Monday, March 7, 2011

Early Closer Report

Who would you rather face...Marmol or this guy in his current state?
Here is my take on the current state of closers. I will list Division-Team-Closer-competition, if any. This list will be dynamic throughout the season with updates when changes are necessary.
We have a few recent remarks from some managers; deciding on a closer or deciding to leave it up to a committee. Then we have a new strategy by Toronto GM Anthopoulos.
Yankees - Mariano Rivera  - No competition.
Red Sox - Jonathan Papelbon - No early competition.
Rays – With the new contract signed by Kyle Farnsworth  that includes "finished games" incentives, I have to put him as the early front runner. This from Maddon earlier in the week: Don't know if we'll have a specific closer, "pretty much fully expecting" to use committee approach. Farnsworth is the closest they have to a proven closer, although he's gotten only one of his 27 career saves in the last five years. Unless there is an unexpected acquisition, they are most likely headed to a closer-by-committee format. Jake McGee has the promise to eventually take the job.

Orioles - Koji Uehara & Kevin Gregg will battle for the closer spot. I’m now leaning towards Gregg after Uehara received cortisone shot in his pitching elbow last week.
Blue Jays - Frank Francisco is front runner. Jon Rauch and Octavio Dotel will also be given chances to earn the closer's role. I see the Blue Jays GM Anthopoulos yielding a new strategy this year. He will give numerous RP closing chances to artificially inflate their number thus making them type A free agents come next year. Then when they are not re-signed and go elsewhere the Blue Jays get compensated with two draft picks. This is a bold and risky maneuver but could yield numerous draft picks for Toronto and lead the closer to position to get a makeover league wide. Let’s see how it plays out. Remember you heard it here first.
White Sox - Matt Thornton - It's clear that both Sale and Thornton have the skills to close but with Thorton’s new 12M contract I think the decision has been made for the next 2 years.
Indians - Chris Perez - No competition.
Royals - Joakim Soria  – No competition.
Twins - Joe Nathan if “completely” healthy, Matt Capps if not. Nathan will likely begin the season in a set-up role to Matt Capps, but could take back the closer role in a month. Nathan stated he experienced some soreness after his first outing, but has to expect that after not pitching for  a year.
Tigers - José Valverde – No competition but will be on a pitch limit this year. After a 60 pitch outing post All-Star break Valverde went downhill. May want to hand-cuff him to Joaquín Benoit if you have the roster space.
Angels - Fernando Rodney,  Scott Downs, Kevin Jepsen and now Jordan Walden lurking. The Angels are as uncertain about their closer as they have been at any time during Mike Scioscia's reign as manager. Avoid this group if you are currently drafting…wait to pounce once the season starts.

A’s - Andrew Bailey – As long as he stays healthy, Bailey will close for the A's in 2011. Has thrown 2 batting practice sessions and will see live action later this week.
Mariners - David Aardsma is expected to return to the Seattle bullpen in early May now. You should hand-cuff him to Brandon League to start the season. New to the mix is former Orioles closer Chris Ray. Remember, there is no telling how effective Aardsma will be when returning.
Rangers - Neftali Feliz - forget the rumors he moves to the starting rotation. Until I hear this coming the boss, Nolan Ryan, it means nothing. He will toss a 3 inning session, then a four, and then a five. Just remember that they sent Francisco to the great white North.
Nationals - Drew Storen has a spring ERA of 22.50 thus far. Next in order: Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard  and Todd Coffey.
Phillies - Brad Lidge – No completion.
Mets - Francisco Rodríguez – No completion but still completing anger management classes.
Marlins - Leo Nunez lost it to Clay Hensley late last year; both will compete for it this year. Nunez is the frontrunner.
Braves – Manager Fredi Gonzalez will give both Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters a shot at closing—and he means once the season starts, not simply in spring training. New Braves Manager Gonzales likes the versatility of having both a righty and lefty closer. Look for this to be a two man platoon going forward.
Cubs - Carlos Marmol – No competition.
Reds - Francisco Cordero  - No competition. Caught some flack over not giving Chapman any chance to win the position. The reason being is…he has no chance. Dusty reaffirmed this by saying "There is no closer situation controversy, Cordero is our man."
Brewers - John Axford – No competition.
Astros - Brandon Lyon – No competition and I mean NONE. Their bullpen is that bad.
Pirates - Joel Hanrahan,   Manager Clint Hurdle just announced that Joel Hanrahan will open the season as the team's closer. Evan Meek should still be hand-cuffed.
Cardinals - Ryan Franklin – No competition.
D’Backs - J.J. Putz – No competition.
Dodgers - Jonathan Broxton has been officially named the team’s closer. If he falters, Kuo gets first crack at the job, and he excelled last year.
Giants - Brian Wilson - No competition but back on Twitter, you need to look at this nuts tweets.
Padres - Heath Bell – No competition.

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