motte took over the job. This season it’s all about Motte who has nothing to worry about but his own performance. Like many young hard throwing closers, it’s not about him getting hit, it’s about his ability to consistently throw strikes.
Next in line: Fernando Salas
Tampa Bay Rays: Kyle Farnsworth – Farnsworth was put on the DL shortly before the season began with elbow soreness. The injury won’t require surgery but it could end his stint as closer if Fernando Rodney pitches will in his absence. Manager Joe Maddon has said more than once that he never named Farnsworth as his closer last season, he just took the job and ran with it, Rodney could do the same.
Next in line: Joel Peralta
Texas Rangers: Joe Nathan – A smooth under the radar free agent signing by Texas which allowed them to move former closer Neftali Perez to the starting rotation. If Nathan can remain healthy and effective all season he could have a big season, that is a big if however. Nathan did deal with injury and ineffectiveness at times last season, still, he should have a long leash with Texas.
Next in line: Mike Adams
Toronto Blue Jays: Sergio Santos – The Jays seemed to have gotten a steal when they acquired Santos from the White Sox in the off-season. After seeing him pitch in the first couple of games this season, maybe not so much. Santos has already blown two saves. The Jays believe they can contend this season with Francisco Cordero on the roster Santos may already be feeling the heat.
Next in line: Francisco Cordero
Washington Nationals: Drew Storen – The news just keeps getting worse for Storen. First he had a sore elbow, but nothing structural, and he wasn’t expected to miss more than a week or two. Now we find out that he’s going to visit Dr. James Andrews, uh oh. The Nats fear he may have a bone chip, but that could still keep him out for quite a bit of time.
Next in line: Henry Rodriguez
Remember, you can ask me any fantasy questions you like on Twitter, @GeorgeKurtz