The following is Deep Leagues’ 2010 Closer Report. The report discusses the bullpen situation of each team in major league baseball, including the closer and other relievers worth purchasing cheaply. Our closer report is a little different than others because our list is geared toward keeper leagues. Therefore, some of the other players mentioned are valuable because they could become closers eventually, but not necessarily 2010. The post ran a little longer than expected, and I will post something summarizing “top reliever bargains” for people looking to find names of potential closers. Also, the dollar values for these relievers are posted on our draft chart.
Arizona Diamondbacks—Closer Chad Qualls. Others: Juan Gutierrez.
As an Astros follower, I was pleasantly surprised to see Qualls perform admirably as the Diamondbacks’ closer the past two seasons. Nevertheless, it is surprising the Diamondbacks were confident enough in Qualls’ long-term abilities to trade Daniel Schlereth to Detroit. If Qualls falters, set-up man Juan Guitierez would become the team’s closer. Unless Brian Augestein moves to the bullpen, the team has no young pitchers who seem capable of bolstering the team’s bullpen over long-term.
Atlanta Braves—Closer Billy Wagner. Others: Takashi Saito, Craig Kimbrel, Luis Valdez.
The Braves signed the apparently-healthy Wagner to become their closer and seem confident he will perform well in 2010. Wagner is an intriguing fantasy option (at a cheap price), but owners should be concerned about his age, injury history, and rustiness. If Wagner falters, former Boston reliever Takashi Saito might be given a chance to close. Luis Valdez and Craig Kimbrel are two young pitchers worth watching, as both could be given the opportunity to close at some point.
Baltimore Orioles—Closer Mike Gonzalez. Others: Josh Johnson, Kam Mickolo, Brandon Erbe
Baltimore signed Mike Gonzalez this off-season and officially announced he will be the closer coming into 2010. Josh Johnson, who took the role when Sherrill was traded to the Dodgers, will look to regain the position. Kam Mickolo and Brandon Erbe are both solid pitching prospects who are Baltimore’s long-term closer options.
Boston—Closer Jon Papelbon, Others: Daniel Bard
Papelbon has given the Red Sox no clear reason to move to a different option at the closer position, but Daniel Bard is an excellent pitcher whose fastball indicates he could become a closer at some point in the future.
Chicago Cubs—Closer Carlos Marmol: Others: Angel Guzman, Andrew Cashner, Jeff Smardizija
Marmol became Chicago’s closer mid-season last year, and performed adaquetely in the role down the stretch. There are no serious challenger’s to the closer position, but it would not be totally shocking if Marmol faltered. Jeff Smardizja was previously considered a late-inning option, but his numbers have done nothing to truly justify believing he can a closer. Angel Guzman is a decent reliever who would be the second option if Marmol faltered. Andrew Cashner is an excellent pitching prospect from TCU who Baseball America predicts could end up pitching in the Cubs’ bullpen.
Chicago White Sox—Closer Bobby Jenks. Others: Clevelan Santeliz, Matt Thornton
Many people are predicting a decline from White Sox closer Bobby Jenks. Based on this speculation, however, Jenks could be a decent investment considering he posted reasonably solid numbers for a pitcher who many are predicting will be out of a job. If Jenks struggles, the role would pass to Matt Thornton. A long-term player to watch is Clevelan Santeliz, who posted a 0.96 ERA last season pitching in the bullpen in AA.
Cincinnati Reds—Closer: Francisco Cordero. Others: Jared Burton, Brad Boxberger.
Cordero is an underrated veteran closer who has consistently out-performs his projected statistics. Cordero has a solid hold on the closer position, but he is getting slightly older. Jared Burton is a quasi-veteran reliever some have seen as a pitcher who could move into the closer role. Brad Boxberger is a young pitcher from USC who many speculate could eventually become a closer.
Cleveland Indians—Closer Kerry Wood, Others: Chris Perez
Kerry Wood comes into the season as the closer, but Perez is a great sleeper to become a closer in 2010. Acquired last season from St. Louis, the Miami product was considered the Cardinals’ closer of the future. Replacing Wood with Perez would fit with Cleveland’s rebuilding efforts, but Wood is a solid veteran pitcher who could easily pitch well enough to remain the closer. Over the long term, some believe the team will move one of their elite starting pitching prospects—possibly Alex White or Jason Knapp—in the closer role.
