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January 26, 2012

Resident Fantasy Genius

The Closer Carousel

by Derek Carty

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Now that the Blue Jays have signed Francisco Cordero, all of the legitimate closer candidates are now off the free-agent market. As such, now makes for a good time to check out how things look now that the closer carousel has stopped spinning.

2011-2012 Off-Season Closer Carousel

Team

2011 Closer

2012 Status

First-Time Closer

Athletics

Andrew Bailey

Red Sox^

Competition

Blue Jays

Frank Francisco

Mets^

Sergio Santos

Orioles

Kevin Gregg

Demoted

Jim Johnson

Rangers

Neftali Feliz

Rotation

Joe Nathan

Red Sox

Jonathan Papelbon

Phillies^

Andrew Bailey

Twins

Joe Nathan

Rangers^

Matt Capps

White Sox

Sergio Santos

Blue Jays^

Competition

Astros

Mark Melancon

Red Sox

Competition

Cardinals

Fernando Salas

Demoted

Jason Motte

Dodgers

Javy Guerra

Must Compete

Competition

Marlins

Leo Nunez

Demoted

Heath Bell

Mets

Committee

Demoted

Frank Francisco

Padres

Heath Bell

Marlins^

Huston Street

Phillies

Ryan Madson

Reds^

Jonathan Papelbon

Reds

Francisco Cordero

Blue Jays

Ryan Madson

Rockies

Huston Street

Padres^

Rafael Betancourt

^Will close for his new team

All told, at least half of the league will have a different closer come Opening Day 2012. Of the 16 teams that could see turnover in the ninth inning (I say “could” because the Dodgers may just stick with Javy Guerra), just eight of their 2011 closers are guaranteed closing jobs in 2012. The reasons for this run the gauntlet, from pure incompetence (Gregg) to being traded into a set-up role (Melancon) to moving into the rotation (Feliz) to falsifying their identity (Juan Carlos Oviedo, aka Leo Nunez). This kind of heavy turnover will result in six first-time closers for the 2012 season, plus Matt Capps (who closed for a brief period last year) and, potentially, Kenley Jansen.

While new closers have a higher job-security risk, they can often still be undervalued fantasy commodities. Rafael Betancourt and Jason Motte have both shown excellent skills in a set-up role, and Jim Johnson could wind up sliding as a result of that little orange bird on his uniform and his less-than-top-notch strikeout skills. And no matter who ends up coming out on top of the Oakland and Chicago competitions, they’ll have good skills and a well-lit path to 25-plus saves.

In all the commotion, there are four teams whose situations have left such a void that they will need to figure out who their fireman will be during spring training. After dealing away Andrew Bailey, the A’s will let Grant Balfour, Joey Devine, and Fautino De Los Santos duke it out. De Los Santos may be the closer of the future there, but Balfour probably has the inside track in the short-term.

In Chicago, the White Sox dealt Sergio Santos to Toronto but have a plethora of options to replace him in Addison Reed, Matt Thornton, and Jesse Crain. I’d love to see Thornton get another chance to close—he really wasn’t given a fair shake in 2011—and new manager Robin Ventura said yesterday that Thornton is the favorite over youngster Reed.

The picture in Houston is not nearly as rosy. I was actually asked about their situation during my chat earlier this week:

GBSimons (Boise, ID): Derek, who closes in Houston? (Wow, that's a question that is truly only relevant to fantasy players.) Will Lyon be given the chance to stay healthy and hold down the job based on his salary?

Derek Carty: I think Lyon is the favorite at this point, but maybe not the heavy favorite. Wilton Lopez, David Carpenter, and Juan Abreu will also be in the mix, possibly among others. Whoever starts with the job is the best bet to saves 25-plus games.

The biggest losers of the offseason (fantasy-wise; I think it’s pretty clear Ryan Madson is a real-life loser) are Francisco Cordero, Leo Nunez, and Mark Melancon, who were all looking like closers back in September but no longer will be.

