Sunday, March 16, 2008

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

With bullpen breakdowns for the AL East and AL Central complete, we now turn our attention to the American League West taking a look at who will be filling the roles of closer and setup man as well as sleeper middle relievers to keep an eye on.

Los Angeles Angels 

Closer - Francisco Rodriguez
Setup Man - Scot Shields
Top 7th Inning Guys - Justin Speier
Dark Horse Holds Guy - Darren Oliver

FSE's Take - Year in and year out the Angels have one of the strongest bullpens in all of baseball.  Flame thrower Francisco Rodriguez better known as K-Rod has averaged around 40 saves a season over his career and is a clearcut top 3 fantasy closer. Scot Shields and Justin Speier are a devestating setup combination that provide a solid bridge to K-Rod. Shields has been a stalwart setup man for several years and registered 31 holds in 2007 along with 77 strikeouts. Speier flourished in his first season in Anaheim compiling 24 holds as well as a 2.88 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP. Shields will open as the primary 8th inning setup man; however, he struggled at times in 2007 most likely to overuse over the past 5 seasons and posted a career high 3.86 ERA. Speier was the most effective middle reliever in the Angels pen in 2007 and that may hold true again in 2008.

Seattle Mariners

Closer - JJ Putz
Setup Man - Brandon Morrow
Top 7th Inning Guys - Eric O'Flaherty, Ryan Rowland-Smith
Dark Horse Holds Guys - Cesar Jimenez

FSE's Take - JJ Putz is a top 5 fantasy closer with the ability to put up big save and strikeout totals; however, behind him in the Seattle bullpen lies a ton of uncertainty. With George Sherrill now closing in Baltimore, Brandon Morrow should be the primary setup man entering 2008. The highly touted prospect was solid out of the pen for the Mariners last season before tiring down the stretch and getting hit fairly hard late in the year. He had 18 holds and 66 Ks in 63 innings and should be the best source of holds out of the Seattle this year. However, his high WHIP numbers and current shoulder soreness are troubling signs. Other holds candidates out of the pen are Eric O'Flaherty, Ryan Rowland-Smith and Cesar Jimenez who are currently the top conteders for the 7th inning slots.

Texas Rangers

Closer - CJ Wilson
Setup Man - Joaquin Benoit
7th Inning Guys - Frank Francisco & Kazuo Fukumori
Dark Horse Holds Guys - Wes Littleton & Eddie Guardado

FSE's Take - CJ Wilson had a hot finish to the 2007 season saving 12 games in the second half to secure the closer role in Texas entering 2008. An injury-riddled spring training has put Wilson's status as closer in doubt; however, we would bet he will be working the ninth come opening day. Waiting in the wings should Wilson falter is Joaquin Benoit, the Rangers' talented setup man who had 19 holds to go along with a 2.85 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 87 Ks in 82 innings last season. Like Wilson, Benoit also experienced some injury issues early in spring training but following a dominant minor league outing, the team says he will be ready for opening day. The Rangers should offer some solid holds options in their 7th inning pair of Frank Francisco who had 21 holds last year and Japenese import Kazuo Fukumori who had plenty of relief success overseas. Veteran Eddie Guardado and young stud Wes Littleton should also compete for a bullpen role and are guys to keep an eye on should the injury problems in the Rangers' pen continue.

Oakland Athletics 

Closer - Huston Street
Setup Man - Alan Embree 
7th Inning Guy & Rising - Santiago Casilla
Dark Horse Holds Guys - Keith Foulke

FSE's Take - Huston Street while injury prone is an excellent source of saves when he is right. Unfortunately, he will be closing for an A's team that figure to lose over 100+ games in 2008 and may find save opportunities to be few and far between. Veteran Alan Embree was versatile out of the pen accumulating 16 holds as well as 17 saves as a closer with Street out. He should open as the top 8th inning option but I believe Santiago Casilla will take that role before long. Casilla has a great arm and looked strong in winter ball, he could finish the season as the A's closer if Street gets traded. Another guy to watch in A's camp is veteran reliever Keith Foulke who is vying for a 7th inning role and could be a decent source of holds.

1 comment:

Jon Shields said...

Seattle's bullpen is probably going to look something closer to this on Opening Day (or at least come May):

J.J. Putz - closer
Brandon Morrow - setup
Mark Lowe - setup
Sean Green - setup/middle
Eric O'Flaherty - LOOGY
Ryan Rowland-Smith (only if Seattle opts for a 7-man pen) - mid
R.A. Dickey - Long