As we get ready to embark on the 2012 MLB season, fantasy baseball folk should make sure that they’ve got all their T’s crossed and all of their I’s dotted. More than likely, you have drafted your team and are already looking at some potential holes in your roster. For a number of people, the bullpen tends to be an issue. Maybe you didn’t want to invest a lot in your closers, but believe me, if you don’t take action now you’re going to be fighting this battle all year long while your opponents are able to bulk up in other areas.
If you don’t have atleast two secure closers on your roster, then one of the best ways to get a leg up is to continuously monitor some of the more volatile situations around the league. Not that anyone is losing their job, so to speak, but there are a number of places that you’ll likely be able to find saves for the season if you are proactive on the waiver wire now, rather than waiting until the last minute. Here are a few to watch…
New York Mets
Frank Francisco was brought in to close out ballgames this year as the Mets revamped their entire bullpen. The problem is, Franky Frank isn’t really all that reliable. He got blown out in Texas two years ago, lost his job in Toronto last year, and now is dealing with knee issues this spring in New York. He recently had to sit out and have fluid drained from his knee, and if that’s not a red flag, then I don’t know what is. Reports are saying that he’s fine now, but this has all the earmarks of being a continuous problem all year long. If you own him, then you better have Jon Rauch and Bobby Parnell in your waiver queue. Hard to say which would get the nod at this point, but given Rauch’s experience in the role, he’ll probably get the first look.
Boston Red Sox
Andrew Bailey came over in a trade to Boston and wisely, the Sox still signed former Astros closer Mark Melancon. The word on the street is that Bailey was just told that he is going to need thumb surgery which will likely put him on the shelf for atleast three months. With both Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves winning spots in the Boston rotation, Melancon is the clear cut choice here. If you own Bailey, then make the waiver move now!
Chicago White Sox
The Sox are sticking with the plan of using Matt Thornton as their closer with rookie Addison Reed working as a primary set-up man. There’s nothing wrong with that, unless of course Thornton turns in a performance like he did last season. For those that don’t recall, Thornton walked into the 2011 season as the closer and was promptly lit up by nearly every batter he faced. OK, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, but that’s what it seemed like if you owned him. Reed, with his killer strikeout rates and ridiculous K/BB ratios, will be the man to step in if/when Thornton flounders, so if you’re a Thornton owner, the smart money says to prepare your contingency plan now before someone swoops in and steals your handcuff.
Los Angeles Dodgers
This situation is fairly similar to that of the White Sox, except for the fact that Javy Guerra did not lose his job last year. Was Kenley Jansen the better pitcher overall? Yes he was. But Guerra was still quite stable in the ninth and allowed manager Don Mattingly to deploy Jansen in a variety of seventh and eighth inning situations. You can expect 2012 to start off just how it ended last season with Guerra getting the saves work and Jansen racking up the Ks everywhere else. If Guerra should falter, then the choice is clear as to who takes over. Careful though…given the hype on Jansen this offseason, there’s a good chance someone else drafted him with the expectations that he closes sooner than later.
Kansas City Royals
Here’s another situation that we discussed a couple of weeks ago when Joakim Soria opted for Tommy John surgery. The two primary options to replace Soria are Jonathan Broxton and Greg Holland. Both have had solid springs and both are probably very capable of doing the job. However, manager Ned Yost has said that he is in no rush to anoint a closer just yet and likes the make-up of his bullpen as is. Perhaps he tries a committee approach to start, but the cream usually rises to the top and someone is going to end up with the job. Safe money has Broxton getting the first opportunity, but that Holland is the guy for the long term. I don’t see any reason to go against the safe money here.
Tampa Bay Rays
Word actually just broke today that Kyle Farnsworth is headed to the DL with elbow soreness which means those that drafted are likely scrambling to find a replacement as you read this. The Rays have a number of options and as we’ve seen in years past, manager Joe Maddon isn’t shy about using the committee approach. The likely successor will probably be Joel Peralta, but with J.P. Howell, Fernando Rodney and Jake McGee in the mix, it could be any one of them at any time. Peralta is a strong option but has never held down the job before while both Howell and Rodney have. McGee has an outstanding arm and was once tabbed a closer-of-the-future the last two seasons. If you have to pick someone up now, then let it be Peralta, but make sure you’re ready if one of the other guys gets a chance and runs with it.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over ten years on a variety of web sites including his own, The Fantasy Baseball Buzz. You can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.