Closer Updates


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.



Closer Updates: A’s, Astros, Bucs, Cubs & Rangers

This week, there’s been a shakeup in Chicago, a development in Houston, some potential trouble by the Bay, and minor updates from Texas and western Pennsylvania. Basically, we’ll be digging into some updates from all over the place and hopefully give you a little something to push you through those fantasy playoffs.

Astros

Ugh. In the last week, Houston has had only one save opportunity and it went to Josh Fields. Because Fields has the last three save opportunities for the Astros, he seems like the guy to own if you’re really looking for those saves. Despite struggling earlier in the season, he’s rebounded nicely in the past month (2.00 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 9.00 K/9) and Chia-Jen Lo hasn’t done much to impress over the same time (7.84 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, 9.58 K/9).

Athletics

What in the world is eating Grant Balfour? A consistent closer all season, Balfour has struggled mightily of late. In his last 9.2 innings, he has one blown save, six earned runs, and allowed 17 base runners. While his job is not necessarily at stake, it’s quite possible that the A’s look to Ryan Cook if this continues. Cook has been a little rocky lately too, but he’ll be their first alternative plan for the ninth. With the Athletics looking to clinch the AL West, they’ll want to get Balfour rested and stop those ninth innings from slipping away.

Cubs

On Thursday afternoon, manager Dale Sveum declared that Pedro Strop would be receiving some save opportunities over the remainder of the season. While the exact time share, if any, is yet to be determined, it’s clear that they're trying out Strop for next season’s closer gig. Despite the highly productive Kevin Gregg, the Cubs are certainly looking to the future and Gregg isn't that guy. If you’re scrambling for saves at the end of the season, Strop may be an ideal waiver wire pickup as he’s widely available in leagues across all platforms.

Pirates

While it seemed that the Buccos were trying to bring Jason Grilli back to the ninth, that plan may be on hold for now. While Grilli has begun to regain his form, he may remain a potent reliever instead of a saves guy over the last few weeks. Rather than simply re-inserting him into the closer role, he will likely be setting up Mark Melancon and, unless Melancon struggles or is injured, it’s clear Pittsburgh is comfortable with him closing games for here on out. Melancon owners shouldn’t be concerned about his recent blown save as he’d converted nine consecutive saves prior to Wednesday.

Rangers

While Joe Nathan is certainly not at risk to lose his job, the once-depleted Rangers bullpen is becoming fully healthy for the first time in a long time. Tanner Scheppers has excelled as a setup man, with an incredibly strong season (1.99 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 6.62 K/9). However, a friendly competition may be brewing between Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz. Both are rebounding from significant injuries and have the stuff to be top closers if in the right position. Since returning in July, Soria has had 22 appearances and only allowed runs in four of them. While that is not an elite record, his six holds and 10.18 K/9 show that he’s starting to show glimpses of old times. On the other hand, Feliz has looked great, with no earned runs, a 1.29 WHIP, and 7.71 K/9 since returning at the beginning of September. If Soria and Feliz come around, the Rangers bullpen will have a surplus of weapons headed into the playoff chase.

Add-Vice

Should you be desperate for a save this weekend, B.J. Rosenberg may be a nice speculative pickup. He has dazzled in the last month (1.59 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 11.12 K/9) and simultaneously taken over the eighth inning in Philly. Jonathan Papelbon’s struggles this season are well documented, so Rosenberg may be in for a save or two in the last two weeks.

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.



Closer Updates: Astros, Cubbies, Mets, Pirates & Tigers

Once again, the closer newswire has been fairly calm this week. Although this is unfortunate for fantasy managers hoping to scavenge a save in the midst of the playoffs, it does allow us to take a look at some bullpens that might otherwise go ignored.

Astros

At this point, it wouldn’t be a Closer Updates article without some attempt to figure out what’s been going on in Houston since Jose Veras was sent to Detroit. The only traditional save opportunity this week went to Josh Fields, who gave up a solo shot but still converted his fourth save of the season. It seems that Fields is the best option to own in this unpredictable bullpen, as Chia-Jen Lo struggled this week with a blown save on Monday. Fields is not setting the world on fire for the Astros, but he is converting the few saves that come his way.

