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Mound Musings: Closers in Waiting

David Regan

David Regan is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, including the 2015 Baseball Article of the Year.

I'm in several types of leagues, some shallow, many deep and some very deep. Thus, I'm constantly on the lookout for that next potential source of save opportunities. Sometimes those sources come completely out of left field (Hector Santiago and Bryan Shaw recently), but often, once a team's closer goes down (injury or performance), it's the top setup man who is tapped for the role. Here we will cover my top-50 non-closer relievers in an attempt to highlight both the obvious (Aroldis Chapman) and not so obvious potential future closers.

1. Kenley Jansen, LAD -
Gets the nod over Chapman based on Javy Guerra's blown save Tuesday and Jansen's elite strikeout ability. Even if he doesn't take over for Guerra soon, Jansen should still approach 130 strikeouts with solid production in three categories.

2. Aroldis Chapman, CIN -
Eight innings, three hits, no runs, no walks and 15 strikeouts. Only the Reds know why Chapman isn't getting a chance to start.

3. Brad Lidge, WAS -
With Drew Storen (elbow) out until sometime in June, Lidge is sharing closing duties with Henry Rodriguez. He has the experience while Rodriguez has the upper-90s fastball, and each has two saves. I have a very, very slight preference for Lidge at this moment, but that could change tomorrow depending on how they are used.

4. Henry Rodriguez, WAS -
See above.

5. Matt Thornton, CHW -
Hector Santiago blew his last save opportunity while Thornton has yet to allow a run or a walk this year. He'd likely get the nod over Addison Reed and Jesse Crain.

6. Vinnie Pestano, CLE -
Chris Perez has a 5.79 ERA and 2.14 WHIP. Pestano has yet to walk a batter, has a 0.71 WHIP and posted a 12.2 K/9IP last year. Perez's velocity is also down for the second consecutive year, and that can't be a good sign.

7. Sergio Romo, SF -
Santiago Casilla is option No. 1 for the role vacated by Brian Wilson (elbow), but Romo is the team's best reliever. Casilla has yet to allow a run this year, so he'll get plenty of rope, but in the meantime, Romo should be a solid three-category contributor.

8. Mike Adams, TEX -
Received a save this week with Joe Nathan was unavailable, so he's clearly next in line. He's also clearly very good, and Nathan is clearly very injury prone.

9. Greg Holland, KC -
Jonathan Broxton recovered from his epic blown save on April 11 with a scoreless inning three days later, so he's still the guy. Holland hasn't been his 2011 self just yet, but he's still above Aaron Crow on the team's pecking order.

10. Rafael Dolis, CHC -
K:BB is ugly at 1:5, but Carlos Marmol is far from stable and Kerry Wood is already nursing a sore shoulder.

11. Francisco Cordero, TOR -
Has the experience to step right in should Sergio Santos ultimately lose the job. Santos, though, seems to have recovered well from an ugly start and has plenty of job security.

12. Matt Belisle, COL -
Just one base runner allowed in four innings so far, so for now he has the slight edge over Rex Brothers should something happen to Rafael Betancourt.

13. Matt Lindstrom, BAL -
What, you think it should be Kevin Gregg here? Jim Johnson has converted all five of his save chances this year, but Johnson is far from an established closer.

14. Glen Perkins, MIN -
Perkins is dealing with a sore arm and an 8.31 ERA (related?), but he's still probably next in line behind the shaky Matt Capps.

15. Joaquin Benoit, DET -
Jose Valverde hasn't been quite as dominant this year as last. Benoit, meanwhile, has been one of baseball's top setup men the last couple years. He'd surely be next in line behind Valverde.

16. Francisco Rodriguez, MIL -
K-Rod has had an ugly last couple outings recently, but should John Axford go down, he'd most likely be the closer.

17. Luke Gregerson, SD -
Andrew Cashner has the big fastball, but Gregerson has been more consistent pitcher this year and would probably get the call should Street need to be replaced in the near term. Should Street get traded come July (a strong possibility), it could be Cashner who gets a look if he's pitching well at the time.

18. Steve Cishek, MIA -
Heath Bell has struggled out of the gate, but due to his $27 million contract, Bell will get plenty of rope. Should a change be needed, Cishek and Edward Mujica would be the top candidates to replace him. For now, edge to Cishek based on early-season performance and because Mujica could have more value as a seventh/eighth-inning reliever.

19. Rex Brothers, COL -
There aren't a lot of lefty closers, but he could fill the job just fine.

20. Juan Cruz, PIT -
Just speculation here, but I think he'd be favored over Evan Meek should Joel Hanrahan (hamstring) go down or be traded.

21. Andrew Cashner, SD -
With seven walks in 6.2 innings, Cashner isn't going to be closing soon, but the mid-to-upper-90s heat gives him closer upside as long as he can stay healthy.

