Come one, come all, it's time for the Carnival Games to begin. We have Valverdes, and Qualls, and Hunters.....Oh my! Apparently the latest tin foil theory is that Lindstrom = Rosebud. I love it. Keep it going my Crazy Closerheads. Chasing saves = Chasing the Dragon.....a high that is rarely achieved.
Fire up the engines and here's FTB's latest review although it's a bit dated. Latest is Janssen out (DL), Santos in. The Great White Hunter is official. We're awaiting to see how Ventura can troll us (my money is on Konerko re-inventing himself), and nobody seems to know what Cincy is going to do or care what Houston may do:
Boston Red Sox: CLOSER - Koji Uehara. No further discussion needed.
Tampa Bay Rays: CLOSER - Grant Balfour. While I certainly liked Balfour more in the spacious Oakland Coliseum due to his loud contact and fly ball ways, no reason to believe he won't continue to strike guys out and be at least adequate in Tampa. Balfour has been incredibly consistent over the past 4 seasons, keeps himself in excellent condition, and has been generating more K's and SwStr% due to throwing his slider more. Personally - I'm not worried about what the O's found given their fine tooth comb physicals. It was incredibly hard for me to wrap my head around the super savvy Rays hand the ball to Heath Bell in the 9th. The thought of Heath Bell pitching in AL East ballparks, Vs AL East lineups is frightening. He has had success the last couple years in lower leverage roles. He needs to develop a change up, and at age 36 it probably won't happen. Guy is a loud contact machine between HRs and LD's - hitters simply sit dead red on his FB, and only offer at his CB(which he doesn't command as well) if they're down in the count. Maddon likes Joel Peralta as his fireman, so I don't think he's in the contender realm at the time. Juan Carlos Oviedo could enter picture if Balfour falters but he has major steps to take in return from injury. He has had success in the role, and I think Hickey can keep his mechanics consistent - his FB/CU combo is nasty when it's on. I love Jake McGee, excellent swing and miss stuff, handles hitters from both sides but he has also faltered out of his 7th inning role, and was melt down prone in '13. I like McGee, but think the Rays like using him how they have been. Shaping up to what could be an excellent bullpen.
Baltimore Orioles: CLOSER - Tommy Hunter, CONTENDERS - Darren O'Day, Kevin Gausman, Ryan Webb. I can't say I was wrong that they would go Balfour or Rodney, definitely tried but it didn't shake out. If the O's plan is now to go with what they have, a CBC approach may be the best answer. Hunter and O'Day keep guys off base but LHB hurt them, Hunter also gives up a lot of FB's in a HR friendly park. Webb handles LHB and RHB, keeps ball on ground, but lacks swing and miss stuff, in addition to questionable command at times. I'm starting to really like the idea of Kevin Gausman in the closer role since he lost out on the #5 spot, dude was DOMINANT out of the pen last year. Matusz is outstanding Vs LHB, but he'll be given a chance to start again per Baltimore Sun.
New York Yankees: CLOSER - David Robertson. Congrats D Rob - You've graduated to GREEN. My biggest hangup with D Rob prior was simply the risk of the Yankees bringing in Balfour or Rodney. Robertson has been an outstanding high leverage RP over the past 3 seasons and I happy he's getting a crack at the role baring a trade. However, I'm still not sold that the Yankees believe he's their future 9th inning guy given the courting of high priced established closers, or that they just like using D Rob in his current role. He was given first chance to close in '12 when Mo went down, had a few hiccups and they quickly turned to Soriano. I don't see Robertson having any in house competition at this point, I mean Shawn Kelley, Matt Thornton, really? That's a pretty rough bullpen in the Bronx. I still could see the Yanks bringing in someone to fill the role.
Toronto Blue Jays: CLOSER - Casey Janssen. Not sexy, but consistent and continues to do a very good job, but there's always some concern when other late inning options have such electric stuff, Sergio Santos and Steve Delabar. If you draft Janssen it's a real good idea to handcuff him, had shoulder issues last spring, offseason shoulder surgery, more shoulder issues this spring. He has logged ONE spring inning recently, topped at 86mph.
Detroit Tigers: CLOSER - Joe Nathan. Next.
