Closer Updates


Closer Updates: A's, Astros, Cubbies, Jays, Mets, Redlegs, White Sox, Yanks

It’s time to check up on the closer scene once again. In addition to some position battles and struggling closers, we’ll also take a look at a few injury situations this week.

Chicago CubsJose Veras hasn’t had a great start to the season (0 saves, 10.13 ERA, 2.63 WHIP) and there are already rumblings that Pedro Strop should take over the closer role. Strop is clearly a part of the Cubs’ future plans, has pitched well thus far (1 save, 2.45 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) and may take the job in time, but manager Rick Renteria seems to be sticking with Veras in the short term.

Chicago White Sox – With early frontrunner Nate Jones battling injury, Matt Lindstrom has held the closer title for the White Sox since Opening Day. However, Lindstrom has been a bit underwhelming in 2014 (1 save, 9.00 ERA, 2.33 WHIP, 6.0 K/9) and this bullpen could continue to be shuffled as the season progresses.

Cincinnati Reds – Although Aroldis Chapman has been resuming baseball activities with some light workouts, he is still far from returning to the big leagues. In his stead, J.J. Hoover has struggled and the Reds will likely look to Jonathan Broxton (who was just re-activated from the DL) to close until Chapman returns.

Houston Astros – The closer-by-committee competition in Houston has come down to two different relievers, Josh Fields (1 save, 0.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 9.0 K/9) and Chad Qualls (1 save, 6.75 ERA, 2.25 WHIP, 10.1 K/9). Each have a single save this season and only time will tell whether Fields or Qualls can take over the ninth.

New York Mets – With Bobby Parnell on the DL for the rest of the season, Jose Valverde seems to have inherited the closer role in Queens. Valverde has the pedigree of a good closer (career 3.17 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 9.9 K/9, 287 saves) and he may be in line for another solid season for the Mets.

New York Yankees – On the other side of town, closer David Robertson also hit the DL with a groin injury. Robertson had been strong this season and the Yanks will likely look to a committee to replace him (led by Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren, David Phelps, and Dellin Betances).

Oakland Athletics – The Jim Johnson experiment has struggled since Opening Day. In his first five appearances, Johnson has earned one save, two losses, and two blown saves… not to mention that batters are hitting .529 against him. If these struggles continue, Ryan Cook or Luke Gregerson might get the call pretty soon.

Toronto Blue JaysSergio Santos has pitched well in place of the injured Casey Janssen so far (3 saves, 2.70 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, 12.6 K/9) and should continue to do so. Janssen is recovering nicely from a lower back injury and will return in the next couple weeks after a few rehab games.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates: As, Astros, Brewers, Cubbies, Dodgers, Jays, Mets, Orioles, Reds, Rockies, White Sox

It didn’t take very long for the closer conversations to start up around the big leagues. This week we’ll take a quick run around the league and discuss several different developments on the bullpen front. From injuries to surprise replacements, we’ve got a bit of everything for you.

Baltimore Orioles

Tommy Hunter was given the closer title just before Opening Day and he certainly earned his first save of the season against the Red Sox despite allowing two base runners early. Given that Hunter performed well in this high pressure situation, his job security got a little bit better.

Chicago Cubs

Jose Veras had a tremendously rough outing in his first save opportunity of 2014 (38 pitches, 1 hit, 1 earned run, 2 walks, 1 strike out, 1 blown save). If his struggles continue and Pedro Strop pitches well, Veras might be on the hot seat before too long.

Chicago White Sox

This closer situation is still quite uncertain. Ronald Belisario and Matt Lindstrom have both pitched well thus far, but Nate Jones has not. In his first 2014 appearance (17 pitches, 2 hits, 2 earned runs, 1 walk, and 1 blown save), Jones pitched poorly and opened the door for Belisario and Lindstrom.  For now, Lindstrom has the closer job.

Cincinnati Reds

Without Aroldis Chapman, Cincy is still looking for their closer. Because the Redlegs have not committed to J.J. Hoover, Sam LeCure, or Logan Ondrusek, former closer Jonathan Broxton may take the gig outright next week (or whenever he returns from the DL).

Colorado Rockies

LaTroy Hawkins had a rough outing during in his first save for the 2014 Rockies (36 pitches, 2 hits, 1 earned run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout). This could be a blip on the radar, but if he continues to need 30+ pitches for a save – Rex Brothers might be manning the ninth before we know it.

Houston Astros

Josh Fields earned the Astros’ first save of 2014 and looked good doing it (1.0 innings, 10 pitches, 1 strike out). Chad Qualls struggled in his first appearance and Matt Albers pitched well in his first two outings. At this point, it looks like Fields has a slight edge in this race.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Kenley Jansen is fine, but Dodgerland will be missing Brian Wilson for a little while. Wilson hit the DL this week with nerve irritation in his elbow and is being shelved indefinitely. Without a timeline for his return, Chris Perez should be next in line if Jansen struggles.

Milwaukee Brewers

The biggest closer surprise came when Brewers’ skipper Ron Roenicke sent in Francisco Rodriguez for the Brew Crew’s first save opportunity. Apparently Rodriguez, rather than Jim Henderson, is the pitcher to own in Milwaukee’s bullpen. However, Roenicke also stated that he hopes Henderson will re-take the role in time.

New York Mets

Bobby Parnell’s return to Queens did not last nearly as long as everyone had hoped. Although Tommy John surgery is not certain, an extended trip to DL is. Look for Jose Valverde to pick up Parnell’s save opportunities and he just might be the Mets’ closer moving forward.