Colorado Rockies—Huston Street. Others: Franklin Morales, Casey Weathers, Rex Brothers, Manny Corpas
The Rockies have one of the 2-3 most talented bullpens in baseball. In addition to Street, the team has at least 2-3 of these pitchers will become a major league closer at some point. Last year’s Street/Corpas battle ended pretty decisively with Street firmly establishing himself as the team’s closer. The Rockies, however, have the best group of reliever prospects in baseball. Most notably, Venezuelan Franklin Morales showed great potential during his rookie season and could move into the closer role. The team also invested substantially in two college pitchers—Rex Brothers and Casey Weathers—who are both worth grabbing in deep leagues when they reach the major leagues.
Detroit Tigers—Closer Jose Valverde. Others: Ryan Perry, Daniel Schlereth, and Joel Zumaya
Detroit has an intriguing closer situation. Valverde begins the season as the team’s presumable closer, but if he falters, Detroit has several pitchers who are worth trying in the closer’s role. Joel Zumaya has been a “future closer” for half a decade while young pitcher Ryan Perry should be given an increased role in the Tigers’ bullpen. Pitcher Daniel Schlereth, acquired from Arizona in the Granderson trade, is one of the better relief pitching prospects in baseball and could become a potential closer assuming he continues improving.
Florida Marlins—Closer Leo Nunez. Others: Ryan Tucker, Jose Ceda.
The Marlins are planning on sticking with closer Leo Nunez, a middle-of-the-road reliever who saved 26 games last season after taking over for Matt Lindstrom. If Nunez falters, the Marlins have no clear replacement. The team signed former closers Derrick Turnbow and Mike MacDougal, who could both perhaps compete for the closers role assuming Nunez falters. Prospects Ryan Tucker and Jose Ceda are both worth grabbing when they are called to the major leagues based on the assumption that they could eventually be moved into their team’s closer role. Neverthless, this is one of the more speculative closer situations in baseball, as it’s questionable who will be picking up saves by midseason.
Houston Astros—closer Matt Lindstrom, Others: Brandon Lyon, Sammy Gervacio, Chia Jen-Lo
Another speculative closer situation, the Astros are yet to decide which of their two bullpen acquisitions will be picking up saves in 2010. Lindstrom is an older pitcher with huge upside while Lyon is a serviceable middle reliever. Rookie Sammy Gervacio is another player who could make an impact in the closer situation. Pitcher Chia Jen-Lo is worth grabbing if reaches the major leagues this season because he is another reliever who could become a future closer.
Kansas City—closer Joakim Soria. Others: Lewis Coleman.
Soria is one of the safer closing options in baseball. On a bad team, he has been extremely solid. He can afford to struggle some because there are no other foreseeable closers in Kansas City’s bullpen. Lewis Coleman is a solid pitcher from LSU worth grabbing if he reaches the majors this season.
Los Angeles Angels—Closer Brian Fuentes. Others: Fernando Rodney, Kevin Jepsen.
Fuentes proved a moderately serviceable replacement last season for K-Rod. He enters the season as the team’s closer, but a few blown saves last season make his job less secure than his statistics indicate. The Angels brought in Rodney during the off-season to help secure their bullpen as a setup man, but he could easily close if Fuentes struggles. Kevin Jepsen is a great sleeper in the Angels’ bullpen. A young reliever whose talent far exceeds last year’s numbers, Jepsen could surprise people by moving into the closer role if both Rodney and Fuentes perform below expectation.
