Saturday, January 4, 2014


We finish off our first look at the 2014 fantasy baseball rankings by taking a look at how the bullpens and more specifically the closers look at this point for each team from the American League heading into camp.

New York Yankees (David Robertson):  The Yankees kicked the tired on Grant Balfour and Joe Nathan to give the lefty Robertson some competition but that plan was scuttled.  Robertson's very high K rate and guts pitching out of jams SHOULD make him a top tier closer candidate but he needs to prove himself there first.  Not the slam dunk many are predicting as Robertson has struggled to close games when given the chance in the past.

Baltimore Orioles (OPEN):  Right now the Orioles don't have a clear cut closer after trading away Jim Johnson and than voiding their agreement with Balfour over a shoulder issue that showed up on his physical.  They have made mention of making Bud Norris a possible closer which could be interesting but ultimately his lack of control would make him a dicey option.  Fernando Rodney and the team have been talking since the Balfour deal fell through and it makes way too much sense for it not to happen.  For argument's sake you would have to say Darren O'Day would have the best shot to close if nothing changes.

Tampa Bay Rays (Heath Bell):  The Rays have never met a reclamation project they didn't like and it looks like Bell will be the latest as they seem prepared to go into the season with him as their closer.  They have kicked the tires on Balfour too however.  Bell is beyond shaky at this point given his age and struggles the last two seasons.  He would be one of the lowest-rated closers on the board if he remains the guy to open up the season.

Toronto Blue Jays (Casey Janssen):  I really like Janssen and thinks he is one of the better buys at closer since he comes cheaper than many and pitches just as well.  The only red flag are perennial shoulder problems.

Boston Red Sox (Koji Uehara):  The Japanese closer is amazing and comes off one of the best season EVER for a stopper.  Yes he is pushing 40 but Uehara doesn't get by with a blazing fastball.  Still he puts up as good a K rate as anyone in baseball due to the movement on his stuff and is a sure fire top five closer.

Detroit Tigers:  The Tigers finally got some stability at closer by signing the ageless Joe Nathan who comes off perhaps his best season in 2013 at the age of 39.  He has to get old at some point but we think not this year.

Cleveland Indians (John Axford):  In a market flush with closer, I don't understand how the Indians could go this route.  Axford still misses bats but he was a mess for large chunks of last season with walks and the home run ball.  This could get ugly. 

Chicago White Sox (Matt Lindstrom/OPEN?):  The White Sox surprisingly traded away Addison Reed who was one of the better young closers in baseball.  Matt Lindstrom has the most closing experience in the bullpen which likely puts him in the lead role but we have seen this show before and it wasn't very moving.  Nate Jones and Scott Downs also figure to be involved in any sort of competition.  In fact Jones has the most upside of the group and is one I will be watching closely.

Minnesota Twins (Glen Perkins):  One of the most underrated closers in all of baseball.  The lefty has been tremendous the last two season and could surely anchor your relievers.

Kansas City Royals (Glen Holland):  Holland was Craig Kimbrel-like in 2013 with a 1.21 ERA and a massive 103 K's in 67 innings.  Royals relievers tend to come at a discount so Holland could be a terrific buy. 

Houston Astros (Jesse Crain):  The Astros failed to bring back Jose Veras who they wanted as their closer again after he did a very nice job the first half of last season before he got dealt.  However no one took much notice of it but the signing this past week of Jesse Crain likely means they got their closer.  Crain has struck out more than a batter per inning each of the last three seasons and has the best stuff in the Astros bullpen.

Oakland A's (Jim Johnson):  Puzzling that the A's would not bring back Balfour at the cost of nothing but money but than decide to go surrender a prospect for Jim Johnson.  Either way Johnson has been terrific the last two seasons, with usually one bad stretch a year thrown in to navigate through.  Just would like to see more K's from him.

Seattle Mariners (Danny Farquhar):  Farquhar did a nice job replacing the struggling Tom Wilhelmsen last season but this looks headed for a competition that should also include Yoervis Medina.

Texas Rangers (Joakim Soria/Neftali Feliz):  Call it 60-40 that Soria wins the closer battle shaping up in Texas.  Feliz was an All Star in 2010 and 2011 before injuries sent him to the sidelines for awhile.  Soria meanwhile was an All Star closer himself before Tommy John surgery pushed him to the sidelines for awhile.  Stay tuned on this as it could be a spirited battle.

Los Angeles Angels (Ernesto Frieri):  Another guy who is a roller coaster ride throughout a season.  The Angels tried to find a replacement but they will go back to the well again this season with Frieri who is capable of big time runs in production and strikeouts. 

There you have it.  Check back tomorrow for our National League look. 

Be sure to check back for more of the starting pitching rankings as we move forward through the week.  Let us hear your thoughts.

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