Oakland Athletics

Jim Johnson’s Oakland debut was not exactly what Athletics nation was looking for. With a poor outing, Orioles fans could hear the home crowd booing all the way in Baltimore. Thus far, Johnson has two blown saves in his first two save opportunities of the season. Unless the Indians are simply Johnson’s kryptonite, this might the beginning of a rough season.

Toronto Blue Jays

With Casey Janssen on the DL, it seemed that Sergio Santos would be the closer in Toronto. However, Santos has been inconsistent thus far and Brett Cecil stepped in for his second career save on Wednesday against the Rays. We’ll have to stay tuned, but Cecil might be the one to own pretty soon.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates: Astros, Jays, Reds, Rangers, White Sox

As you already know, the 2014 MLB season is already under way after a quick series in the Outback and our saves leader thus far is… drumroll please… Kenley Jansen, with a whopping 1 save and a fairly rough start (6.75 ERA, 1.50 WHIP). With Opening Day on our heels, let’s take a quick look at some of the other developments on the closer scene.

Chicago White Sox

The bullpen picture for the Sox is clear as mud. Lead man Nate Jones hasn’t quite taken over the role as some had hoped and manager Robin Ventura recently acknowledged that a closer might not be named prior to Opening Day. Matt Lindstrom and Ronald Belisario are both still in the mix, but so is Javy Guerra – who was just picked up on waivers from the Dodgers.

Cincinnati Reds

With Aroldis Chapman out for at least a month, the closer job in Cincy will be a hot topic until he returns. J.J. Hoover should have the job going into the season after a strong 2013 (69 appearances, 2.86 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 3 saves). Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall are still working their way back from injury and won’t be ready for Opening Day.

Houston Astros

Rather than naming a closer before Opening Day, the Astros have opted to go with a closer-by-committee approach to start the season. Manager Bo Porter made it clear that he’ll be examining matchups before deciding who gets the nod. Right now, the group of potential candidates includes Chad Qualls and Josh Fields, as well as Kevin Chapman, Matt Albers, and Anthony Bass. If nobody takes the gig by May, Jesse Crain should emerge as the favorite once fully healthy.

Texas Rangers

It seems that manager Ron Washington has made up his mind and Joakim Soria will be the closer in Texas on Opening Day. With 160 career saves, look for Washington to stick with the two-time All Star through any early struggles. Former frontrunner Neftali Feliz was just sent to AAA and will try a move to the starting rotation while Alexi Ogando will assume the role of setup man.

Toronto Blue Jays

After a lengthy recovery from a shoulder injury, Casey Janssen made his spring debut on Monday and had a scoreless appearance. However, Janssen never topped 86 mph and this lack of velocity is a small red flag. That being said, Janssen should come back to full strength after a few more outings and his fastball will follow shortly thereafter. If not, April might be rough.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates: Astros, Dbacks, Dodgers, Os, Rangers, Reds, Rockies, White Sox

With the Opening Series in Sydney, Australia a few days away, the fantasy season is nearly upon us. Because there are a few closer position battles still undecided, we’ll give you updates on them and the teams prepared to start the season Down Under. If you were hoping to find Closer Rankings, they were posted a few weeks ago and can be found here.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Addison Reed was brought to the desert via trade this offseason and the Dbacks are happy to have him man the ninth. Reed will look to provide some stability to the bullpen this season and, with a fresh start in Australia, he might just pluck a save this weekend.

Baltimore Orioles

Once Jim Johnson headed out west, most thought that the Os would hit the free agent wire looking to replace him. Although Grant Balfour was nearly brought in to close, it seems that the job has fallen to Tommy Hunter. While Hunter may not have the tightest grip on the closer reins, he should have the gig come Opening Day.

Colorado Rockies

Despite all of the Rex Brothers hoopla, the Rockies are still paying LaTroy Hawkins the big bucks. Even with Manager Walt Weiss stating that Brothers will get the occasional save, he won’t be worth much if Hawkins is still getting (and converting) a large majority of the save opportunities.

Chicago White Sox

A few weeks ago, the White Sox closer picture was an absolute mess. However, it seems that Nate Jones has begun to emerge as the favorite. This frontrunner has pitched in five games this Spring Training without giving up a run and has recovered nicely from a gluteal sprain suffered early in camp.

Cincinnati Reds

Panic spread through Reds Nation on Wednesday night when Aroldis Chapman was struck in the face by a come-backer. After being carted off the field, Chapman was taken to a local hospital where fractures in his face were discovered. While any type of fantasy impact is unclear at this time, this injury could be significant if Chapman is forced to miss time.

Houston Astros

Although far from decided, it seems that the Opening Day job will come down to Josh Fields (who performed admirably in the role last season after Jose Veras’ departure) and Chad Qualls (with 51 career saves). That being said, wait around for Jesse Crain, who should pitch well enough (when fully healthy) to wrestle the ninth from Fields or Qualls.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Kenley Jansen is a hot commodity this season as he tries to prove that last year’s numbers (1.88 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 13.0 K/9, 28 saves) were not a fluke. With the chance to learn from a trio of former closers with 377 career saves (Brandon League, Chris Perez, Brian Wilson), Jansen just might begin his march to the top of the closer rankings this weekend at the Sydney Cricket Grounds.

Texas Rangers

The best kept secret in the Rangers’ clubhouse is who Manager Ron Washington will name as closer. Unfortunately, we have not been privy to that information and will continue to speculate like everyone else. Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria are still battling it out this Spring Training. Feliz has begun to regain his velocity and Soria has been effective in each outing, so stay tuned before committing to either…

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates – A Quick Run Around the League

After giving a preview on each division, as well as some closer competition updates and overall rankings, it’s time for a general rundown of each team’s closer situation. In addition to providing some insight into various bullpens, you will also find some helpful injury updates. Moving through the regular season, you can find similar information on our Closer Depth Chart.

