Showing posts with label David Robertson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label David Robertson. Show all posts

Friday, December 19, 2014

Hot Stove Junkie: Over Dose at the Winter Meetings!

The Winter Meetings seem like an eternity of moves ago at this point. But the impact of these moves is still being evaluated as these moves have been followed by even more moves. This is the second post about the moves of the last couple of weeks and my third version of this article due to some stupid glitch with my save function. Yes, it is agonizing, thanks for asking. Not as many links as usual because honestly I did not save them and I do not feel like searching for them again. The next post will include the most recent moves as of this weekend and I will finally be up to date.

Your Pal 


Dee Gordon and Dan Haren Traded to the Miami Marlins

There has been a lot of pessimism expressed online regarding Dee Gordon's ability to be a even a productive  player going forward and even the most optimistic views often suggest that Gordon might be okay hitting at the end of the lineup rather than leading off. The silly part is a lot of this is based almost entirely on Gordon's second half walk rate and slumping down the stretch. Gordon had a very long season. He played winter ball before the season, and then came into the 2014 season fighting for a job. This was his first full season in MLB. He had a career high in plate appearances after the shortest offseason of his career. Fatigue is a bitch.

The Steamer Projections I see quoted often do not give Gordon any credit for his minor league and career babip levels. Gordon bunts for hits and uses his speed to great advantage and that has almost always led to higher than average babip levels. He also takes walks. No, he isn't the African American God of Plate Patience but he is not some ultra aggressive three percent walk guy either. Gordon was a good prospect who almost always performed well in the minors. His major league debut in 2011 was fantastic which made the 87 game audition in 2012 look all the worse. He went back to the minors in 2013 and rocked it. He fought back to the majors in 2014 and he rocked it. I am betting he rocks it in 2015 as well. He was a 40 dollar player in 2014. Even if you expect quite a bit of regression, the anticipating playing time alone should make him worth 25 or so. I bid 30 without a problem.

The Dodgers were dumping Dan Haren and the Marlins were only too happy to accept the possibility of adding him to their rotation for free. If he retires they use the money to sign a first baseman or a different veteran starter.he's probably a safe pick at 5-8 dollars, assuming he doesn't retire.

What the Marlins Gave Up

What shocked me most about this deal is that the Dodgers were the ones trading for prospects. In fact they paid the entire salary of both Dee Gordon and Dan Haren to the Marlins (and they get this money even if Haren decides not to play). The prize prospect of the group was Andrew Heaney. The Dodgers also received Enrique Hernandez, Austin Barnes and Chris Hatcher.

Andrew Heaney projects as a solid mid-rotation starter and some evaluators see him as a potential front-line starter. He has a solid low to mid-90's fastball and two other solid pitches. He should excel in a pitcher's park in front of a good defensive team. Though that will not be with the Dodgers, as you probably know by now. He will probably cost you more than I would be willing to pay for a rookie starter in an AL-Only league but given a full shot I think he will be at least league average this season for a pretty good team. He'll get wins to go with solid strikeouts.

Enrique Hernandez is a 24-year old who can take a walk and has a strong contact rate. He does not have much power or speed but looks like he could become a decent role player or lower tier starter at second base. He might have been a solid $1-3 sleeper in NL-only leagues with the Marlins. If he remains a Dodger he will be a reserve at best and unlikely to get enough at-bats to give him value in most fantasy leagues.

Austin Barnes has split time in the minors between catcher and second base. His offense looks nice, really nice. He walks a lot. He makes excellent contact and has solid power (even if he is not really a homerun hitter) and has more speed than the average catcher. If nothing else he should be a solid and versatile reserve for the Dodgers at some point and that moment could be relatively close. I'd take him as a one-dollar second catcher in a deep NL-Only.

Chris Hatcher will be 30-years old soon but does not have a ton of major league experience. He did however have an excellent season in the Marlins bullpen in 2014. He was a catcher until the 2011 season when he switched to pitching. He has a good arm and I see him becoming a valuable piece of the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen which needed some more depth. He isn't likely to have a ton of fantasy value but if Jansen went down with an injury it would not shock to see him as a closer possibility.

Despite some underrating of Dee Gordon, I don't think anyone would argue this isn't a pretty good haul of prospects for him. Andrew Friedman was known for building his rosters from the bottom out in Tampa Bay. It was very important to him that he had strong reserves and depth in place and obviously the Dodgers are adopting that philosophy as well.

Then the Dodgers shipped Heaney to the Angels for Howie Kendrick.

Howie Kendrick is a good player. He never developed into the batting champion that some saw in his future as a prospect but he hits for a solid average. He has solid but unspectacular power. He runs well but is not a prolific base stealer. He plays strong defense at second base. His game should not change much in the move to Dodger Stadium. I have a hunch he'll bat second in the lineup behind Carl Crawford so they can keep Yasiel Puig in more of an RBI spot. He is a 25 dollar player.

Rutledge is not that good. He received a certain amount of hype in Colorado but the 20/20 potential once thought possible for him never materialized and playing in Colorado didn't help. If he only managed a few dollars of value in Colorado how much will he be worth in Angel Stadium? Not enough for me to bid on him. He and Grant Green can battle it out for most useless starting middle infielder in fantasy. 

They Love This Trade in Colorado
Jairo Diaz is a Potential Closer for the Rockies

Diaz throws the ball hard! He seemed to put it together at Double-A in 2014. He has three solid pitches so I guess the potential to start is still there but he has the potential to be a devastating closer and the Rockies do not have an established closer of the future at this point. The strikeouts will be there, if the control sticks around he will be extremely popular this time next year. I plan to invest. I would not hesitate to spend 5-8 in keeper leagues, at the right time in an auction I could see going a few dollars further but not too much more than that.  

Brandon McCarthy Signs with the Dodgers

Brandon McCarthy is a very good pitcher when healthy. He has solid control and induces ground balls. He isn't an amazing strikeout artist but he gets the job done. The biggest issue he has is with health. He and the Dodgers seems to believe that a workout regimen has solved the shoulder issues, though his owners will need to hope his luck improves as well. Not just so that his results are closer to his skills but so that he can avoid balls to the face and other accidents of fate. Typically he has not been very valuable for fantasy purposes (usually less than 10 bucks) but his second half showed what could happen if the skills and results converge. I think the 10-15 area is a fair gamble but that embraces quite a bit of risk. 

Is Brandon McCarthy the Next Jason Schmidt?