Cubs

After starting the season with the Carlos Marmol experiment, Chicago quickly turned to journeyman closer Kevin Gregg at the end of April and were handsomely rewarded. Gregg is six saves away from his career high (37) and is posting a career-best 3.00 ERA. That being said, Gregg is definitely not the future closer in Wrigleyville and Pedro Strop could step into the ninth for the occasional save opportunity before the season ends. If he succeeds, Strop could be the guy going into next season.

Mets

As soon as it looks like LaTroy Hawkins has a firm grip on the ninth in Queens, guess who comes storming back from oblivion? Bobby Parnell? Nope. The immortal Billy Wagner? Sadly, no. The one and only Frank Francisco has returned to the Mets bullpen with fervor and gusto. In his first appearance back, Francisco earned the win in 0.2 innings (with one walk and no earned runs or strike outs). However, he’s been a little rocky since that first victory and manager Terry Collins doesn’t quite seem ready to pitch him in back-to-back days, let alone give him the ninth. However, the Mets have been patient with his recovery and may be willing to give him some save opportunities before the season ends.

Pirates

The time for Jason Grilli’s return to the closer role is nearly upon us. While Mark Melancon may be in the Pirates’ plans for next year, they are not paying Grilli to be a set up guy in 2013. Since returning to the bigs, Jason Grilli has been a little rusty but his recent promotion to higher-leverage situations indicates that he’ll being put in a position to regain his old gig sooner rather than later. Stayed tune and don’t be surprised if he’s officially the closer (again) by the time Closer Updates comes out next week.

Tigers

After beginning the year as one of the more precarious closer situations, Detroit has sorted out their bullpen situation quite nicely. With an early carousel of Phil Coke, Drew Smyly, and Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit emerged as the best and most dependable of the bunch. With a 2.05 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, Benoit has posted 18 saves and firmly held onto the closer role in Motown. Former Astros closer Jose Veras was acquired via trade and has been a holds machine since coming to the Tigers, while continuing to build on his solid season stats (2.88 ERA, 1.01 WHIP). With the emergence of Benoit and the acquisition of Veras, Detroit has gone from shaky shoals to smooth sailing in the bullpen seas.

Add-Vice

Due to the relatively quiet closer scene lately, much of our Add-Vice is speculative and this week is no different. If you’re in the middle of a playoff chase for your league title, Kelvin Herrera may be a sneaky pickup. Although he’s not a closer, he is a setup guy with a tremendous strikeout rate (11.4 K/9) who grabs a win from time to time (two in August). If you’ve got an open pitcher spot, he can add to your K's and maybe grab you that one win you’ll need to get over the top this week.

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.



Closer Updates: Angels, Astros, BoSox, Marlins, & Pirates

For the most part, this week has been all quiet on the closer front. That means, in addition to regular updates, we’ll toss in a taste of next year by looking at a couple of closers who didn’t start the season with a firm grip on the ninth but have proven themselves thus far and seem to be going into 2014 with closer credentials.

Angels

The war may not be over, but the battle for the Halos closer seems to be done. Ernesto Frieri is earning back the skipper’s trust with three consecutive saves and nine consecutive appearances without allowing an earned run. Dane De La Rosa has performed admirably in his mini-audition for the gig (with an August ERA of 0.97) and he’ll be trusted with saves if Frieri is on short rest moving forward. If Frieri struggles again, he’ll be the first to step in and may even be able to steal a win or two down the stretch in relief situations.

Astros

The struggle for the Astros’ ninth inning continues. While the battle for Angels’ closer is more of a fistfight, the Houston position battle is a thumb war. Josh Fields had only one appearance in the last week, allowing one run and earning the hold. Then, he received the four-out save opportunity on Thursday night and converted with relative ease (he did not allow a walk or strike out a batter). Chia-Jen Lo, on the other hand, has seen his season ERA balloon to 5.25 after allowing four runs in one inning on Monday. This may have led the Astros to give Fields the most recent opportunity and if he can continue not to blow saves, the job might be his. That being said, tread lightly as any of these guys can be a serious liability across the fantasy board until one can prove himself in consecutive outings.

