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Bernie On The Scene: Closer Rankings

Bernie Pleskoff

Bernie Pleskoff

Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.

This is the last installment of my preseason rankings.

I am doing something a little bit different. Instead of ranking relievers, I have chosen to rank those pitchers I think could be offering save opportunities at some point during the season.

I have selected some pitchers that I believe may either inherit the role through ineffectiveness of the incumbent closer or via injury. Those waiting in line will be marked as (B). For some teams, I have projected more than one potential alternate closer. I project everyone else as the closer to begin the season.

Unlike my pitcher rankings where I ranked some pitchers twice because of my own technical error, each reliever is ranked only once. What a concept.

These rankings will never be complete enough for every reader's personal opinion. I will omit someone you really like. It's inevitable.

In some instances I will comment. In others I won't.

My criteria:

- Potential save opportunities

- Potential for additional category help (strikeouts, etc.)

- Potential for injury

- Mound demeanor and ability to close out games

- Historical success or failure

CLOSERS

1. Aroldis Chapman - he has it all on a team that wins.
2. Craig Kimbrel - not quite automatic, but close.
3. Jonathan Papelbon - as intense as they come.
4. Fernando Rodney - I believe, I believe.
5. Joe Nathan - as professional a pitcher as there is.
6. Rafael Soriano - great team gives him chances to close.
7. Tom Wilhelmsen - more chances this season.
8. Sergio Romo - Giants will be in lots of close games.
9. Mariano Rivera - I worry, but he's still Mo.
10. Jason Motte - recent injury concerns me.
11. Jim Johnson - he could be automatic.
12. John Axford - struggles with consistency.
13. J.J. Putz - I will be shocked if he's healthy all season.
14. Greg Holland - Kevin Herrera looms.
15. Chris Perez - will be fine to start the season.
16. Joel Hanrahan - can be very wild at times.
17. Addison Reed - I look for a much better full season.
18. Casey Janssen - ready to pitch by start of the season.
19. Ernesto Frieri - will be in role longer than most expect.
20. Grant Balfour - the job is his if he's healthy.
21. Jose Valverde - I think he'll come back somewhere.
22. Jason Grilli - more chances than one might expect.
23. Glen Perkins - gets job done if he has opportunities.
24. Bruce Rondon - risky, but I think he gets the bulk.
25. Rafael Betancourt - pitches in Coors, but he can do it.
26. Brandon League - the wrong guy is closing.
27. Huston Street - I don't trust he will remain healthy.
28. Steve Cishek
29. Bobby Parnell
30. Jose Veras
31. Carlos Marmol - He should lose the job rather quickly.
32. Kyuki Fujikawa - should take Marmol's job rather quickly.
33. Mitchell Boggs (B)
34. Kenley Jansen (B)
35. David Robertson (B)
36. Joaquin Benoit (B)
37. Kelvin Herrera (B)
38. Ryan Cook (B)
39. Drew Storen (B)
40. Sergio Santos (B)
41. Vinnie Pestano (B)
42. Jason Frasor (B)
43. Jonathan Broxton (B)
44. Matt Belisle (B)
45. David Hernandez (B)
46. Luke Gregorson (B)
47. Santiago Casilla (B)
48. Joel Peralta (B)
49. Phil Coke (B)
50. Al Alburquerque (B) - won't be going back to back games.
51. Trevor Rosenthal (B)
52. Wesley Wright (B)
53. Ryan Madson - will close when he's healthy = check status.

SPRING TRAINING WRAP UP

I had the opportunity to watch spring training in both Phoenix and Florida. Here are some of the thoughts from my totally exhausted brain:

Yasiel Puig is a monster of a hitter. To begin, he's huge. And he can run. He can flat out run. He hasn't seen big league breaking balls yet, because it's tough to throw them in Arizona. The Dodgers sent him to Double-A to begin the season because he needs to play every day. Fans will be calling for his promotion, but the Dodgers don't have room for him yet.

I'm not as sold on Jurickson Profar as the best prospect in the country. For example, I think both Oscar Taveras and Wil Myers have greater upside than Profar. Most evaluation writers put Profar at No. 1. Don't get me wrong. I think he'll be very, very good. Like Puig, he's been sent down because he needs to play every day. Leury Garcia will handle the utility infield role to begin the season with Texas.