Matt Kemp and Tim Ferderowicz were Traded to the San Diego Padres

Matt Kemp suffered through a couple of years of injuries to his shoulder, hamstrings and ankles before finally regaining his mojo during the second half of the 2014 season. Although he is clearly the best of the Dodgers offensive weapons when healthy, the new Dodgers management had a problem with his defense. Kemp has never been rated as a good center fielder (by the stats I mean) but there was a point not that long ago where you could probably project him as a solid defender on an outfield corner. This was not the case in 2014 but as his legs get back into shape and he is able to resume his workout routine I do not believe it is ridiculous to project him as a tolerable defender (or even better) on one of the corners. I mention the defense because there is a lot of talk about how bad the Padres outfield defense will be. I think that is being overstated a bit. (more on this on the next report - coming soon)

But for fantasy purposes I think the bat is back and minus the stolen bases I believe we will see Kemp's MVP form. If we could project his second half out to a full season he would be a clear first round pick. He walks enough. He may not walk more than he strikes out but that is not necessary. His career eight percent walk rate is just fine. This is especially true because Kemp has a career .292 batting average and .349 OBP with a career wRC+ of 128, and this is even with the lousy injury years included. His wRC+ was 140 in 2014 and that was with a lousy first half. In the low offense era his bat is worth even more. You can count on a good to great batting average and 20-25 homeruns. I have a hunch he will hit more homers but going from Dodger Stadium to Petco Field is a huge decline in hitting environment, especially as far as right-handed power is concerned. I would spend 25 on him in an NL-only without hesitation but I would not bid over 30 due to the park factors and injury history.

A Look at Matt Kemp's Defense

The Change to Kemp's Batting Mechanics

Tim Ferderowicz has been around a while but with little opportunity to play in the major leagues. He is just 27 years old and has a reputation as a solid defensive catcher who is also a patient line drive hitter at the plate. As a pitch framer however he is mediocre at best depending on which measures you use. Given the chance to play he would probably be a fantasy asset with his bat and would not hurt a pitching staff despite not receiving the bonus points that pitch framing provides. He projects as the major league back-up for the Padres and should receive more at-bats than he did with the Dodgers the last few years. I like him for a buck or two in the end game and probably qualifies as a sleeper given his length of service without fantasy value.

Yasmani Grandal hits well for a catcher with nice power but not much batting average (in the majors, he did hit for average in the minors so there is the potential for better). He takes walks and makes decent contact by modern standards anyway. He has been a pretty lousy defensive catcher by traditional standards but has been a solid pitch framer which is likely part of the appeal for the Dodgers. If he starts at catcher he should be a popular fantasy option. I am not as ready to declare him the Dodgers starting catcher as some seem to be. Pitch Framing is important but it isn't everything. He is probably a 10-15 dollar player in keeper leagues but I do not have much faith in his ability to keep a job as a starting catcher.The way Andrew Friedman has built his teams tells me he values having strong reserves and Grandal could back up at catcher and first base. The Dodgers front office may not think much of Ellis but they could look to add a more established catching option with both the pitch framing and traditional defensive skills for the position. Jason Castro comes to mind.

The Dodgers Continue to Re-Work Their Catching Depth

Joe Wieland projects as a back-end starter or decent relief pitcher in the major leagues. He was terrible in 2014 after returning from various injuries. I do not like his upside enough to invest in him but I expect he will make frequent appearances in the Major Leagues in 2015.

The Dodgers flipped Zach Eflin who they received in the Kemp deal and lefty pitching prospect Tom Windle to the Phillies for shortstop Jimmy Rollins and cash. This is a pretty good deal for the Phillies who need to add real prospects in the worse way. However Jimmy Rollins is a great get for the Dodgers who manage to replace most of Hanley Ramirez's offense while improving the shortstop defense greatly. The Dodger pitching staff should only benefit by having a better defense behind them.

Rollins is obviously on the downside of his career but is still a very productive player and a fantasy asset at shortstop. He is still a 20/20 threat though that possibility is reduced a bit by Dodger Stadium. The only real downside is in the batting average. His contact rate has been falling which probably says something about his bat speed fading a bit. However with the state of offense in baseball these days, Rollins is only slightly below average in the BA category. He has been about a 20 dollar player and is moving to a much better lineup. I bid 20 with confidence.

Tom Windle spent 2014 in the California League where he had a nice strikeout rate and decent control but mediocre results. Those results are not as meaningful at this level especially when its the hitter friendly California League. He should debut in Double-A for the Phillies and projects as a solid mid-rotation starter. Windle is a decent pick in a really deep minor league system but in leagues with smaller farm teams I think you can do better, especially considering the poor track record of the Phillies in pitcher development.

Zach Eflin should also debut at Double-A this year. He is more of a ground ball pitcher than a strikeout artist, though he has the potential to improve his K-rate. He was mediocre in one of the better minor league pitching environments in 2014 but still projects as a mid-rotation starter with some upside. I don't see him as must get minor league pick but is a solid pick in deeper farm systems.

More on the Phillies' New Prospects

Ervin Santana seems to building a career as the ace for teams that cannot afford an ace. The Royals, then the Braves and now the Twins will use Santana to front their rotation. He is durable and usually an effective pitcher with a good number of strikeouts, reasonable control and that tends to help him collect wins. The fantasy reality (eh) is that he is closer to a ten dollar starter than an ace. In keeper leagues he is probably a 10-15 dollar starter who might get a few dollars more due to name value. The Twins are collecting some solid pitchers in their rotation. I think the hope is that the farm system will eventually provide the ace they really need. Hopefully, the advancement of some of their better prospects will get some of the first basemen out of the outfield and allow the defense to contribute to the pitching stats. 

The Reds Traded Alfredo Simon and Mat Latos to the Tigers and Marlins

By some measures the Reds were the best defensive team in the National League, this contributed greatly to Alfredo Simon out-performing his skills by metrics such as xFIP. Still, the Tigers should have their best defensive team in years to start the 2015 season and seem to have a knack for getting the most out of starting pitchers (relievers not so much). If Simon fails it will not doom the Tigers.

The Tigers will still have David Price, Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander to front the rotation. With the solid and potentially better than projected Shane Greene, plus a few pitching prospects that can at least approach the level of the league's fourth and fifth starters, the Tigers rotation is still in good shape even without Simon. I would consider Simon only in the endgame and he is likely to go for more than that in most leagues. I like Greene a lot more and would pay in the high single digits, 8-10 in keeper leagues has room for some profit in my opinion. 

Eugenio Suarez was a first round pick in 2013 was contributing to the Major League Detroit Tigers in 2014, not an unprecedented feat but still an impressive accomplishment. The article linked below compared him to Didi Gregorious and that isn't a shabby return for an over achieving 33-year old journeyman pitcher. Throw in Jonathan Crawford, a solid if unspectacular pitching prospect, and the Reds did well in this deal.

Zack Cozart is a pretty good defensive player but his bat is not great. His homeruns numbers dropped off quite drastically in 2014 and his already middling batting average sunk to almost intolerable levels. Suarez will either begin the year in the minors or as a reserve bat. However, if Cozart does not rebound he could find himself watching Suarez take his position as the 2015 season continues.

Mat Latos Returns Home to Florida

Mat Latos also out performed his skills during the 2014 season but he has a much better reputation as a starting pitcher and much of his skills (and tool decline - his velocity was drastically reduced in 2014) can be laid at the feet of various injuries that robbed him of a large portion of the regular season. Latos was probably not at 100 percent at any time during the 2014 season and if he can return to health there is a decent chance that he can return to being a front of the rotation type. The Marlins are certainly betting on his rebound. It is difficult to say the Marlins overpaid or that the Reds sold too low with the injuries still a huge question mark. That said, with the entire rotation entering its final season before free agency, the Reds did well to secure a MLB ready starter with six years of control left, throw in a catching prospect that gets on base and it makes sense even if it was not a sexy move. For the Marlins they have little to lose. They are deep in their major league rotation and have a nice bunch of pitching prospects for depth.

