Just a few seasons ago, the Chicago Cubs thought they had their closer for the foreseeable future in Carlos Marmol. After an awful 2012, however, fantasy baseball owners are looking at a possible closer competition in Chicago.
Last season, Marmol could not find the strike zone if his life depended on it. While he was never the greatest when it came to control, he completely fell apart with a 7.32 walks-per-nine rate, which is flat-out terrible. His 6.03 walks-per-nine for his career the worst among active pitchers. Not only was his control awful, his strikeout rate dropped for the second straight year. It’s still very high compared to the rest of the league at 11.71 per-nine, but it was down a bit nonetheless. He lost save opportunities to Rafael Dolis and Shawn Camp at times last year, but now the Cubs have taken action and brought in real competition in Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa.
One of the top Japanese closers of the past few years, referred to as Japan’s Mariano Rivera at times, Fujikawa sports a fastball that tops out in the mid-90s with great movement to go along with a forkball and curveball. At 32, he may not be in his prime, but looks to still be effective coming off a year with a 1.32 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in Japan last season. He had just 15 walks in 47.2 innings last year while Marmol walked 45 in 55.1 innings in 2012.
Manager Dale Svuem has given early indications that Marmol will get the job to start the season, but he is going to have to work to hold on to it. For now, he is a low-end closer to target while Fujikawa is worth a speculative look in deep leagues. Marmol owners will want to grab Fujikawa at the first signs of struggles.