I think the Rangers have totally messed up their club. It starts with letting Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton and Michael Young all go somewhere else. Think of the void that left on their offense. That, after letting C. J. Wilson depart the year before. I also think the all-too-public situation with Nolan Ryan is not good for morale at all.

I saw the Rangers' Nick Tepesch pitch. He could be a bridge starter until they get Colby Lewis back. Good command and great mound presence. But he has very, very little minor league experience. He's very raw.

Don't get too excited about the Red Sox's Jackie Bradley, Jr. hype. He is a top of the order hitter without much pop. He can fill in your roster in a late round and he's a good player, but I'm not sure of the fantasy help he offers if he breaks with the club.

I do think Avisail Garcia will be up with the Tigers as soon as he's healthy and gets some minor league at-bats under his belt.

Why in the world did the Angels decide to trade Vernon Wells now? They could have done much better earlier in the offseason. They came to realize that Peter Bourjos just has to play every day. He can not sit on the bench, giving playing time to Wells and succeed. That's why it happened and happened now.

When I saw Scott Kazmir last week I couldn't believe how lifeless his pitches were. He said he had a fine outing. If that's a fine outing, I'd like to see a fine outing. Or a bad outing. He's the Indians' fifth starter because they have no one else at this point. When the first of their less than mediocre starters collapses, Carlos Carrasco, the next mediocre starter, will be promoted. I don't care how much the hitting has improved (and it has) the pitching is worrisome. Brett Myers might be the worst of the lot.

I applaud the Reds for putting Aroldis Chapman where he is comfortable pitching. He never looked at ease as a starter. I always believed he should be closing. And I believe that about Neftali Feliz as well. Chapman wanted to close. He is.

The loss of Adam Eaton is a terrible blow to the Diamondbacks. It's a blessing for Gerardo Parra, but they'll find a way to limit his playing time anyway. Once again now, the D-Backs will be searching for a leadoff hitter. The club still has lots of questions to answer.

I liked what I saw of Domonic Brown. However, let's see what he does over a 162-game season. The Phillies are anything but deep in the outfield, so he'll be playing.

This is the point in his development when he should have gotten his first promotion. Those of you that have followed me for years know that I was very bearish on his way too early promotions. He simply was nowhere near ready. It harmed his career.

There has been some buzz around the camps about the lack of progress being made by Danny Hultzen and James Paxton, but Brandon Maurer has had a terrific spring. I saw his outing against Cincinnati and I was very impressed.

It's hard to believe how many prominent players are out with injury to start the season. That's why it's so important to spread payroll money around so a club can afford depth. When one or two players eat too much of a payroll, it spells doom. (See Soriano and the Cubs for example. And Mauer and the Twins.)

I believe Kyle Lohse adds a veteran presence and the stability for their pitching staff that was an unmet need. He is a seasoned sinkerball pitcher with knowledge of the National League Central. He should help a great deal. It may cost Wily Peralta a spot in the rotation. We'll see.

Rick Porcello has won the fifth starter's role in Detroit. Well deserved.

Now is the time for you to plan your trip to Arizona for the Fall League. You won't find better baseball anywhere. The league will now be playing games at the beautiful Camelback Ranch instead of Peoria. Peoria will be renovating the clubhouses during the fall.

This coming Thursday is the swan song for the Cubs at Ho Ho Kam in Mesa. A tradition is ending. The team moves to their new “Little Wrigley” digs in west Mesa next spring. In two seasons, Oakland moves to Ho Ho Kam. I'll be On The Scene for the Cubs' final game. I may make a stop at Portillo's as a special treat.

Hope you will listen to my segments with DVR and Kevin Payne every Wednesday on the Sirius/XM Fantasy channels.

I invite you to read my fantasy profiles twice a week on MLB.com. Just look for my mug in the Other Voices section.

I'll be On The Scene in Raleigh/Durham April 17th-22nd to watch some minor league baseball. Know any good restaurants around the downtown Durham ballpark? If you live there, come around and say hello.

When next we meet, the 2013 baseball season will have begun. I wish you well in your leagues. I hope the players I have highlighted in my reports help you out. I will do a review of them in next week's article. Follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff. We have great dialogue and talk baseball. I'll be on Twitter at every Diamondbacks home game and from lots of spots on the road as well.