Today, two American League teams, the Angels and Orioles, announced their closers, Brian Fuentes and Mike Gonzalez, were headed to the disabled list. Both pitchers came into the season with people questioning their abilities, and an early-season DL visit does not help. Gonzalez has been particularly struggling, blowing several leads and drawing the ire of Baltimore fans. How does this affect your fantasy team?
Fuentes owners should not panic because this is a short DL stint. Unfortunately, the Angels have a clear replacement: Fernando Rodney. Rodney was solid closing games in Detroit last season, and he should do a good job in Fuentes’ absence. Most likely, look for Fuentes to regain the role upon his return, but there is a 25% chance Fuentes loses his role permanently if Rodney pitches well. A sleeper is Kevin Jepsen, who is a young reliever with upside. However, at this point I don’t see Jepsen moving into the closer’s role unless both Rodney and Fuentes struggle mightily.
The Orioles’ closer situation is trickier. Gonzalez owners should panic because he seems to have pitched his way out of the role. On the other hand, the Orioles’ backup, Jim Johnson, is extremely shaky. Johnson took the closer’s job after George Sherrill was traded to the Dodgers last season, but on the whole, did not pitch very well. Johnson has looked decent this season, and while he is the new closer, I am not convinced he will post huge save numbers. A great sleeper to watch is Kam Mickolio, who will be called up as Gonzalez heads to the DL. Mickolio is Baltimore’s closer of the future, and at age 25, he is an imposing pitcher with a great fastball. He has thrown better recently, and if he performs well the next three weeks, the Orioles might give him the chance to close this season.
But if you are looking immediate saves, ignore my speculation and grab Jim Johnson. Johnson will be getting the opportunities in the short term (possibly watch out for veteran Cla Meredith), and the bright side is, despite Baltimore’s record, I believe there will be save opportunities. Baltimore has been close in almost every game this season (except the one today…ouch), and their run production will improve when Markakis starts hitting and Roberts returns from the disabled list. Therefore, despite the record, do not discount Baltimore as a team that will not win enough to justify owning their closer.