Minor League Ball on the Prospects

The Texas Rangers Trade Prospects For Ross Detwiler

Ross Detwiler was a decent fifth starter for the Nationals until the rotation got loaded with all-stars and he was pushed to the bullpen. The Rangers are in need of veteran rotation depth due to injuries and lots of young and unpredictable arms. But do not mistake the adjective "decent" to equate to "fantasy value" of which he has very little at this point. 

Minor League Ball on the Prospects 

The Royals Sign Free-Agent Kendry Morales

Sitting out half the season is not good for your stats or your prospects for signing a high-value long term contract. I have a hunch that with a full spring training and a full season of at-bats he will put up something close to his 2012-13 numbers something in the range of .270/.330/.450 20-25 homers and 15-20 dollars worth of fantasy value.

The Cubs dealt prospects Zack Godley and Jefferson Mejia to the Arizona Diamondbacks and received veteran catcher Miguel Montero. Montero has been in a steady fade the last couple of seasons. It did look like he was rebounding in the first half of the 2014 season but he was so incredibly bad in the second half that it's difficult to tell there were any positives to his 2014 season. Montero is still an excellent pitch framer and the Cubs are starting to put together a solid pitching staff. This is a big move for the Chicago Cubs but not a big deal for his fantasy value. A bid of 8-10 is value but this would not have provided any profit the last two seasons. 

Why Miguel Montero is Perfect for the Cubs

Minor League Ball on the Prospects

The Cubs also committed $155 Million to free agent starter Jon Lester to front their rotation and help lead their young team into contention. Lester is a fine pitcher but probably a bit overrated. If he were moving to a severe pitching environment I might be more optimistic but he is closer to a 20 dollar starter than a 30 dollar one. 2014 was probably his best season and he was worth about 25 dollars and that includes his incredible weeks with the Oakland A's in their extreme pitching environment. Moving to the National League probably earns him a small boost from his career level performances. Bid 20 -25 and you should get your money's worth. If your bids approach 30 or more there are better places to spend it. 

The Jon Lester Factor 

Epstein and Cherington's Contrasting Management Styles

The Red Sox Add Rotation Depth 

After losing out on Jon Lester, the Red Sox made rapid fire transactions to add reliable innings to their rotation.They sent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes (who they acquired in the Lester deal last summer) and reliever Alex Wilson to the Detroit Tigers for Rick Porcello. They sent Ruby De La Rosa and Allen Webster to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Wade Miley. The Red Red Sox completed their trio of new starters by signing free agent (and former farm hand) Justin Masterson to a one-year incentive laden deal. These starters all have something in common. They induce ground balls and pitch to their defense.

The Red Sox defense is a work in progress. They have been a good defensive team the last few years but this year they have again managed to change over almost the entire lineup. Pablo Sandoval is the new third baseman. He has usually been a defensive positive but his irregular conditioning efforts have contributed to occasional inconsistency. Xander Bogearts is moving back to shortstop. He has a good reputation from the minor leagues but has not played short on a regular basis in the majors. Christian Vasquez will be the new full time catcher. Vasquez has the reputation of an elite pitch framer and solid traditional defensive catcher stats, but he is a rookie and there are likely to be growing pains. The Red Sox will feature three new outfielders. Mookie Betts, a rookie and converted second baseman, will be the center fielder. In small samples he has been good in center field but he is learning the position on the fly. Rusney Castillo has been a center fielder in the past but is moving to right field for the Red Sox. Castillo was a defensive positive in his ten game audition last year. In left field is Hanley Ramirez a career shortstop. Ramirez still has the speed to make up for some mistakes but he will also have to deal with the Green Monster. Obviously the Red Sox think the defense will come together well but it could take some time.

Rick Porcello has been on the verge of a breakout the last couple of seasons. He has proven to be durable and reliable to both the Tigers and fantasy owners. The only real flaw in his game is a mediocre strikeout rate. There have been indications in the past of a boost to his k-rate but it has never really come together. Perhaps working with an elite pitch framer gives him the boost necessary to make it happen. I like him at 15-20 dollars, that may be a little high if you do not believe the strikeouts are coming.
Wade Miley is another elite ground baller with a better history of strikeouts than Porcello. In fact his k-rate seems to be on the rise as he refines his pitch sequencing. He works the edges of the zone and that has led to lots of swing and miss. But despite these skills his results have not matched up. This is at least partially due to the Diamondbacks typically lousy defense and their ballpark which pumps up the opposing offense. Fenway should prevent a few homeruns at least and the Red Sox defense should count as an improvement even with the expected growing pains. His fantasy value has been in the single digits (or less...) since his 17 dollar 2012 season. I have a hunch his value will rebound this year but I would keep the bidding in the single digits and leave plenty of room for profit. 
Justin Masterson also induces ground balls at an elite level. He gets the strikeouts too but has not managed to produce consistent fantasy value as his ERA has been all over the place. Part of this is his periodic control problems and minor injuries that mess up his mechanics. In 2014 it was a knee problem. When he is right, Masterson is a 15 dollar starter and he has a bit of upside at that price.


The White Sox sent infielder Marcus Semien (who will play shortstop for the Athletics) and Prospects Chris Bassitt, Josh Phegley and Rangel Ravelo to the Athletics for one guaranteed year of right-handed starter Jeff Samardzija and giant right-hander Michael Ynoa. The Athletics designated Jorge De Leon to make room on the 40-man roster for the incoming players.

Jeff Samardzija has begun to earn his reputation as a front line starter. His ground ball rate has risen the last four seasons. His strikeouts are at about a K per inning. His ERA projectors such as xFIP have been in a steady decline as he gains pitching experience. The Shark has less experience than most pitchers his age because he spent his amateur years playing football. I like him a lot and I think he is about to have a true breakout season as he heads into free agency for the first time. He was a 20 dollar starter in 2014 and in 2015 I will bid 25 with confidence in keeper leagues. 

GM Rick Hahn on Ynoa:
“Yeah, nobody asked about him — I was surprised,” Hahn said. “Ynoa was a true target of ours. This is a kid with a big arm, with a multi-pitch mix. He certainly has a plus fastball and a plus slider and a feel for two other pitches, as well.”
Michael Ynoa was hugely hyped as a international prospect and is still young despite what seems like an eternity in the minors. He has a triple digit fastball and a solid slider. The change-up is a work in progress. Last season the Athletics moved him to the bullpen and as you might expect his strikeout rate soared. His control is still shaky but from the bullpen it is not as great an issue. He has the stuff to be a dominating closer and will get a shot to join the major league bullpen in 2015. I would bet a few bucks on him.

