2013 Fantasy Baseball: AL West Closers

By Brian Fischler
Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

The AL West gives us two of fantasy baseball’s oldest closers in the Texas Rangers Joe Nathan (38) and the Oakland A’s Grant Balfour (35). Unlike wine, an aging closer isn’t necessarily better.

Unlike his divisional aging counterpart, Nathan is the safest closer option in the AL West. He will be entering his second season as the Rangers closer and anyone drafting him will constantly be holding their breath when he pitches on back-to-back days. It is always a crap shoot whether or not Nathan makes it through a full season healthy. Should this be one of those seasons, expect 36 saves, 63 strikeouts, a 2.95 ERA and a Whip of 1.15.

Without Brian Fuentes standing in his way, Balfour will start the season as the A’s closer. Okay, did anyone really think Fuentes would enter the second week of last season as the A’s closer? While Balfour should hold the job longer than Fuentes did, should he struggle, the A’s have plenty of young arms to replace him with. Don’t expect Balfour to hold on to the closer role for the entire 2013 season. You can expect about 26 saves, 60 strikeouts, an ERA of 3.35 and a WHIP around 1.27.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim closer situation gives us the biggest head scratcher of the division. On the one hand, you have Ernesto Frieri, a guy with lights out stuff. He has an electric fastball and reportedly learned a cutter in the off-season, which should result in his strikeouts skyrocketing. So why did the Angels go out and sign Ryan Madson? He missed all of 2012 and is already heading into Spring Training expecting to miss time during the regular season. If Frieri has mastered the cutter, don’t expect him to relinquish the role. Look for 33 saves, 78 strikeouts, an ERA of 3.22 and a WHIP of 1.26.

I hate writing about the Seattle Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen–not because he’s a bad option at closer, but because he has one of those last names that I constantly forget how to spell. With the Mariners no longer being the doormat of the AL West, because that distinction now belongs to the Houston Astros for the next decade, expect improving numbers from Wilhelmsen and the Mariners. Look for 36 saves, 69 strikeouts, an ERA of 3.57 and a WHIP of 1.30.

Wouldn’t moving the Astros to Triple-A have been a better option than the AL West? At least in Triple-A, the Astros would be competitive. We could be looking at a historic season from Houston, but not in a good way–in a 1960s expansion New York Mets way. Jose Veras has the best shot to start the season as closer. For fantasy owners, Veras is a lose-lose situation. If he is lights out as a closer, he will be dealt and probably fallback to a setup role. Should he struggle as the closer, he will be the first closer to be replaced. Expect 18 saves, 67 strikeouts, an ERA of 4.00 and a WHIP of 1.40.

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