The Cleveland Indians were one of the most active teams in free agency this offseason, with Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds among the notable new faces that fantasy baseball owners should be aware of. At the very least, there are a lot more viable fantasy options in Cleveland this year.
Closer Chris Perez was the best fantasy option on the Indians’ roster over the last two seasons, with 75 saves in 83 opportunities over that time. But he is now expected to miss 3-4 weeks due to a strained muscle in his right shoulder, which puts his status for Opening Day up in the air. If Perez is not ready to go for the start of the season, the door would be open for someone else to take over the closer role for what should be an improved team.
Vinnie Pestano has been dominant as a primary setup man for Perez, with a 2.45 ERA, 59 holds and a 10.9 K/9 rate over 137 combined appearances in 2011 and 2012. That is closer-worthy stuff, with some room for improved control (3.1 BB/9 last season) and fewer fly balls induced (43 percent fly ball rate last season), but as could be expected he only has four saves in 11 opportunities over the last two seasons. Pestano’s experience pitching in high-leverage situations, along with the type of peripherals he has shown the past two seasons, should make a transition to being a full-time closer fairly seamless if he gets the chance.
Perez’s progress over the next few weeks will be worth watching, and he is still draftable in all fantasy leagues as long as his injury is not worse than reported. But if Pestano gets an opportunity to close games early in the season and is effective, there’s a chance he could keep the role all season.
As of now Pestano is only draftable in mixed leagues as a closer “handcuff” of sorts for Perez, but those in AL-only leagues can consider him a worthy late draft pick with upside.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.