Surprisingly, the dust has settled a few places and some of the riskier closers (Frank Francisco, Jim Johnson, Grant Balfour, Fernando Rodney (wtf?), Javy Guerra, etc.) have gotten off to good starts. That said, there’s still a dash of turmoil in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Toronto and Washington.
Boston Red Sox – Mark Melancon is out of the picture and Alfredo Aceves looked great in his last save outing, so there’s a chance this situation is settling after a tumultuous start. That said, in leagues where every save and handcuff is owned, Vicente Padilla is worth a look. He hasn’t made many relief appearances in his career, but has been excellent so far in 2012, posting a 4.00 K:BB rate. It wouldn’t be shocking to see him take a similar turn as former teammate Brett Myers did in 2007 on his way to 21 saves. In addition, I’m continuing to lessen my stance that Daniel Bard ultimately ends up with more saves. Bard looked damn good in his first start of the year on Tuesday. If he can throw 160 innings of that quality, it’s the right move.
Chicago Cubs – I firmly believe that Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein want to extract as much value from Carlos Marmol as possible and that only can happen if he’s the closer. Consequently, unless he becomes utterly dreadful, I don’t expect him to lose his role. Furthermore, I’m not worried about his production. He should be right at the top of the closer heap in K’s and get plenty of saves. His ratios will do some damage, but that’s about it. If you’re in a deep league and feel like speculating, just go right past Kerry Wood and look to Rafael Dolis, a popular dark horse. Dolis, just 24, was signed eight years ago out of the Dominican Republic. Hi career began as a starter, but he transitioned to relieving last season at AA. In 72.2 IPs, he had a 1.37 K:BB rate, 3.22 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. Dolis hasn’t seemed to master his control but does have potential to be a high leverage arm in the pen. That said, unless Marmol is traded, his time probably isn’t 2012, but keep your eye on him in dynasty leagues.
Chicago White Sox – So far, so good for Hector Santiago, as he is perfect in save chances. While he allowed a HR in his last inning of work, he had one of those cushy gooshy 3-run save opportunities. Robin Ventura made his first real decision giving the ball to Santiago and Santiago’s retro John Franco screwball, so he should have a long leash. He walked a ton of guys as a starter in AA last year (the highest level he’s pitched at in the minors), but, if he can harness his control, he can repeat Sergio Santos’s 2012. The door for speculating on Matt Thornton and Addison Reed will be nailed shut for the time being with two more save conversions.
Detroit Tigers – While he has recorded one save, Jose Valverde has been anything but automatic this season. He has given up four hits and a walk in 2.2 innings of work. Octavio Dotel is suddenly a very real handcuff in deep leagues. Nevertheless, Dotel is a flawed reliever as well and shouldn’t really face many left-handed batters. Valverde should have a long leash, but if you’re speculating, it’s best to get in on the ground floor.
Miami Marlins – Two appearances, no saves, two runs and a loss for Heath Bell this year. While it’s early, Bell has been on a downward trajectory with him losing 1.3 MPHs off his fastball last season. Given his contract and home ballpark, he should have enough of a cushion to maintain the closer role. However, if you can get equal value in a trade or “downgrade” to someone like Huston Street (while upgrading elsewhere), I’d certainly think about it.
Toronto Blue Jays – While Sergio Santos has labored on the mound lately (as Grey noted a few days ago), General Manager Alex Anthopoulos gave him a vote of confidence and evoked some small sample size rhetoric in a TV spot during the Jays game on Tuesday against the Red Sox. Santos was brought in during the offseason to be the closer and Anthopoulos seems to be a process driven guy, so Santos should have a reasonably long leash. There will be some hick-ups throughout the year as he faces stiffer competition in the AL East (competition that takes pitches and is willing to watch a called third strike in late innings), but Santos has good stuff. For what it’s worth, the Blue Jays let Ricky Romero finish off the win against the Red Sox on Wednesday (of course he was straight dealing). Romero walked the first two batters he faced and Santos was told to get warm in the bullpen. Adrian Gonzalez hit a long fly off Romero that allowed Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia (the tying runs) to tag and advance to second and third. That was Romero’s last pitch and Santos came in. Santos struck out Kevin Youkilis and got a weak grounder from David Ortiz.
Washington Nationals – It’s a shame that good news for Dr. James Andrews means bad news (initially) for fantasy baseball managers. Drew Storen has been the latest to visit Dr. Andrews after experiencing pain in his throwing elbow after a simulated game. This could spell a much longer disabled list trip than originally thought. Brad Lidge, who has been darn effective since his horrific 2009, likely has the pole position for the closing role. However, manager Davey Johnson will continue to switch off between Lidge and Henry Rodriguez until there is clarity on how long Storen will be out. It’s possible the hottest hand at the time will claim the saves. Lidge has the track record, eau du veteran and has pitched the best in a small smattering of innings. Own both, if you can.