|Written by Christopher Kreush|
|Wednesday, 21 December 2011 05:15|
There are almost as many strategies in playing fantasy baseball as the number of people playing the game. One position where it seems there is a plethora of strategies, or at least very divergent opinions on what should be done, is the closer. Some players say not to chase saves – many become available during the season on the waiver wire or through FAAB. Others, on the other hand, say to get one or two of the elite at the position. Some even say to punt the category altogether depending on what kind of league you are in. Whatever strategy you choose to employ, here is a rundown of the closer situations in the National League.
Atlanta Braves – Craig Kimbrel became part of the bridge to Billy Wagner in 2010, striking out 40 hitters in 20 innings as a 22 year-old. In fact, he did well enough to be considered the forerunner to replacing the retiring Wagner in 2011. Craig was given the closing job and proceeded to rack up 46 saves and was overpowering while doing it with 127 strikeouts in 77 innings. Craig was so impressive he went on to win the Rookie of the Year in the National League and the job is his entering 2012.
Arizona Diamondbacks – J.J. Putz had a bounce back season in 2010 after an injury-riddled stint with the New York Mets. He pitched well enough to be given a chance to close by the Diamondbacks in 2011 and came through with 45 saves and better than a strikeout per inning. Putz is safely ensconced in the closer role again in 2012.
Chicago Cubs – 2010 was a breakout year for Carlos Marmol as the 27-year old went on to save 38 games for the Cubs with slightly over 16.0 strikeouts per nine. His Achilles Heel was allowing bases on balls at the rate of 6.0/9! Marmol followed up 2010 with a 34 save 2011. His strikeout rate decreased to 12.0/9 in the process and he still allowed walks at a 5.8/9 rate. He enters 2012 as the closer once again, but the bases on balls will keep him from entering the ranks of the elite when speaking of closers.
Cincinnati Reds – Cincinnati declined to pick up the option for Francisco Cordero after he closed out 150 games in four seasons and are looking for a closer for the 2012 season. Internal candidates are Nick Masset (who struck out just under eight batters per nine but also walked about four batters per nine) and Aroldis Chapman. The 24-year old struck out 71 hitters in 50 innings but also walked 41. The Reds would like him to crack the starting rotation at some point so chances are good their 2012 closer isn’t even on the team yet.
Colorado Rockies – With the trade of 2011 closer Huston Street to the San Diego Padres, the Rockies are going to run with Rafael Betancourt as closer at this time. He did save eight games for Colorado in 2011 and struck out 73 and walked eight in just over 62 innings of work.
Houston Astros – With the trade of Mark Melancon to the Boston Red Sox, the Astros need to find a replacement for their 20-save 2011 closer. Their internal options to finish off games in 2012 include Brandon Lyon, David Carpenter, Juan Abreu, and Wilton Lopez with Carpenter having the inside track at the moment.
Los Angeles Dodgers – 2011 saw Javy Guerra save 21 games for the Dodgers but Kenley Jansen was arguably the better hurler – especially down the stretch. Jansen is better suited to finish games as he struck out 16.0/9 and walked 4.3/9 while Guerra had a strikeout rate of 7.3/9 while walking 3.5/9. If no one is brought in through trade or free agency the two will compete for the job.
Miami Marlins – Miami solved their Leo Nunez problem by signing Heath Bell to a three-year contract to save games for the Marlins. Bell successfully finished 132 over the past three years for the San Diego Padres and should continue this trend in South Florida. There is some concern his strikeout rate dropped from double digits to 7.3/9 last year.
Milwaukee Brewers – With 46 saves and better than a strikeout per inning, the Brewers are set with John Axford as their closer once again. He has 70 saves to his credit over the last two years and had an ERA under 2.00 in 2011.
New York Mets – The Mets needed a new closer after trading Francisco Rodriguez to the Milwaukee Brewers last July. They first signed Jon Rauch as a free agent and it was thought he would be the closer entering 2012. But the team further revamped their bullpen by signing Frank Francisco shortly thereafter. Francisco is the favorite to start the season as the team’s closer.
Philadelphia Phillies – Philadelphia made the biggest splash in the free agent closer market by signing Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year contract worth $50 million. Thus they parted ways with free agents Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson for the more established Papelbon. In six seasons as the closer for the Boston Red Sox, Papelbon has 188 saves to his credit.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Joel Hanrahan acquitted himself well as the closer in Pittsburgh with 40 saves in 2011 and will be the one called upon to save games in 2012. He struck out less than a batter per inning but kept the ball in the park, allowing only one home run in all of 2011. Not sexy but gets the job done.
San Diego Padres – With the departure of Heath Bell to free agency and ultimately the Miami Marlins, the Padres needed a new closer for 2012. Rather than go with Luke Gregerson, the team acquired Huston Street from the Colorado Rockies to finish off games. Street saved 29 games for the Rockies in 2011 and will benefit from the trade to Petco Park since, as a fly-ball pitcher, he allowed 10 home runs in 58 innings last year.
San Francisco Giants – Brian Wilson has been the team’s closer for the past four seasons but was shut down at the end of 2011 with elbow issues. If there isn’t any recurring problem, he will be the closer again for 2012. If Wilson is unavailable, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, and Jeremy Affeldt could be in the picture for saves.
St. Louis Cardinals – Jason Motte enters 2012 as the closer after being announced as such by new manager Mike Matheny. He pitched well at the end of the 2011 regular season and into the playoffs and World Series and is being rewarded with the first shot at finishing games this coming year.
Washington Nationals – Drew Storen gave a glimpse of what he could do in 2010 and wowed in 2011 with 43 saves and just under a strikeout per inning. He will once again take the mound at the end of games in 2012.
Closers still available on the free agent market include Kerry Wood, Francisco Rodriguez, Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson and Francisco Cordero.