David Robertson spurned the Yankees (who made a similar offer by some reports) and signed a four year $46M contract with the White Sox. The deal includes a limited no-trade clause which allows him to block trades to at least five teams per season. Robertson was a top tier closer last season and that should not change with the White Sox. You can bid 20-25 for one of the better closers in the game. 

Despite trading away some of their better players, the Athletics still look like contenders to me. They have less star power but greater depth that they'll use to fill some of the weak spots that plagued them in 2014. There was some interesting speculation spreading around the Athletics Blogs that the A's would use the cash savings on Cuban second baseman Jose Fernandez. You can be certain that they are not done making deals.

Marcus Semien will start at shortstop for the Athletics.He can probably manage average range but his arm is weak for the position. He is likely just a stop gap at short until Daniel Robertson is ready to take over sometime this summer. Then in theory, Semien moves to second base. His first season was mostly a disaster but he finished strong. He will not be the last rookie to struggle in his first season in the majors. Semien isn't likely to hit for a great average but it should be tolerable. He will give you a great on-base percentage and provide nice pop. He has 20-plus homer potential and could kick in 10 stolen bases in a full season. I like the kid and think he will do well in Oakland. I would bid 10 or so in keeper leagues but he has not earned that yet.

Chris Bassitt was a 16th round pick and has exceeded expectations since. He has a mid-90's fastball with nice sink. He complements the fastball with a solid and improving slider and a change that needs work but should become at least average. He missed half the 2014 season with a broken hand. He was dominate at Double-A to finish the season. He has been given a mid-rotation projection by some scouts and I like that projection. He has a chance to contribute to the Athletics rotation or bullpen this season, but there is a lot of competition for those roles. I would bid a few bucks on him if he makes the team. 
Josh Phegley can hit a bit. He is not very selective at the plate. He does not draw walks. However, he also does not strikeout much especially for a power hitter. He has 20-plus homer power and has hit for average in the minors. He has not shown much with the bat in the majors. Behind the plate Phegley has a good arm and can throw out runners but is not great at the other aspects of catcher defense such as calling games and pitch framing. If you like drafting one dollar catchers you could do a lot worse than a guy with his power and contact skills. He will back-up Stephen Vogt in Oakland.

Rangel Ravelo is a player I really like. He has good plate discipline and an excellent eye at the plate. he collects walks and makes strong contact. He has hit for average and has developing power. He has just average speed at best but is good on the bases. He was drafted as a third baseman but was moved to first soon after. He can also play a passable corner outfield position. I am certain the Athletics value that versatility but his bat is what makes him truly valuable. I will definitely spend a minor league pick on this player.

The Pittsburgh Pirates Re-Sign Francisco Liriano

The deal is for three years and $39M. This deal works for both teams. Obviously Francisco Liriano receives the security of a long term deal. He also gets to stay in the pitching environment that has allowed him to rebuild his career. The Pirates need someone to front their rotation until Gerrit Cole and their younger pitchers are more established. Liriano is a 10-15 dollar starter, he may get a few bucks more for name value.

The Pirates also acquired left reliever Antonio Bastardo from the Philadelphia Phillies.

It is a minor deal with little if any fantasy significance but makes the Pirates bullpen a little stronger as Antonio Bastardo gives them the needed second lefty arm. The Phillies get Joely Rodriguez a decent starting pitching prospect who projects to be at worst a solid lefty reliever. It works for both teams. Neither has significant fantasy value. 

The Cardinals Signed Corner Infielder Mark Reynolds

Mark Reynolds could find himself relieving Matt Adams against lefties. He hit 22 homeruns in 378 at-bats with the Milwaukee Brewers. The Cardinals have been masters at finding at-bats for their bench players. Still, do not pay for the 22 homers. Reynolds is an endgame pick and paying more than that is going to reduce your team's overall value.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The New York Yankees Fantasy Report

If you are a Yankees fan, you are used to seeing the team bashed as if they a dimwit with an unlimited credit card ran the team. Nevertheless, the fact is this is one of the best-managed teams in sports. They should be a model for other teams rather than just the envy of them. They have a very deep farm system. Although not filled with many elite prospects, the depth of B and C prospects is impressive. The vast majority of those prospects are pitchers. The Yankees recognize that nothing is more valuable or more difficult to acquire than pitching. After years known as an organization that would not give a rookie a chance – they are successfully integrating youngsters onto the team on a regular basis. Then they use the savings that these young players provide, and the massive revenue (that years of winning and good business bolstered) to sign the very best players available.

Last year the very best players were CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and Mark Teixeira. It should be noted that these players took the roster spots of players whose massive contracts had finally expired – Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu, Carl Pavano, and so forth. The depth in the system had also made trades for Nick Swisher, Damaso Marte, and Xavier Nady possible. Now that depth may result in the acquisition of Roy Halladay and the level of hatred for all things Yankees would certainly reach new heights. However, it makes some sense. George King of the New York Post calls the Yankees and Red Sox favorites for Halladay because of their ability to part with major league ready talent (or close enough) and to provide Halladay with the Sabathia-like contract he is certain to demand.

Meanwhile, the Yankees could be losing two key players to free agency. Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Andy Pettitte are free agents. Pettitte is not as likely to leave for another team, as he is to retire. However, Damon and Matsui look like prime targets for teams seeking outfielders but unwilling or unable to meet the contract demands of players like Matt Holliday and Jason Bay. Ironically, if the Yankees do lose both Damon and Matsui, it increases the chance that they will go after a Holliday or a Bay. Despite their willingness to include young players in the mix, it is unlikely that the Yankees would go into the season with Nick Swisher, Brett Gardner, and Melkey Cabrera starting in the outfield.

Fantasy Focus

Alex Rodriguez, 3B
After Alex Rodriguez’s gutsy season, he has won quite a bit of respect from me. After a pre-season that included accusations of (and later admitting) PED use, a tell-all book from Selena Roberts, and surgery to repair a muscle tear in his hip, I had no faith that A-Rod would perform. But he did. He had some help. Derek Jeter turning back the clock and Mark Teixeira providing an MVP quality season took away much of the unwanted attention. For the first time since coming to New York, Rodriguez just played baseball. In just 124 games, he managed to hit 30 homers and collect 100 RBI.

However, there are still some questions to answer. Does he need further surgery on his hip and how will that affect his play offensively and defensively? Do you believe his story about quitting PED use after the 2003 season? If not, how will he react? If he is only stopping their use now, how much will his performance degrade? Right now, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I believe many players stopped their PED use after the 2003 season with serious testing implemented. There are many rumors that A-Rod may not even need the more invasive version of the hip surgery. In any case, Chase Utley’s season provides a ton of reasons to hope for the best. I think A-Rod belongs back in the first round. He needs to prove some things before he returns to the Top 5, but Top 10 is a lock.

