Friday, March 21, 2008

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

With bullpen breakdowns for the American League complete, we now turn our attention to the National League East 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.

New York Mets

Closer - Billy Wagner
Set Up Men - Aaron Heilman & Duaner Sanchez
Top 7th Inning Guys - Pedro Feliciano & Joe Smith
Dark Horse Holds Guy - Steven Register

FSE's Take - Willie Randolph is not shy about using his bullpen and that means you can expect plenty of saves and holds from this group. Billy Wagner is a lock for 35-40 saves while Aaron Heilman should see plenty of time in the 8th inning and should accumulate 20+ holds. Duaner Sanchez returns after a layoff of over a year and will see time in both the 7th and 8th innings. Sanchez was very effective in 2006 before tearing up his shoulder in a cab accident. If he can return to form, Sanchez could be among the top relievers in fantasy. Pedro Feliciano and Joe Smith will handle a majority of the 7th inning duties and were effective in 2007. Feliciano had 18 holds while Joe Smith notched 10 before hitting the rookie wall. Both should be good holds options in 2008 along with Rule 5 pick Steven Register who has pitched well in spring training and could see time in the 7th inning as well.

Philadelphia Phillies

Closer - Brad Lidge
Setup Man - Tom Gordon
Top 7th Inning Guy - JC Romero
Dark Horse Holds Guy - Ryan Madson

FSE's Take - Brad Lidge is a top flight closer who will get plenty of opportunities in the 9th inning this season for a good Phillies team. Expect 35-40 saves from the former Astros' closer. Behind Lidge, the Phillies' pen is a bit thin. Tom Gordon will work as the 8th inning setup man and when healthy will be a good source of holds. JC Romero was an excellent pickup off the scrap heap for the Phillies last season and was quietly one of the top middle relievers in all of fantasy. He finished with 24 holds and a strong 1.92 ERA and will be relied on heavily once again this season. With Geoff Geary gone, Ryan Madson who was fairly effective before a shoulder injury shut him down early in 2007, will receive more time in the 7th and could accumulate a good amount of holds.

Atlanta Braves

Closer - Rafael Soriano
Setup Man - Peter Moylan
Top 7th Inning Guys - Manny Acosta & Will Ohman
Injury Dark Horse Holds Guys - Mike Gonzalez

FSE's Take - Rafael Soriano will finally get his shot as the full-time closer for a strong Braves team that will give him plenty of save opportunities. As always its never a question of talent for the fire balling Soriano but rather a matter of staying healthy. Despite some injury concerns in the spring Soriano will be ready for opening day and if he can stay on the field, he's a lock for 30+ saves. Moylan will enter 2008 as the Braves 8th inning setup man and would close if Soriano were to miss time. Moylan had a strong 2007 putting up an ERA of 1.80 and 1.07 WHIP in 90 innings. He should accumulate plenty of holds and could vulture some saves. 26 year old Manny Acosta will work plenty in the 7th inning and hopes to build on a good 2007 while Will Ohman should also get hold chances. Acosta is the better option with more upside. Finally, keep an eye on injured setup man Mike Gonzalez who might be back ahead of schedule in June. Upon his return Gonzalez will see time in 8th and can help in holds, ERA, Ks and could vulture some saves.

Washington Nationals

Closer - Chad Cordero
Setup Man - Jon Rauch
Top 7th Inning Guys - Luis Ayala & Saul Rivera
Dark Horse Holds Guy - Jesus Colome

FSE's Take - While it isn't always pretty, Chad Cordero gets the job done in the save department averaging 36 a season over the last 3 years. His rising ERA and WHIP numbers coupled with his lack of strikeout ability are troubling; however, he is still an excellent option once the top guys are off the board. Behind Cordero, the Nats boast a deep middle relief corps lead by Jon Rauch, one of the top setup men in baseball. Rauch was among the league leaders with 33 holds last season to go along with strong ERA and WHIP numbers. With trade rumors swirling that Cordero may be dealt at the deadline, Rauch may assume the closer role by year's end; adding to his value. The Nationals have 3 solid under the radar guys working the 7th inning and Manny Acta (a Willie Randolph disciple) is not afraid to use them. Luis Ayala and Saul Rivera are the top options, virtual locks for double digit holds when healthy while the lesser known journey man Jesus Colome also did some nice work last season on his way to 12 holds. 

Florida Marlins

Closer - Kevin Gregg
Setup Man - Taylor Tankersley
Top 7th Inning Guys - Matt Lindstrom & Lee Gardner
Dark Horse Holds Guys - Justin Miller & Henry Owens

FSE's Take - Kevin Gregg was surprisingly solid after taking over the closer role early last season, quietly notching 32 saves and some respectable ERA, WHIP and K numbers. Gregg will open 2008 as the closer once again; however, the young Marlins could struggle this season and Gregg may not get as many save chances as he did in 2007. I would expect save totals in the 20s rather than the 30s for Gregg and would be wary of a deadline trade to a contender which could take away his closer status and drastically reduce his value. Taylor Tankersley will serve as the primary setup man and appears to be the closer of the future in Florida. Tank had 16 holds last season and pitched extremely well in the second half posting a 1.48 ERA over 24 innings, keep an eye on him in the first half. In addition to Gregg and Tankersley, the Marlins have a host of hard throwing 7th inning options headed by Matt Lindstrom and Lee Gardner. Lindstrom had 20 holds to go along with good ERA and K numbers while Gardner posted a 1.92 ERA. Both will see time in the 7th and 8th innings. Other guys to watch especially if Gregg is dealt are Justin Miller and Henry Owens who are capable of being effective in 7th inning.

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