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Closer Report: Team-by-team breakdown

5/3/2013

The original plan today was to open with a few paragraphs discussing just how great Chicago Cubs right-hander Kevin Gregg is, then head to notes. I would highlight Gregg's myriad positives as well as one or two negatives, if I could find any, and why he might actually keep the closer gig not only for 2013 but for eternity. Alas, I couldn't get past the sarcasm. The truth is that you, the loyal KaraBlog reader, deserve more. So let's not only discuss Gregg's chances of sustaining fantasy relevance -- I know, that's just incredible when you reread it -- but touch on each and every team, because we're one month in, and in some cases everything has changed.

Let's go in order of team wins through Thursday's games, because it's only fitting that Houston and Miami go last.

Boston Red Sox: Joel Hanrahan had the job and, though he struggled, lost it due to performance, not injury. Now Andrew Bailey, not exactly Mr. Durable, has the job and biceps soreness, resulting in Hanrahan's Thursday night save. Sorry, Bailey owners, but I originally projected more than 15 saves for each right-hander, and I'm sticking to it. Bailey last reached 50 innings in 2009. If I had to choose, I'd still go Hanrahan here.

New York Yankees: Um, never heard of their closer. He might be new. By the way, it was a year ago Friday that Mariano Rivera blew out his knee in the Kansas City outfield. He's back, looks awesome, is in a different class. Fun factoid: No AL pitcher has more strikeouts as a reliever this season than … David Phelps.

Atlanta Braves: Craig Kimbrel is dominating again. Lefty Eric O'Flaherty is terrific setting up. But I will say if something happens to Kimbrel, right-hander Jordan Walden would probably leap over O'Flaherty into the closer role. Walden was wild last year. On Thursday, he issued his first walk of the season, but also struck out the side.

Texas Rangers: Joe Nathan is safe. I kind of laugh when people say they expect Joakim Soria to supplant him. Soria missed last year after Tommy John surgery, and he's out until July at least. Nathan is cruising.

Colorado Rockies: Don't expect the first-place Rockies to be trading their closer in July. Rafael Betancourt is good enough, and Rex Brothers will have to wait another year. Wilton Lopez has been terrible.

St. Louis Cardinals: Now it gets interesting! Edward Mujica wasn't the first choice, but he could be the last one. Jason Motte hasn't had his Tommy John surgery yet, and while we're hopeful, let's be realistic. And Mitchell Boggs doesn't need to be owned. Trevor Rosenthal is likely next in line and leads all relievers in K's. He certainly could close if Mujica falters.

Baltimore Orioles: Many were concerned about Jim Johnson repeating his 2012, but there's really no danger here. He's whiffing nearly a batter per inning, too.

Detroit Tigers: Papa Grande! Colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft and I made the board bet on the Fantasy Focus baseball podcast the first week of the season on Jose Valverde's final save total. It will top 30. Of course, I'll lose other bets. I know some think Joaquin Benoit needs to be owned just in case, but I don't.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Jason Grilli entered this season with five career saves. He'll end it with 45.

San Francisco Giants: No reason to believe Sergio Romo will struggle at any point.

Oakland Athletics: Sixteen wins, three saves for this team. No team, even the Astros, has fewer. Hey, the Athletics lead the league in runs scored, so closer Grant Balfour just isn't getting save opportunities. He will.

Kansas City Royals: So much for Greg Holland sharing the role with anyone. Kelvin Herrera allowed four home runs in 84 1/3 innings in 2012. He's given up five this year in 12 1/3 innings.

Arizona Diamondbacks: What a mess this situation has become. J.J. Putz is 5-for-9 in save chances, but his velocity really isn't off much and his K rate looks great. If David Hernandez was thriving, the change would probably have been made already. Keep Putz owned. He might lose the job for a little while, but I still see a 30-save season. And by the way, Hernandez's struggles have opened the door for -- wait for it -- Heath Bell. He does have that ridiculous "experience" managers crave. Hey, don't discount Bell playing a role here. I mean, Kevin Gregg went from unemployed to closing within days, and of the 29 relievers with three or more saves, he's the only one to boast a perfect ERA.

