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AL West Closers and their Handcuffs


A continuation of our series Closers and their Handcuffs with a look at the AL West Closers…

 

Houston Astros

Yeah, that is right. The Astros are going to start the year off with a closer by committee system. And this committee isn’t your average 2-3 man committee. The Astros are including five names in this committee right now. Bam!  So basically you have five guys that could not separate themselves from four other average major league arms, and I’m being generous by calling those arms average.

Fantasy owners, that is a strong indication to run away from any of the above names. If you are desperate, I’ll put a wood nickel on Chad Qualls getting the call more often than the others. But, if you are into DL stashing, Jesse Crain could be your Jose Veras of 2014.

Crain is working his way back from surgery on his throwing biceps, but if he can get healthy, regain his form and maintain command, he has the stuff to win over fantasy owners.

 

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Frieri had an up and down year as the Angels closer. If you look at his month to month stats his ERA goes up and down consistently until the final few months of the season.

Starting with the bad news first, Frieri has control issues. A 4.36 career BB/9 is not what you want to see out of your closer. His HR/FB been borderline awful over the past two seasons as defined by Fangraph’s glossary.

What I like about Frieri is that he plays in a pitcher’s park, which should help Frier’s HR/FB return closer to his career average of 8.5%. I also like his career 12.26 K/9. Finally, I like that Manage Mike Scioscia was patient with Frieri, stuck with him.

That and Dane De La Rosa never really appeared to be much of an upgrade. Joe Smith was signed during the off-season and could get consideration to close if Frieri struggles, but I still feel like Frieri will have a long leash again this season.

I Like Frieri at his ADP which is currently around 150, give or take, depending on your league’s host site.

 

Oakland Athletics

Johnson, like Frieri, had his struggles last year as well. He blew nine saves and had to be removed from the closer’s role for brief moments during the season.

Part of the reasons for Johnson’s struggles include that his BB% and his HR/FB were both at their highest since 2009. Johnson gave up five HRs last season, three of which came in May, which was by far his worst month. Five HRs may not seem like much, but when they happen in bunches to a closer, it adds up to poor job security. Then if you look at his June performance, you see that was the worst month for his BB%(9.4).

My theory is Johnson went through a short period of over-correcting and not wanting to leave the ball over the plate while not having his best stuff as noted by a velocity drop of 94.4 MPH in 2012 to 93.5 MPH in 2013. Johnson was able to regain some of his confidence with a strong second half where he posted a 1.69 ERA and a BB% of 3.7.

Moving to Oakland’s pitcher friendly confines will only aide Johnson to returning his career norms which will be good enough for him to hold on to the job and have a good shot of 40+ saves. If Johnson struggles return, I believe Luke Gregerson will be the guy to step in and add in fantasy. Both guys are solid targets and a handsome pair to match up in the Saves and Holds leagues.

 

Seattle Mariners

Rodney blew eight saves in 2013 in his fall back to reality after coming off a dominating performance in 2012. The 2012 Rodney had an impressive 1.81 BB/9. His career average is 4.47, so you did not have to be a mathlete to know Rodney probably was in line for some correction in 2013, and he did indeed support the law of averages as he posted a BB/9 of 4.86. I think the 2012 Rodney was a pretty outstanding outlier that we will probably never see again.

Overall, I think the Mariners could be in for a rough year. I think Cano has a poor year by his standards and sounds like he is already unhappy with what the Mariners have done to support him. Earth to Cano, that is what happens when you sign an outrageous deal that financially handicaps the team.

Anyways, I think that frustration can spread through a clubhouse that lacks leadership and can have a negative effect on player performance, including Rodney.

It’s a theory, but I think Rodney will struggle with his command and the Mariners, in hopes of preventing the spread of the fire in the clubhouse, will have to turn to a slightly less wild Lord Farqhuar after a few blown saves from Rodney. In other words, I think if you own Rodney, put Lord Farqhuar on your scout team/watch list.

 

Texas Rangers

Soria was an outstanding closer before he had to have Tommy John surgery in early spring of 2012. He struggled some in 2011 but between 2008-2010 he racked up 115 saves for the Kansas City Royals. Soria pitched half the season last year and struggled with his command to the tune of a 13.9 BB%, twice his career average.

John Smoltz has mentioned the timeline for pitchers coming back from Tommy John often on MLB Network. He often states that it is year two upon returning when a pitcher feels more comfortable with their breaking pitches.

Now, I have been a huge proponent not to read into spring stats but I do find it encouraging that Soria not walked a batter in nine innings of spring ball. If you do not want to read into those spring stats, you will just have to take Smoltz’s word that Soria will be more effective with his secondary pitches this year.

The only reason why I put Alexi Ogando as next in line is because at this point, he is the only name I recognize in the Rangers bullpen. If Neftali Feliz finds his stuff again, he could join this mix, but keep in mind he is almost a half-year behind Soria in his own recovery from Tommy John. I like Soria a little bit more than most people this year, but until he goes out and starts closing games out like he did in 2008-2010, he is at high risk of losing his job.

 

Tags: AL West Closers Ernesto Frieri Featured Fernando Rodney Jim Johnson Joakim Soria MLB Popular Relief Pitchers