Closers


Closers Preseason Preview: AL East

Editor's Note: The above byline is sadly inaccurate. Though posted by the writer whose name appears there, the work and writing of this article is from Luckey Helms.

Welcome to yet another year of fantasy baseball! As the big leaguers start to fine tune their skills for spring training, we’ll be helping you sharpen up the old fantasy toolkit. To start, we’ll explore each division and bring you the best insight on position battles, newly signed setup men, and any potential closers lurking in the wings. At the end of this series, we’ll give a clearer ranking system of the closer world – showing you who to snag, avoid, and root for in 2014… 

Baltimore Orioles

Closer – Ongoing Position Battle (Tommy Hunter & Darren O’Day)

There will certainly be some changes in the Baltimore bullpen this season. After trading away last year’s MLB saves leader Jim Johnson and bailing on Grant Balfour after a recent failed physical, the O's may still be on the market for a closer. That being said, their currently constructed roster sets up for a battle between Tommy Hunter and Darren O’Day, each of whom had their chances last season. Hunter posted a 2.81 ERA and 0.99 WHIP, with four saves and a 7.1 K/9. On the other hand, O’Day had similar numbers (2.18 ERA, 1.00 WHIP), but only converted two saves with his 8.6 K/9. Although Hunter converted a couple more saves last season, O’Day fits the mold of prototypical closer better and may take the job simply because of his ability to get batters to swing and miss more often.  

Bold Prediction – Darren O’Day wins the closer gig during spring training, the Orioles stay away from the closer free agent market (Kevin Gregg, Fernando Rodney, and Francisco Rodriguez), and O’Day puts up numbers similar to Jim Johnson’s MLB-leading 50 saves from last year.

Boston Red Sox

CloserKoji Uehara

Although the Red Sox bullpen went through its share of injuries during last season, they certainly found a ninth inning gem with Koji Uehara. After stepping in as closer mid-season, Uehara owned the ninth and almost every batter he faced. Koji’s effectiveness in 2013 cannot be understated - 4 wins, 1.09 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, and a K/9 of 12.2. Assuming that Uehara carries the same firepower as last season, and the BoSox offense puts him in the right positions, he could prepared for a monstrous 2014.

Bold Prediction – Uehara continues to own the ninth and a new dimension is added to the Red Sox – Yankees rivalry with the race between newly-minted closer extraordinaires (Koji Uehara and David Robertson). With the opportunity to close all season, Uehara earns an All-Star nod and closes the ninth for the AL in July. 

Who’s Lurking? – After initially being named closer in the wake of injuries to Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey, Junichi Tazawa eventually settled into the setup role for Boston. He continued in that role through the postseason, allowing only one run in appearances en route to Boston’s World Series victory and earning the trust of Red Sox Nation. Given the rash of injuries that the Red Sox bullpen suffered through last season, their front office brought in Edward Mujica to provide some always valuable bullpen depth. Despite the fact that Mujica closed for the Cards last season, the Red Sox will look to put him in a less stressful position this season and use him as Uehara insurance.

New York Yankees

Closer – David Robertson

Yes, Yankees fans will certainly miss Mariano Rivera. Unquestionably the best closer in baseball history, it will be strange to see a different pitcher take the mound to close for the Bronx Bombers. Any lingering disappointment about the name on the back of the jersey should be gone once David Robertson starts rolling. As a stalwart in the Yankees bullpen for a few seasons, fans are used to seeing him set up for the best and now it’s time to see if he can succeed him. If his numbers stay as consistent as they have over the past few seasons, Robertson will be a premier closer immediately.

Bold Prediction – If Uehara’s 2014 looks like last season and Robertson inherits the ninth, there may be a battle to see who the new closer king in the AL East is. If the Yankees offense shows up, look for David Robertson to have a Mariano-like year in his first year as Yankees closer.

Who’s Lurking? – If Robertson struggles, the Yankees may turn to reliever Shawn Kelley or Matt Thornton. Thornton has an average career stat-line for a closer (3.53 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 9.2 K/9), but he’s accumulated 18 saves over the last five seasons. Kelley provides an interesting contrast to the journeyman Thornton and carries a 3.77 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 9.6 K/9 through his five seasons. While each could be a substitute for Robertson, the Yankees will probably turn to the free agency or trade market if Robertson struggles mightily.