Phil Hughes, RHP and Joba Chamberlain, RHP
After the General Manager meetings, the New York media swarmed onto GM Brian Cashman with questions about the direction the team would take in 2010. One of the revelations was that Cashman and the Yankees had not yet made a decision about the starting/relieving status of either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes. Cashman indicated that he thought of both players as starters who could also pitch in relief. Both will be part of a large group of starting candidates in Spring Training. The acquisition of Roy Halladay would almost certainly cost the Yankees one of the two pitchers. In that scenario, I believe that the remaining young player would be in the rotation with Sabathia, Burnett, Halladay, and Chien-Ming Wang or Andy Pettitte.

Phil Hughes had a great season for the Yankees. Fans tend to forget just how highly the Yankees think of Phil Hughes. When Wang went down to injury, Hughes stepped up and performed in the rotation. He was not untouchable as a starter but his talent was on obvious display and it would have been nice to see him stay there. However, when Wang returned (it was a short-lived return) Hughes campaigned to stay and pitch in the bullpen. He not only pitched well there but he may have been the MVP of the pitching staff by bridging the gap between the starters and Mariano Rivera.

Hughes finished the season with excellent fantasy stats including an 8-3 record, 3 saves (3BS), 3.03 ERA (3.22 FIP), 1.12 WHIP, and 10.05 K9. Looking a little deeper, Hughes had solid control (2.93 BB9), kept the ball in the park (0.84 HR9) – the Homerun rate may look on the lucky side but he has been displaying that ability his entire career despite being a flyball pitcher. One of the skills that Hughes seems to have is inducing infield flyballs, which obviously do much less damage than the other sort does. Hughes did not seem to have his previously excellent curveball this season. However, in the bullpen it wasn’t needed. His fastball was excellent and his cutter was a solid pitch. If Hughes can rediscover his curve I believe he will be an excellent starter and is worthy of fantasy consideration. If only one of the two is in the rotation, I believe it will be Hughes.

Joba Chamberlain seems to pitch better in the bullpen because he does not attempt to conserve his energy to make it through multiple innings. However, that is not the only reason he looked better as a reliever in 2009. In the first half of the 2009 season, Chamberlain pitched like an average major league starter (with excellent potential) which is just fine for a young player in his first season in a major league rotation. It is even more impressive when you consider that Chamberlain spent just one season in the minors has pitched just 364.3 innings since being drafted. Even for a college player that is a miniscule amount. Now consider that this young and inexperienced pitcher was skipped whenever it was possible in the first half as part of the attempt to limit his innings. Then in the second half, the Yankees hit on a plan to give him 8-10 days between starts. This quickly proved to be a disastrous idea. The Yankees adjusted the plan to allowing him to pitch regularly in the rotation but with a ridiculously low pitch count that made it difficult for Joba to escape even the third inning. The second half was a disaster.

Chamberlain has excellent stuff and if he works on developing his other pitches, he can be a very good starter. There is little point in going into the numbers. He was below average and way off his previous career marks in almost every category. The Yankees still see Chamberlain as a starter but they may not have a spot for him in the rotation in 2010. He will have to earn it. Keeper League owners whose rosters allow Joba to be benched indefinitely should definitely consider holding onto him. With experience, Joba still projects to be an impressive pitcher. However, those in year-to-year leagues are cautioned to avoid Chamberlain as a starter. He will experience ups and down consistent with young pitchers. If Chamberlain in a reliever he should be treated as a very good set-up reliever and next in line for saves should anything happen to Mariano Rivera (knock on wood). In fact he should probably be considered next in line even if he spends the season starting.

Searching for Sleepers

David Robertson, RHP
The most underrated player on the Yankees is probably David Robertson. Illustrated beautifully by the way manager Joe Girardi ignored him during the playoffs. Despite a high walk rate (4.74), Robertson earned a 3.30 ERA and 3.05 FIP. He seems to strikeout batters (12.98 K9) almost at will and despite being a groundball pitcher he keeps the ball in the park, which looked like quite the feat at times this season. He has the stuff to close and probably should become next in line for saves should Joba be established as a starter when Rivera retires.

Francisco Cervelli, C
It is strange the way the Yankees have used Cervelli. He played at four different levels in 2008 and then played at four different levels again in 2009. The Yankees obviously like him as a defensive catcher and he looks like the favorite to backup to Jorge Posada in 2010. Posada is bad enough defensively that I can easily see the Yankees giving Posada lots of at-bats at designated hitter, especially if they do not re-sign Hideki Matsui. If that happens, I believe that Cervelli would make a fine one-dollar catcher. However, this is where the Yankees strange usage makes it hard to predict what he’s capable of doing with consistent at-bats. I think he will make solid contact and hit for a good average but without any real power. Batting in the Yankees lineup on a regular basis should be good for his Run and RBI totals, making him of use in AL-only leagues.

Best Team Blogs for the New York Yankees: -`

Replacement Level Yankees Weblog -

Was Watching -

Respect Jeter’s Gangster -

Bronx Banter -

LoHud Yankees Blog -

River Ave Blues -

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Early 2010 Opening Day Closer Predictions

One of the biggest battles in keeper leagues is over the players that will soon become closers. These days, everyone is hip to the idea that paying full price for saves is a strategy that often blows up in your face. You just can't afford to spend 25-35 dollars (and if you really want to lead in the saves category almost twice that amount) to buy one of the closers that you'll have to pray doesn't lose his job. The recent outcome of this mass realization is that the next in line relievers have become more expensive. Whereas in the old days, you could buy one of the top set-up guys for a few dollars, you see the best set-up guys under the weaker closers going for $10-15 and even up to $20 in some cases. Don't believe me? Check out how much guys like Carlos Marmol and Manny Corpas cost this spring and how much were they actually worth?

With this article, I am not trying to predict free agent activity and trades. Instead I want to give you an early look at the players with closer skills who have the eyes of their respective teams as potential closers. In addition I'll be evaluating the present closers for weaknesses that may not be apparent on the surface. Most of this will be done with AL & NL-only leagues as the context but it should have tons of value for mixed leaguers also.

Baltimore Orioles
Jim Johnson has been closing for the Orioles since they traded George Sherrill to the Los Angeles Dodgers just before the trading deadline. He is a solid reliever with a high groundball rate. His K9 is decent but not spectacular. Johnson has done nothing to lose the role this year and would probably continue to do a solid job as the closer next season. However, Chris Ray is still on this team. He was the closer before he was hurt and has the flashy K-rate that managers love to see. Unfortunately, Ray has never been as good as he looked according to FIP, mostly due to poor walk rates and relatively few groundballs. But lately Ray has concentrated on using his two-seam fastball which has greater movement than his harder but straighter four-seam fastball. The results have been extremely good for him. If this keeps up he'll be hard to keep out of the role.

2010 Prediction: Jim Johnson remains the closer to start the season, but Chris Ray will be forever rumored to take the job and will by mid-season.

Boston Red Sox
Though his strikeout rate remains high, Jonathan Papelbon's three year decline in K9 and this year's loss of control is becoming a much discussed issue in Boston. Papelbon refuses to sign a long term deal with the Red Sox, insisting that he will become a free agent after the 2011 season. He is looking for Mariano Rivera money, that the Red Sox and Theo Epstein have been reluctant to give to relief pitchers. Meanwhile, Daniel Bard has reached the majors and his stuff is just as good as Papelbon's. There have already been rumors and talk of a Papelbon trade so that Bard can take over as closer. Having watched Bard frequently, I do not think the Red Sox would lose much by making the change.