Marlins

When you think about dominant closers, you certainly do not think about Steve Cishek. And while the term dominant may be too bold, Cishek’s numbers aren’t too far off from the good stuff (29 saves, 2.52 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.75 K/9). If the Marlins were in a position to win more ballgames, Cishek could be a top closer. While his historical numbers aren’t the greatest, his contract isn’t high and he’ll likely have the Marlins gig in 2014. If they go on a spending spree this offseason, he may be a serious sleeper next year.

Pirates

Since we last visited the Steel City, Mark Melancon was proving to be a great replacement to Jason Grilli, who was rehabbing with the anticipation of an early September return. In that time period, lots have changed. Grilli’s return to the major leagues came in a blowout, putting very little pressure on the 30 save closer. He performed well, striking out two Brewers in one inning and proving his effectiveness. Look for him to get a few higher pressure outings this week before being inserted back into the closer’s role.

Red Sox

While Koji Uehara may be in dominant form now, the early debate was whether him or Junichi Tazawa would get the closer’s gig in Beantown. Koji took the job and ran with it, having a great 2013 season. With a severely depleted bullpen, Boston has leaned on Uehara and he’s delivered. Despite the return of many guys from injury, he could be their closer in 2014 or, at the very least, serious trade bait in the offseason. If you’re in a keeper league and snagged him off the waiver wire earlier in the year, keep this in mind.

Add-Vice

After triumphing in the battle for Seattle, Danny Farquhar has proven to be quite the ninth inning guy. He’s put up six saves in the last two weeks, with only one earned run in his last nine appearances. Furthermore, he’s striking out more than a batter an inning over that stretch and could be the guy in Seattle going into next 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 drop, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates: Angels, Astros, Orioles, Pirates, & Rockies

Welcome back! This week we’ll take a look at two position battles and provide some insight into other happenings in the closer world. Without “hold”ing you up, it’s time to “close” the introduction and “save” you from any more of these puns...

Angels

The Battle for Los Angeles Angels closer continued this week with yet another save split. Ernesto Frieri had two saves in three innings, looking good in his quasi-triumphant return to the ninth inning. In those appearances, Frieri gave up no runs, allowed one hit and one walk, with a K/9 of 9.0. On the other hand, Dane De La Rosa has pitched well with one save in 2.3 innings over the same time span. Although not as flashy, he’s been effective by scattering groundballs and popping batters up, giving up two walks, no earned runs and no hits. Although we’re not quite sure if Frieri has re-taken the reins out west, he’s well on his way to having the gig back.

Astros

If you’re looking for another closer job up for grabs, take a gander at Houston. This week, Jordan Lyles has the Astros' only save and he started against the Mariners on Thursday. While Chia-Jen Lo struggled in one appearance, Josh Fields has steadily made a strong case for himself. Since our last column, Fields has had four appearances and impressed with his consistency (2.2 innings pitched, two hits, four strikeouts, no walks or earned runs). Right now, Fields seems like the guy to own. If you’re really looking for a sleeper, Kevin Chapman has been a good reliever for Houston and, despite his atypical closer profile (groundball guy, low K/9), he could inherit the role by default.

Orioles

Despite last week’s Tommy Hunter scare, it seems that Jim Johnson is still the guy to own in Baltimore. The closer-by-committee approach may have just been a motivation tactic, or may still prove to be true once the O's get a few more save opportunities, but Johnson has both of their saves in the last week and has pitched well since his struggles a few weeks ago.

Pirates

First-half stud Jason Grilli is still rehabbing from his forearm injury, but his progression is coming along nicely. On Wednesday, Grilli completed a simulated game and could return to Pittsburgh within the next two weeks. That being said, his promotion to the big leagues depends on his performance in AA (Saturday) and back-to-back gigs in AAA (early next week). If Grilli performs well, he’ll be back in the majors and pressuring Mark Melancon for his job back. Whether or not Grilli is given the ninth inning immediately is still unclear, but you’ll be in the loop when we find out.

Rockies

This just in, Rafael Betancourt’s injury was as serious as everyone thought. It appears he’ll undergo Tommy John surgery and the rest of his career may be in doubt. That being said, Rex Brothers is still the guy to own here and moving forward (especially if you’re in a keeper or dynasty league). It’s been clear in Denver that Brothers was their closer-of-the-future, but that time is now. With a career 11.1 K/9, Rex has the stuff and will be a good-to-great closer for quite some time.

