Expert Fantasy Insight for Advanced Players

Closer Carousel: Week 11

Closer Carousel: Week 11

Jun 13, 2012

With the trade deadline approaching, it’s a good time to unload closers who might be moved in the next month and a half. If a closer lands in a set-up situation (a la Francisco Rodriguez), he’ll have very little value in most leagues, making him possible sell high candidate now. It may also be a good idea to pick up the reliever who is next in line, since he would likely inherit the role if the closer is traded. I’ve given the Barry Bonds treatment (*) to pitchers with the highest likelihood of finishing the season in different uniforms.

In other news, the Cubs are now accepting applications for the closer position.


- From My Cold, Dead Hands -

Craig Kimbrel, ATL (Next in line: Eric O’Flaherty)

Jonathan Papelbon, PHI (Next in line: Antonio Bastardo)

Joe Nathan, TEX (Next in line: Mike Adams)

Jim Johnson, BAL (Next in line: Pedro Strop)

*Joel Hanrahan, PIT (Next in line: Jason Grilli)

*Chris Perez, CLE (Next in line: Vinnie Pestano)

*Brett Myers, HOU (Next in line: Brandon Lyon)


In his last 10 innings, Joe Nathan has allowed just 3 hits, without issuing a walk, while collecting 13 Ks. Due in part to his rocky start (7 hits and 4 earned runs in his first 5 appearances) and relatively low save total (12), Nathan is rarely (if ever) mentioned among the elite closers. Since mid-April, he’s been every bit as good as Kimbrel, and considering his resume, there’s no reason to think he can’t continue to be.

After finishing off the Bucs last night, Jim Johnson now has 3 saves in the last 3 weeks. He had 16 through the first 7 weeks of the season. As go the O’s, so goes their closer.



- Stranglehold –

Rafael Betancourt, COL (Next in line: Matt Belisle)

Santiago Casilla, SF (Next in line: Sergio Romo)

John Axford, MIL (Next in line: Francisco Rodriguez)

Fernando Rodney, TB (Next in line: Joel Peralta)

Kenley Jansen, LAD (Next in line: Ronald Belisario)

Aroldis Chapman, CIN (Next in line: Logan Ondrusek)

*Huston Street, SD (Next in line: Dale Thayer)


John Axford worries me. After Sunday’s meltdown, he’s now allowed 4 earned runs in his last 3 appearances and has a 4.37 ERA and 1.59 WHIP on the year. He’s arbitration eligible after this season and is supposedly trying to work out a contract extension, but he’s going to have to be better than this if he wants to get paid. If Francisco Rodriguez wasn’t so underwhelming, there could be a bit of a controversy in Brew Town… but he is, so there isn’t.

Kyle Farnsworth is currently on a rehab assignment and should return in about 2 weeks. Considering that Fernando Rodney has a 0.94 ERA, a 0.77 WHIP, and is 18-for-19 in save opportunities this season, it would be hard to imaging Joe Maddon replacing him, but Farnsworth’s presence will certainly tighten Rodney’s leash quite a bit.

Aroldis Chapman hit a bit of a speedbump this week. After allowing just 7 hits through his first 29 scoreless innings, he’s now given up 4 hits and 3 earned runs in his last 2. His most recent loss probably could have been avoided if his manager wasn’t good old Dusty Baker. Up by 4 runs on Sunday night, Baker decided to use Jose Arredondo, Sean Marshall, and Logan Ondrusek (who pitched a combined 0.1 innings) in the 7th inning. He then brought in Chapman during the 8th, with no outs, after Ondrusek had already put two men on. In other words, after using up his 3 set-up men on 5 batters between the 7th and 8th innings, Baker presumably wanted Chapman to come in with a runner in scoring position to record a 2-inning save. If this was a “Manager Carousel,” Dusty Baker would be at the bottom of the list.



- Firm Grasp –

Jose Valverde, DET (Next in line: Joaquin Benoit)

Frank Francisco, NYM (Next in line: Bobby Parnell)

J.J. Putz, ARI (Next in line: David Hernandez)

Jonathan Broxton, KC (Next in line: Greg Holland)

Heath Bell, MIA (Next in line: Steve Cishek)

*Matt Capps, MIN (Next in line: Glen Perkins)

Jason Motte, STL (Next in line: Mitchell Boggs)

Addison Reed, CWS (Next in line: Jesse Crain)

Rafael Soriano, NYY (Next in line: David Robertson)


Jose Valverde threw 3 perfect innings this week, but has just 1 strikeout in his last 7.