Cleveland Indians: CLOSER - John Axford. CONTENDERS - Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Vinnie Pestano. The only reason I have The Ax Man in orange and not red is I think it's 100% concrete he has been brought to Cleveland to close and will indeed have to falter a few times in the role to give it up. He's as good of a candidate as anyone to get supplanted, and is known to start seasons in a mechanical mess. He did look pretty good when I saw him in Arizona this year, maybe the Cardinals did fix him. However, Axford's implosions are beyond ugly, K rate fell off last year, and he has two years running with a LD% over 24% and really high HR/FB%(guy can throw some total meat), his command can be all over the place due to mechanical issues, and he goes through stretches where to completely telegraphs his hook. My money to take the job is on Cody Allen, 11.26 K/9, 11.5 SwStr%, command is good enough, filthy FB/CB combo, handles hitters from both sides. Can't rule out Vinnie Pestano, he was clearly never right last season so I'd be him in the fold unless he looks '13 again. Bryan Shaw is a dude that has been discussed as a possible closer the last 3 years but hasn't gotten a look, def solid, keeps ball on ground, owns RHB - I just like Allen more.
Kansas City Royals : CLOSER - Greg Holland. Stud, plenty of other good options in case Holland's elbow explodes from throwing that wipeout slider. A good thing to keep in mind with Holland, last few years it has taken him 3 weeks to a month to find his groove/command.
Minnesota Twins : CLOSER - Glen Perkins. Dude's money, move on.
Chicago White Sox : CLOSER - Nate Jones, CONTENDERS - Matt Lindstrom, Daniel Webb. Ventura fooled everyone a couple years ago going with Hector Santiago, so really who knows. I'm going Jones based on stuff, and the fact the White Sox have him listed as their closer on their depth chart. Personally, Jones is a guy I plan to target in every league as a ADP value closer that can pay out well above his drafted spot. His '13, was marred by really crappy luck and his underlying metrics indicate dominance. Guy throws upper 90's, 10.27 K/9, solid command, 2.64 SIERA, 13.2 SwStr%, keeps the ball on the ground in that band box, no extreme splits - YES PLEASE! Jones has also fared well this spring. I feel like we've seen the Matt Lindstrom closer dance 3-4 times(well, we have). Aside from experience and also being a GB guy I see nothing he does better than Jones, he struggles Vs lefties, has very hittable gas, worse command, low K rate, meh. Lindstrom has recently returned to the mound. Daniel Webb is an interesting candidate, GB guy, misses bats, ok command, no extreme splits - I just think Jones is a little better across the board
Oakland Athletics : CLOSER - Jim Johnson. Chalk this up as an offseason move I just didn't understand, it was very Un-A's IMO. Now I have no doubt Oakland will be able to fix JJ, get him back on top of his sinker, and stop coming off the side but 10 million for a guy who isn't a K pitcher, struggled late last year, declining velocity, and his style doesn't take advantage of that huge park/foul ground - I don't get it. Especially when you have Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook in house, and were able to acquire Luke Gregerson via trade. With Doolittle and Cook breathing down his neck, JJ has gotta perform outta the gate.
Texas Rangers : CLOSER - Joakim Soria, CONTENDERS - Alexei Ogando, Neftali Feliz, Tanner Scheppers. Well as I said in my last update, the winner in Surprise would get the job. RonWash announced last week Soria would be his guy, he pitched well, and Feliz is getting back arm strength and command. Soria will need to log a few saves to enter GREEN for me. Ogando isn't really a huge threat a very well may enter the rotation at some point. Biggest contender to me is Neftali if he can get his mojo back and Soria falters. Scheppers currently in the rotation could get a look if he gets bounced. I'm thinking Soria is pretty safe.
Los Angeles Angels : CLOSER - Ernesto Frieri. Hold on tight, the Ernesto Rollercoaster is ready to depart. He's definitely the guy, but man can he be stressful to own. The life on his FB, release pt, velo make him a tough dude to handle (15.8% SwStr). Lapse's in command, out of sync mechanics can often spell trouble at different points of the year. The signing of Joe Smith was a good one for the Angels to step in during periods where Frieri loses it, Smith is steady, without extreme splits.
