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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fantastic Thoughts: "Fat closers make happy owners." (Closer Preview)

1. Mariano Rivera (Yankees)
2. Jonathan Papelbon (Red Sox)
3. Francisco Rodriguez (Mets)
4. Jonathan Broxton (Dodgers)
5. Joe Nathan (Twins)

If you want one of these guys, you'll have to pay, either with one of your first five picks, or $25-$30 (if not more) in an auction.

6. Jose Valverde (Tigers)
7. Francisco Cordero (Reds)
8. Bobby Jenks (White Sox)
9. Trevor Hoffman (Brewers)

I really believe that this is where the value is.  Every year, the pundits become convince that these guys are just waiting to self-destruct.  Too fat.  Too old.  Too wild.  Too cocky.  But last year they combined for 130 saves.  In 2008, it was 138.  173 in '07.  136 in '06.  Many will bet against them in 2010 and maybe they'll finally be right, but me, I'll grab one of the fat boys in the middle rounds and odds are I'll be just fine.

10. Joakim Soria (Royals)
11. Brian Wilson (Giants)
12. Andrew Bailey (Athletics)
13. Huston Street (Rockies)
14. Carlos Marmol (Cubs)

The young guns.  A couple of these guys may jump into the top tier by the end of the year.  Soria would have been there already if injuries hadn't cut into his '09 campaign, thus causing potential owners some anxiety.  The price of youth is inconsistency, so buyer beware, but you'll be entertained watching them pitch.

15. Heath Bell (Padres)
16. Frank Francisco (Rangers)
17. David Aardsma (Mariners)

This trio pitched well in their first year captaining a bullpen and there's no obvious reason why they wouldn't do so again.  However, you should be slightly wary.  Literally hundreds of relievers have posted a 30-save season, but only a few dozen have done it more than once.  The sophomore season is when the wheat gets separated from the chaff when it comes to closing ballgames.

18. Brad Lidge (Phillies)
19. Brian Fuentes (Angels)
20. Billy Wagner (Braves)
21. Mike Gonzalez (Orioles)
22. Rafael Soriano (Rays)
23. Kerry Wood (Indians)
24. Octavio Dotel (Pirates)

These players have all done this job for several years and done it well, but there are a few reasons to be skeptical of them in 2010, to an extent you may not have been in the past.  Brad Lidge was a much-publicized mess last season.  There is no way Charlie Manuel will give him as long a leash if he again struggles out of the gate.  Brian Fuentes led the league in saves, but got bombed down the stretch and in the postseason, something Angels fans won't soon forget.  Wagner is old.  Wood is brittle.  You get the picture.

25. Leo Nunez (Marlins)
26. Ryan Franklin (Cardinals)
27. Matt Capps (Nationals)

This trio managed to win and hold down the closer's role for most or all of 2009, but they did so without dominating results.  They will be pressed from the start in 2010 and may not even survive Spring Training.

28. Juan Gutierrez (D-Backs)
29. Chad Qualls (D-Backs)
30. Jason Frasor (Blue Jays)
31. Brandon Lyon (Astros)
32. Matt Lindstrom (Astros)
33. Scott Downs (Blue Jays)
34. Kevin Gregg (Blue Jays)

The closer role is still TBD in Toronto, Houston, and Arizona.  These guys are likely to be battling it out all through the spring and possibly even into April, so you're unlikely to know for sure that you're even drafting a closer.  Nonetheless, it's worth speculating in the late rounds or with a few dollars, because it wouldn't surprise me at all if every guy on this list ends up with at least 8-10 saves.

35. Fernando Rodney (Angels)
36. J. P. Howell (Rays)
37. Ryan Madsen (Phillies)
38. Jim Johnson (Orioles)
39. J. J. Putz (White Sox)
40. George Sherrill (Dodgers)
41. Mike MacDougal (Marlins)

If you take one of these guys at the end of your draft, expect to be about as popular as a stock-shorter on the floor of the exchange.  By choosing a player from this tier or the one below it, you're essentially saying you have no faith in that team's current closer, either because you think they are going to be ineffective or injured.  The above group features players who have closing experience and have even had moderate success in the venture, and therefore are pretty much guaranteed the first shot at the job if the current closer does falter.

42. Neftali Feliz (Rangers)
43. Daniel Bard (Red Sox)
44. Phil Hughes/Joba Chamberlain (Yankees)
45. Angel Guzman (Cubs)
46. Drew Storen (Nationals)
47. Chris Perez (Indians)
48. Jason Motte (Cardinals)
49. Jose Ceda (Marlins)
50. Mike Adams (Padres)
51. Matt Thorton (White Sox)
52. Manny Corpas (Rockies)

These are "big" young arms who project as potential future closers.  It wouldn't take a miracle for them to end up doing the job as some point this season.  The first three on the list are especially interesting.  All three have the potential to contribute even as set-up men, because they'll feature good ERAs and WHIPs alongside a ton of strikeouts.  Moreover, as all three should move into either a closer or starter roles at some point in the next year or two, so they've got long-term consequences in keeper leagues.

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