2010 Prediction:
Papelbon will keep the job after the Red Sox explore trade possibilities this winter. But if his stuff continues to degrade, the Red Sox will not hesitate to make the change to Daniel Bard.

Chicago White Sox
Bobby Jenks has had injury issues this season, including missing time after the removal of kidney stones. His K-rate is back where it should be at close to a strikeout per inning. But the reduction in his groundball rate and a freakishly high HR/FB has led to a surge in his ERA. Matt Thornton has become next-in-line thanks to superb performances over the last two seasons. Octavio Dotel becomes a free agent after the season and is likely to find a new team. Bobby Jenks will be due a big raise in arbitration this season but the White Sox can afford to pay him.

2010 Prediction:
Jenks is not the best closer, but he seems like one of the safer ones for fantasy owners. If anything developed, Thornton would step in without a hitch.

Cleveland Indians
I have always loved Kerry Wood but he has not been good this season. The main problem is his control. Wood has never been considered a control pitcher but after last season it seemed like being in the bullpen clicked with him. It could be the change in leagues, or the nagging injuries that have always plagued him, but realistically his walk rate looks like it has always looked which is a problem. Joe Smith, Tony Sipp, Chris Perez and Rafael Perez are all options if they decide to make a change. The favorite looks like Chris Perez who has control problems of his own. Wood has a vesting option in his contract at 55 games finished which I have a feeling the Indians will try to avoid. So we might see someone besides Wood seeing some save chances over the next five weeks.

2010 Prediction:
Kerry Wood will be shopped at the Winter Meetings but the Indians will find few buyers. Wood starts the season as the closer with Perez a popular sleeper pick.

2011 DARK HORSE SELECTION: Tony Sipp - This kid has the stuff to close without question. He has been up and down all season. He had a terrible month of July but has been Lights Out in August. He had Tommy John Surgery in 2007 and took some time to get his mojo working but he is certainly on right now. This time next season everyone will want him.

Detroit Tigers
The Tigers always seem to have bullpen issues. Fernando Rodney has held on to the job without any problems this season but the Tigers will almost certainly try to upgrade their bullpen after the season and Rodney will be a free agent. Ryan Perry is the closer of the future but he should probably be pitching at double-a Erie this season and in triple-a in 2010. Brandon Lyon has closer experience and has had a solid season, but I see him as a set-up man next season if he remains with the Tigers. Joel Zumaya should be an option only as a reserve on very deep rosters in very deep leagues.

2010 Prediction: No one on the present roster will take the job from Rodney if he stays. But the Tigers will be looking to trade for or sign a closer if they can do so without breaking the bank. Wouldn't the idea of a Tigers/Red Sox trade be interesting? I sincerely doubt that the Tigers would allow Rodney to leave only to sign Lyon on as their closer. If everyone leaves Ryan Perry will be forced into the closer role.

Kansas City Royals
With Joakim Soria the Royals have one of the better closers in baseball. Unfortunately, the Royals have a terrible reputation when it comes to protecting their players from injury and properly diagnosing and treating them after they occur. Soria suffered from some mysterious ailments that the team refused to discuss in much detail. It has greatly reduced Soria's innings this season and thus his impact on fantasy teams. Kyle Farnsworth would close if Soria was unavailable.

2010 Predictions: The Royals need to make improvements all over the field. I would be shocked if they did much to address the bullpen beyond Soria and Farnsworth. Soria is the unquestioned closer for the Royals.

LA Angels
Brian Fuentes has continued the Angel tradition of collecting a ton of saves after replacing Francisco Rodriguez. He won't break K-Rod's record but should easily surpass 40 saves this year. There is no doubt that given health Fuentes will start 2010 as the closer. But with Fuentes being less than awe inspiring it would not shock me if a change came in 2010 if he were ineffective. Jose Arredondo is still the next best option. His inflated ERA is the result of a bloated BABIP of .363, but his solid .332 FIP is a sign that he is still a very good pitcher.

2010 Prediction: Brian Fuentes will be the unquestioned closer to start 2010. Jose Arredondo is the future.

Minnesota Twins
Joe Nathan is one of the top three closers in the game. The Twins are moving into a brand new stadium next season so any thoughts of trading one of their most popular players should be out the window. Matt Guerrier and Jose Mijares can both make claims on being next in line but most likely they'll need to wait until 2012 before it begins to look like a possibility. The Twins traded a player to be named later for Arizona's Jon Rauch on Friday to add depth to their bullpen, but it would take a disaster to find him in a position to get saves.

2010 Prediction: Joe Nathan is the closer. There is no doubt. I like Guerrier as the future closer but in fantasy years that is decades away.

New York Yankees
The Yankees have a Hall-of-Fame closer who should be just fine through the end of his contract in 2010. The question then becomes how much and how many years with the Yankees be willing to invest in a 41-year old reliever like Mariano Rivera. The Yankees have plenty of in-house options to replace Rivera should he decide to retire. But if he continues to pitch I cannot see anyone outbidding the Bombers for his services. The future at closer in New York could come from almost anywhere. I would cross both Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes off the list of possibilities, they'll be in the rotation. My favorite to take over the role is David Robertson, who still has some control issues but a K-rate over 13.00 makes up for quite a bit. Mark Melancon, Brian Bruney, and half a dozen names from the minors could be closing in a few years. This is a team where speculation on what the future holds will be both expensive and risky.

2010 Prediction: Mariano Rivera has another World Series MVP in his future. David Robertson and Mark Melancon will both emerge as great set-up relievers and possible closers.

Oakland Athletics
When Joey Devine was unable to go this season Brad Ziegler stepped into the role and performed decently but still managed to lose the role to Andrew Bailey who has pitched great. Michael Wuertz also managed to collect a few saves. The A's have a solid and deep bullpen that should only improve when Devine returns next season. Though Bailey has done nothing to lose the job this season, he will need to re-win the job next spring. Billy Beane could very well trade Bailey or Ziegler if the return is good enough.

2010 Prediction: Joey Devine will emerge as the closer the Athletics meant him to be since acquiring him. Health will always be a consideration for Devine owners, so Ziegler and Wuertz will see plenty of bids.

Seattle Mariners
I have been really proud of myself for calling David Aardsma as the Mariners closer (you should see the size of my head). But Aardsma is not a long-term closer. His walk rate is still bloated (5.17 BB9) and he's been a bit lucky that those walks haven't done more damage. The Mariners are slowly putting together a nice collection of arms. Brandon Morrow will be a starter next season and will stay a starter long enough to get through the ups and downs of starting (which means the entire season). Sean White, Shawn Kelley, Josh Fields and Mark Lowe are all possibilities but I have a feeling that the next long term closer for the Mariners isn't in the picture just yet.

