Tier 4: Question Marks (11) (The Brooks Conrad tier)
No one is going to confuse Brooks Conrad with being an elite power hitter or as someone who belongs in baseball’s record books. He’s merely a .229 career hitter who owns all of 14 career home runs. However, he does have the distinction of being the only player in MLB history to have multiple pinch hit, game winning grand slams. (Even more impressive, they both occurred in the same season). Like Conrad, these closers may not always be the person you want in the most crucial situation, but occasionally they can surprise you with greatness.
Sean Marshall, Cincinnati Reds
Frank Francisco, New York Mets
Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles
Joe Nathan, Texas Rangers
Javy Guerra, Los Angeles Dodgers
Brett Myers, Houston Astros
Grant Balfour, Oakland Athletics
Matt Capps, Minnesota Twins
Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs
Jonathan Broxton, Kansas City Royals
Hector Santiago, Chicago White Sox
Jim Johnson has been very impressive on the young season, starting a perfect 5-for-5 in save chances. He’ll never put up huge strikeout numbers, but he looks extremely comfortable in the closer’s role right now. Frank Francisco hasn’t received a save opportunity since the opening weekend, though he’s looked very good in every outing. He’s currently sporting a 7/2 strikeout to walk ratio.
It’s about time we start to give Javy Guerra at least a little bit of respect. He pitched well in the closer’s role late last season and has started 2012 with a bang. He was 5-for-5 in save chances, before blowing his first one last night. While Kenley Jansen may be the closer of the future, Guerra looks strong in the role for the time being. Another blow up though, and this situation may need to be reassessed.
Grant Balfour has pitched well at the back of the Athletics bullpen, and has converted all three of his save chances. His job security appears to be on the rise. Brett Myers may or may not be the subject of recent trade rumors, and has been perfect in his only two chances in the early going. Jonathan Broxton had an epic blown save in which he walked two and then hit consecutive batters to force in the winning run. He’s safe for now, but Greg Holland is lurking.
Hector Santiago hops off of the rollercoaster and joins this tier, though the stay could be short lived. He converted nicely on his first three opportunities before imploding in the ninth inning against the Orioles on Monday. He should be safe for now, but it’s anybody’s guess what White Sox manager Robin Ventura is going to do next.
Tier 5: Rollercoaster Rides (5) (AKA the Carlos Zambrano tier)
While Carlos Zambrano is one of the greatest hitting pitchers of his generation (.241 career average, 23 home runs), he’s been absolutely abysmal when deployed as a pinch hitter (2-for-23, .087 average). He’s also prone to massive blowups and meltdowns, so he fits nicely in the rollercoaster category.
Chris Perez (first chair), Vinnie Pestano (second chair), Cleveland Indians
Henry Rodriguez (first chair), Brad Lidge (second chair), Washington Nationals
Alfredo Aceves (first chair), Mark Melancon (second chair), Boston Red Sox
Fernando Rodney (first chair), Joel Peralta (second chair), Tampa Bay Rays
Santiago Casilla (first chair), Sergio Romo (second chair), Javier Lopez (third chair), San Francisco Giants
Chris Perez has rebounded nicely after his rough first outings to pick up consecutive saves. He’s still someone who’s very difficult to trust however. Fernando Rodney isn’t the pitcher he once was, but has pitched extremely well for the Rays. He seems to be the guy to own until Kyle Farnsworth returns.
Of the two closing options in Washington, Henry Rodriguez has better stuff and more long term potential, while Brad Lidge provides that sought after veteran experience. Rodriguez has the look of a dominant closer, though he will need to cut down on the free passes if he wants the role to himself.
As has been mentioned earlier, Giants manager Bruce Bochy has said that Santiago Casilla would get the first shot at the closer’s role in San Francisco. He performed well in that role while Wilson was injured last year, and possesses the kind of stuff to be successful as a closer. Bochy prefers to keep Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez in their familiar setup roles, though that could change in an instant if Casilla struggles. We got to see firsthand how Casilla may thrive in the ninth inning on Tuesday as he shut down the Phillies to pick up his first save.
Andrew Bailey, Boston Red Sox
Kyle Farnsworth, Tampa Bay Rays
Drew Storen, Washington Nationals
Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants
None, as of yet.
The Steals Department
For those of you who are in desperate need of speed, a temporary job has opened up in the Kansas City outfield. While Lorenzo Cain is sidelined, burners Jarrod Dyson and Jason Bourgeois are the likely beneficiaries of increased playing time. Both are capable of providing multiple steals in short at-bats, and definitely worthy of a spot play. Especially in leagues with daily transactions, playing this platoon seems extremely beneficial.
Juan Pierre isn’t the player he once was, but he is receiving somewhat consistent at-bats at the top of the Phillies lineup. He won’t play against left handers and will give you nothing at all in the power departments, but deployed correctly can provide a temporary boost in stolen bases.
Another interesting option to consider, especially for those in deeper leagues, could be Carlos Gomez. He’s currently locked into a platoon situation with Nyjer Morgan, but he was started the season hot with the bat (7-for-20, .350) and could see an increase in playing time should Morgan continue to struggle. He’s always possessed blazing speed and could be a valuable addition should he start to see regular at-bats.