American League

Unlike the quiet NL, all of the Spring Training closer battles are happening in the American League thus far.

Baltimore Orioles – 1. Tommy Hunter, 2. Darren O’Day, 3. Ryan Webb

While Os skipper Buck Showalter still won’t firmly commit to Hunter as the guy, it certainly seems that he’s leading the pack right now.

Boston Red Sox – 1. Koji Uehara, 2. Edward Mujica, 3. Junichi Tazawa

Uehara issued a surprising walk against the Braves last week and catcher David Ross explained that the mishap could be chalked up to the closer working on another pitch for his repertoire.

Chicago White Sox – Competition – Ronald Belisario, Mitchell Boggs, Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom, Daniel Webb

It’s been rough for the White Sox because no pitcher has emerged yet as closer – Belisario arrived late to camp because of visa issues, Jones & Lindstrom are close to healthy after missing time early, Webb missed a week for family reasons, and Boggs is still trying to distance himself from last year’s 8.10 ERA.

Cleveland Indians – 1. John Axford, 2. Cody Allen, 3. Bryan Shaw, 4. Vinnie Pestano

If his time at the World Baseball Classic caused Axford to fatigue in 2013, he could be in for a bounce-back season and bring consistency to the Tribe.

Detroit Tigers – 1. Joe Nathan, 2. Bruce Rondon, 3. Joba Chamberlain

With 341 career saves, Nathan will bring reliability to a Tigers’ bullpen that has developed a reputation for its inconsistencies.

Houston Astros – Competition – Matt Albers, Jesse Crain, Josh Fields, Chad Qualls

With favorite Crain out past Opening Day with an injury, Qualls is currently leading sophomore Fields and journeyman Albers for the closer role.

Kansas City Royals – 1. Greg Holland, 2. Aaron Crow, 3. Kelvin Herrera

Holland should be in line for another monster year in KC, while Crow and Herrera will see their setup roles increase in the absence of an injured Luke Hochevar.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – 1. Ernesto Frieri, 2. Dane De La Rosa, 3. Joe Smith

De La Rosa could provide real value if Frieri stumbles – Manager Mike Scioscia had the two splitting closing duties at one point last season.

Minnesota Twins – 1. Glen Perkins, 2. Jared Burton, 3. Brian Duensing

With a 90% save conversion rate, Perkins is a solid closer and should make a case for his second straight All-Star appearance this season.

New York Yankees – 1. David Robertson, 2. Matt Thornton, 3. Shawn Kelley

All eyes will be on Robertson this season and he should rise to the task, his career 11.7 K/9 and 2.76 ERA didn’t happen by mistake.

Oakland Athletics – 1. Jim Johnson, 2. Luke Gregerson, 3. Ryan Cook

Johnson’s arrival in Oakland shouldn’t change his stock too much – he’s still a dependable closer who can be projected for 35+ saves (though another 50-save season might be aggressive).

Seattle Mariners – 1. Fernando Rodney, 2. Danny Farquhar, 3. Yoervis Medina

Rodney has been signed to closer, but Farquhar might just be good enough to regain his job if there are struggles early.

Tampa Bay Rays – 1. Grant Balfour, 2. Heath Bell, 3. Joel Peralta

Balfour will be more reliable in Tampa than Rodney was last season and Peralta is a solid setup man, but buyer beware when it comes to Heath Bell.

Texas Rangers – Competition – Neftali Feliz, Tanner Scheppers, Joakim Soria

Manager Ron Washington has not yet chosen a closer for 2014 and is unopposed to a closer-by-committee approach, but the race should come down to Feliz edging Soria before Opening Day.

Toronto Blue Jays – 1. Casey Janssen, 2. Sergio Santos, 3. Steve Delabar

Entering a contract year, Janssen is a very solid closer who should have another above-average season in the Great White North.

National League

Barring any major injuries before Opening Day, the NL has a much clearer picture in terms of closers than its AL counterpart.

Atlanta Braves – 1. Craig Kimbrel, 2. Jordan Walden, 3. Luis Avilan

Kimbrel signed a four-year extension with the Bravos that is chock full of incentive bonuses – look for another dominant year for the righty.

Arizona Diamondbacks – 1. Addison Reed, 2. Brad Ziegler, 3. J.J. Putz

The Dbacks traded for Reed to be their closer, but J.J. Putz seems determined in Spring Training to regain his old job in 2014.

Chicago Cubs – 1. Jose Veras, 2. Pedro Strop, 3. Blake Parker

Veras will lead the Cubbies this year and should see more save opportunities in Wrigleyville than he did while serving as the Astros’ closer.

Colorado Rockies – 1. LaTroy Hawkins, 2. Rex Brothers, 3. Wilton Lopez

While Brothers may have the job before season’s end, Hawkins will definitely start the season as closer in Denver.

Los Angeles Dodgers – 1. Kenley Jansen, 2. Brian Wilson, 3. Chris Perez

Jansen has the opportunity to learn from some stud relievers (Wilson, Perez, and Brandon League) and emerge as a top-tier closer in 2014.

Miami Marlins – 1. Steve Cishek, 2. Mike Dunn, 3. A.J. Ramos

After replacing Heath Bell, Cishek was quite the surprise in Miami last season and will look to build on his strong finish to 2013.

