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NL East Closers and their Handcuffs

A continuation of our series Closers and their Handcuffs with the NL East Closers…


Atlanta Braves

  • Closer: Craig Kimbrel
  • Risk: Low
  • Next in Line: Jordan Walden

Craig Kimbrel is the top closer in the game and should be treated as such in fantasy.  His 13.16 K/9 and K% of 38 were both down from his numbers in 2012. However, his velocity held steady as he averaged 96.9 MPH on his heater in 2013.

My only concern about Kimbrel is if bad things truly do happen in threes, then you have Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy,…???  I’m confident in proclaiming Kimbrel will only lose his job because of an injury, not performance.  If an injury happens, Jordan Walden might be the guy you want to run to your computer and claim.


Miami Marlins

  • Closer: Steve Cishek
  • Risk: Low
  • Next in Line: Carter Capps and the ever entertaining Carlos Marmol

Steve Cishek is my kind of fantasy reliever.  I neither spend a lot of money on them nor jump on them early in a regular draft.  Cishek is someone you can wait on because he is not as flashy and he plays on the Marlins.

If you look at his stats though, there are many reasons to like Cishek. His K/9 of 9.56, K% of 26.3, 2.33 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and his 34 saves in 36 opportunities all point to good value.  I think Cishek is pretty safe in this role with the results he put up last season.

The Marlins do have Carter Capps and Carlos Marmol as potential replacements if Cishek were to falter or get hurt. I am not sure Capps is ready for that role yet. As far as Marmol is concerned, well for my money, I’m not sure there is a more entertaining spectacle in all of baseball that I would rather pay for than watching a Marmol Meltdown.

One final thought, there is always the possibility Cishek gets dealt, because that is how Jeffrey Loria rolls. If Cishek does get dealt, I think there is a possibility it could be to assume a setup role with a contender, but I think he would likely be dealt to a team seeking that closer for the stretch run.  A move like that could increase his value.


New York Mets

  • Closer: Bobby Parnell
  • Risk: High
  • Next in line: Jose Valverde

Bobby Parnell is another guy I would have been targeting this year in drafts. Decent stats including a K/9 of 7.92, a 2.16 ERA, and saved 22 out of 26 opportunities. Those are numbers I like, but I do not love.

What I do love is Parnell is the type of guy you can wait on in a standard draft or in an auction, and not feel to disappointed with if he flames out. Parnell actually had to get shut down at the end of July last year to have surgery on his neck. So far this spring there have been concerns about his velocity falling well below his 95 MPH average in 2013, but recent reports do have that speed coming up a bit.

If Parnell is unable to maintain his velocity, I think there would be cause for concern.  I’m not a neck surgeon, but I am guessing there could be some potential setbacks beyond lack of velocity. Think Peyton Manning and his multiple neck surgeries. If Parnell cannot find his way back, back in the New York Groove, then Jose Valverde might be the guy you target as the handcuff. Yeah, I just threw up in my mouth writing that, but Valverde has received some praise this spring.


Philadelphia Phillies

  • Closer: Jonathan Papelbon
  • Risk: High
  • Next in line: Antonio Bastardo, Mike Adams

You do not think Jonathan Papelbon is in jeopardy of losing his spot at some point this season? Read this piece by Jason Collete of Fangraphs.

Papelbon did recently say he was dealing with a hip injury or at least using that as an excuse for his significant drop in velocity and his 7 blown saves. Time will tell if the hip injury was a legit reason why his performance was down or if it was just pride talking.

If Papelbon continues to struggle, the Phils may have to turn to lefty Antonio Bastardo, at least until Matt Adams can figure out his own velocity issues he is having this spring. Bastardo is coming off a suspension related to the Biogenesis scandal and Adams is coming off shoulder surgery in July and his worst season statistically since 2006. In other words, you may want to avoid Papelbon and his handcuffs entirely this season.


Washington Nationals

  • Closer:  Rafael Soriano
  • Risk:  High
  • Next in line:  Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard

Rafael Soriano has a similar situation as Papelbon. He is coming off a decent year where he saved 43 of 49 opportunities, but there was a lot more about his performance to be concerned about.

His K/9 dropped from 9.18 to 6.89.  His xFIP was at 4.05 last season. Velocity dropped almost 1 MPH on his fastball from ’12 to ’13.  Finally his SwStr% was at 9, the lowest since his rookie season. Ruh Roh.

To add to those concerns, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard bested Soriano in K/9, xFIP, velocity, and SwStr%. Soriano does have experience on those younger two whipper snappers, so he has that going for him. As far as handcuffing goes, there could be a scenario where the 9th inning goes to a committee between Storen, Clippard, and Soraino.

If that scenario comes to fruition, well as Adam Rank would say, “That helps no one!”  I’m avoiding Soriano and his besties this season.

Tags: Bobby Parnell Closers Craig Kimbrel Jonathan Papelbon MLB NL East Rafael Soriano Relief Pitchers Steve Cishek

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