Tampa Bay Rays

Closer – Ongoing Position Battle (Heath Bell, Jake McGee, & Joel Peralta)

With Fernando Rodney still on the free agent market, Tampa Bay seems to be content with letting Heath Bell, Jake McGee, and Joel Peralta battle for the ninth inning. Although it’s possible that the Rays’ front office will snag another closer off the market, each of the three aforementioned pitchers (Bell, McGee, and Peralta) have experience as a closer and can easily earn the job in spring training. For anyone who owned Heath Bell in the last two seasons, they will certainly not forget his recent ability to melt down in the clutch. If the Rays sign a free agent like Grant Balfour, Bell is probably the first to go. With a 10.8 K/9, Jake McGee has the strikeout rate of a typical closer and has grown up in the Rays organization. If he proves his worth in the spring, the job can be his in 2014. With a handful of saves for the Rays in the last three seasons, Joel Peralta is probably the early favorite for the gig.

Bold Prediction – Because McGee and Peralta offer Tampa Bay a solid lefty-righty combo, manager Joel Madden decides to go closer by committee in 2014 and they surprisingly provide the Rays with the AL East’s most dominant bullpen.

Toronto Blue jays

CloserCasey Janssen 

Last season, Casey Janssen performed admirably in the closer role with a solid stat line (2.56 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 8.5 K/9) and 34 saves. Given his success in the last two seasons, the Blue jays will trust Janssen again and they should expect similar results. A quick glance over Janssen’s past three seasons (2011 – 2.26 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 8.6 K/9 ; 2012 – 2.54 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 9.5 K/9; 2013 – 2.56 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 8.5 K/9) proves he’s been a model of consistency in the Great White North.

Bold Prediction – Toronto’s offense starts living up to its potential and Janssen goes from above average to elite given his sheer number of save opportunities.

Who’s Lurking?Sergio Santos and Steve Delabar are both young relievers who have spent the last two seasons with Toronto. Should Janssen fall to injury or inconsistency, Santos and Delabar both offer a Toronto a similar set of skills. Although Delabar has a slightly better K/9, Santos will likely be the first one off the bench to replace Janssen in case of emergency.

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.



Closer Updates: Angels, Astros, Mariners, Mets, Pirates, Rockies

Edior's Note: This article is the product of Luckey Helms (not the author listed above) and is his RotoAuthority debut. Luckey has been managing the @CloserNews twitter feed and will bring his expertise to us in article form from now on.

As we close out the work week, come to the close of our fantasy regular seasons (be it roto or head-to-head), it’s time for some MLB closers. In order to do so, we’ll first have to open up a can of updates...

Angels

Per Closer Updates tradition, Ernesto Frieri was removed from the closer’s gig the night last week’s column went up. Since that demotion, the Halos have given their only save opportunity to Dane De La Rosa, who converted it. In the last week, De La Rosa has pitched 2.2 innings of no run baseball, with two strikeouts, one hit, and two walks.

While Dane De La Rosa may not be America’s Next Top Closer, he seems to have the job for now. Lurking in the background is Kevin Jepsen, who has struggled slightly since Frieri’s demotion. In those three innings, Jepsen has given up two runs, while walking two and striking out four. The K/9 is nice, but those runs cannot make Mike Scioscia happy.

 Frieri has been a stand-up reliever since losing his spot and has responded with two clean innings, three strikeouts, one hit and no walks. If De La Rosa and Jepsen struggle in the short-term while Frieri keeps it up, he may have his job back very soon.

Astros

 In the last week, Houston has had two saves. One went to Josh Fields, his second on the season, and the other to Chia-Jen Lo. Fields has not pitched much better since his blown save, lowering his season ERA from 7.59 to 6.85 in 2.2 innings, by striking out three and giving up two earned runs. Lo, on the other hand, seems like the guy for the job... for now. Since being promoted to the big leagues in July, Lo has posted an impressive 0.00 ERA, an interesting 1.11 WHIP, and an underwhelming 7.11 K/9. However, he’s getting the job done better than Fields at the moment and should get Houston’s few save opportunities in the near future.