Milwaukee Brewers – 1. Jim Henderson, 2. Francisco Rodriguez, 3. Brandon Kintzler

With K-Rod’s recent foot injury (yes, he stepped on a cactus), Henderson has an even longer leash entering Opening Day.

New York Mets – 1. Bobby Parnell, 2. Vic Black, 3. Jose Valverde

Parnell has pitched without pain this Spring and should be the closer in Queens again this season – unless Jose Valverde storms through the minors and takes the gig.

Philadelphia Phillies – 1. Jonathan Papelbon, 2. Antonio Bastardo, 3. Justin De Fratus

Papelbon was much better than described last season, has regained his velocity this Spring and seems to be on track for another solid season.

Pittsburgh Pirates – 1. Jason Grilli, 2. Mark Melancon, 3. Vin Mazzaro

Grilli has looked good in Spring Training and may be ready to charge out of the gates once again (10 saves last April).

San Diego Padres – 1. Huston Street, 2. Joaquin Benoit, 3. Dale Thayer

Benoit’s presence will greatly improve the Padres bullpen, but Street is still the Padre’s guy in the ninth and should be in line for another solid season.

San Francisco Giants – 1. Sergio Romo, 2. Santiago Casilla, 3. Jeremy Affeldt

Romo is another closer who is going into a contract year and he’ll be pushed by Casilla and Affeldt all season long.

St. Louis Cardinals – 1. Trevor Rosenthal, 2. Kevin Siegrist, 3. Carlos Martinez

Rosenthal has the potential to be a top notch closer and Cards’ management would certainly love to see their faith in him rewarded with a 35+ save season.

Washington Nationals – 1. Rafael Soriano, 2. Tyler Clippard, 3. Drew Storen

Soriano is still getting the big bucks in DC and his job is safe for now, but Clippard is an elite setup man who might be worth a look if you’re trying to improve your fantasy bullpen.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates – An Updated Look at Position Battles

So far this preseason, we’ve given an in-depth preview of each division and their closer situations. Now that we’re on the cusp of Spring Training, it’s time to have an update on some of the ongoing position battles discussed earlier this preseason. The NL East and NL Central have both been fairly quiet, but there’s plenty happening elsewhere. We’ve got updates on the position battles in AL Central and NL West, as well as some new arrivals via free agency in the AL West and AL East.

Baltimore Orioles – When we first wrote about the Os bullpen, it seemed that Baltimore was one free agent away from having a new closer and the in-house competition was between Tommy Hunter and Darren O’Day. Now it looks like Tommy Hunter is leading the way and will have the first opportunity to close this Spring Training.

Chicago White Sox – During out AL Central preview, we took a look at the White Sox bullpen in the post-Addison Reed era. Frontrunner Nate Jones was the first injury in Spring Training with a mild strain. While the injury isn’t a big deal, it may give Ronald Belisario, Matt Lindstrom, or newcomer Mitchell Boggs a few extra days to earn favor with the brass.

Colorado Rockies – Manager Walt Weiss recently stated that Rex Brothers could get some save opportunities early in the season, depending on matchups. This may be a not-so-subtle hint that they’re ready for Brothers to be the guy in Mile High, so beware of drafting LaTroy Hawkins too early.

Houston Astros – Skipper Bo Porter has made it clear that figuring out the closer’s role would be a top priority this Spring Training. Chad Qualls may be the early favorite given his limited experience as a closer in three seasons with the Diamondbacks. Jesse Crain is still recovering from an October surgery and will be back in April, but probably not near Opening Day.

Seattle Mariners – When we first hit the presses on the AL West, Danny Farquhar seemed to have an edge for the gig over Tom Wilhelmsen. Then, Fernando Rodney was signed by the Mariners and took over the role. He should have fairly safe job security given the money they’re paying him in Seattle.

Tampa Bay Rays – Another bullpen compeittion which was settled by a free agent signing was in Tampa with Grant Balfour. Backed up by Heath Bell, Joel Peralta, and Jake McGee, Grant Balfour will be the closer and should have another strong season following a strong 2013 (2.59 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 10.3 K/9, 38 saves).

Texas Rangers – While there’s been plenty of talk about how Neftali Feliz is ready to take back the ninth inning (he’s reported to camp in the best shape of his career), Ron Washington recently said that he’ll wait a while before naming a closer. Besides Feliz, Joakim Soria and Tanner Scheppers are both viable candidates with potent stuff and give Texas the most comfortable bullpen battle in baseball.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closers Preseason Preview – NL West

As we wrap up the closer previews for 2014, we take a look at the American League West. With five clear starters (or frontrunners), there shouldn’t be too many shakeups between now and Opening Day. On the other hand, there are some very good setup men and more than one reliever capable of taking over the ninth in an instant.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Closer – Addison Reed

After coming to the desert from the Chicago White Sox, Addison Reed is poised to take over the ninth for Arizona. Although J.J. Putz will be trying to take his old job back, Reed should persevere and enter Opening Day as the Dbacks closer. With 69 saves over the last two seasons and a career 9.3 K/9, Reed should be consistent enough to keep Putz at bay.

Bold Prediction – Despite the fact that Reed beats Putz for the ninth inning gig, each of them pitch outstandingly and give the Diamondbacks an edge late in games. Reed has a 30+ save season and Putz ranks highly among holds leaders.

Who’s Lurking? – J.J. Putz has vowed that he will regain his job and should give Reed a run for his money in Spring Training. Although Putz was on the Disabled List twice last season and blew four saves in April, he held a 1.27 ERA in his last 27 appearances and really came back to form as the season ended. David Hernandez consistently holds a 9.0+ K/9 but is better suited for a setup role. Brad Ziegler may be the dark horse in this race, with a career 2.40 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 5.8 K/9, and 32 saves.