2010 Prediction: David Aardsma won't be quite as good next year but he'll start the season in the role and keep it all year.

Tampa Bay Rays
After struggling to find a permanent closer for the last few years, J.P. Howell emerged this season as a legit option. Howell is far from the perfect closer. His walk rate is mediocre. He looks lucky with a 86.8 percent LOB and a .259 BABIP. But I can see the Rays going with him next year rather than invest resources to bring in a more established option. Long term the closer willcome from the farm system. Mostly likely from the group of very good starters they have trapped at triple-A. Jeremy Hellickson, Jake McGee, Wade Davis and Jeff Neimann will battle for the last spot in the rotation next year and the losers are likely to find roles in the bullpen. These are not your typical fifth starters.

2010 Predictions: The Rays will have another Spring Training battle of potential closer candidates. Howell will be the established favorite with an edge in earning the role.

Texas Rangers
Frank Francisco has been a great closer for the Rangers when healthy this season. But his frequent DL stints have spotlighted C.J. Wilson as another fine possibility. Both get the job done with plenty of strikeouts. Francisco's stuff is a bit better but Wilson is more durable and induces groundballs.

2010 Prediction: Frank Francisco remains the number one option. C.J. Wilson will be a nice alternative when Francisco requires a few days off. Wilson makes a nice speculation pick.

Toronto Blue Jays
Cito Gaston gave us hints that he wanted Scott Downs as the closer all winter and throughout Spring Training. If you listened you were not surprised when B.J. Ryan was quickly replaced. Downs has been very good but injuries have been a problem. Jason Frasor has been a fine replacement when needed but the Blue Jays would probably look elsewhere when Downs becomes a free agent after the 2010 season. But with the Blue Jays you never know. They dump contracts and say they are raising the payroll in essentially the same breath.

2010 Prediction: Downs will begin and end the 2010 season as the Jays' closer.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Chad Qualls is a free agent after next season, so considering that the Diamondbacks tried to trade him before the deadline (and still could in a quite active waiver period) they should have a new closer in 2010. The D'Backs have several good young arms in their bullpen that could replace Qualls. Juan Gutierrez and Esmerling Vasquez both have the stuff if not quite the guile at this point. The pitcher I like for the role has the stuff, a cool story, and a Rollie Fingers mustache too boot. Clay Zavada is my pick. In addition to a nice strikeout rate he has prevented the long ball despite not inducing many groundballs.

2010 Prediction: Chad Qualls will be a free agent after the 2010 season and will probably be traded before Opening Day. Clay Zavada will become the new closer.

Atlanta Braves
Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano have basically been co-closers this season. Neither has been especially bad but Soriano has been much better statistically. Both will be free agents after the season. The Braves could re-sign one of the two or another free agent closer but their bullpen could still use a bit more depth. The side-arming Peter Moylan is probably the most likely in-house option but it is a bit of a stretch to see him in the role.

2010 Prediction: The Braves 2010 closer is not yet on the roster.

Chicago Cubs
After a season of speculation the Cubs finally gave Carlos Marmol the closer role after Kevin Gregg experienced an inconveniently timed streak if awfulness. Ironically, Marmol has been just as awful (if not worse) since gaining the role. "We'll continue to give him the ball," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "But boy he makes it tough on himself." The Cubs are looking incapable of making up the games they need to get back into the Wild Card race. They have almost no chance at catching the Cardinals for the division. So, giving Marmol the role for the remainder of the season makes some sense. Gregg is a free agent after the season and will be in demand as a mid-priced closer option.

2010 Prediction: He'll be pissed about it, but once again Carlos Marmol will have to earn the closer role in Spring Training. In addition to whatever free agent options the Cubs bring into the mix, he'll have to compete with Angel Guzman and Jeff Samardzija as well. Marmol is the odds on favorite but I'll be bidding on Guzman and Samardzija instead.

Cincinnati Reds
Francisco Cordero has been very effective as the Reds closer. Although many have speculated that the Reds would be looking to trade away some salary after the season, I do not believe that will be the case. It certainly won't be Cordero who is traded. Nick Masset is probably the closer-in-waiting and a nice option should I be wrong about the Reds intentions. Masset has a decent but uncloser-like K-rate of 7.74 this season and a high groundball rate of 54.2 percent. He would probably be of use to NL-only league owners even without a regular opportunity for saves.

2010 Prediction: Francisco Cordero will remain the closer in Cincinnati.

Colorado Rockies
It was not hard to predict that Huston Street would be a solid closer for the Colorado Rockies. being effective has never been as much of a problem as staying healthy. In the spring rumors flew around that the Rockies only acquired Street to trade him and there seems to have been some truth to that notion. But when the Rockies found themselves in the playoff hunt and one of the favorites to win the Wild Card, the idea of trading Street was pulled off the table. Manny Corpas, who was the player predicted to take over as closer at some point this season was disappointing to say the least. In addition to a 5.88 ERA (3.54 FIP), he suffered a variety of injuries. Corpas' most recent problem was an infection that occurred in his surgically repaired elbow. He'll miss the rest of the season as a result. Matt Daley and Rafael Betancourt have both been solid set-up men. Betancourt is the likely fill-in should anything happen to Street at this point. The Rockies hold a reasonable option on Betancourt for the 2010 season and they seem likely to retain him. Street is in his last year of arbitration and could still be traded after the season.

2010 Prediction: Street stays on for the 2010 season and is once again a solid saves option for fantasy owners.

Florida Marlins
Leo Nunez has done a decent job as the closer since Matt Lindstrom went down with injuries. Lindstrom had been on the verge of replacement before getting hurt anyway. However Lindstrom is back and has pitched much better of late. The Marlins have been pretty open about shopping for a veteran closer but with the Marlins the price is most often too high. Dan Meyer, the former top prospect of the Braves and Athletics has been priceless in the pen and has been mentioned as a potential closing candidate. As a lefty the Marlins may prefer him in a set-up role.

2010 Prediction: Matt Lindstrom is reinstalled as the closer even if Nunez finishes the 2009 season in the role.

Houston Astros
Injuries prevented Jose Valverde from providing his fantasy owners with a satisfying season but statistically he has been the same pitcher he's always been. he provides tons of strikeouts with a mediocre walk rate. Valverde is unsigned and a potential free agent after this season but the Astros almost have to re-sign him because they have no prospects or even much in the way of a veteran reliever that could fill the role on a full-time basis. LaTroy Hawkins was a nice fill-in this season but he's a free agent again after this season and is likely to make a lot more money elsewhere.

2010 Prediction: The Astros will try to re-sign Valverde but may go for a cheaper option instead like Kevin Gregg or Mike Gonzalez. They have almost nothing in the way of an in-house option.

LA Dodgers
In his first full season as the regular closer, Jonathan Broxton has been very good. He has a killer strikeout rate (13.28) and a very nice groundball percentage (54 percent) that combine to make him one of the better closer's available. The Dodgers have built a very nice bullpen around him. George Sherrill was a pretty good closer himself and is now Broxton's set-up man. Guillermo Mota has been solid but is a free agent after this season. Ramon Troncoso has a good arm and should continue to develop into a solid reliever in his own right. Hong-Chih Kuo could be one of the better pitchers in baseball if he could stay healthy and available.

