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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Fantasy baseball: Closing chronicles, Part II

"We are a committee. Our closer role is a committee," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said on Sunday.

At which point every fantasy owner in a 10-team mixed league scratched the names of Jon Rauch, Matt Guerrier and Jose Mijares off their lists of potential draftees in the bullpen.

We begin our second look at the six most combustible closing situations in baseball with the Twins -- who seem to have as many candidates to close as the Indians do to be their fifth starter in August.

For Part I, click here.


If you play fantasy, by now you are aware that Joe Nathan, who has averaged a major-league best 41 saves with a 1.87 ERA the last six seasons, is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. (If you weren't aware, you probably want to download a draft kit. Or just take the season off.)

Nathan's injury leaves Rauch, a 31-year-old with the most closing experience, as the most likely candidate to earn the job full-time. Rauch saved 18 games in 24 chances in 2008 with the Nationals and Diamondbacks, but he doesn't have the lights-out stuff (only 49 strikeouts in 70 innings last season) most teams want for the back end of the bullpen.

Guerrier, 31, has been a very effective setup man (5-1, 2.36 ERA last season), and it's a role for which he seems best suited.

Mijares, the only lefty among the closing contenders, was effective as a specialist last season -- lefties batted .155 against him, compared to .283 for righties. Mijares is also a decent source of strikeouts (55 in 61 2/3 innings in 2009) and WHIP (1.18).

A fourth candidate being mentioned is Jesse Crain, 28, who was 7-4 with 4.70 ERA last season. With an average of 5.8 strikeouts per 9 innings for his career, he would seem to be the long shot of the bunch.

The best guess: Rauch will earn the most opportunities early, but I wouldn't be surprised if Mijares won the job at some point. Both should be considered low-end No. 3 relievers in 12-team mixed leagues and mid-level No. 2 relievers in AL-only leagues.


Octavio Dotel was signed to be the Pirates' closer, but until Wednesday, he had been out with a strained oblique. The 11-year veteran threw a scoreless inning in his spring debut, and he's really Pittsburgh's only choice.

Joel Hanrahan, who briefly was Washington's closer last season, is out with an elbow injury for the Pirates, and 38-year-old Brendan Donnelly (yes, the Brendan Donnelly who had an 8.56 ERA in 15 forgettable appearances with the Tribe in 2008) is the setup man.

That leaves Dotel, who is very good at one thing: Striking batters out. The 36-year-old had 75 K's in 62 1/3 innings last season, and he's averaged 11 strikeouts per 9 innings for his career.

Considering the Pirates have averaged 68 wins the last 10 years, Mariano Rivera might be lucky to save 25 games in Pittsburgh. Dotel is a No. 3 closer in deeper mixed leagues, but he is at least ahead of Rauch in the top 30.


Jason Frasor has beaten out Kevin Gregg and Scott Downs, and the six-year veteran might be better than you think.

Frasor saved 11 games in 14 chances last season, during which he won seven games, had a 2.50 ERA and struck out 56 in 57 2/3 innings. He has averaged more than eight strikeouts per nine innings for his career, and he should have more value than the likes of Matt Capps, Matt Lindstrom, Dotel and the Twins' closer to be named later.

Frasor is still a No. 3 reliever to start the season, but he could finish as a No. 2 in mixed leagues. It helps that his manager didn't once mention "committee" after announcing that he had won the job.

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