Mariners

 Seattle brings us the week’s most uncomfortable postgame clubhouse setting. On Wednesday morning, the Mariner’s interim manager stated emphatically that Danny Farquhar was his closer. That evening, Farquhar gave up his first blown save to the Devil Rays. Awkward. However, that performance seems to be just a blip on the radar. In August, he’s had a strong track record with 83% save conversion rate and a 14.12 K/9. At the moment, Farquhar seems to have a firm grip on the closer job with little internal competition from the bullpen and Tom Wilhelmsen working things out in the minors.

Mets

 All was well in the world of LaTroy Hawkins until Wednesday evening. After earning the closer’s gig in the wake of Bobby Parnell’s injury, he had converted three consecutive saves and not allowed a walk in more than a month. During Wednesday’s blown save, Hawkins took a ground ball to his groin while not wearing a protective cup. Sorry LaTroy. Lesson learned.

 Hawkins stayed in, gave up a game-tying home run and hasn’t appeared since. This should not linger as a long term issue, but right now the Mets closer job is an uncertain situation and if he misses an extended period of time, look for Gonzalez Germen to get save chances over David Aarsma. On Thursday, Germen earned his first career save with a nice two-inning performance.

Pirates

 Jason Grilli has been in a throwing program, building up arm strength after what appeared to be a severe injury a few weeks ago. Although speculation that he’ll be back on the Pirates before September may be aggressive, he should be back closing for the Buccos soon. That being said, do not expect him to resume the closer role immediately. Mark Melancon has been outstanding and they’ll ease Grilli back into the job slowly.

Rockies

 It appears that Rafael Betancourt will be activated from the disabled list, after his recent bout with appendicitis, once he pitches at least one rehab inning in AAA. Depending on his initial performance, he may have more time in the minors or return to the bigs for low-pressure situations immediately. While Rex Brothers may have the stuff of a future closer, Betancourt will regain his job as soon as he returns to form.

Add-Vice

 This week’s version of things you haven’t seen before brings you the mystery of Mariano Rivera. The forty-three-year-old future hall of fame closer blew three consecutive saves for the first time in his career. If this is indicative of a slump, if even that’s possible with the likes of Mariano, David Robertson is worth a flyer. He may already be gone in your league, but look for him may snag saves and wins if Mariano’s recent issues continue.

 If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, I’ve got a scoop for you... For the latest updates on which closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates: Mets, Mariners, Pirates, Rockies, Angels, Astros

Closer changes seem always to happen on Saturdays, right after this column goes up. Or am I the only one that notices that? Fortunately, when changes came to the Mets and Mariners last Saturday, the full week in between has given us a chance to straighten out what's going on in those teams' bullpens. Unfortunately, every potential closing option on those teams has already been gobbled up in my daily-changes leagues. Fortunately, that means I didn't get David Aardsma for his blown saves....

Mets

Bobby Parnell has a herniated disc in his neck, and but he's eligible to come off the DL as early as August 15th. He also may have season-ending surgery. While the pitcher reportedly and understandably doesn't want the season to end like that, the Mets are likely to care more about their long-term investment in Parnell than in how many saves he can notch this year. Sure, he might be back next week (so don't release him yet), but my money is on done for the season.

Had Parnell's injury led to a DL trip before last week's article, I probably would have suggested you pick up former Seattle closer David Aardsma. Now, as a former Seattlite myself, I wish Aardsma well in his comeback attempt...but after blowing both of his save chances, I'll leave it at well-wishing and keep him off my fantasy teams.

Cue LaTroy Hawkins. Like a bad penny (or a good reliever) this guy just keeps turning up. He never seems to be a team's first choice to close, but he's usually more than capable when he does get the chance. He's owned in just 12% of Yahoo! leagues and 5% of CBS leagues, so chances are he's up for grabs. While he doesn't generate many strikeouts anymore, he does have a miniscule 1.64 BB/9. Hawkins may be closer for the rest of the week, or the rest of the year. It's well worth a waiver claim to hope for the latter.

Mariners

Sure, I managed to sneak in an update about Tom Wilhelmsen and the Mariners last Saturday, but I didn't expect him to get sent down. That might be the best place for him to sort out his struggles (as opposed to the ninth inning, with the game on the line). During his previous demotion, Wilhelmsen was allowed to be in the committee that replaced him, and he gradually took the job over. This time around is different: if you've still got him, release him.