Colorado Rockies

Closer – LaTroy Hawkins

With Rafael Betancourt lost to free agency, the ninth inning should look a little different in Denver this season. Back with the Rockies, the 41-year-old Hawkins is the definition of journeyman reliever (11 teams thus far) and has been consistent, when healthy, over the years. Last season, Hawkins posted a respectable 2.93 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 7.0 K/9 last season in Queens and should have another strong year in the twilight of his career.

Bold Prediction – LaTroy Hawkins starts to run into trouble around the All-Star Game and Rex Brothers takes the job in the Mile High City. Brothers finishes the season with 25+ saves and is one of the best closers going into 2015.

Who’s Lurking? – In 2013, Brothers had a 30-inning scoreless streak and 19 saves after filling in for the injured Betancourt. With a career 2.82 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, and 11.2 K/9, Brothers has the stuff to dominate the ninth and just might take the job if Hawkins struggles early. Another young gun is Boone Logan, who had a solid 2013 season in 61 appearances (3.23 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 11.5 K/9) and has a closer’s profile. Adam Ottavino may not have a great spot in this race yet (2.64 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 9.0 K/9 last season), but could really bring himself into the conversation with a strong Spring Training.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Closer – Kenley Jansen

After Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman are gone, Kenley Jansen is your next best bet. With a scorching fastball and dominant strikeout rate, Jansen should be excited about his first full season in the closer’s seat. After starting last year as a setup guy, Jansen ended the season with 1.88 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 13.0 K/9, and 28 saves, and has the stuff to be among the game’s best.

Bold Prediction – Kenley Jansen surpasses Kimbrel and Chapman in his first full year as closer. The Dodgers starting rotation puts Jansen in position for 40+ saves and he posts an unbelievable 14.5 K/9.

Who’s Lurking? – The Dodgers have a very interesting bullpen to back up Jansen with a trio of former All-Stars and 377 career saves. Chris Perez, the two-time All-Star, has a career 3.41 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 8.7 K/9, and four consecutive 20+ save seasons. Brian Wilson, the three-time All-Star with a very dark beard, is also in Los Angeles after 18 appearances last season (0.66 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 8.6 K/9). Brandon League, the last musketeer with one former All-Star appearance, had 14 saves at the beginning of the year but eventually lost the job to Jansen. Another interesting candidate is sophomore Chris Withrow, who posted a 2.60 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 11.2 K/9 in 26 appearances.

San Diego Padres

Closer – Huston Street

Unlike many traditional closers, Huston Street is a closer that relies on finesse rather than pure power. With a strong last season (33 of 35 save opportunities, 2.70 ERA, 1.02 WHIP), Street is poised to have another good year in San Diego. Recently acquired Joaquin Benoit may give Street some competition, but he should march through Spring Training with few issues.

Bold Prediction – Despite the fact that Benoit is on the scene, Huston Street has another strong season in San Diego (29 saves, 2.92 ERA, 1.10 ERA) by depending on his accuracy rather than his power.

Who’s Lurking? – New to the Padres is Joaquin Benoit, who saved 25 games in Detroit last season (2.01 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 8.6 K/9). Benoit was brought in to replace Luke Gregerson (who was shipped to Oakland in the offseason) and should immediately bolster the bullpen. Dale Thayer completed his first full season in the Major Leagues last year and performed admirably (3.32 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 8.9 K/9). Another competitor is Alex Torres, who came to San Diego from the Tampa Bay Rays after a strong season (career 1.91 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 9.7 K/9).

San Francisco Giants

Closer – Sergio Romo

Sergio Romo will take over the ninth inning for San Francisco after 38 saves in 2013. With a career 2.29 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 10.3 K/9, Romo is a traditional fireballer who can close the door in the eighth. With some strong bullpen support but little internal competition, Romo should enter the season by saving games early and often.

Bold Prediction – Romo chases 40 saves in 2014 and comes just short with another 38-save season. Although his overall saves number remains the same, Romo lowers his ERA and WHIP, while still posting a 10.0+ K/9.

Who’s Lurking? – With the benefit of great setup man Santiago Casilla, the Padres will be able put Romo in plenty of traditional save opportunities. Casilla had a strong 2013 (2.16 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 6.8 K/9) and will be ready to contribute in the eighth. Jeremy Affeldt, another late inning reliever, may be simply waiting around for his opportunity for Romo and Casilla to struggle. Lastly, Heath Hembree had a very strong year in 2013 (0.00 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 14.1 K/9) and will have something to prove in his sophomore season.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closers Preseason Preview – NL Central

Like its American League counterpart, the National League central has both fresh faces (Rosenthal and Veras) and returning closers (Chapman, Grilli, and Henderson). The three returning closers carry a strong pedigree (with 99 combined saves last season), but will face a serious challenge from the young guns for the 2014 NL Central Closer gold medal. If the race for the division title comes down to intra-division matchups, the closers below may just decide who gets a shot at the pennant.

Chicago Cubs

Closer – Jose Veras

After being moved from Houston to Detroit last July, Veras has landed in Wrigleyville for the 2014 season. Fresh off his first 20+ save season, he’s ready to bring much-needed consistency to the Cubbies’ bullpen. The right-handed veteran reliever carries a career 9.3 K/9 and hopes to help Chicago forget about last year’s Carlos Marmol experience (who was designated for assignment after a dismal 5.68 ERA in 31 appearances). Should Veras develop under pitching coach Chris Bosio, he will likely have even more success than he had in the American League last season (21 saves, 3.02 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 8.6 K/9).