Los Angeles Dodgers—Closer: Jonathan Broxton, Others: George Sherrill, Josh Lindbloom, Rolando Belasario, Scott Elbert
Broxton enters the season as one of the 2-3 best closers in baseball. He posted dominating numbers last season, and has a firm grip on the closer role. Nevertheless, the less-flashy George Sherrill was equally dominant last season, posting a 0.60 ERA in 30 appearences last season after being acquired from the Orioles. As a long-term option, Josh Lindbloom is one of the most talented young relievers in baseball. His chances of becoming a closer are blocked by Broxton, but Lindbloom is worth grabbing for a rebuilding team in a keeper league. Ex-prospect Scott Elbert has the potential to become an effective reliever pitching from the Dodgers’ pen, but the numbers last season were not particularly impressive.
Milwaukee Brewers—Closer Trevor Hoffman. Others: Zach Braddock, John Axford, LaTroy Hawkins
The 43-year old Hoffman surprised everyone last season by posting one of his best seasons. Nevertheless, at his age, there is always a risk he no longer can pitch effectively in the closer’s role. If Hoffman falters, the Brewers’ closer situation is totally up in the air. Presumably, the job would pass to fellow veteran LaTroy Hawkins. The most talented young pitcher in the Brewers’ organization is Zack Braddock, who many see becoming the team’s closer. Another great sleeper is John Axford, a non-drafted free agent who developed into a dominating reliever in 2009, and who should begin 2010 in the major leagues.
Minnesota—Closer Joe Nathan. Others: Jose Mijares, Carlos Gutierrez.
The extremely solid Nathan has been as consistent as they come. The Twins’ bullpen is filled with solid secondary options, but it is difficult to imagine anyone besides Nathan closing for Minnesota in 2010. If Nathan got injured, Mijares is a solid pitcher who could step into the closer role and former Miami Hurricane Carlos Gutierrez is another long-term option to become the Twins’ closer.
New York Mets—Closer Francisco Rodriguez. Others: J.J. Putz
The Mets enter 2010 with a reasonably secure closer situation, as K-Rod followed his record-breaking ’08 season with another decent campaign in 2009. If Rodriguez got injured, the position would probably pass to J.J. Putz, who has experience closing games. The Mets’ organization has no rookies who appear likely to bolster their bullpen in 2010.
New York Yankees—Closer Mariano Rivera, Others: Phil Hughes/Joba Chamberlain, Alfredo Aceves.
Rivera is among the best closers in baseball. He is getting older, but it is difficult to imagine him relinquishing the closer’s role this season. If something happened to Mariano, the Yankees have either Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain ready to step into the 9th inning role. Alfredo Aceves is an older rookie who performed well out of the Yankees’ bullpen last season.
Oakland Athletics—Closer Andrew Bailey, Others: Henry Rodriguez
Andrew Bailey established himself as an excellent closer last season, but the Athletics have a history of surprising people with their closer position. For example, nobody expected Andrew Bailey to replace Brad Ziegler last season. A sleeper to watch this season is Henry Rodriguez, a Venezuelan prospect who features a fastball that regularly exceeds 100 mph. There are some other issues which prevent him from being frequently mentioned among the game’s best prospects, but he could become a dangerous option in Oakland’s bullpen if he continues to improve.
Philadelphia Phillies—Closer Brad Lidge. Others: Ryan Madson, Phillipe Aumount, Scott Mathieson, Antonio Bastardo
Brad Lidge’s performance is difficult to predict. Two seasons ago, he surprised many by returning to his all-star form. Then, he surprised many by pitching poorly again last season. If Lidge struggles, look for the Phillies to move setup man Ryan Madson into the closer’s role. Phillipe Aumont, acquired from Seattle in the Cliff Lee trade, is likely to be given an opportunity to close at some point beyond 2010. Two others to watch are Scott Mathieson and Antonio Bastardo, who are both former pitching prospects who will pitch look to make the Phillies’ roster as relievers.
Pittsburgh Pirates—Closer: Octavio Dotel. Others: Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, and Ramon Aguero.
The rebuilding Pirates place little emphasis on their closer situation. The team signed former closer Octavio Dotel to apparently take over the duties, and he seems to be the team’s only foreseeable 9th inning option coming into 2010. The best younger pitchers in the bullpen are relievers Ramon Aguero and Evan Meek. Aguero is a hard-thrower who fits the “closer mold” (but with some problems) who could make an impact this season. Nevertheless, Pittsburgh is the only speculative closer situation where attempting a discount buy is probably worth avoiding.