Also different this time around is that someone has indeed stepped up and into the closer's role. That someone is Danny Farquhar. Farquhar has had an historically strange season this year, including a dazzling 13.62 K/9, a K/BB of 3.93, and a FIP of 1.89. And an ERA of 4.95. That last number is a little deceiving--it was 5.45 on August 1. Maybe the Mariner brain trust read the Fangraphs article linked above, or maybe they just saw the raw data themselves. Or maybe Farquhar's right-handedness is what gave him the edge over Oliver Perez and company. Whatever the reason, it seems clear that he's the guy to own in Seattle. With 39% Yahoo! league ownership and 30% CBS ownership, fantasy owners are getting that idea already. If you still can, pick him up fast, because every minute that goes by is a minute that one of your leaguemates could see this article and get the same idea....

Pirates

Jason Grilli remains worth holding onto, though his timetable for return is still uncertain. Grilli would like to be back in August, though Pittsburgh management isn't holding out hope for more than an early September return. Though downside exists, Grilli is a must-keep for any fantasy squad hoping for a playoff run. Actually, if you do play in a head-to-head format and Grilli's owner is out of or on the cusp of the playoffs, it might be a good idea to try trading for him now, since he'll have more value to you than his current owner. Conversely, if you're fighting for a playoff slot, the value Grill could give you if you make it to the playoffs might not be as valuable as what he could return in trade.

Mark Melancon update: he's still awesome. Keep throwing him out there until Grilli has come back and saved a couple games.

Rockies

Rafael Betancourt's original timetable was about three weeks...which is what it's been since he last pitched. Manager Walt Weiss isn't sure when Betancourt will be back, as he's rebuilding strength after his emergency appendectomy. (How are baseball players even in need of this procedure? With all the doctors and trainers around them all the time, you'd think they'd catch more warning signs.)

Rex Brothers continues to close in Betancourt's absence. Like Melancon, hang onto Brothers until Betancourt proves he can save games.

Angels

I wasn't shocked when Ernesto Frieri hit his current string of futility; if anything, I'm surprised that a new closer hasn't emerged. It seems like the Angels were hoping Frieri would be the guy that emerged from the committee situation, but that hasn't happened. On August 2nd, Frieri pitched a scoreless inning, struck out the side, and got the save. That outing was one of just two times he's finished the inning in his last seven appearances, also the only times in that span in which he's managed not to give up runs. So, it's been pretty bad.

Though no one else has stepped into the role, the Angels are probably thinking more seriously about letting Dane De La Rosa, Michael Kohn, or Kevin Jepsen take things over. If you've stashed one of these guys, hang onto him. And if you've stashed Frieri, keep him on your bench.

Astros

With Jose Cisnero headed to the minors, who will close for the Astros? Helpfully, their website doesn't list a closer. Josh Fields might be the guy, since he's actually gotten a save. But he's also blown one by allowing three runs to the Red Sox. The meltdown is more recent, so maybe he's closing and maybe he isn't. If Fields isn't the guy, Chia-Jen Lo might be. He's got an intriguing minor league track record, and Houston might want to see what they've got in him. Or maybe they won't even need a closer.

Add-Vice

Farquhar is the top add this week. Without much real competition for the job, he's more or less a full closer, and one who's generating tons of strikeouts. LaTroy Hawkins follows quickly after. Though he isn't elite, he has a decent chance of closing out games for the rest of the season. You've got plenty of options if you want to get involved in the messy situations in Los Angeles or Houston. I'd make De La Rosa my first choice from among those groups, but the whole thing is up in the air.

For the latest updates on the messy situations in Houston, LA, and every ninth-inning change, check out @CloserNews on Twitter. It may be only 140 characters, but it's up-to-the-minute.



Closer Updates: Astros, Angels, Tigers, Cubs, Brewers, and Who the Heck is Jose Cisnero?

In the aftermath of a trading deadline that displaced just two closers, the same question is on everybody's mind: who the heck is Jose Cisnero?

Astros

We all know the facts: Jose Veras was traded to Detroit and into a setup role, and Cisnero has the lead (in popular opinion, at least), in a committee situation. Veras taught us that even Houston isn't so bad that their closer isn't valuable, so there's a mad scramble to pick Cisnero up—in fact, he's already owned in 12% of CBS leagues and 16% of Yahoo! leagues; expect that number to go up this weekend as weekly formats get their picks in.

