Vanglorious’ Fantasy Corner, Vol. 1March 26, 2010
THE CLOSER CAROUSEL
Teams throughout the American and National Leagues are paying their tokens to take a ride, and the Closer Carousel has begun spinning much earlier than usual this season.
The most notable early passenger of the Closer Carousel is Joe Nathan of the Minnesota Twins. Arguably the best relief pitcher in the game (behind Mo Rivera), Nathan has had at least 36 saves in each of his last 6 seasons (47 last year). That’s obviously not happening this year. Nathan will miss the entire 2010 season after receiving Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.
Who will be the closer for the Minnesota Twins in 2010?
I believe it will be a mixture of Jon Rauch and Matt Guerrier. Jon Rauch will most likely begin the season as the closer , especially because Guerrier is the Twins best “lefty specialist”. On the other hand, Rauch sucks and has already failed in the closer role for multiple other teams. Gardenhire is probably better off going with anyone over Rauch.
Other Passengers Aboard The Closer Carousel:
Huston Street- Colorado Rockies- 15 Day D.L.(at least) with an ailing right shoulder.
Replacement- Franklin Morales
Kerry Wood- Cleveland Indians- Out for at least the first month of the season with a mildly strained back.
Replacement- Chris Perez
Brad Lidge- Philadelphia Phillies- Out for the first week (or two) of the season recovering from minor off-season knee surgery.
Replacement- Ryan Madson
Bobby Jenks- Chicago White Sox- Injured calf, but should be ready for the start of the season.
Replacement- No replacement necessary, but Matt Thornton’s name has been thrown around and he’s performed really well over the past 2 seasons (2.71 ERA, 165 K’s, 139 IP past 2 seasons combined).
Roles In Question:
Toronto Blue Jays- Kevin Gregg, Jason Frasor, or Scott Downs?
Of the 3, Scott Downs looks by far the best in Spring Training. Having said that, I’m leaning towards Kevin Gregg to start the season as Toronto’s closer. Simply because of the fact that Gregg has more experience in the role.
Philadelphia Phillies- Brad Lidge or Ryan Madson?
I know Lidge is injured at the moment, but even when healthy, I don’t think he’s 100% guaranteed the job. He’s had one good season since 2004, and last year he was freakin’ terrible(0-8, 7.21 ERA)! On the other hand, Madson has been near unhittable of the past three seasons. If I was Charlie Manuel(which I’m not, because I’m not a fat hick moron), I’d cement Madson as the Phillies closer as soon as possible.
Tampa Bay Rays- Rafael Soriano or J.P. Howell?
Rafael Soriano is guaranteed the job to start the season and J.P. Howell is on the D.L. I know that doesn’t seem like much of a competition, but considering Soriano’s in a contract year(mid-season trade bait for the Rays) and the fact that Howell has proven he has what it takes to be an elite closer(2.44 ERA, 171 K’s, 155.3 IP over the past 2 seasons combined), the closer situation in Tampa Bay should get very interesting this season.
These are all examples of reasons why Fantasy Baseball drafts are much trickier and take a lot more strategy than most would think. The closer(or relievers in general) you draft and when you draft them can make or break your team.
Strategy #1- Some think you should draft “proven beasts” as your closer, which means you would need to begin drafting closers as early as rounds 6-9. This strategy is great when it comes to expected performance and projections, but if you catch an injury bug and you’re closer goes down, you just wasted your 8th pick(and that sucks).
Strategy #2- Others(like Vanglorious) think you should wait until the end, or not draft a closer at all. Therefore picking them up on waivers. There’s very little risk involved in this strategy, especially compared to Strategy #1, but it has its negative aspects. One being, Strategy #2 takes a ton of work and can be very tedious. You have to keep a hawkeye on the waiver all season because you’ll most likely be adding and dropping relievers as frequently as Derek Jeter receives fellatio from Maxim models(and that’s a lot).
No matter which strategy you choose, always remember fantasy teams with solid closers don’t just benefit from the saves, they usually get a low ERA and WHIP out of it as well. Consistently commanding those three categories will win you many a matchup throughout the season. Although widely considered the least important position in fantasy baseball, the closer position can be the difference between a Fantasy Baseball Championship and finishing in last place, so pick a strategy and make it work.