Add-Vice

While it may have snuck past some, do not think that we haven’t noticed Drew Storen’s slow and steady return to the Nats’ bullpen. After struggling mightily at the beginning of the season and spending some time in the minors (5.47 ERA in 2013), Storen has regained a spot in the 7th inning. Since his return at the beginning of August, he’s had a very serviceable 7.0 innings (2.57 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 2 Ks). While Tyler Clippard is still ahead of him in the depth chart, Washington has always preferred to keep Clippard in a setup role. The Nationals are definitely not paying Rafael Soriano for long relief, but if he continues to struggle (giving up at least one run in five of his last nine appearances) and Storen keeps on keeping on, don’t be surprised to see him get a shot at the ninth.

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.



Closer Updates: Astros, Halos, O's, Pirates, Rockies and White Sox

Welcome back to the wide world of closers. As always, there have been a number of changes in the closer universe this week and we’ll be sure to explore them all. With further ado, to the ninth inning and beyond!

Angels

The battle for the Halos’ closer gig continued this week, with the first full round of Dane De La Rosa vs. Ernestro Frieri. Over the last seven days, De La Rosa has allowed one run in 2.2 innings, with three walks and strikeouts. Far from dazzling, Dane did not earn any saves in that time frame. On the other hand, Frieri has not earned a save either, but has pitched somewhat better than De La Rosa over the same stretch. In 3.0 innings this week, Ernesto has given up no runs, one walk and added six strikeouts. As you read, Ernesto Frieri is on the right track to getting his job back.

Astros

The Astros closer job remains an absolute mystery. At this point, Josh Fields and Chia-Jen Lo  are battling for a baseball rarity, the elusive Houston save opportunity. After appearing for the Astros last Friday night, where he earned the loss (1.1 innings pitched, two hits, one earned run), Josh Fields has not appeared since. Conversely, Chia-Jen Lo has had a similar performance history lately. He also appeared only once in the past week, earning a loss to the Rangers (1.2 innings pitched, one hit, one earned run, two walks). Regardless of which horse you back in this race, tread carefully. Neither of these pitchers have proven themselves in the ninth inning and both could be replaced at the drop of a hat.

Orioles

On Wednesday, Baltimore allowed Tommy Hunter to earn his fourth save of the season. While the Orioles have yet to publicly announce they’ve gone closer by committee, look for Tommy Hunter to continue to have save opportunities if Jim Johnson continues to struggle. The same can be said for Francisco Rodriguez, who will be leaned upon in the ninth if Jim Johnson performance requires it. On a side note, Tommy Hunter has SP-eligibility in a number of leagues if you’re looking for a way to fill one of those spots with a reliever.

Pirates

On Tuesday, injured closer Jason Grilli threw off a slope and he ended the week with a bullpen session. Assuming all has goes well, Jason will be throwing from a full mound within the week and should return to the big leagues by September 1st. While this is not great news for Mark Melancon owners, who has been outstanding in Grilli’s stead, it is great for the Buccos bullpen. Furthermore, Melancon may still have value as a top setup guy once Grilli returns to the ninth.

Rockies

Rafael Betancourt’s return from injury was both brief and not-so-sweet. After returning to the ninth inning role, Rafael left Thursday’s game with a serious elbow injury. While his immediate availability is definitely out of the question, the injury could be season-ending and impact next season if major surgery is necessary. Therefore, look for Rex Brothers to regain the closer’s role and keep it for the rest of the season. Brothers has been great on the year and will be a solid saves option for fantasy owners as the playoffs approach.

White Sox

White Sox closer Addison Reed has been scorching this August (12.1 innings pitched, 0.73 ERA, nine saves). Furthermore, Reed converted a save in six straight games this week, a feat which hasn’t been accomplished since the days of Eric Gagne. Although Chicago is not a lock for regular save chances, Reed may be an elite option for the rest of the season if the White Sox offense can put him in a position to close.

Add-Vice

As you may have noticed, Brian “Fear the Beard” Wilson returned to the mound this week for the Los Angeles Dodgers. While this advice is more speculative than anything else, Wilson may be able to scavenge the occasional save for Los Angeles as we head down the stretch. If he returns to form, consider him a top setup guy from here on out.

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.





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