Bold Prediction – Chicago will win far more games than the Astros did last year, giving Jose Veras his first season with 30+ saves and 80+ strikeouts. With the development of the other young relievers, he leads a talented bullpen and makes the rest of baseball take notice.

Who’s Lurking? -  The Cubs are fortunate enough to have a number of young relievers going into 2014. Pedro Strop pitched well after coming over from Baltimore last season (2.83 ERA, 0.94 WHIP) and has a career 9.1 K/9. After making Chicago’s Opening Day roster in 2013, right-handed reliever Hector Rondon settled in well and had a 3.20 ERA after the All-Star break. Blake Parker, who had a 2.72 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 10.7 K/9 in 49 appearances last season, should not be overlooked either. James Russell, the team’s only consistent lefty over last two years, should post some solid numbers as well, but will be grateful for not having to shoulder the load (151 appearances over the last two seasons).

Cincinnati Reds

Closer – Aroldis Chapman

There is little doubt that Chapman will be the closer in Cincy this season, as the lefty has been dominant since inheriting the job in 2012. Last season, the strikeout artist had a 2.54 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 15.8 K/9 en route to 38 saves. Although he slightly lags behind Craig Kimbrel in terms of strikeout rate, Chapman is certainly the cream of the crop when it comes to closers and is worth an early round draft pick. Given the Reds’ offensive potential, he could be easily looking at another 38-save season (his save total in 2012 & 2013) with a K/9 higher than 15.0.

Bold Prediction – Aroldis Chapman breaks past the 38-save barrier and jumps ahead of Kimbrel as the game’s best closer. Despite the fact that his average pitch velocity drops for the fourth consecutive year, Chapman’s control is better than ever and he chases a 16.5 K/9 – easily making him the most valuable closer in the big leagues.

Who’s Lurking? – After losing the closer’s job to Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Broxton has struggled to stay healthy. Because Broxton is still a top setup man (career 10.7 K/9), he should have a number of holds for the Redlegs this year. Young righty J.J. Hoover had three saves during an excellent 2013 season (2.61 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 9.1 K/9) and may get a crack at the gig if the injury bug hits. Sam LeCure is also a candidate after a strong 2013 (2.66 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 63 appearances) and a respectable career 8.7 K/9. When Ryan Madson went down in 2012, Sean Marshall initially got the job but performed poorly enough for Chapman to take the ninth. There’s little doubt the Reds have forgotten and Marshall is probably on the outside looking in.

Milwaukee Brewers

Closer – Jim Henderson

Given his admirable performance last season (converted 28 saves of 33 opportunities, 2.70 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 11.3 K/9) and the Brewers’ lack of activity in the closer free agent market, right-handed journeyman Jim Henderson will likely be the closer in Milwaukee on Opening Day. Given that Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford were both traded away last season, Henderson has a fairly long leash in terms of job security and will be given the opportunity to work through any issues before being pulled.

Bold Prediction – Jim Henderson is so good that he reminds the Brewers faithful of Trevor Hoffman’s first season in Milwaukee. By limiting his blown saves and staying healthy, Henderson easily passes the 35-save mark with another 11.0+ K/9 season.

Who’s Lurking? – Brandon Kintzler is an above average setup guy and he should return to the eighth after a solid 2013 (71 appearances, 27 holds, 2.69 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 6.8 K/9). While he may be first in line if Henderson struggles, Brewers management could elect to keep him in a setup role simply because he’s a ground ball pitcher. Second-year relievers Jimmy Nelson (0.90 ERA in 10 innings last season, with a 0.70 WHIP and 7.2 K/9) and Rob Wooten (27.2 innings pitched, 3.90 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 5.9 K/9 in 2013) will both have a chance to prove themselves throughout spring training. Tom Gorzelanny is still the bullpen’s only steady lefty, so look for him to remain outside of this race for now.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Closer – Jason Grilli

After being named the closer before Opening Day 2013, Grilli hit the ground closing. After 10 saves in April, he went on a stretch of pure dominance and even pitched the ninth inning for the National League in last year’s All-Star Game (33 of 35 save opportunities, 2.70 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 13.3 K/9 last season). However, Grilli fell to a forearm injury and left the job open for Mark Melancon, who performed admirably in Grilli’s stead (16 saves, 1.39 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 8.9 K/9). By returning before the playoffs began, Grilli regained the trust of Pittsburgh management and will be the closer again in 2014.

Bold Prediction – Jason Grilli charges out of the gate with an April similar to last season (11.0 innings pitched, 10 saves, 1 earned run, 17 strikeouts) and makes any questions about lingering forearm issues a thing of the past. The dynamic duo of Grilli and Melancon give the Buccos baseball’s best one-two punch.

Who’s Lurking? – With Melancon a premier setup man, he is most likely to step into the ninth if Grilli becomes injured again. Although Vin Mazzaro (2.81 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) and Tony Watson (2.39 ERA, 0.88 WHIP) both pitched well last season, they will remain in a setup role for the time being. Justin Wilson is a dependable lefty for the Pirates (2.08 ERA and 1.16 WHIP last year), but he’ll need to separate himself from this talented pack if he wants a sniff at the ninth.

