It’s time to continue our journey around the league, looking at each team’s closer situation. The AL West saw a major change in their closing duties, with Brian Fuentes dealt in a waiver wire deal. Let’s take a look at their updated situation, as well as the other three teams in the division:
Los Angeles Angels
Closer: Fernando Rodney
Waiting in the Wings: Kevin Jepsen/Francisco Rodriguez/Jordan Walsen
Closer of the Future: ?
Brian Fuentes had been fine in his role, but did anyone truly have faith in him? He went 23-for-27 in save opportunities thus far, but he struggled a bit with control (4.2 BB/9) and home runs (1.2 HR/9), while benefiting from some luck (.250 BABIP). Now, he’s a setup man for the Minnesota Twins, being traded yesterday. Rodney has had his own problems this year, with a 1.45 WHIP due to a 4.7 BB/9. In fact, his WHIPs the previous two years had been 1.59 and 1.47. He’s going to get save opportunities, so he’s a low-end option, but that’s about it. Clearly, at 33-years old, he is not a long-term answer in the closer’s role. The Angels don’t have a specific solution past 2011 (Rodney is signed for another year), though Michael Kohn and Ysmael Carmona have potential and any of the guys who are “waiting in the wings” could emerge if they can put a positive streak together. Kohn posted a 2.15 ERA over 46.0 innings between Double and Triple-A, while also posting a 3.27 ERA in the Majors. Carmona posted a 2.60 ERA over 55.1 innings at Double-A. Unfortunately, both have struggled with control. Of course, a starter like Fabio Martinez Mesa could ultimately transition to the bullpen, but he’s impressed at Single-A (3.92 ERA, 141 K in 103.1 innings), so at this point it’s tough to predict that.
Closer: Andrew Bailey
Waiting in the Wings: Michael Wuertz
Closer of the Future: Andrew Bailey
Bailey suffered from injuries this season, but that seems to be the only thing that can stop him. He’s gone 20-for-23 in save opportunities while posting a 1.52 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. That comes after a rookie year in which he posted 26 saves with a 1.84 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. If you want to nitpick, his strikeouts are down, but you’d expect that to rebound. At this point, the 26-year old is entrenched for the long haul. Wuertz did fine in his short stint while Bailey was on the DL, but he’s not likely to get many opportunities moving forward.
Closer: David Aardsma
Waiting in the Wings: Brandon League
Closer of the Future: Brandon League
Aardsma was one of my least favorite closers entering the year, and he hasn’t disappointed with a 4.14 ERA. I know, it hasn’t been all bad (24 saves, 43 K in 41.1 innings), but he’s not long for the job. League, who was acquired for Brandon Morrow, has the potential to grab hold of the job and possibly hold it long-term. While he’s not an elite strikeout artist (6.1 K/9 this season, 6.7 for his career), he has good control (2.8 BB/9), which certainly helps. Couple that with an elite groundball rate (62.9% this year, 62.2% for his career) and you get a pitcher with the potential to excel. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him assume the role full-time in 2011.
Closer: Neftali Feliz
Waiting in the Wings: Frank Francisco
Closer of the Future: Neftali Feliz
Feliz has been fantastic since taking over for Francisco, saving 32 games in 35 opportunities with a 3.44 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. The biggest question is if the Rangers decide to leave him in the bullpen or ultimately transition him back to the rotation. While Francisco is no longer the long-term answer, the system is stocked with young arms who could step into the role at some point, like Tanner Scheppers for example. Still, with the success Feliz has shown, it would appear likely he is going to be there for a while (much like the situation the Red Sox had with Jonathan Papelbon).
What are your thoughts on these situations?
Make sure to check out our look at the other divisions in baseball: