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Fantasy Baseball: Closer Notes for Week 1

Closers are probably the one role in all of fantasy that fluctuates the most from week to week, so I will be taking a look at the players prior to the start of each fantasy week to see if there are some advantages to be gained from it. Normally this will run Monday mornings prior to having to set your weekly league lineups. I won't necessarily be talking about every single situation every week, but I will be looking at the ones that are in the greatest state of flux. Week 1 for most head-to-head leagues runs through April 10th, so the game counts behind each pitcher are through that date.

You Can Count Your Saves Now. They're Going to Be There.

These are the ones you can take to the bank, as it would pretty much take a significant injury for them to not get their chances.

Yankees - Mariano Rivera (10)

Royals - Joakim Soria (9)

Padres - Heath Bell (8)

Rangers - Neftali Feliz (9) - Now that he's been named the closer again, and Alexi Ogando has been named the replacement for the injured Tommy Hunter, you can bank on Feliz as well.

Indians - Chris Perez (9) - Perez is a bit sneaky coming into this year, and I could see him finishing the year as a top 5 closer despite the team not being amazing.

These Guys Are Practically Money, but Something's Not Quite Right

Cubs - Carlos Marmol (9) - The strikeout rates are amazing, but just remember that there's still some WHIP risk here.

Red Sox - Jonathan Papelbon (9) - He's coming off a definite down year, and there's definitely a lot of pitchers in the back end of that bullpen who could replace him should he struggle. I believe he will be given numerous chances to lose this role, but will end up keeping it for the time being.

Dodgers - Jonathan Broxton (9) - He lost the closer job last season, but it appears that he will be given the chance to close again this year. If he can return to the form that made him the top closer coming into 2010, he'll definitely be a great value. But Hong-Chih Kuo and Kenley Jansen are not far behind him, and both could end up closing before the end of the year if he struggles again.

Twins - Joe Nathan (10) - The only reason he's not up with the top group is that he's returning from Tommy John surgery. Once he gets his first few saves in the bag, he'll be back up there.

White Sox - Matt Thornton (9) - He's been given the closer's job, and based on his other skills, he seems likely to keep it. He strikes out a ton of batters, and should be good for ERA and WHIP both. Just watch him the first few opportunities to make sure he's going to keep the job.

Tigers - Jose Valverde (10)

Brewers - John Axford (10) - Axford comes into the season with a pretty good lock on the closer's role. He'll provide solid ratios as well as a high strikeout rate. There is Takashi Saito in that bullpen as well who has closed, but he seems unlikely to take the role away from Axford.

Rockies - Huston Street (9)

Diamondbacks - J.J. Putz (9) - Putz has a pretty good lock on the job, but he's been nursing some minor injuries during Spring Training. If he can stay healthy the whole season, he has a definite chance to return to his elite status from when he was in Seattle.


There's A Lot to Like Here, but You're Playing with Fire

Mets - Francisco Rodriguez (9) - He's looking to rebound this year after missing substantial time last year. How many games the Mets win remains to be seen, and how he ends up being used also remains to be seen. His contract option vests automatically if he finishes 55 games this year, and it is in the financial interests of the Mets for that to not happen. Stay tuned.

Reds - Francisco Cordero (9) - WHIP risk remains for Cordero, and having Aroldis Chapman there to pick up after Cordero blows a few saves makes him a big risk for me. I imagine he's going to be given a lot of chances before losing the job, but there is still that potential.


They Don't Have a Vice Grip on the Job, but There's a Lot of Upside Here

Blue Jays - Jon Rauch (9) - Rauch will start the year as the closer after both Frank Francisco and Octavio Dotel will be placed on the disabled list. If he pitches well in his first few opportunities, he may not give the job back.

Braves - Craig Kimbrel / Jonny Venters (10) - The Braves have said pretty much since the start of Spring Training that they would be using both Kimbrel and Venters in the closer's spot. Eventually I think that Kimbrel separates himself from Venters and takes the role over full time. Lots of strikeout upside with Kimbrel as well, but there's a definite WHIP risk here.

Pirates - Evan Meek / Joel Hanrahan (10) - Someone has to get saves, and both have done it in the past. Not sure how many games the Pirates are going to be close in, but there are saves there.

Saves are Coming, but Just Don't Expect Anything Else of Value

Cardinals - Ryan Franklin (9) - Yes, he plays for a team likely to compete this year. Yes, he is pretty much a lock to keep the job. But he's not going to strike out very many batters, and I'm not sold he can repeat his ERA and WHIP from 2010.

Astros - Brandon Lyon (9) - There's not really a lot of potential suitors to replace Lyon should he struggle now that Matt Lindstrom has been traded, but there also doesn't seem like a real good chance that the Astros are going to provide a lot of save opportunities either.

He's Going to Get Saves This Week, But He May Not Next Week

Athletics - Brian Fuentes (9) - With Andrew Bailey on the disabled list for the foreseeable future, Fuentes is going to be given the first opportunities to close for the A's. But remember that Michael Wuertz and Grant Balfour are both in this pen as well, and Fuentes is notorious for getting ugly saves.

Giants - Sergio Romo / Jeremy Affeldt / Javier Lopez (9) - With Brian Wilson likely to start the season on the disabled list, the save opportunities are pretty wide open. Romo looks like the pitcher with the best chance to succeed in the role based on his other skills. Until we know who is going to get that chance though, they're all a shot in the dark at best.

Phillies - Jose Contreras (9) - The consensus around the internet seems to be that Contreras is going to be the one to get the first opportunity for saves. If you need just the saves, I'd probably go with Contreras. But Ryan Madson is probably going to give you good numbers in the other categories as well.

Mariners - Brandon League (9) - David Aardsma isn't back yet, and it sounds like League should get the first shot.

Angels - Fernando Rodney (9) - Rodney comes in as the closer for the Angels, but if he holds the job, he's still likely to get you some ugly saves, especially with regard to WHIP. Jordan Walden is probably the handcuff you want here.

Nationals - Drew Storen / Sean Burnett (10) - Storen is still the long term solution, but Burnett could get some opportunities to start the season.  Ray mentioned this briefly yesterday, but it's going to be a bit of a mess there for a while still.

Rays - Jake McGee / Kyle Farnsworth (9) - Farnsworth appears to be the first choice, but we'll see whether or not this lasts.

Orioles - Kevin Gregg / Koji Uehara (9) - Britt Ghiroli reported that Buck Showalter will use both of them in the mean time, since he doesn't have to name a closer. Gotta love unclear situations with saves.