Seattle Mariners : CLOSER - Fernando Rodney. Well - called this one too. Just didn't seem like the M's had faith in Farquhar due to courting every FA closer this season. The Rodney signing may be rather pointless for this organization, and sure - he's overpaid, but as a M's fan I can say the bullpen as a whole is better today than yesterday. It isn't my money - and 2 yrs doesn't hamstring anyone for future moves/growth. No debating Rodney's stuff, the dude is filth. It' just that whole command thing. '12 was definitely the outlier, but all in all - '13 Rodney is a pretty solid closer with encouraging underlying numbers minus BB%.You would think with Farquhar's success in the final months he'd be given a no doubt chance to close with some leash in '14. From 7/21 on he was absolutely dominate, with exception of two outings. Eye test, and metrics support that opinion working with an excellent cutter, FB that can hit 97, and a solid hook. I still think this organization has a love fest with Tom Wilhelmsen , so who knows if he can recapture his curveball and command. They've also tabbed Stephen Pryor as "closer of the future", but him being out til mid season may have been the new intel that encouraged them to get another quality bullpen arm.
Houston Astros : CLOSER - CBC. CONTENDERS - Josh Fields, Chad Qualls, Matt Albers, Jesse Crain. Bo Porter recently said the Astros are using a CBC approach, in baseball speak to me that means he has a guy in mind but doesn't want to put pressure on them, and he's also not committed to anyone. If the determination is based on spring training, Josh Fields would be the guy - he has looked terrific posting 7IP, 6H, 1ER, 6K - and most importantly - NO WALKS! Fields probably has the best pure stuff but his command has been a nightmare since he broke into the league. If it's based off expierence, it's Chad Qualls, who quietly had an excellent '13 in Miami. Qualls has been pretty much a coin flip the last 6 years in regards to how he throws. But last season he saw a uptick in velo, SwStr%, induced a lot of weak contact, continued to be a GB machine, good command. Spring hasn't treated Qualls nearly as well, he was my initial pick but now I'm thinking Fields. No doubt year in year out Crain has been the best RP of the bunch, but given his shaky status and how tricky shoulders are - you might not see him pitch 10 innings this year.
Atlanta Braves : CLOSER - Craig Kimbrel. Game, set, match.
Washington Nationals : CLOSER - Rafael Soriano. Soriano would be one of my top bets for a "safe closer" that will lose his job by May. He has always outperformed his underlying numbers but a lot of other things turned there head last season. K rate plummeted, SwStr% plummeted, 2nd year in a row he gave up a ton of loud contact(really bad mix with the decline in K rate), velo decline, contact rates went up, he's turning into just a guy that throws a fat cutter. STAY AWAY. He's been HORRIBLE this spring as well. There's a new sheriff in town, and Soriano has more talented guys pitching the 7th and 8th with Clippard and Storen. Clippard has been announced the 8th inning guy, and I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Storen.
New York Mets : CLOSER - Bobby Parnell. Got the neck fixed, has been good this spring and velocity is coming back - now hitting 94, was down early. Dude had a damn good year, not a lot of opportunities but he thrived. Sacrificed some K's for better command but it worked out nicely. I gotta say though - anyone else find it slightly concerning the Mets were also courting the high price FA closers. Makes me think they aren't as confident in his neck or his future as the news lets on.
Philadelphia Phillies : CLOSER - Jonathan Papelbon. As Philly stands now this clown is ultra safe, that's one of the worst bullpens in baseball and he's really their only option. Adams hasn't been right for awhile, and Bastardo is all over the place. No surprise the Phillies are trying to run out from this contract, but they waited to late unless they want to eat a huge portion of the deal. I'll be honest - my eye test tells me Papelbon was awful last year, but his underlying numbers suggest he wasn't that bad(not as good, but not as bad as I thought). The main issue was Papelbon was just more hittable - K rate dropped, velo dropped a few ticks, SwStr% dropped, chase rate dropped, O-Contact% went up. These are all red flags he ain't returning to the Papelbon of previous years, but they also stayed relatively good. His command stayed very good, xBABIP shows a lot of weak contact, etc. SIERA on par with ERA. Definitely some decline, but I was expecting far worse.