Now that the dust has settled (for the most part), here’s how I see the closing situations breaking down for every team in baseball. There are still a few guys left out there who could be viable set-up men at some point in 2012 (Brad Lidge, David Aardsma, Jamey Wright, Chad Qualls, etc.), but most of the actual closers should be set in stone at this point.

American League Closers

Team

Closer

Next-in-Line

New for 2012?

Angels

Jordan Walden

Scott Downs

 

Athletics

Grant Balfour/Joey Devine/Fautino De Los Santos

Competition

Blue Jays

Sergio Santos

Cordero, Frasor, Janssen

New Closer

Indians

Chris Perez

Tony Sipp

 

Mariners

Brandon League

George Sherrill

 

Orioles

Jim Johnson

Kevin Gregg, Pedro Strop

First-Time Closer

Rangers

Joe Nathan

Mike Adams

New Closer

Rays

Kyle Farnsworth

Joel Peralta, Jake McGee

 

Red Sox

Andrew Bailey

Mark Melancon

New Closer

Royals

Joakim Soria

Jonathan Broxton, Greg Holland

 

Tigers

Jose Valverde

Joaquin Benoit

 

Twins

Matt Capps

Glen Perkins

New Closer

White Sox

Matt Thornton/Addison Reed/Jesse Crain

Competition

Yankees

Mariano Rivera

Rafael Soriano, David Robertson

 

National League Closers

Team

Closer

Next-in-Line

New for 2012?

Astros

Brandon Lyon/Wilton Lopez/David Carpenter/Juan Abreu

Competition

Braves

Craig Kimbrel

Jonny Venters

 

Brewers

John Axford

Francisco Rodriguez

 

Cardinals

Jason Motte

Salas, Sanchez, McClellan, Boggs

First-Time Closer

Cubs

Carlos Marmol

Kerry Wood

 

D'Backs

J.J. Putz

David Hernandez

 

Dodgers

Javy Guerra/Kenley Jansen

 Competition

Giants

Brian Wilson

Sergio Romo

 

Marlins

Heath Bell

Juan Carlos Oviedo (aka Leo Nunez)

New Closer

Mets

Frank Francisco

Jon Rauch, Bobby Parnell

New Closer

Nationals

Drew Storen

Tyler Clippard

 

Padres

Huston Street

Luke Gregerson, Andrew Cashner

New Closer

Phillies

Jonathan Papelbon

Antonio Bastardo

New Closer

Pirates

Joel Hanrahan

Evan Meek, Chris Resop

 

Reds

Ryan Madson

Sean Marshall

New Closer

Rockies

Rafael Betancourt

Matt Lindstrom, Matt Belisle

First-Time Closer

 

17 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

toddneckers

I'd say Vinnie Pestano is next in line in Cleveland.

Jan 26, 2012 05:35 AM
rating: 2
 
Behemoth

Yeah, he seems a fair way ahead of Sipp to me.

Jan 26, 2012 05:45 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

I like Pestano as much as the next guy (probably more), and he's sure to pitch high leverage innings for Cleveland next year, but I don't see him as a viable closer candidate. His sidearm delivery and the pitches he throws limit his effectiveness against lefties.

Our new PITCHf/x analyst Max Marchi has shown in the past that sinkers and slurves tend to have the highest platoon split of all pitches (http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/platoon-splits-2.0/), and that's exactly what Pestano throws--and from a sidearm delivery, no less.

Last year, he posted a 5.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 against lefties. Managers are hard-pressed to put a guy like that on the mound when the game is on the line.

I could see someone besides Sipp emerging in that bullpen to be next-in-line, but I don't think it'll be Pestano.

Jan 26, 2012 08:01 AM
 
Behemoth

Also is Gregerson ahead of Cashner for the Padres? Trading Rizzo for a 7th inning guy would seem to be an obviously bad move, and the Padres don't appear to have confidence in Gregerson, or they would have let him close rather than trading for Street.