Washington Nationals: Rafael Soriano has had a few hiccups, but with this team, he's saving 40 games. Drew Storen is next in line, not Tyler Clippard.

Cincinnati Reds: I predict Aroldis Chapman will never start a big league game, and nobody will care as he piles on the saves.

Milwaukee Brewers: This really isn't a mess, ya know. Right-hander Jim Henderson ascended to the role when John Axford imploded. And while he appeared to right himself, his last outing was a true implosion. It's Henderson's job and I say he keeps it, even when Francisco Rodriguez thinks he should be closing. That deadline is coming in about two weeks. I wouldn't confidently trade for Henderson, but he's going to save more than 25 games.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Kenley Jansen has one more save than I do. Nobody said life was fair. Also, nobody said Brandon League was great, but as I said/wrote all along, he's going to keep the job and save 30. I know he has only four strikeouts all year, but I'm betting manager Don Mattingly doesn't, and wouldn't, care anyway.

Philadelphia Phillies: No performance problems with Jonathan Papelbon.

Seattle Mariners: Tom Wilhelmsen is pretty underrated. I do think, though, that Carter Capps will be awfully popular a year from now.

Minnesota Twins: Right-hander Jared Burton will get some save chances this season, but for now lefty Glen Perkins is doing nothing wrong.

Cleveland Indians: Everyone seemed to love Vinnie Pestano six weeks ago, but Chris Perez is healthy and doing some fine work. I don't see him relinquishing the role.

Chicago White Sox: Addison Reed is secure, though he's always going to allow enough runs to avoid being elite.

Tampa Bay Rays: Fernando Rodney owners shouldn't have expected a sub-1.00 ERA to start with, but the seven walks versus nine strikeouts is Carlos Marmol-like. These are the old Rodney numbers, which is frightening. I'm only a little worried here. I think Rodney will be fine, but with an ERA in the low-3s.

New York Mets: Bobby Parnell is having a nice season. He should keep the role even when Frank Francisco returns, and I think he will. I just don't see more than 25 saves, because the Mets, you know, aren't going to be great.

San Diego Padres: Huston Street is secure until his next DL stint. Ah, we jest (though it's coming). Street really isn't pitching all that well, and I'd sell if I could, but only injury can stop him. Even if he's traded, he'd close for his new team. Next in line should be Luke Gregerson, though Dale Thayer is thriving as well.

Chicago Cubs: Six outings, four saves, nary a run for Kevin Gregg. He's 35. He was awful each of the past two years, and not exactly Dennis Eckersley prior to that. This is the Yuniesky Betancourt of closers. Enjoy the run, but run far away when it goes awry. It will. I think Gregg, Carlos Marmol and Kyuji Fujikawa will each save in the double digits, but none will reach 20. You think manager Dale Sveum knows? He makes it up from day to day.

Los Angeles Angels: Ernesto Frieri is walking way too many hitters to hold on to this job when Ryan Madson returns. Won't happen right away, but by June, it will. Madson should be stashed now.

Toronto Blue Jays: Casey Janssen is thriving, but his balky shoulder will land him on the DL at some point. This is a guy to sell high on. Sergio Santos is on the DL, but he is the proper handcuff here.

Miami Marlins: Ah yes, who will enjoy the 30 or so save opportunities for this team? Steve Cishek has not impressed as potential trade bait, and Jon Rauch has been worse. I'm still keeping an eye on A.J. Ramos for deep leagues. There's upside there.

Houston Astros: Believe it or not, five bullpens have a worse ERA than the awful Astros. Doesn't make Jose Veras look better, just sayin'. Right-hander Josh Fields remains my sleeper for saves, but there won't be many for anyone. Veras will get 16 of them, Fields eight.

Have a great weekend, and may your closers keep their jobs, for at least another few weeks!