The Next New Closer

Bullpens across the league are in complete disarray which creating a lot of excitement in the late innings of many games, but also leading to plenty of uncertainty at the back end of bullpens league-wide. Sure, Joe Nathan and Mariano Rivera are locked and loaded as their team’s closer barring injury, and there are a handful of others, but we’ve already seen a carousel on several teams including St. Louis, Oakland, Baltimore and Washington. This could be helpful for the many fantasy baseball owners that employ the Punt Saves strategy with their pitching staff at their draft or auction. Given the immense volatility with closers, this strategy says to pass on buying closers and spend the money on offense or starting pitching. Then, actively pursue newly anointed closers as they come up throughout the season. The problem this year might be that you might get lucky and snap one up, but how long will he last?

I have a hidden gem for you that is starting to get more and more run at some fantasy outlets. I drafted him in two different NL-Only leagues thanks to his strong spring that suggested he was completely healthy after missing virtually all of 2008. He threw 10 clean innings with seven strikeouts, one walk and three hits allowed. As I’ve mentioned before, I pay heed to Spring Training numbers when someone is coming back for injury or a youngster fighting for a roster spot. At 34, this guy is an established veteran, but he was coming back from a torn right rotator cuff. The mystery man is Florida’s Kiko Calero. He has picked up right where his Spring Training left off having allowed just three runs in his 14 innings of work while striking out 19 and walking four. Meanwhile, the current closer Matt Lindstrom hasn’t been great. I would caution reading too much into Lindstrom’s 7.20 ERA as it’s borne mostly of an outing in which he allowed 7 runs in 2/3rds of an inning. I just don’t particularly trust him in general and think he will collapse enough at one point to open the door for Calero, not Leo Nunez.

The worst case scenario is that Calero appears to be one of the few middle relievers you can trust if you’re using the Middle Reliever Methodology to solidify your rotation, but regardless I think he should definitely be watched especially if Lindstrom strings a few poor outings together.


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