J.J. Putz has been dyn-o-mite since Kirk Gibson gave him that vote of confidence a few weeks ago. Since then, he’s allowed just 2 hits and issued just 1 walk in 5 innings. David Hernandez, meanwhile, has allowed 6 hits, 4 earned runs, and 3 walks in his last 4.1.

Remarkably, Heath Bell continues to recover from his horrendous start. Since May 27th, Bell is 6-for-6 in save opportunities and has given up  just 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 10 in 6.2 innings pitched. The future is bright in the Sunshine State.

Jason Motte has now allowed 7 earned runs, 6 hits, and 6 walks in his last 8.2 innings. Fortunately for him, nobody in the Cardinals’ bullpen is pitching well enough to be a real threat.

Brian Cashman has said that Rafael Soriano will continue to close after David Robertson returns from the DL, which should happen sometime before next week.



- Hanging on by Fingertips –

Ryan Cook, OAK (Next in line: *Grant Balfour)

Ernesto Frieri, LAA (Next in line: Scott Downs)

Tom Wilhelmsen, SEA (Next in line: *Brandon League)


Last week, I said that another blown save or two could be the end of Brian Fuentes, and so it was. After allowing 3 earned runs in less than an inning on Friday, Bob Melvin announced that the A’s would employ a closer-by-committee approach, comprised of Ryan Cook, Grant Balfour, and (probably to a lesser extent) Brian Fuentes. Last night, Cook was given the first shot, and based on what we’ve seen happen in Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Diego in recent weeks, we can assume that the “committee” won’t last long. Melvin has explicitly said that he’d prefer to use one guy, so there’s a chance the Cook runs with the job and never looks back. However, Melvin has also said that he’d have a hard time taking Cook out of the 8th inning, where he’s been so dominant, and when Grant Balfour was first removed from the role, Melvin said that he would have an opportunity to win his job back. Balfour has done everything in his power to earn that opportunity, having allowed just 5 hits, 5 walks, and 1 run in his last 11.2 innings. Cook is the man to own for now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Balfour gets another crack at it soon, if for no other reason than to bump up his trade value a bit.

Although Scott Downs did record a save on Sunday, it was his worst outing of the season and his first save in 2 weeks. Ernesto Frieri continues to be lights-out and should see the majority of the Angels’ save opportunities for the foreseeable future.

Although Tom Wilhelmsen is 3-for-3 in save opportunities and has allowed just 3 hits, no earned runs, and no walks in his last 7.2 innings, Eric Wedge recently said that Brandon League would reclaim his role soon. League immediately went out and allowed 2 earned runs on 4 hits in 1 inning, but that likely only delayed the inevitable. There has reportedly been interest in League, and the Mariners probably want to maintain his trade value by showcasing him as a closer. Wilhelmsen should be back in the saddle again come August.



- Butterfingers -

Shawn Camp, CHC (Next in line: Carlos Marmol)


The Cubs bullpen is a hot mess. Shawn Camp got the save last night, but he allowed 2 earned runs on 4 hits and 2 walks in 1.1 innings in his previous outing. Carlos Marmol is still making about $6 million more than everyone else, and ultimately, I think that will be the difference. For now, though, it’s a situation to avoid in all but the deepest of leagues.



- Place-Holders -

Casey Janssen, TOR (DL: Sergio Santos)

Tyler Clippard, WAS (DL: Drew Storen)

Alfredo Aceves, BOS (DL: Andrew Bailey)


Alfredo Aceves has given up at least one earned run in four straight games. Photo Credit: Keith Allison via Flickr

Sergio Santos suffered what is hopefully just a minor setback, feeling shoulder “discomfort” after a bullpen session last week. Blue Jays manager John Farrell said that discomfort “can be normal” (which isn’t quite as reassuring as “is normal,” but maybe that’s just nit-picking). He’s still on pace to return sometime in July, although there’s no official timetable.

With Santos’s setback, Drew Storen may be the next closer to be activated from the DL. He threw off of a mound twice in the last week and should also be back around the All-Star Break… but there’s another problem. Since he took over closing duties on May 22nd, Tyler Clippardhas only been the best closer in all of baseball, going 9-for-9 in save opportunities while giving up just 1 hit and issuing 3 walks and striking out 11 in 9.1 scoreless innings. Going back even further, he’s allowed just 4 hits, 1 earned run, and 7 walks in his last 20.1 innings. If he keeps this up, the Nationals are going to have a tough decision to make soon.

Alfredo Aceves has now allowed at least 1 earned run in 4 of his last 9 appearances. Still, he should be able to hold onto the job until Andrew Bailey returns, which will probably happen shortly after the All-Star Break.

Gregory Hutchinson

Gregory Hutchinson is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, NY. He manages a fantasy sports blog and gives pro bono fantasy advice via Twitter.