Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fantasy Bullpen Breakdowns - AL East Closers, Setup Men & Sleeper Middle Relievers

With saves always being a hot commodity in fantasy baseball and the holds category gaining in popularity, it is important to keep an eye on relievers during Spring Training. In the coming week, FSE will examine the bullpens of each Major League team and see who will be filling the roles of closer and setup man come opening day. In addition, we will highlight a few sleepers to keep an eye on from each roster.

We will go through the MLB teams by division with the American League leading off. Let's kick off the Bullpen Breakdowns series by taking a look at the powerful American League East.

Boston Red Sox

Closer - Jonathon Papelbon
Setup Man - Hideki Okajima
Top 7th Inning Guy & Rising - Manny Delcarmen
Dark Horse Holds Guy - Javier Lopez

FSE's Take - Papelbon is arguably the finest closer in fantasy baseball and is likely to be the first closer taken in many drafts. Okajima is coming off an excellent rookie season where he ranked among the league leaders in holds, however, I doubt he is as dominant now that the league has had an extended look at him. Manny Delcarmen is a rising star in the Boston bullpen and should see an expanded role this season. I think Delcarmen will serve as the team's preffered 8th inning setup man by midseason and there has also been talk of him being the top fallback option at closer. He could vulture 4-5 saves when Paps can't go and would replace him in case of injury.

New York Yankees

Closer - Mariano Rivera
Setup Man - Joba Chamberlain
Top 7th Inning Guy - Latroy Hawkins
Dark Horse Holds Guy - Ross Ohlendorf

FSE's Take - In Mo Rivera and Joba, the Yanks have one of the best 8th and 9th inning combinations in all of baseball. Rivera should have another 30+ save season and Joba will be a monster in holds department and would step in at closer should Mo go down. There has however, been talk of eventually moving Joba back into the rotation midseason and if that happens expect newly acquired veteran reliever Latroy Hawkins to get first crack at the 8th inning role. Ohlendorf pitched well in 6 appearances last season after a September callup. He has a good chance to make the Yankee bullpen out of spring training and could work a decent amount in the 6th/7th inning.

Toronto Bluejays

Closer - BJ Ryan
Setup Man - Jeremy Accardo
Top 7th Inning Guys - Jason Frasor & Scott Downs
Dark Horse Holds Guy - Brandon League

FSE's Take - With a healthy BJ Ryan, I think Toronto has the best bullpen in baseball top to bottom. Ryan is a top 5-10 closer when he is right and by compiling 30 saves last season, Jeremy Accardo showed he could effectively work the ninth inning for half the teams in the majors right now. It's safe to say that should BJ Ryan not be ready for the season or get hurt at any point, Accardo would close giving the former Giant a lot of value in the saves and holds category potentially. Frasor and Downs are solid 7th inning guys who should tally a good amount of holds but keep an eye on young Brandon League. He was set to open as the Bluejays setup man last year and was one of my top MR sleepers before an injury derailed his season. He is in camp and throwing 95-98 mph once again and should get work in the 7th inning and challenge for the top setup man role should Accardo or Ryan get hurt.

Tampa Bay Rays

Closer - Troy Percival
Setup Men - Al Reyes
Top 7th Inning Guy - Dan Wheeler
Dark Horse Holds Guy - Trever Miller

FSE's Take - Troy Percival (can't believe he is relevant in 2008) is the new closer in Tampa and has proven in the past he can get the job done. People laughed when Todd Jones became the closer in Detroit but he has been a good source of saves for over 2 years now. The Rays are an up and coming club and Percival should get an ample amount of save chances. As for the rest of the bullpen, last year's closer Al Reyes should be the top setup guy and has looked good this spring while former Houston closer Dan Wheeler will start off pitching primarily in the 7th. Both guys should accumulate a decent amount of holds and Wheeler should see additional time in the 8th inning as the season wears on.

Baltimore Orioles

Closer - George Sherrill
Setup Men - Jamie Walker & Chad Bradford
Top 7th Inning/Dark Horse Holds Guy - Dennis Sarfate

The Orioles are currently rebuilding from the ground up and will not be a good ballclub in 2008. It follows that their bullpen is among the worst and can only be trusted sparingly in fantasy play. George Sherrill appears to be the favorite to close while Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford will split the setup duties and could vulture a few saves here and there. If Sherrill struggles Bradford and Walker would be the top candidates to close, however, keep an eye Dennis Sarfate as the season wears on. The 26 year old reliever was acquired in the Tejada deal and had some good relief numbers in a cup of tea with the Astros last season. There is a chance Sarfate could be the setup man and possibly get a few saves before the season is out.

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