Monday, January 13, 2014



Not much in the way of closer news lately but there was some recent activity nonetheless to get to. 

-With the Baltimore Orioles having canceled the free agent contract they agreed to with closer Grant Balfour and no recent movement on the Fernando Rodney front, the team is now saying they are prepared to go into 2014 with......drumroll please......Tommy Hunter as closer.  The failed starting pitcher multiple times over Tommy Hunter.  After trading All Star closer Jim Johnson to the Oakland A's earlier this offseason in a puzzling move given they didn't have a ready-made replacement behind him, it appeared as though Balfour would be the solution.  However despite two terrific seasons in a row closing for the same A's team Johnson just got dealt to, the physical turned up a red flag in the form of both knee and wrist issues.  After the deal with Balfour was voided, they Orioles engaged fellow free agent stopper Rodney in contract talks but both sides couldn't move towards an agreement.  Which means Hunter all of a sudden carries fantasy baseball value for the first time in his to this point mediocre career.  Granted Hunter is coming off a very good 2013 season where he pitched exclusively in setup in compiling a 2.81 ERA and 0.98 WHIP.  However Hunter's K rate was very shaky with only 68 strikeouts in 86.1 innings which is not the type of ratio you want out of your closer.  In addition he has zero closing experience and we all know how much of a different animal pitching in the ninth inning can be.  Despite all this Hunter is one of only 32 closers in fantasy baseball with a job as of this report and so he should be owned in all formats.  However Hunter should be one of the last closers drafted and it really wouldn't surprise me if he was quickly out of the job before the temperatures hit 80. 

-Very little attention was given to the signing last week of relief pitcher Jesse Crain by the Houston Astros but this could turn out to be a sizable move in terms of 2014 fantasy baseball closers.  With top closing target Jose Veras not interested in a reunion, the Astros did a low key signing of Crain who has been a tremendous setup man the last few seasons primarily for the Chicago White Sox.  Despite throwing only 36.2 innings last season, Crain was virtually unhittable in compiling a tiny 0.74 ERA and striking out 46 batters.  In fact Crain has struck out more batters than innings pitched each of the last three seasons which is the type of ratio you certainly need our of your closer.  Thus it is easy to see why Crain could make a sneaky and very cheap closing option for 2014 fantasy baseball purposes.  Remember you want to wait as long as you can to address the closer position in your draft and than at that point you need to look for upside plays such as this who have the K rate to fit the closer profile.  Crain has this on both fronts. 

There you have it.  As always let us hear your thoughts.

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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