It’s been a pretty rough year for closers, as nearly a third are out because of injury or ineffectiveness. I’ve warned Fantasy Baseball players not to go crazy when drafting a closer because of the unpredictability, but this year has been absolutely ridiculous with the number of changes to the closing position. With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at how closers across baseball are doing. Today we’ll just take a look at the American League Closers.
No need to worry, their job is safe:
Joe Nathan – There was a time when Nathan was considered one of the best relievers in Fantasy Baseball, but last year changed that perception. Well, he’s striking out more than a batter an inning, and Ron Washington is using him almost exclusively in save situations. He’s got one walk on the season, which is simply fantastic. The velocity is back again, and Nathan is once again pitching like an elite reliever.
Jim Johnson – He’s one of 3 Baltimore Orioles to have pitched 10 or more innings in relief and not allow a run. Wonder why the Orioles are in first? Their bullpen is playing a key role in its success, and Johnson is a big reason why. He isn’t likely to lose his job anytime soon, but given how well the relievers have pitched in the bullpen if he struggles, they might turn to the hot hand. But as of today, it doesn’t look like Johnson will lose it for a while. And that’s why he’s a safe option for owners in Fantasy Baseball.
Fernando Rodney – He became the closer when Kyle Farnsworth went down, and he’s been a dominating arm for one of the best teams in baseball. The only question is who closes when Farnsworth comes back in a few weeks. But until then, enjoy the strikeouts, the saves, and the low ERA.
Brandon League - One of the few closers whose job is safe, League has been a solid option for the 9th inning this season. One thing to watch is his high walk rate and the low strikeout total – it could be a problem later on in the year if League doesn’t figure out where the ball is going.
Risky plays for the ninth inning:
David Robertson – He blew a save last night, and he looked ugly in his first save of the season. But Robertson is one of the best relievers in baseball, and he should continue to get chances. If he continues to struggle, the New York Yankees might turn to Rafael Soriano to close out the ninth.
Chris Perez – He’s simply not one of the Cleveland Indians best relievers, and it’s a good question as to how long Perez will hold the closers role. Vinnie Pestano has been outstanding this season, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he ended the season closing out games for Cleveland. So make sure that if Pestano is available, you swipe him up in your Fantasy Baseball league.
Matt Capps – He’s not doing terrible, but with 5 saves Capps isn’t exactly a top closing option. The Minnesota Twins are one of the worst teams in baseball so wins, let alone saves, are going to be difficult to come by.
Jonathan Broxton – The 1.54 ERA hides the fact that Broxton has pitched pretty poorly. He’s not striking anybody out, and he’s walking a bunch of guys. That’s not a good combination, and when Broxton’s luck runs out he’ll be a worthless reliever in Fantasy Baseball. Sell high on him while you still can.
Alfredo Aceves - The only reason a closer can maintain his job with a 6.21 ERA is if the rest of the bullpen is even worse. Aceves has pitched much better over the past few weeks, so it makes sense that the Boston Red Sox have stuck with him in the closers role. Still, in order for him to get a save the Red Sox would have to have a lead to hold on to, and that’s been a rare sighting in recent days.
Hector Santiago Chris Sale Addison Reed – The Chicago White Sox continue to frustrate owners in Fantasy Baseball, designating a new closer each week. This time it’s Addison Reed, a flamethrowing right hander who has extended his scoreless streak to 10 innings. I think Reed is the best option to close, but he’s likely only doing so because Sale is currently injured.
Scott Downs- He’s currently closing, but he’s not a great option this season. The entire Los Angeles Angels bullpen is a mess, so he’s not at risk of losing his job unless they acquire someone new. But I wouldn’t expect him to be the closer two months from now either. Just a weird all around situation.
Jose Valverde – He’s a big name closer, but with a 5.27 ERA there’s only so long the Detroit Tigers will continue throwing him out there in the 9th inning. If anybody is going to steal the closer’s job, it will be Joaquin Benoit, so keep a close eye on this situation.
Grant Balfour – Grant has lived up to his name, often letting the hitters walk to first after issuing ball four. It’s been a tough season for Balfour, as he has struggled in the 9th inning this season. Ryan Cook has been fantastic for the Oakland Athletics, and the hard throwing right hander could see some time in the closer’s role if Balfour continues to struggle. For now though, just put Cook on your Fantasy Baseball watch list, as the A’s will likely let Balfour work through his struggles.
Casey Janssen – He’s been quite the underrated reliever, dominating opposing hitters since 2010. He’s an excellent option to close, but the real question here is when will Sergio Santos come back? He’s been cleared to throw, and it’s just a matter of time until he’s back. In the short term though, Janssen is a fantastic option who should have a chance at a number of saves with a low ERA total and a solid strikeout rate.