Miami Marlins : CLOSER - Steve Cishek. Guy had crap for opportunities and struggled a little bit from a front line statistical point of view til early June. But if you were patient, his metrics stayed positive, he demonstrated better command, and was more effective Vs lefties. Ended with a very solid 34 saves on a awful team that should improve some come '14. If dealt - AJ Ramos may finally get his day in the sun.
St Louis Cardinals : CLOSER - Trevor Rosenthal. Absolute flamethrower, and Cards confirmed he will be closing in '14. So no SP testing out phase to worry about. Even if he struggles initially, fellow flame throwing Carlos Martinez could emerge as a threat. Jason Motte will probably go through his own peaks and valleys returning from TJ, and his exact return date is in question.
Pittsburgh Pirates : CLOSER - Jason Grilli. I love Jason Grilli as a pitcher, and he's just a really good dude. That being said, he's another closer on the "safe list" I'm not touching. Forearm, UCL strains are no joke and often signs of bad things to come. He also didn't exactly set the world on fire when he returned, his velo was down and stuff was flat. Just make sure if you draft Grilli that would back him up with Mark Melancon - what a year that guy had.
Cincinnati Reds : CLOSER - JJ Hoover (temp), CLOSER - Aroldis Chapman (May return) CONTENDERS - Jonathan Broxton & The Band. Well, that was one scary event. Right now it looks like Chapman will return at some point in May - after he heals and gets game ready. We all know who he is - ridiuclously nasty, and one of the most entertaining RP's in baseball. Hoover looks to be sliding into closer role by default, and he has been horrible this spring. Broxton and Sean Marshall are both just starting to get back in games, Broxton looked good when I saw him in Arizona. They may return Mid April if Hoover falters. There's various other mix and match guys as well(Parra). Hopefully Aroldis heals quickly and isn't gun shy - getting your face crushed by a ball traveling 100+mph is damn scary.
Milwaukee Brewers : CLOSER - Jim Henderson. How much did Hendo owners love K Rod last year? Hahaha - it was pretty funny seeing how butt hurt owners were. I'm not that big on Henderson, he definitely out performed his underlying numbers. Few things concern me - very low BABIP esp given his xBABIP - the dude gave up over 28% LD's, LOL. Extremely high strand rate. History of poor command and difficulty with LHB, due to no CU, arm slot, and a FB that flattens out. That all being said - he gets K's, misses bats, and his main competition is K-Rod (currently KO'ed by stepping on Cactus) - he could be a factor and Brandon Kintzler - who's solid, but doesn't scare me if I'm a Henderson owner.
Chicago Cubs : CLOSER - Jose Veras. CONTENDERS - Pedro Strop. Veras had a nice year last year between Houston and Detroit, and I think the Cubs definitely brought him in to close. But he's still a low security closer to me, and I really have no clue what Veras will show up in '14. Jose Veras with '13 command is a damn good RP, but I can't ignore all those years of 4.5 to 5.5 BB/9. He also induced a ton of weak contact last year based on his xBABIP, and I think his K rate falling some was fluky - he had a career high SwStr%, increased his O-Swing%, while decreasing contact rates. Veras has been AWFUL thus far this spring. The Cubs seemed to want to transition to Pedro Strop as a closer towards the end of last season but he has his own issues, and can be a complete command rollercoaster and kind of has a Marmol'ly flavor to him - with the good slider, pretty blah everything else, and bad command. My darkhorse is Arodys Vizcaino. Watch out for this guy if Veras' command gets bad, he throws absolute filth and was a highly touted prospect in the Braves organization. All reports of him throwing this offseason have been stellar and described as "98, and electric.", he also looked outstanding in Arizona this spring. Never count out the Cubs love for the Closer Cockroach, styling his goggles and airboots, he just has that mentality, and experience -Kevin Gregg.
Los Angeles Dodgers : CLOSER - Kenley Jansen. This should be another "Yawn" "Stud" "Game.Set.Match" closer in regards to security but you never know with the Dodgers. Jansen is unbelievable, outstanding command, ridiculous K %, can be a little prone to loud contact, but his underlying numbers are outstanding. I would draft Jansen without hesitation but I do have concern due to a few issues - 1) Mattingly has previously acknowledged he likes using Jansen when stakes are highest, 2) They forked a lot of money to Brian Wilson 3) Jansen doesn't typically have his best months early on, 4) Heart condition does still present some concern - as people need their meds adjusted frequently. I love the pitcher, but it may be wise to handcuff him with Wilson.
