In the first week of the regular season, there has already been half dozen closers who have either gone on the Disabled List, or will join the other handful of guys already there. Closers are always one of the most important positions in fantasy baseball, but it also tends to have the highest turnover with pitchers having injuries or pitching too inconsistently. Last year alone saw several teams who started the season with one closer and ended the year with another; an example from 2010 being the New York Mets , Los Angeles Dodgers , St. Louis Cardinals , and Baltimore Orioles . With all the consternation that comes from the closer position through the course of year, there is always a large cast of players that end up making a difference. Here is a quick glance at the team’s who star closer is currently injured and how that team is looking to replace them:
Boston Red Sox
Injured Starter: Andrew Bailey – Bailey was brought in to fill the void left when Jonathan Papelbon went to the Philadelphia Phillies this off-season, but before he could even throw a pitch this season, he was sent to the DL with a frustrating thumb injury. The kid will be able to pitch at some point this season, but it will not likely be until at least late June.
Replacement to Grab: Alfredo Aceves – The “Battery Man” was instantly named the team’s starter when Andrew Bailey was sent to the 60-day DL with a thumb injury. Aceves was in contention for the team’s fifth starter, but with the Bailey injury, the 29-year old was called to close games. Aceves did not have the best outing in his first opportunity to close a game this year, with 3 earned runs and no registered outs, but he still remains the closer for a team with a $126 million dollar payroll. Eventually the team’s giant payroll will start producing and help the new closer rack up more then enough saves to have fantasy value.
Pitching Prognostication: Aceves gets around 15 saves, until Bailey returns to be the team’s full-time closer.
Tampa Bay Rays
Injured Starter: Kyle Farnsworth – Farnsworth injured his elbow just before the season started, but what was more unfortunate was that a large number of fantasy owners had already drafted him. He will be out for at least another four weeks and if it is longer the 35-year may not have a job when he returns.
Replacement to Grab: Fernando Rodney, TB – Tampa Bay shocked the fantasy world by giving Rodney the team’s two save opportunities this year, instead of the supposed closer, Joel Peralta. Rodney also has a win and a sparkling 0.00 ERA. The team looks to be going with the hot hand at closer, and right now that hand is Rodney.
Pitching Prognostication: Rodney eventually wins the closer role over a much older Farnsworth.
Kansas City Royals
Injured Starter: Joakim Soria – Soria was yet another DL addition in late March. He also had Tommy John surgery this off-season and will be on the shelf until the start of the 2013 season. Soria is coming off a down year in 2010, so the break could give him time to work on the mental aspect of the game.
Replacement to Grab: Jonathan Broxton – Broxton was thought to be a worthless middle reliever by most of the fantasy community this year, but a unfortunate injury to Soria forced Broxton back into the spotlight. Broxton did have 33 saves three years ago, so he has potential to be a credible fantasy closer, but owners should be weary of the fact that he has had constant elbow problems over the last year, which half is not reassuring and may eventually lead to Tommy John surgery.
Pitching Prognostication: Broxton holds down the job on his way to a bounce back 2012 season.
Injured Starter: Ryan Madson – Madson is one of the other closers who will miss the entire 2012 season. He had Tommy John surgery earlier last month to repair a torn ligament in his elbow and the team’s big off-season acquisition will have to wait a whole year until he can get on the mound. The injury completely opens the door for someone to step up and take control of a consistent source of saves.
Replacement to Grab: Sean Marshall – Many fantasy owners have reverted to the “Marshall Plan” following an early season elbow injury to Madson. Marshall will get first crack at the closer role, but he is still relatively new to the organization having only came over this summer from the Chicago Cubs . Marshall is a great sleeper closer in bigger leagues and even more enticing is his complete lack of competition at the moment.
Pitching Prognostication: Marshall finishes the year with around 30 saves.
Make sure to check back for my weekly Closer Report, addressing all of the major relief pitcher storylines over the course of the 2012 fantasy baseball season.