Sunday, July 04, 2010

NL King - The Next Generation of NL Closers

Over the next year or so the landscape of who the closers will be quite different in the National League. Let's look at it by division.

NL East:
Atlanta - Billy Wagner has announced that after this season he will be retiring. It's to early to say who will be closing for the Braves next season come opening day. They do not have a Luke Gregerson or Evan Meek or a Mike Adams currently in their bullpen. Craig Kimbrel could be the guy IF he can get his walks down. In AA & AAA over the last year or so Kimbrel has done well as closer but has walked far too many people. Walks are death to a closer. So far this year with the Braves' Kimbrel has 15K's in 8 1/3 innings which is awesome but he also has 10 walks during that time which is terrible. Keep a close watch over the coming months on who could replace Billy Wagner come next year.

Washington - Matt Capps after an awesome 1st 6 weeks has started to slip. While Drew Storen is a young kid when the Nats drafted him the plan was for Storen to be their closer eventually for years to come. If Capps continues to struggle that day could come this summer.

Other Notes: K-Rod & Lidge are just signed through the 2011 season for the Mets & Phillies.
NL Central:
St Louis - Word is Ryan Franklin is going to retire aftr his contract ends after the 2011 season. If Franklin falters between now and then Jason Motte could get a chance to be the Cards future closer as Motte has had a real strong 1st half this year.

Milwaukee - Since Trevor Hoffman had a beyond belief horrible April & early May the Brewers for the most part have handed the 9th inning to close out games to John Axford. In the minors one would not think that Axford would become a closer as he had control issues. Even though Axford is 9 for 9 in save opportunties he has walked 11 batters in 22 innings which is high. At this point it's Axford job to lose but don't sell the farm on John Axford just yet.

Pittsburgh - Octavio Dotel is closing now but he signed a 1 year contract with a 4.5 million dollar team option for 2011. Dotel is a short term guy for Pittsburgh and I am sure will be traded before the July 31st trade deadline to a team in contention to help their bullpen. At that point we could see Evan Meek take over as the Pirates closer. Meek has been tremendous this year and it only makes sense for the Pirates to see if he can handle the 9th inning duties.

Other Notes - Francisco Cordero is signed with the Reds through the 2011 season.

NL West:
San Diego - Finances will probably mean that Heath Bell won't be on the Padres next season. Bell after the season will be 1 year away from free agency and will make close to 9 million in the arbrtration process. The Padres can choose between Mike Adams & Luke Gregerson to be the closer next year but long term it will be Gregerson.

Arizona - Your guess is as good as anyone's. I know they just traded for reliever Sam Demel from the A's for Conor Jackson but we have to see if Demel has what it takes to be a closer first. Demel saved 42 games in the minors from 2008 through this year. His strikeout rate in the minors was great (200 K's in 180 IP) but his walks were high (4.5 per 9 innings). One would think after he gets his feet wet with the D-Backs Demel will get a chance to close games. If Demel can't do it the D-Backs future closer is probably outside their organization.

Last Note - Only significant free agent closer that will be available is Tampa's Rafael Soriano. Mariano Rivera is also a free agent but if Mo wants to pitch next year it will be for the Yanks.

NL King - C.Lizza

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