Arizona Diamondbacks : CLOSER - Addison Reed. This was another odd transaction for me, but the DBacks always seem to surprise me with how bonehead they can be. Why the hell deal your only MiLB power bat that's MLB ready for a average closer? I'm not hating on Reed, he gets the job done more times than not, missing some bats, etc - but has far as closers go - he's pretty run of the mill. I don't ever see him being elite, just kind of a middle of the road guy. The DBacks already had a few options with Brad Ziegler, JJ Putz, and David Hernandez. The move just seemed unnecessary, and rumor is they are now trying to shop Putz -whom could be a nice short term chip for a team in need of a closer baring his health. Ziegler is a guy that Gibson likes having freedom with, and save to destroy RHB and get groundballs. Hernandez has solid stuff, just had a really bad up and down '13 but underlying numbers don't show much has changed.
San Diego Padres - CLOSER - Huston Street. This' an interesting one for me. After the Benoit signing the Padres GM Josh Byrnes came out and said Street is absolutely their closer for '14, but '15 is up in the air. Street was excellent in '12, but WAAY outperformed his underlying numbers in '13. He understands how to pitch, and I can't believe he has the success in which he does. The crap he gets people to chase is unbelievable - evidenced by a yearly healthy O-Swing%. He isn't sexy, but when that guy finds his groove and soup can command he'll go 2-3 months with nothing but 5-8 pitch clean saves. He rarely walks people, and uses that huge ballpark to his advantage. But when Street is off - WATCH OUT!! How he doesn't get whip lash I have no clue, and is a complete cardiac closer. One thing we do know is Street will go through a slump, and he'll see the DL once, maybe twice. When that happens and Benoit takes over do they go back to Street? Benoit is getting paid a ton of dough, has equally great command, gets K's, misses bats, and will also take advantage of spacious Petco Park with his flyball tendencies. Every year I think the Padres will deal Street, but it doesn't happen. Safe to say - if you have Street, you better handcuff with Benoit.
San Francisco Giants : CLOSER - Sergio Romo. Well, he's the guy. Not as dominate in '13, but still damn good and the metrics agree. Lefties still get at him, but he absolutely dominates RHB. Doesn't hurt himself, has impeccable command, gets K's. His slider is such an outstanding pitch, gets a O-Swing% over 40%(wow), misses a lot of bats. One concern with Romo is the elbow due to so many sliders and some previous discomfort in the joint, but there's no clear cut replacement. Heath Hembree was insane during his cup of tea last season and has been given that future closer label. While he showed far better command in '13 than in the past, he was rather generic in AAA Fresno. I do like Hembree to take over as much as anyone - but I think Bochy will go CBC with the same group of dudes he has prior.
Colorado Rockies : CLOSER - LaTroy Hawkins. CONTENDER - Rex Brothers. Rockies management has already said Hawkins has been signed to close, but he's without a doubt in the low security category - this could be red, but they've at least announced their plans. The ultimate battle between Sexy Vs UnSexy. I get the move on Colorado's part, Hawkins had a really nice year in '13 and they got an affordable one yr deal done. Hawkins scares me in Colorado and I'll be steering clear, but he has excellent command, leans towards being a GB pitcher, increased his K rate from awful to OK, is effective Vs L & R hitters. He's basically a boring veteran that was brought in for two reason, 1) They don't trust Brothers, 2) And like Brothers Vs LHB in high leverage situations. Brothers has a nice K rate, dominates LHB, gets weak contact but lets face - the dude is WILD!!! I tuned into him throwing on numerous occasions last year and either said, "Damn that guy is filthy" or "Damn, that guy has absolutely no clue where the ball is going." Brothers also lost a couple ticks last season which probably caused the K rate/SwStr% to drop a tad. Personally - I have very little faith in Hawkins in Coors, or Brothers command(which hasn't improved in 3 years). This spring Hawkins has been hittable and Brothers has been wild - SHOCKER!