2010 Prediction: Jonathan Broxton is one of the better closers in baseball.

Milwaukee Brewers
Trevor Hoffman was great this season for the Brewers. He has a very good chance at signing on as a closer somewhere for the 2010 season and it could be to stay in Milwaukee. The Brewers haven't developed any obvious closer candidates but Todd Coffey looks like he could handle the role. Coffey was frequently touted as a potential closer in his Cincinnati days. He owns a 3.87 K/BB with a groundball rate of over 50 percent.

2010 Prediction: Hoffman sticks around as the closer for one more season.

New York Mets
It is safe to say that the 2009 season has been a disaster for the New York Mets. But at least they can say that in a season where 20 different Mets went on the disabled list (including first baseman Carlos Delgado, shortstop Jose Reyes, third baseman David Wright, center fielder Carlos Beltran, starters Johan Santana, Oliver Perez, and John Maine as well as set-up man, J.J. Putz) closer Francisco Rodriguez stayed relatively healthy. That is not to say that K-Rod has not been a little disappointing. His strikeout rate fell for the fifth straight season even as his walk rate rose for the third straight season to a career high 5.12 BB9, resulting in a career high 4.07 FIP. I suggested he might have an arm injury in Spring Training due to reports of his declining velocity on his fastball, though it rebounded slightly this season to 92.7 from 91.9 in 2008 with the Angels. I still think of K-Rod as a closer to avoid investing too heavily in owning.

2010 Prediction: Rodriguez will remain the Mets closer as long as he is healthy and able to do so.

Philadelphia Phillies
He was almost the perfect closer in 2008 but Brad Lidge has been a disaster in 2009 with nine blown saves and a bloated ERA. Almost every appearance has been an adventure. The team has used DL stints, brief breaks from the role to try an jar Lidge back into the pitcher he can be. Nothing has worked. Lidge has done this before. With the Astros, Lidge was often on and off as a great closer and then inexplicably awful. Unfortunately, when called on to close Ryan Madson (the theoretical next-in-line) has also failed to impress. Madson has been okay in his eighth inning role but has five blown saves of his own. The Phillies failed in their attempts to add a veteran closer to their pen before the deadline and nothing appears to be imminent on the trade front. But there is another option. Brett Myers is due to return from a minor league rehab assignment very soon. Myers was a solid closing option in 2007 and the rotation has been fine without him.

2010 Prediction: Thanks to a pricey contract Lidge returns as the closer. But September of 2009 and the playoffs are an entirely different story. I'm betting on Myers to close 2009.

Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates are becoming a difficult team to predict. I never thought they would trade the reasonably signed Nate McClouth for a collection of B and C prospects. They traded just about every position player who wasn't a first or second year player in exchange for sometimes promising but usually disappointing prospects. I think this was backwards thinking on their part. I know they were trying to add depth to their system but they've already proven that they can produce decent major league role players. Where the Pirates system has always failed them is in developing star level players. The players worthy of building around. This is why I would have preferred fewer top level prospects rather than so many players similar to the ones they already have. But they do have Andrew McCutchen and he looks like a star, but all by himself he just isn't enough. Closer Matt Capps was often involved in trade rumors but has remained a Pirate thus far. Capps is arbitration eligible this season which is likely the reasoning behind offering him in trades. Or maybe, Capps is still a Pirate because his 6.23 ERA/ 5.03 FIP is awful. Capps has been worked to death in his time with the Pirates and would probably benefit from a few months off. Unfortunately, the Pirates don't seem to have anyone remaining with closer worthy skills.

2010 Prediction: The Pirates fail to trade Matt Capps and he remains their closer.

San Diego Padres
The Padres seemed to be shopping Heath Bell pretty aggressively. I have no idea why. Bell is one of the better closers in baseball and he made just over one million dollars this season. Even with the raise he is due next season he should remain one of the better bargains in baseball. But I have to admit the Padres have usually underwhelmed me with their baseball decisions though they have excelled at finding relief pitchers. Mike Adams who has been around the block and been called the closer of various futures pitched great for the Padres this season before suffering a shoulder strain. The club is insisting that this shoulder strain has nothing to do with the torn labrum that required off-season shoulder surgery. I have my doubts about whether that is true or not. Adams was in the middle of his best season and would have become the closer had Bell been traded. With Bell sidelined, Edward Mujica moves to the top of the next-in-line list. Mujica has the stuff but is short on experience.

2010 Prediction: The Padres will realize that Bell is more than worth his salary and let him remain as closer for another season. Mike Adams will be worth drafting next season but will remain an injury risk.

San Francisco Giants
Brian Wilson has been a fine closer for the Giants. He has a decent strikeout rate. He walks a few too many but is not in disaster territory. He also induces groundballs at around a 50 percent rate. He also comes very cheap. The Giants have no reason to make a change. The bullpen around Wilson is strong with a nice mix of veteran experience and live young arms. Brandon Medders, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Alfeldt and Bobby Howry are all solid relievers and decent options to close if the need arose.

2010 Prediction: Brian Wilson is a lock to remain the closer for the Giants.

St. Louis Cardinals
This spring everyone was declaring their loyalty to one or the other Cardinals reliever. Popular opinion had Chris Perez and Jason Motte both seeing time as the closer this season. But the thing that so many missed (and I know they missed it because of the high prices attached to Perez and Motte) is that Tony LaRussa was not fond of the idea of either one of the players as his closer. I am not a big fan of Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan for reasons that have little to do with their levels of ability. But one thing I've learned is that LaRussa usually says exactly what he means. This spring he went about his thinking of what was required in a closer. Basically he stated that he did not like the idea of rookies in such an important role. He believed that a great quality in an effective closer was intimidation. He didn't believe that any rookie could intimidate professional hitters. If he couldn't have that intimidation factor he wanted a track record of success that no rookie has for obvious reasons. Knowing that LaRussa trusted Ryan Franklin as his closer in 2008, it was a cinch to predict that Franklin would be LaRussa's choice in 2009. That Franklin has been outstanding in the role is just gravy. The Cardinals hold an option on Franklin for 2010 at $2.75 million.

2010 Prediction: Another Tony LaRussa trait? Trusting veterans to continue doing what they have always done until they prove otherwise. Ryan Franklin will remain the Cardinals closer in 2010.

Washington Nationals
Mike MacDougal has been attempting to become somebody's closer for a long time. For reasons mostly concerning his lack of control, MacDougal has failed over and over again. So while MacDougal has been rather effective (despite still dicey control and a severe loss of dominance) for the Nationals, it is difficult to believe that he will remain the closer for very long. I believe the Nationals have two excellent possibilities for closing. Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett both have the stuff, though Clippard could still wind up in the rotation.

2010 Prediction: Despite Mike MacDougal''s best efforts, Tyler Clippard closes for the Nationals.

Under Not Fantasy Sports but Still Awesome!

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