What do we know about Cisnero? Well, he's right-handed and throws about 93mph. (Also, he's 6’3” tall and weighs either 185 or 230lbs but you didn't really care about that, did you?) On the season, he's pitched to a 3.40 ERA with a 3.44 FIP and a somewhat worse 4.00xFIP. He's striking out 8.72 batters per nine innings, with a 4.04 BB/9. So, he’s decent enough. If you never heard of him before this week, I don't blame you.

If Cisnero isn't exactly a household name, the other guys in the Astros' pen are really far under the radar. You know that, if this article is their chance to shine. Travis Blackley, Chia-Jen Lo, and Wesley Wright could be in the mix for saves as manager Bo Porter sorts out his options. So could anybody else, theoretically. Since the 'Stros won't be getting that many leads to protect, keep an eye on everyone's performance in low-leverage situations, since those will comprise most of Porter's chances to evaluate his staff.

Angels

A week ago, Ernesto Frieri seemed like a pretty safe closer. One who gave up more than his share of walks, to be sure, but pretty safe all things considered. After a disaster week, the Angels are rolling with a committee. It isn't time to cut Frieri yet, since, like Tom Wilhelmsen before him, he might emerge from the situation with a job if the Angels decide there just aren't more fish in the sea after all.

His biggest competition, however, does deserve to be picked up. Dane De La Rosa (just 2% owned in Yahoo! Leagues and 1% in CBS leagues) seems most likely to run with the job if given a chance. He throws over 94mph and has put up a much better FIP (2.94) than ERA (3.93) this season, while his xFIP splits the difference (3.30). He’s got an 8.23 K/9 and a 2.88K/BB. 

Watch for the Halos' other bullpen options, who could include Michael Kohn (3.00 ERA and 9.27 K/9, 94+mph fastball) and Kevin Jepsen (4.23 ERA, 9.43K/9, 95+mph fastball).

Tigers

Supposedly, the Tigers had been looking for a full-time, "proven closer." Then they saw the price tags  and now they've changed their tune about closer Joaquin Benoit. He's definitely the closer, making at least one Internet author regret not pursuing Benoit more aggressively in trades. Jose Veras is no more a threat to Benoit's job than Detroit's internal options were.

Cubs

Pedro Strop, you were this close to closing for the Cubs! Until every other team in baseball remembered that they didn't really want Kevin Gregg before the season started for the price of a minor league contract, let alone for a decent prospect. So Gregg gets to stay in the closer's seat. Hopefully, you didn't drop him prematurely. If someone else did, snatch him right up. While Gregg could be dangled for trade in August, his low salary makes him unlikely to pass through waivers, so my guess is he stays put. As for Strop...wait till next year.

Brewers

After Francisco Rodriguez was dealt to the Orioles, John Axford and Jim Henderson were supposed to be battling it out for saves. That battle doesn't seem particularly fair when one pitcher gets two save opps in the same day, but that's what Henderson got on Tuesday. He converted both saves, and has to be considered the leader in the closing competition, if not the official closer. Maybe the Brew Crew wants to keep Axford's arbitration price down, or maybe they'd just rather go with the better pitcher. Nothing appears to be official yet, so hang onto the Ax Man just in case something changes. If Henderson is unowned, pick him up. He makes a good trade target, as you might be able to get a discounted price because of the job-share situation. Another reason to own Henderson going forward is that Axford's high salary means that only teams that want him will claim him on waivers in August, making a trade potentially more likely for him than for someone like Gregg.

Add-Vice

For me, Jim Henderson is the top add, and he’s available in more leagues than I expected (owned in 63% of Yahoo! Leagues and 49% of CBS leagues). Dane de la Rosa is next for me. I know he's got an incumbent to face, unlike Jose Cisnero, but both are technically in committees. Given that, the Angels are better than the Astros by a lot, and whoever closes for them will get more opportunities to get saves. It doesn't hurt that de la Rosa seems to be a somewhat better pitcher. Don't get me wrong, though—Cisnero should definitely be owned.

 Update: Tom Wilhelmsen has been removed from the closers role again (at least for now), and the Mariners have several options to turn to, including Oliver Perez, Charlie Furbush, Yoervis Medina, and Danny Farquhar. No pitcher emerged as a real replacement for Wilhelmsen the last time he was removed from the ninth, so none of the four are an immediate pickup outside of deep leagues in which every last save is gold.





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