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Fantasy Baseball: Braves Closer Battle In 2011-Jonny Venters or Craig Kimbrel?

Braves closer Billy Wagner announced a few months ago that he will retire at the end of the season. He retires as one of the best closers in baseball history with 422 career saves and a career K/9 that approaches 12.00.

I picked up future Braves closer Craig Kimbrel in the UBA NL-only keeper league when he was called up earlier this season, with the thought that he could close in 2011, as this was before Wagner announced his plans to retire after the 2010 season.

With news that Wagner was injured in last night's playoff game, the Braves have a decision to make at closer. I think the decision comes down to either Jonny Venters or Craig Kimbrel. Here is what SB Nation's Braves site, TalkingChop, has to say about the decision:

The Braves will have the ability to replace Wagner on the roster before Sunday's game, and they will likely choose to activate Takashi Saito, but he has been battling his own injury woes. If Saito cannot pitch, the Braves could activate Jair Jurrjens, who has also been out the last two weeks with an injury, or Scott Proctor, who traveled with the team to San Francisco in case he was needed as an injury replacement.

Whoever is activated to replace Wagner, it will likely be rookie Craig Kimbrel ascending to the closer role. He seems to be the hot hand in the bullpen right now, but the Braves could also use another rookie, Jonny Venters, to close.

Here is a look at how they have performed during the regular season:

Venters- 83 IP, 4-4, 1 save, 1.95 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 10.08 K/9, 4.23 BB/9, 2.69 FIP

Kimbrel- 20.2 IP, 4-0, 1 save, 0.44 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 17.42 K/9, 6.97 BB/9, 1.53 FIP

In the minors this season, Kimbrel saved 23 games, with an ERA of 1.62 and a WHIP of 1.13. His K/9 was 13.42 and BB/9 was 5.66, so he needs to control his walks. But since being used regularly after his September callup, Kimbrel has pitched 14.1 innings, striking out 28 and walking just 5.

Here are their stats for the two playoff games:

Venters- 2.2 IP, 2 H, 3 K, 0 BB, 0.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP

Kimbrel- 2.2 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 5 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP

The Braves have two pitchers capable of closing in 2011, but they could go out and sign a veteran closer in the offseason if they don't think Venters or Kimbrel are ready. The rest of the postseason will give fantasy owners a look at who the Braves are leaning toward using as their closer in 2011.

My UBA team hopes they pick Kimbrel.