St. Louis Cardinals

Closer – Trevor Rosenthal

Going into spring training, the favorite for the St. Louis closer gig is Trevor Rosenthal. Although this comes with some debate (as Rosenthal could be moved to the starting rotation), he seems to be the best option for the Cards in 2014. With Edward Mujica in Boston, the fireballer hopes to build on the three saves he earned last season (3 saves, 2.63 ERA, 1.10 WHIP) and his strong postseason performance (four saves). Given his 12.9 K/9 and an average pitch speed of 96.4 mph, Rosenthal might just provide great draft day value this season.

Bold Prediction – At this time next year, baseball fans will start to wonder if Rosenthal is the best closer in the NL Central. Rosenthal has the build of a prototypical closer, with a tremendous strikeout rate, and is throwing nearly as fast as Aroldis Chapman. If Chapman doesn’t stay healthy and the Cardinals keep winning ball games, Rosenthal may just keep trending upward until he’s at the top.

Who’s Lurking? – If Rosenthal does not have success in the ninth, St. Louis might be in some serious trouble. Jason Motte is still recovering from Tommy John surgery and will miss the early part of the season. Sophomore Carlos Martinez is talented, but also very raw (5.08 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, and 7.6 K/9 in 2013) and needs to prove he can be consistent. Fellow second-year reliever Kevin Siegrist may be the real dark horse in this race (0.45 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 11.3 K/9 last season) and could emerge if Rosenthal struggles early.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closers Preseason Preview – AL Central

Welcome to the American League Central, another division wrought with uncertainty at the closer position and looking very different than Opening Day 2013. The AL Central brings us a few returning favorites (Holland and Perkins), but also features a great deal of change via the free agent or trade market (see Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit). Unlike some of the steadier divisions, these teams should give bullpen fans plenty to watch for this season.

Chicago White Sox

Closer – Ongoing Position Battle (Ronald Belisario, Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom)

Once Addison Reed was shipped to the desert to pitch for Arizona, the battle for White Sox closer began. Although Chicago GM Rick Hahn doesn’t feel the need to name a closer at this juncture, there are plenty of solid candidates. The current favorite is fireballer Nate Jones, who led the White Sox in relief appearances over the previous two seasons (to go along with a career 9.3 K/9) and has earned Hahn’s trust in his first two seasons.  Should the White Sox opt for experience, Matt Lindstrom has 45 career saves (with stints as closer for the Marlins and Astros). Lindstrom may not be the prototypical candidate (3.12 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, and 6.8 K/9 in 2013), but he does have the know-how to get the job done. After being non-tendered by the Dodgers this offseason, Ronald Belisario was also brought in to compete and the sinkerballer carries a career 3.29 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 7.5 K/9.

Bold Prediction – Nate Jones enters camp with the closer job and earns his first save on Opening Day. Although the White Sox lose more games than they win, Jones continues to develop his repertoire and starts striking out lefties at a better rate. Despite the fact that Jones’ save total save is rather low, he has the highest K/9 of all AL Central closers.

Cleveland Indians

Closer – John Axford

Last season Axford lost his job in Milwaukee after four treacherous outings (0-2, 1 blown save, 22.10 ERA) and never had a chance to earn the ninth back. For those who know Axford’s career, remember that he’s struggled before and managed to bounce back. If he exerted himself too much during last offseason while representing Canada in the World Baseball Classic, he may have simply had a bad start and could be a prime candidate to return to form this season (career 3.29 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and 10.8 K/9).

Bold Prediction – After being traded to the Cardinals on August 30, Axford spent time with the St. Louis pitching staff and All-Star catcher Yadier Molina to correct some minor flaws in his delivery. Entering his sixth season, Axford bursts back on the scene in 2014 and places himself back among the next wave of good young closers.

Who’s Lurking? – Career middle reliever Vinnie Pestano is still on the roster and earned six saves for the Tribe last June. If Axford struggles mightily, Pestano might be next in line to audition for the gig. Don’t forget about the right-handers Cody Allen or Bryan Shaw, each of whom performed well last season in Cleveland. Of the two, Cody Allen has the most potential (with a career 2.81 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and 10.4 K/9) and may develop this season as a premier setup man.

Detroit Tigers

Closer – Joe Nathan

The Detroit closer situation will be substantially different this season and the Tiger faithful could not be happier. Solving a major pain point, the three-time defending AL Central champions found a solution in 39-year-old Nathan, who went 6-2 with 43 saves for the Texas Rangers (1.39 ERA, 0.897 WHIP, 10.2 K/9) in 2013. Although there are always age concerns with a pitcher going into his 14th season, Nathan has made a career of being consistent (by averaging 31 saves a season) and should continue to dominate the ninth inning this season.

Bold Prediction – Nathan has been a model of consistency over the years and 2014 proves to be quite the opposite. Over the first few months of the season, it’s clear that Nathan has lost velocity and can no longer pitch himself out of trouble. Although Nathan struggles early in the season, he finishes the season as the Tigers’ closer and performs well enough in the playoffs to keep his job in 2015.

Who’s Lurking? – With Joaquin Benoit, Jose Veras, and Octavio Dotel all gone via free agency, and Drew Smyly set to return to the starting rotation, the Tigers’ bullpen this spring training will look dramatically different than a year ago. This season, expect Bruce Rondon, Joba Chamberlain, and Al Alburquerque to fight for the eighth inning gig. If Nathan’s fastball begins to slow because of age, expect these three to be constantly jockeying for the role. Joba Chamberlain has more experience as a reliever (260 career appearances), but the Tigers seem to have placed a great deal of faith in Rondon - who hasn’t exactly matched up to expectations thus far (30 appearances, 3.45 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and 9.4 K/9). Alburquerque pitched frequently last season and is a darkhorse candidate simply because of the fact that the Tigers know him the best (53 appearances in 2013, despite a 4.59 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, and 12.9 K/9 last season).

