Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

NL West Closers and their Handcuffs

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We finish our closers and their handcuffs series here with a look at the NL West closers.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks

I like Reed. I think he gets pushed down on some rankings because his ERA last season of 3.79, supported by a xFIP of 3.77, is higher than what you would prefer out of a closer. But I like to look at the potential for a guy that at every stop in the minors had a double digit K/9 and only had one stop where his BB/9 was north of 2 (2.61 at AA in 2011).

Then I remember that he has really only pitched in the majors for two full seasons. I think pitchers usually need a couple of years to adjust to the show before they find their groove. Reed showed growth in 2013, and I think he shows more in 2014.

I think Reed will have a nice size leash too if he struggles because J.J. Putz is next in line. Putz has had his moments as a closer, but he has blown 10 saves in his last 48 opportunities spanning the course of the past two seasons. It is clear in dealing for Reed that Dbacks are moving on from Putz.

Brad Ziegler did a fine job as interim closer last season, but his predominant use of an 86 MPH slider and a career K/9 of 5.82 is not the stuff of closers.

All in all, I like Reed if you can get him after 10 RP fall of the board. If he ends up struggling, Putz is the first guy you should try to claim, but no guarantees that works out for you.

 

Colorado Rockies

I like LaTroy Hawkins. Read this article and tell me you do not like him, I dare you. But drafting someone for fantasy because you like their personality is like dating a girl in high school because she has a good personality; it’s just going to leave you frustrated.

In case you do not know, rule #1 in fantasy baseball: check emotions at the door. It’s very similar to rule #76 when crashing weddings: no excuses, play like a champion.

Rule #2 in fantasy baseball: Do not draft pitchers from the Colorado Rockies. Put those two rules together and stay away from Hawkins.

Look he is a good guy, a true journeyman, could be the oldest guy to play in the majors this year, easy to root for, but all that adds up to jack squat for fantasy value. “But he’s a closer, and I needed a closer.”  Nope. That’s not a good reason either. See rule #2. You should have paid attention and drafted a closer earlier in the draft. Besides, Hawkins will likely lose that role within the first two months of the season.

For all of you sneaky guys out there drafting Rex Brothers late and bragging about it, see rule #2. The only time I would add either of these guys would be off the waiver wire while I was dead last in saves for a roto league. No stats necessary here, see rule #2.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

Kenley already leads the league in saves. He made two appearances in Australia, locking up his first save in the first game. He then came back the next game and gave up a HR to Mark Trumbo, but I’ll blame that on the Aussies for placing the pitching rubber being upside down. Once Brandon League confirmed he was no longer closer material, Jansen took the job and never looked back.

He ended the year with 28 Saves, a deflated number due to League’s 14 Saves. His other numbers were filthy including a 13.03 K/9 matched with a 2.11 BB/9, a 1.88 ERA, a 2.06 xFIP, and a silly 0.86 WHIP. Barring injury, Jansen is a lock for 40+ saves and will get you 100 Ks in the process.

If something were to happen, former closers Brian Wilson and Chris Perez will probably get the nod before League. I do not really trust any of those guys in that role anymore, but I don’t think it will matter.

 

San Diego Padres

If they both began the season as a closer, who would you rather draft, Street or Benoit?  Three seconds, go.

I keep answering that with Benoit. A lot of you probably answered Street. I have no problem with either answer. It’s true, Street is currently the guy in San Diego and currently has more value than Benoit. However, I think it is very possible they both end the season as closers. Street has a $7 million dollar club option for next season, not a bad price for a solid closer, an added bonus for any team in the market for a closer come the trade deadline.

With Benoit on board with a similar price tag and now a record of being able to close out games, Street has become expendable. Besides, how many teams spend $6-8 million on a set up guy?  Put your hands down Dodgers fans. I think there is enough writing on the wall to suggest Street could be headed elsewhere mid-season.

When Street is healthy, he gets the job done as he has only blown three saves in the past two seasons (59 opportunities). But Street is no stranger to the DL and is at high risk for retaining that role because of his frailty and because of Benoit.

Benoit came out of the shadows last year and proved he can get close as well. He saved 24 out of 26 games with a K/9 of 9.81 to boot. In leagues where saves and holds are both scored, I love these two as a set. Best case scenario, Street gets dealt, you end up with two closers, and you hit the waiver wire for holds. Worst case scenario, you have a solid closer and a stud for a set-up man. Beyond that scenario, I think Benoit has the most upside out of any set-up man in standard scoring leagues.

 

San Francisco Giants

Earlier this year our very own Michael Dixon broke down Romo’s first year as a closer. All in all, Romo had a pretty successful year as closer. He hit some bumps along the way but his blown saves were spread out, one each month.

Down the stretch, Romo struggled a little more than suggested by the lone blown save in September. If you look closely that month, he had a five game stretch (9/10-9/18) where he gave up 10 hits and three walks. In total, he was credited with two save, two losses, and one blown save.

Now a one week stretch doesn’t mean much in the big picture. Romo had pretty solid stats on the year. If I draft him, and he does the same thing he does last year, I can live with that. But if that last stretch was any indication of what is to come, then Dixon’s argument holds water, a lot of it.

If Romo throws like he did in September, then the Giants will be forced to make a change. Casilla may not be the answer either as he has blown his share of saves over the past two years. Maybe the young gun Hembree is the future closer of this team. I am a little shocked that the Giants sent him to AAA to start the year. What else does he have to prove on the farm?

When Hembree gets recalled, he might be worth an add in leagues that score holds. Otherwise, take Romo and hope he can repeat last year’s success.

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Tags: Addison Reed Closers Huston Street Kenley Jansen LaTroy Hawkins MLB NL West Relief Pitchers Sergio Romo

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