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Fantasy Baseball Update - Relief Pitchers & Closers

Everybody please continue to send your emails, and especially some questions to the address below. I will do my best to answer as many as I can every Monday. Also, please look for my Top-Ten Prospects from each Double-A League coming up on Monday.


Relief Pitcher Mid-season Report

Closer is one of the most difficult positions in baseball to predict from year to year. This fact is especially difficult in fantasy (keeper leagues are even harder to predict). For every Mariano Rivera there are ten Derrick Turnbow's. So, how do you decide which closer is the right one for you in your league. Well, that would depend on your leagues setup (keeper or not) and the cost. Here is my four-step guide to picking a closer.

  1. Never pick the “top tier” closers. The top closers are always going to be too expensive. Whether your league is an auction or pick style closers will go for too much or too high a price. You have to always keep in mind that closers are basically a one-category force.
  2. Go for the young guys with upside (especially in keeper leagues). Young closers tend to be the best bets for value. Since I advise closers be taken around the 15 th round or for around 15 dollars you must get guys with a high upside. If you look at recent history these types (Matt Capps, Jose Valverde, Etc.) have been as solid as any level of closer (other than the top 3 or 4).
  3. Do not take flyers on guys that are high risk/reward closers. For every Brad Lidge comeback there are ten Eric Gagne debacle’s. Again, they are only guaranteed to help you in saves (if that), and a bad ERA by a closer is going to put higher stress on your remaining staff. It is just not worth gambling on a closer, you would be better taking a chance on a youngster.
  4. Do not be afraid of closers on bad teams. If a bad team has a good closer he is just as good a bet as anybody to put up solid numbers in saves without hurting you in any other category.
  5. Put a young set-up guy on your team who might get saves down the road (especially for keeper leagues or leagues that play holds). It is always worth it to take a chance on a young set-up guy who is the next in line for saves, because injuries happen all the time. Sometimes, those young guys never give the job back. Then you have a closer for next to nothing going forward.

Now that you have my rules on picking closers I will give you a few choices for closers going forward.

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Top Three “Sleeper” Closers for the Second Half

  1. Salomon Torres (Brewers) - Few pitchers have stepped into the closer role as expertly as Torres. He has converted all 12 of his save opportunities since being named closer when Eric Gagne went on the D.L. He has been almost un-hittable. Prior to the 2-Run HR he gave up to Mark Teixeira the other night he had not allowed a run in his previous 10 save opportunities. Torres is on a team that is going to do everything it can to make the playoffs, and that will start with leaving him in the closer role even after Eric Gagne comes back.
  2. Brian Fuentes (Rockies) - The Rockies may trade him which could hurt his save total, but right now he looks as a good as ever. Since taking over for Manny Corpas on April 24 th Fuentes has been solid. He has 13 saves and only 3 blown saves since being named the closer. He has also converted 7 consecutive save opportunities. However, what is the most impressive is his ERA in June is 0.00 and he has 9 K’s in 9.2 IP.
  3. Mike Gonzalez (Braves) - I like Gonzalez a lot, and he is 2 for 2 in save opportunities since coming off the D.L. Mainly, the Braves have very little else to go to for saves. Gonzalez has been lights out in his 2 save opportunities striking out 3 in 2 innings while allowing only one hit. This pick is a total flyer on my part, and you really should take a wait and see approach to Gonzalez unless you are desperate for saves.


Top Three “Holders” in Line for Saves Next Year

  1. Chris Perez (Cardinals) - Perez is the Rockies heir-apparent at closer, and he has looked very good setting up so far. With Jason Isringhausen showing his age look for Perez to get a long look for the job next year.
  2. Brandon Morrow (Mariners) – It seems as though the Mariners have settled on leaving Morrow in the bullpen for the long-term. If he continues to dominate as he has thus far (.86 ERA) it is only a matter of time until the rebuilding Mariners trade J.J. Putz to open up a spot for Morrow.
  3. Carlos Marmol (Cubs) - I just cannot drink the Kerry Wood cool-aid yet. Wood has been excellent thus far and should have been closing games for the Cubs for 3 years now. However, his arm could fall off tomorrow, and even if it does not Marmol is the Cubs best reliever. Next year he will likely also be their closer.

That does it for my closers list. I would like to add that the Diamondbacks Max Scherzer could be a dominant closer (think Jonathan Papelbon like) as early as next season if they decide to put him in the pen permanently.


Fantasy Baseball Notes

If you are looking for a little extra power, and your league does not count K’s against you, look at Rangers prospect Chris Davis (1B/3B). Davis was pounding Triple-A (.333/10/31 in just 111 AB’s). If Davis can hit over the next couple weeks he could stay up even after Hank Blalock comes off the D.L. Edinson Volquez was bombed by the Blue Jays Thursday night (4.1/5 ER/0 K) as his ERA correction begins. Volquez is the perfect sell high candidate in non-keeper leagues as you could fill 2 or 3 holes by moving him now. Rich Harden had another dominant start on Thursday (8 IP/ 0 R/ 11 K) versus the Phillies. Harden looks to be healthy for the first time in a long time and should be one of the AL’s best pitchers the rest of the way. Todd Wellemeyer, who had his last start skipped after complaining of a sore shoulder, worked 5 scoreless innings against the Tigers Thursday. Wellemeyer has been one of baseball’s biggest surprises (7-2/ 3.67) but the shoulder is a major concern going forward, so be wary. Carlos Pena is expected to be activated in time for Friday’s game, and owners in need of power should get him up quickly against the lowly Pirates pitching staff (Rookie Jimmy Barthmaier and John Van Benschoten especially). Andy LaRoche should begin to take more at-bats away from the swooning Blake Dewitt, and he has a chance to establish himself as a solid fantasy option. LaRoche is an on-base machine with a little pop (think a young Kevin Youkilis). If LaRoche gets a long look he should stick as the Dodgers everyday third baseman.


By Brian Chmielewski
MLBcenter.com Fantasy Baseball Correspondent

Fans can contact Brian via email at bchmfantasybaseball @ yahoo.com

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