St. Louis Cardinals—Closer Ryan Franklin. Others: Kyle McLellan, Jason Motte.
Franklin posted great numbers in the closer’s role last season, saving 38 games with an ERA of 1.94. Nevertheless, if Franklin were to falter, reliever Kyle McLellan also performed well last year. Jason Motte entered last season as the apparent closer of the future, but his numbers were surprisingly poor. Nevertheless, Motte is worth grabbing at a discount prices in deep leagues based on the hope that the projected 2009 performance could happen a year later.
San Diego Padres—Closer Heath Bell. Others: Luke Gregerson
Veteran reliever Heath Bell emerged as the team’s closer after Hoffman’s depature and did an excellent job saving games for a team that rarely won. He has a firm grip on the closer’s role going into 2010, both because of his talent and a lack of serious replacements. Luke Gregerson is a good young pitcher who performed well last season, and the team could possibly increase his role in the bullpen during 2010. Wynne Pelzer is an intriguing prospect from South Carolina who Baseball America speculates might eventually become the team’s closer (he is currently trying to develop as a starter).
San Francisco Giants—Closer Brian Wilson. Others: Jeremy Affeldt, Dan Runzler.
Wilson pitched well last season as the closer, but Affeldt pitched even better in a setup role. Affeldt is worth grabbing as a cheap option because relievers who post numbers that effective often find themselves picking up saves. Dan Runzler is a lesser-known prospect who advanced through the Giants’ minor league system last year posting awesome numbers at four separate levels.
Seattle Mariners—closer David Aardsma. Others: Nick Hill.
Aardsma did an excellent job last season in Toronto, and comes into this season as Seattle’s closer. The departure of both Brandon Morrow and Phillipe Aumont increases his job security, and Seattle has no clear replacement if Aardsma falters. For fans of military academies, Pitcher Nick Hill is a relief prospect who should become one of the first West Point graduates in recent memory to reach the major leagues this season.
Tampa Bay Rays—closer Rafael Soriano. Others: J.P. Howell
The Rays signed Rafael Soriano during the off-season and he comes into the season as the team’s closer. But J.P. Howell filled the role adaquetely for part of last season following an injury to Troy Percival. With the number of elite pitching prospect in Tampa’s system, it would not be surprising to see a young pitching prospect suddenly moves to the bullpen (my guess would be Jake McGee) and eventually compete for the closer role.
Texas Rangers—Closer Frank Francisco. Others: Chris Ray, C.J. Wilson and Neftali Feliz.
Francisco did an excellent job in the Rangers’ closer role last season, and comes into the season as the favorite to remain closer assuming Neftali Feliz is not in the bullpen. C.J. Wilson has experience as the team’s closer, and Chris Ray is a decent “buy low” option considering everyone projected him to be a closer last season. It’s hard to imagine Feliz will end up in the Rangers’ bullpen, but the Rangers have so many pitching prospects that it’s hard to imagine them not moving 1-2 of them to the bullpen so they can arrive in the majors more quickly.
Toronto Blue Jays—closer Kevin Gregg. Others: Josh Roenicke, Jason Frasor, Brandon Morrow.
The Blue Jays recently signed Gregg to a $2.75 million contract, and he enters the season as the favorite to become the closer. Frasor is a decent reliever presumably next in line to take the job if Gregg struggles. The rebuilding Jays would like to give an opportunity to Josh Roenicke, who was UCLA’s former closer. Another option is moving recently-acquired Brandon Morrow to the bullpen, where he was once Seattle’s closer of the future. On the whole, Toronto’s closer situation is extremely up in the air.
Washington Nationals—Closer: Matt Capps, Others: Drew Storen
Like Pittsburgh, the rebuilding Nationals are not particularly worried about their 2010 closer situation. The team acquired Matt Capps during the offseason from the Pirates, and he will presumably hold down the closer’s role in Washington this season. The closer of the future is clearly Drew Storen, who is the current non-closer most likely to become a closer within the next two years. Storen should be acquired immediately (especially in deep leagues) once the reaches the major leagues.