Ray Guilfoyle takes a look at six former closers who could be closing again by May 2013. The closer role is a volatile one, so it pays to remember these guys on draft day.
Closers are tough to draft as more and more managers are quick to make a change after a few blown saves in a row. Gone are the days where you could count on the Trevor Hoffmann's, Brad Lidges, and others who would retain the closer role even after a rough week or two. Add in the fact that more and more pitchers are throwing mid-90's heat than ever before, and you can never be confident that the closer you drafted on draft day will stay in the role all season. And now we even have former catchers like Kenley Jansen and Jason Motte moving to the bullpen throwing high-90's fastballs every night.
Here are five former closers who could be closing by mid-late May, and fantasy owners should consider drafting late in drafts this season:
1. Kenley Jansen, LAD
There is no secret that I have a man-crush on Jansen, and yes, I do own him in one of my NL-only leagues. Hey, I did trade him ($7) in another NL keeper league in a package for Giancarlo Stanton. Jansen has already proven he can close, and apparently added around 5-6 mph on his cutter at the end of the 2012 season. He is the more dominant between he and current Dodgers closer Brandon League. League, by the way, gave up a home run in his inning of action yesterday. The pressure to win this season will be very high in LA, and Mattingly has been known to have a quick trigger when it comes to the closer role.
2. Mark Melancon, PIT
The Pirates traded closer Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox this offseason, and signed Jason Grilli to be their closer. Grilli is 37 years old and has 5 career saves to his name. I could see Melancon regaining the closer role should Grilli struggle in the role. The Pirates owner recently publicly stated that he is committed to winning, so there is pressure to win in Pittsburgh as well.
3. Brandon Lyon, NYM
The Mets closer position is up for grabs, and Bobby Parnell and Frank Francisco don't give manager Terry Collins much confidence. Over the last two seasons, Parnell has 13 saves and 11 blown saves, while Francisco is dealing with a bad elbow, so Lyon could steal the job by the end of May. Lyon struck out more than a batter per inning last season for the first time in his career, and has closer experience.
4. Wilton Lopez, COL
I think Lopez is the closer in waiting in Colorado. Once the team falls out of the race in June, Rafael Betancourt will be put on the trade block and dealt to a team who needs a closer, or a team seeking bullpen help. Lopez is an elite ground ball pitcher, and what better pitcher to close games in Colorado than a ground ball pitcher.
5. Sergio Santos, TOR
Santos lost the closer job in Toronto due to a shoulder injury last year, but he is healthy again, while current Jay's closer Casey Janssen is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and hasn't thrown off a mound this spring. Santos could have the closer role by Opening Day if Janssen can't get back on the mound in the next few weeks.
6. Aroldis Chapman, CIN
Reds manager Dusty Baker has not hidden the fact that he prefers Chapman as his closer, so it remains to be seen whether Chapman will actually make the move to the Reds rotation or not. Remember last spring, when the Reds stretched Chapman out for a move to the rotation, but that was short-lived as Sean Marshall could not hold down the job. The Reds signed Jonathan Broxton this offseason, and he is presumed to be their closer, but his strikeout rate has been in steady decline. Broxton has seen his strikeout rate almost cut in half over the last three years, so he is not the dominating closer he was back in Los Angeles 3-4 years ago.
Either Valverde and Wilson could get a call should a team (hello Detroit Tigers) need a closer early in 2013 due to poor performance or injury.