Kansas City Royals

Closer – Greg Holland

When Jonathan Broxton was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 2012, Holland took the ninth inning and never looked back. In his first full season as closer, Holland set the Royals’ single season saves record by converting 47 of 50 save opportunities. The 2013 All-Star finished ninth in AL Cy Young voting with a dominant season (68 appearances, 1.21 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 13.8 K/9) and could be standing at the cusp of greatness. If KC continues to give him save opportunities, expect Holland to have another great season.

Bold Prediction – Greg Holland keeps it going and breaks his own Kansas City single season saves record by converting 48 saves in 2014, pushing him over the 100 save plateau in only his second season as a full-time closer. Despite the fact that the Royals miss the postseason, Holland again places in the top 10 for Cy Young voting.

Who’s Lurking? – Kansas City has the benefit of possessing a trio of young, but experienced, relievers in Luke Hochevar, Aaron Crow, and Kelvin Herrera. Although Hochevar is not a flamethrower like Crow and Herrera (possessing a career 6.6 K/9), he has a variety of pitches, performed quite well last season (70.1 innings pitched, 1.92 ERA, and 0.83 WHIP), and should have the first chance if Holland goes down to injury or inconsistency. Crow (9.0 career K/9) and Herrera (9.4 career K/9) are both strikeout pitchers with a handful of saves over the past two seasons. If both Holland and Hochevar struggle, expect Crow and Herrera to battle it out.

Minnesota Twins

Closer – Glen Perkins

After Matt Capps’ injury in 2012, Perkins took the Twins’ closer job and earned 16 saves before the season ended. Similar to Greg Holland, last season was Perkins’ first as full-time closer and he performed better than expected (36 saves, 2.30 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 11.1 K/9). Assuming that last year was not a fluke, Perkins has begun to establish himself as a reliable closer.

Bold Prediction – Perkins was named to the All-Star Game last season as an injury replacement and demonstrated, through the rest of the season, that he was worthy of the honor. This year, Perkins comes out of the gate with a charge and is named to the All-Star game again (but not as an injury replacement) while chasing Holland and Nathan for the AL Central’s best closer title.

Who’s Lurking? – The Twins seem comfortable with Jared Burton as Perkins’ setup man and he’s earned that trust over the past two seasons in Minnesota (135 appearances, 45 holds, and 4 blown saves). If Perkins falls from grace, look for Burton to be first in line. Casey Fien, who pitched admirably last season in the Twin Cities (73 appearances, 3.92 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 10.6 K/9), may also be a candidate. Flying under the radar is Brian Duensing, who earned his first career save last season (73 appearances, 15 holds, 3 blown saves) and any struggles from Perkins, Burton, or Fien should move him up the depth chart quickly.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates: End of Season Edition (As, Astros, Bucs, Cubbies, Tribe, White Sox)

As the regular season comes to an end, it’s time to close up our weekly Closer Updates column. Unlike previous weeks, there’s been some movement in closer circles this week and we’ll be happy to bring it to you. With further ado, let’s close out the season’s closer updates…

Astros

As always, Houston’s closer role is a constant question. However, it appears that Josh Fields has finally taken control of the position. Despite the fact that the Astros have not had a traditional save opportunity in the last week, Josh Fields is the guy to own in Houston. Despite a lackluster performance in the role, he’ll remain the guy over Chia-Jen Lo and Kevin Chapman for the season’s last few games.

Athletics

Fortunately for the A's, Grant Balfour has bounced back into form this last week. Although the Athletics have not had a traditional save opportunity, Balfour performed well in his Monday night performance with three strikeouts in one inning. Sorry, Ryan Cook owners. Clearly, the Athletics are still backing their guy and if he returns to mid-season form, they will be tough in the playoffs.

Cardinals

As the Cards chase home field advantage in the playoffs, Edward Mujica’s recent struggles have become too much to bear and they've installed Trevor Rosenthal in the closer role. While it's been said this move is temporary, St. Louis will likely stick with the hot hand.

Cubs

Last week, we announced that Pedro Strop would be receiving some save opportunities in place of Kevin Gregg. So far, those words have remained true. Last Saturday, Strop earned the save in a dazzling three-strikeout ninth inning. However, he was returned to the eighth inning setup role on Wednesday and Gregg earned the save. Consider it to be 50/50 shot this weekend as to who gets the call.

Indians

Although Cleveland has repeatedly stated that Chris Perez is still the closer, the writing is on the wall that somebody else might have the gig shortly. With the Indians in the midst of a playoff race, the closer position is not one they can afford to have in flux. Although Cody Allen has been tremendous this season, Joe Smith is likely the first to get the call.

Pirates

The battle for the Pirates closer job has yet another development. This week, it appears that Jason Grilli has regained the ninth and will continue to do so in the future (per Pittsburgh’s skipper). After struggling on consecutive nights, Mark Melancon yielded the role and Grilli has clearly earned enough confidence to be the Buccos’ closer through the playoffs.

White Sox

Addison Reed. Despite a superb season thus far, Reed has struggled mightily of late and had two blown saves in the last week. Because the White Sox are not jockeying for playoff position, don’t expect them to turn to Nate Jones with only a few games remaining.

Add-ition

Although journeyman LaTroy Hawkins is the Mets' closer from here on out, manager Terry Collins gave a save opportunity to Vic Black last week due to Hawkins’ heavy workload. Although it’s speculative, Collins may give Black another shot with the Mets so far out of postseason contention.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or drop, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.





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