After seeing the first month of the young baseball season come to an end, it’s a safe assumption to say it’s not the year of the closer. There have been numerous closers that have either suffered season-ending injuries (Brian Wilson, Mariano Rivera), or have been kicked out of their role for lack of production (Carlos Marmol, Hector Santiago). In this issue of “Fantasy in Five,” I’ll give you five relievers to pick up from waivers if they haven’t been already that could help you pick up saves in relief of your lost closer/s.
1. Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants- When Brian Wilson went down with an injury that forced a second Tommy John surgery, many have forgotten to “Fear the beard.” While they might not be fearing a beard no more, they’re starting to become intimidated by Casilla.
He didn’t put up solid numbers with the Oakland Athletics, but he’s been lights out in his three years with San Francisco. With the Giants, not once has he had an ERA of higher than two or a WHIP over 1.20. It made perfect sense when manager Bruce Bochy chose Casilla to fill a void for this season.
In 2012, Casilla has converted five of his first six save opportunities with an ERA of 1.54. He’s a very reliable option, and was picked up in 23 percent of leagues the past two days. If he’s even available somehow, pick him up and bid a good amount of money to secure a spot.
2. David Robertson, New York Yankees- When Mariano Rivera went down shagging fly balls in batting practice and tore his ACL, Yankee fans and fantasy owners were in disbelief. Rivera has been the most consistent fantasy closer in history, and hasn’t been on the disabled list since 2003.
Luckily for the Yankees and fantasy general managers, another dominant closer has arrived. Alabama native David Robertson has molded into one of the best relievers in the league, and gets his first shot at being a closer for this season.
What’s scary is how Robertson has literally improved after his breakout season last year. Robertson has yet to give up an earned run and has 21 strikeouts in 12 innings pitched in 2012. Last year, he struck out 100 batters and had 34 holds with an ERA of 1.08. He’s on pace to have Rivera-esque numbers.
The way he handles himself under pressure makes everyone convinced he’s ready to take over the role now. The day after Rivera went down, Robertson was picked up in over 65 percent of fantasy leagues. He’s a guarantee to get you as many saves as the Yankees give him a chance to close out. Sure he’ll have a few blown saves once in a while, but he’s destined for big things in a few years, and his time is now.
3. Scott Downs, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim- There’s always been a concern for me with this bullpen. Jordan Walden might’ve had a decent season as the Angels new closer last year, but his flaws are showing. He blew 10 saves last season, and has an ERA of six right now.
My point is that the Angels bullpen is more of a reason for their early season struggles than Albert Pujols (although he deserves some blame). It’s not always how you start games, but rather how you finish them. The Angels have been doing the opposite of that, and LaTroy Hawkins going on the disabled list doesn’t help.
The ball is now in former Toronto Blue Jays setup man Scott Downs hands. Last year with the Angels, Downs had 26 holds and a 1.34 ERA. It’s another David Robertson type of situation, where the man who holds down the games gets his chance to close them.
Downs is 36-years-old, but does that really matter when you pitch an inning a game? Since Walden isn’t panning out at the moment, pick him up and he’ll get you saves from time to time, along with a low ERA and WHIP.
4. Rafael Dolis/James Russell, Chicago Cubs- “Marmol Time” is on a temporary leave. Carlos Marmol had a season to forget last year, and is certainly having another one to follow. After blowing 10 saves last year and posting an ERA of 4.01, he’s blown two out of four chances with a 5.06 ERA.
Instead of having one closer, manager Dale Sveum has decided to have co-closers until one beats out the other. It’s the best thing they can do since Marmol has lost control of his slider. His co-closers for the moment are Rafael Dolis and James Russell.
It’s pick your poison here. Both relievers have put up solid numbers to this point, and will both get equal opportunities to save until Marmol finds his control again. These two are rental closers, but could also be a good for a reliever spot to heat up for the next closer to go down.
5. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox- To the other side of the Windy City we go! Hector Santiago literally has played his way out of the closer role, and it was only going to take a few blown saves before someone like Matt Thornton or Addison Reed would succeed him. But out of nowhere comes a 23-year-old from Florida named Chris Sale.
Sale has been officially named the team’s closer by manager Robin Ventura, and seems to fit the role quite nicely. He posted a 2.79 ERA with 16 holds and eight saves last year. This year, he’s got a 2.81 ERA and three wins, a career-high in his young career.
Even if you don’t need a closer, Sale can fit any fantasy baseball team’s roster. He’s quickly becoming a versatile relief option who can get you either saves, a good ERA or WHIP, strikeouts, and a few wins from time to time. If he hasn’t been picked up in your league, I recommend waste a roster spot on him.