The American League West is a division that is littered with question marks when it comes to closers. Who is closing for the Angels? Will Ryan Cook get an opportunity in Oakland? Is Brandon League returning to the closers role? Let’s try to answer all of these questions:
Los Angeles Angels
Closer – Scott Downs
Next in Line – Ernesto Frieri
Third Option – Jordan Walden
It’s actually hard to say who the current closer actually is. Both Downs and Frieri have seen time as the Angels closer of late, and both have excelled. Downs owns a 0.00 ERA and 0.87 WHIP through 20.2 innings of work.
Frieri, meanwhile, is almost as impressive. He owns a 1.00 ERA and 0.96 WHIP, though with significantly more strikeouts. In just 27.0 innings he has posted an amazing 49 K. Yes, he’s walked 15 batters, but with that type of strikeout total it’s not going to hurt him.
Long-term the job appears to be Frieri’s. While they will continue to share for now, he’s the option that I’d be looking to own.
Closer – Brian Fuentes
Next in Line – Ryan Cook
Third Option – Grant Balfour
The A’s situation right now is to build up the value of Fuentes and Balfour to try and maximize their trade value. Then, the job should ultimately be handed to Cook (who has the potential to be the closer in 2013 and beyond).
While Cook’s numbers are impressive, with a 0.69 ERA and 0.85 WHIP, it’s hard to consider him a lock to excel in the closer’s role. He has terrible control, with a 5.19 BB/9, and has also benefitted from a .119 BABIP and 90.9% strand rate. He also hasn’t brought knockout strikeout stuff to the table, with an 8.65 K/9. It’s a good mark, but it’s far from elite
Is he worth stashing if you are desperate for saves? Absolutely, because he should get his shot. In fact, according to Susan Slusser (via Twitter), “Melvin will use Cook, Balfour and Fuentes depending on matchups, availability.?” Just be realistic in your expectations. We will talk about him in much more detail later this week.
Closer – Tom Wilhelmsen
Next in Line – Brandon League
Third Option – Stephen Pryor
Since League was removed from the closer role Wilhelmsen has been excellent. In his last four outings he has 1 W and 3 SV to go along with 6.2 shutout innings with 7 K. In fact, he’s now posted five consecutive scoreless outings (spanning 8.2 innings). I’m not about to say that he’s a lock to hold the job all year long or that he’s a great option, but he does have a lot going for him. His ERA and WHIP are down to 3.38 and 1.16 to go along with a 37-to-9 strikeout-to-walk rate over 32.0 innings. He needs to be owned in all formats.
Pryor may be the long-term answer for the Mariners and, in keeper formats, he is worth stashing. However, he needs to improve on his control before he gets there. He has looked great thus far in the Majors, with 5 K and 3 BB in 5.0 IP. However, he had 12 BB in 28.0 IP in the minor leagues prior to his recall and a 4.62 BB/9 over his minor league career. Until he proves that that issue is behind him, his electric stuff is likely going to be kept in a setup role.
There had been talk prior to yesterday that Brandon League would resume closing duties before long. According to Greg Johns (via Twitter), “Wedge says he’s pleased with way Brandon League has been pitching and he’ll be given another shot at closer ‘sooner than later.’” Of course, he went out yesterday and allowed 2 ER on 4 H in an inning of work.
Despite the talk, the job is Wilhelmsen’s for now.
Closer – Joe Nathan
Next in Line – Mike Adams
Third Option – Alexi Ogando
I know, Ogando is heading to the rotation for now thanks to Derek Holland going on the DL. However, I wouldn’t expect his stay there to be long. Holland is dealing with general fatigue but isn’t expected to be out long and Roy Oswalt is closing in on his 2012 debut. You would think that Ogando is going to find his way back to the bullpen where he will play an important role.
However Nathan is clearly the man in this bullpen. While he started off slowly (4 ER over his first 4.0 IP), he’s allowed just 1 ER in his last 19.2 innings of work. He’s also pitching like a strikeout machine, with 28 K on the season and a fastball averaging 93.9 mph. That’s his best mark since 2007 and makes you realize that he is fully back. He’s one of the elite closers in the game today, so while the rest of the bullpen is strong his job is completely safe.