Likely Opening Day Closer – Brandon Lyon
With Mark Melancon sent to Boston earlier in the winter Lyon will most likely re-inherit closing duties by default. Limited to just 13.1 innings in 2011 due to a biceps injury, Lyon is hardly what you would call an ideal fit at the end of the game.
Forget about his 11.48 ERA last season, as it was obviously based off a small sample size. What is more important to note are the following career numbers (586.0 innings):
- 4.22 ERA
- 1.38 WHIP
- 5.82 K/9
Sure, he has good control and has a history of closing games (two years of at least 20 saves), but he is hardly a lock to thrive. If he does start the year in the role, don’t look for him to hold the job for long.
Likely Replacement – Wilton Lopez
Over the past two seasons he has posted impressive ERAs (2.96 & 2.79) and WHIPs (1.06 & 1.27). He may not have the most impressive strikeout rate, but he has pinpoint control (1.23 BB/9 over his minor league career). While he’s not a prototype closer, not giving up free passes certainly helps to get the job done.
It gets even better since he has a tremendous groundball rate. Over parts of three seasons he has posted a GB% of 56.2%. That means he’s not going to give up many home runs (10 HR over 138.0 IP the past two seasons), another issue that often plagues closers.
If the team turns to him is he going to be a highly sought after option? Absolutely not, but if you are simply looking to steal some saves he has the stuff to get the job done.
Another Option To Watch – David Carpenter
The Astros gave Carpenter his first taste of the Major Leagues in 2011, seeing him post an impressive 9.43 K/9 over 27.2 innings of work. He did struggle with his control (4.23 BB/9), but that has not been a consistent problem throughout his minor league career (3.63 BB/9).
With a fastball that averaged 93.9% last season, if he gets his control in order his stuff could translate very well to late game situations. He did get one save in two opportunities in 2012 and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Astros give the 26-year old a chance to prove that he can hold down the job not only this season, but for the future as well.
At the end of the day, my money is on Carpenter ultimately being the most valuable receiver in Houston by year’s end. That makes him well worth stashing in deeper formats.
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Make sure to check out the rest of our 2012 rankings: