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MLB Barometer: Closer Carousel

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He's also in the FSWA Hall of Fame. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).

Greetings, I'm filling in for Kevin Payne this week, who is off spending his ill-gotten Vegas winnings (seriously, he and Mark Stopa made out like crazy on the likes of All-Star game prop bets and South American soccer games - who said that this is the deadest three days in sports anyhow?). Kevin will be back in action next week.


Jason Isringhausen / Bobby Parnell / Pedro Beato - The Mets haven't had a save chance since the break and the trade of Francisco Rodriguez, but the team suggested that Isringhausen will get the first chance to close. Isringhausen hasn't missed as many bats as Parnell, but he's held his own, posting a 3.14 ERA and 21:13 K:BB in 28.2 innings. Typically you'd like to have a guy strike more batters out as the closer, but he has closed before and there's some thought that he'll also be available on the trade market. Certainly getting a few more saves would only enhance his marketability. Parnell would be next in line - he pitched a scoreless inning in a non-save situation Saturday. His strikeout rate is great, but he does have 10 walks in 25.2 innings.

Joe Nathan - Nathan has taken back over for the Twins as the closer after Matt Capps' latest debacle Friday night. Nathan has pitched well since returning from the DL, allowing just one run in 8.1 innings. Not that he needed it, but after converting his first chance Saturday he has some extra security in the role.

Carlos Guillen - After missing the first half of the season with a knee injury, Guillen returned Saturday and started at second base for the Tigers, which is where he'll get most of his action going forward. To be certain, Guillen remains a big health risk going forward and won't be the same player that he was in his 2006-to-2008 peak, but given how little the Tigers have gotten at second base, he'll get an extended run until he breaks again.

Cody Ross - Prior to the break, Ross had been the odd man out with Nate Schierholtz getting so much run in right field, but Pat Burrell's trip to the DL has opened up the door in left field for Ross, who has started the last four days in left. Ross has been slowed by calf and hamstring injuries, but his overall rate stats are in line with last year's numbers. His .355 OBP is actually among the team's best, giving the Giants a quality that they desperately need. He's still at risk of losing out to Brandon Belt in the long run, but the job is his for the next month or so.

Phil Hughes - What version of Phil Hughes will we see over the second half? The first-half of 2010 version that was so strong, or the second half and playoffs version that got hit so hard? Entering Sunday's start against the Jays, he was averaging 89.55 mph on his average fastball, a good 3 mph slower than last year. But that was weighted down by his first three starts of the season before he went on the DL. In his first start back and again on Sunday, Hughes was working closer to the range where he was at last season. Sunday's win will make it a little more difficult to buy lowest on Hughes, but if he was a $10-12 pitcher in your AL auction this year, you could probably still acquire him at $5-7 in cost right now.

Trevor Plouffe - Plouffe has been playing all over the diamond since his latest promotion from Triple-A Rochester, but it wouldn't be a shock to see him take over for Tsuyoshi Nishioka at shortstop once the Twins get their injured hitters back. The big question for Plouffe is whether the power he showed at Rochester (15 homers, .635 slugging percentage) is for real. After getting drafted in the first round in 2004, Plouffe has never had an OPS north of .736 as a professional, so this is way out of line for him. He's also had four homers in 69 at-bats with the Twins this year, so I'm inclined to believe.

Alexander Cobb - Cobb will fill in for the injured Wade Davis on Monday for the Rays. He wasn't dominant in his first stretch with the Rays (19:12 K:BB in 29 innings with a 3.41 ERA), but he held his own and was superb at Triple-A Durham. The only negative is the opponent Monday - the Yankees. Even in an AL-only format, where a potential second start could come against the Royals, it's hard to back using him in leagues with weekly moves. However, if he pitches well this week, it's not a stretch to see him stick ahead of Davis for a while given how mediocre Davis had been before his forearm strain.


David Aardsma - Aardsma needs Tommy John elbow surgery and will be out until the middle of next season. Thus, anyone who took a flier on Brandon League at the draft table or traded for him during the season, saw their gamble pay out, as League will remain the closer. There's no real replacement option for League, either.

Vladimir Guerrero - Guerrero has a small crack in his hand and is off to the DL. Between him and Luke Scott both being sidelined, there should be a few openings for the O's. Nolan Reimold and the recently recalled Matt Angle appear to be the beneficiaries.

Peter Bourjos - Bourjos' ankle injury ended up landing him on the DL after all, opening the door for Mike Trout to stay up longer and make more of an impression.

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Jose Bautista - Bautista sat out again Sunday thanks to his ankle injury, but he's expected to return Tuesday when the Jays resume play.

Ryan Braun - Nothing like having your slugger miss the bulk of a four-game series in Coors Field and soil his potential for a back-dated DL trip in the process. These calf injuries are tricky, all the more so when you're counting on that player being able to run to account for much of his value.

Grady Sizemore - Sizemore hurt his knee rounding first Sunday, just moments after colleague from ESPN Jason Grey traded for him in AL Tout Wars. Been there, done that, my friend.


Francisco Rodriguez - Even though K-Rod worked out a buy out to nullify his games-finished clause that could have prevented him from closing, he worked the eighth inning Saturday and John Axford still got the save chance in the ninth. These roles certainly could reverse if Axford ever struggles, but right now it looks as if he's the one that's going to lose out on the save chances following the trade.

Carlos Marmol - Marmol's blow up Thursday was bad enough, but his comments afterward about he cannot control his slider is a lot worse. Marmol throws his slider over 60 percent of the time, and his fastball velocity is over two miles slower than it was last year. Factor in that manager Mike Quade wouldn't let Marmol finish when struggled Saturday, instead going to Sean Marshall, and you've got a devalued closer on your hands.