Jan 26, 2012 05:47 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

It's certainly possible that Cashner is ahead of Gregerson, and I'll add him to the list, but we also need to remember that part of Cashner's appeal in the Rizzo trade was that he could wind up as a quality starter long-term. I don't see how trading Rizzo for a guy who will pitch the 8th is a whole terribly lot different than a guy who'll pitch the 7th. He'll be in the bullpen this year as he works back from injury, but it wouldn't be surprising to see him in the 2013 Pads rotation. Of course, it's also possible that he closes next year as Huston Street leaves via free agency, so thanks for bringing him up.

Jan 26, 2012 08:07 AM
 
prs130

Apologize for the off-topic crowdsourcing... What's the best fantasy website? I need commissioner tools for running the league the way I want. In particular, I want to be able to adjust each team's salary cap individually and on a daily basis. (Even better, I want 'dead money' still on the cap when you drop a player.)

Jan 26, 2012 08:34 AM
rating: 0
 
acmcdowell

Honestly, your best bet might be a Google spreadsheet that everyone can access. That way you can stick with whatever site you currently use, plus it would be quite flexible in terms of what you can do with it.

Jan 26, 2012 13:09 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

I accidentally included Octavio Dotel in the Cardinals list, but he signed with the Tigers this off-season, so he's been removed.

Jan 26, 2012 08:54 AM
 
jj0501

Lance Lynn in St. Louis ? Or is he a rotation candidate ?

Jan 26, 2012 09:04 AM
rating: 0
 
BillJohnson

More likely a setup guy, with possibilities of moving into the rotation if somebody goes down.

Two comments on the St. Louis situation. First, Mike Matheny isn't Tony La Russa, and it is entirely unclear how he will view the closer role -- anoint somebody, do closer by committee, go with the hot hand, etc. Second, it is a bit misleading to list Salas as the 2011 closer. In fact TLR used a bunch of guys in that role in 2011; Motte got the job at the end of the season, and Eduardo Sanchez filled the slot very well mid-season. (We will not speak of the one who had the job before Salas and Sanchez.) This gives Matheny plenty of options for closer-by-committee or hot-hand approaches should he choose to go that way. He's just an unknown quantity at this point.

Jan 26, 2012 10:27 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

Yes, I listed Salas for the mere sake of simplicity. Matheny is certainly an unknown at this point, but he has said that Motte is likely to be his closer, or at least start out as such: https://twitter.com/#!/karybooherNL/status/157895382968446977

Jan 26, 2012 10:30 AM
 
jafessenden

Jose Veras is with the Brewers now.

Jan 26, 2012 09:11 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

Thanks. I've been keeping this list for myself all off-season and forgot to switch him over. I tweeted about him when he made the move to Milwaukee (https://twitter.com/#!/DerekCarty/status/146474350411923456), and I think he could be a nice NL-only reliever for strikeouts this year. Leaving PNC will help with that.

Jan 26, 2012 10:09 AM
 
hinnenra

I would say Lynn is higher on the list of closing candidates than McClellan and Boggs for the Cards. Sanchez always seemed to me to be the true closer in waiting. He had a shot at the job last year but unfortunately had bad timing with an injury.

Jan 26, 2012 10:04 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

Yes, that bullpen could wind up being very fluid this year (as it was last year) if Jason Motte fails, with any number of guys have a chance at the role, Lynn among them.

Jan 26, 2012 10:06 AM
 
McLovins

Has Mattingly made any public comments regarding the closer situation? I understand why we all love K. Jansen, but are we wish casting here a bit that it is a competition? Guerra was Mattingly's guy last year, and despite his inferior numbers to K.J., the little voice in my head says you're supposed to stick with the guy who has the job until he loses it. He had 21 saves last year with only 2 BS's. I haven't seen any public comments, so just wondering then why you have it listed as a competition. Thanks.

Jan 26, 2012 10:40 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

I think there's actually been a LOT of wishcasting done with Jansen this off-season. He's been going very early in mock drafts, well ahead of Guerra and other very good closers, as if he were guaranteed the job and was already a proven commodity. Guerra is definitely the favorite, in my mind, but I wouldn't count Jansen out. I don't believe Mattingly has said anything; there's just been a lot of speculation.

Jan 26, 2012 10:46 AM
 
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