22. Fernando Salas, STL -
Likely next in line behind Jason Motte, but manager Mike Matheny has other options as well.

23. David Robertson, NYY -
Mariano Rivera isn't going anywhere, but Robertson in my mind is his heir apparent and would take over should Rivera get hurt.

24. Brandon Lyon, HOU -
Don't rule out the possibility that once Brett Myers is traded, Lyon takes over, at least for a while. We'll talk about a couple other Houston relievers in a minute.

25. Addison Reed, CHW -
4.2 innings and no runs so far this year, so he could take over should Hector Santiago need to be replaced, but give the edge to Matt Thornton for now.

26. Ryan Cook, OAK -
Has been entrusted with late leads recently and has yet to allow a run. A real concern, though: just one strikeout in 5.1 innings.

27. Vicente Padilla, BOS -
Alfredo Aceves isn't exactly an elite closer and Mark Melancon is struggling to even stay on the roster.

28. Scott Downs, LAA -
Would probably share the job with LaTroy Hawkins should Jordan Walden need to be replaced.

29. Brian Fuentes, OAK -
With Joey Devine (elbow) hurt again, Fuentes is the logical alternative to Grant Balfour. Either, or both, could find himself traded come July.

30. Tyler Clippard, WAS -
Perhaps the Nationals reverse course and give the job to Clippard. Even if they don't, he still has value in deeper formats.

31. Jose Contreras, PHI -
Now that he's healthy, expect Contreras to soon overtake Chad Qualls as the primary alternative to Jonathan Papelbon.

32. Bobby Parnell, NYM -
Lots of FAAB money went his way last year following the Francisco Rodriguez trade, but Parnell blew half of his 12 save opportunities. This year has been a different story as Parnell has a 9:0 K:BB in six innings. He has the huge fastball, and if he can maintain his newfound control, Parnell could be special.

33. Jesse Crain, CHW -
He's off to a very good start, but the White Sox have a ton of alternatives to current closer Hector Santiago.

34. Franklin Morales, BOS -
Control has been much better so far this year, and he has closer stuff, including a mid-90s fastball.

35. David Hernandez, ARI -
Yes, Bryan Shaw has two saves, but that's likely more due to Hernandez and J.J. Putz being unavailable during those two games. I still think he's next in line behind Putz.

36. David Carpenter, HOU -
Carpenter has a 1.71 WHIP, but he has the youth and stuff to carry the "closer of the future" tag. I think that future comes later this year.

37. Edward Mujica, MIA -
Was the team's top reliever last year, but is off to a slow start this year. This could change, but Steve Cishek is the reliever to own if you're worried about Heath Bell.
38. Evan Meek, PIT -
Has shown "closer of the future" stuff, but shoulder issues derailed his 2011 season. Meek has fared better this year and could put himself in the closer mix down the road, but he's probably behind Juan Cruz now and perhaps even Chris Resop.

39. Alexi Ogando, TEX -
Likely behind Mike Adams in the pecking order, but it's possible Ron Washington would prefer to leave Adams in a setup role should Joe Nathan get hurt.

40. Octavio Dotel, DET -
The nomad Dotel is off to a great start and would seem to be in the mix to close should Jose Valverde go down.

41. Bryan Shaw, ARI -
Two saves already, but don't get too excited. I might throw a buck or two his way in NL-only leagues, but I still say David Hernandez is next in line to close.

42. Wilton Lopez, HOU -
Lopez could be the guy to close should Brett Myers get dealt, but he's been so valuable in a multi-inning role that I don't see it happening. I'd prefer David Carpenter and, gulp, Brandon Lyon.

43. Javier Lopez, SF -
Could see a handful of saves should the opposition throw a lefty or two up to the plate in a save situation.

44. Fautino De Los Santos, OAK -
A lot of buzz about this guy this spring, but his time might not come until next year.

45. Jon Rauch, NYM -
He's off to a great start with 6.2 scoreless innings, but raise your hand if you've ever been burned by having Rauch on your roster.

46. Ramon Ramirez, NYM -
Plan B, C or D for the Mets should Frank Francisco go down.

47. Mark Melancon, BOS -
Has gone from the favorite to close to possibly headed for Triple-A. Perhaps he turns it around, but he could also be one of those who can't take the heat in Boston.

48. LaTroy Hawkins, LAA -
Would likely split time with Scott Downs in the event Jordan Walden goes down, but the Angels would probably pursue a closer on the trade market should Walden need replacing.

49. Kerry Wood, CHC -
He's hurt already, but if it's not serious, Wood could find a few saves at some point this year.

50. Heath Hembree, SF -
He's in Triple-A now, but his stuff is plain filthy and Santiago Casilla isn't exactly an established closer.

Honorable mention:
Chris Resop, PIT; Eduardo Sanchez, STL; Brad Boxberger, SD ; Chad Qualls, PHI; J.J. Hoover, CIN; Phillippe Aumont, PHI

Regan, a five-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, was named the 2010 Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year.

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