Saturday, July 31, 2010

2011 Closers-to-be: National League

zucchiniboy asks about the possibility of some National League relievers turning into closers in 2011. Rather than rank them as zucchini asks, I thought I'd take a quick glance at the teams that might have openings in 2011. Today I'll start with the National League.

Braves: Billy Wagner says he's retiring and I have no reason to doubt it. Craig Kimbrel is probably the closer-of-the-future here, but his high BB/IP rate thus far makes Johnny Venters look like the better in-house candidate to me. Keep in mind that the Braves haven't groomed a 20+ save closer in house since John Smoltz. If Wagner retires, it wouldn't surprise me if Atlanta brought in a free agent.

Diamondbacks: Chad Qualls has reportedly been traded to the Rays (it's unofficial as I write this), leaving Aaron Heilman as the closer for the moment. Sam Demel is probably the closer of the future, with Juan Gutierrez as a long shot as long as he remains a perpetual work-in-progress. Your guess is as good as mine here. Heilman's pitched capably, so I'd think that he's the guy until he proves otherwise. Demel's certainly worth tracking; his BABIP make his overall numbers much worse than his peripherals, meaning that he might be a bargain next year on Auction Day.

Marlins: The Marlins say they aren't trading Leo Nunez and I'm inclined to believe them: he's cheap, under team control for some time, and probably affordable for another year before he starts getting expensive due to arbitration.

Nationals: Now that Matt Capps is officially gone, the Nats say they're going to go with a committee of Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen. All three have pitched well. Storen has the best raw numbers while Burnett has the best interior numbers. The long-term money is on Storen, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Burnett/Clippard get most of the saves early on, with Storen taking over in September or 2011.

Pirates: While it's possible that Octavio Dotel won't be traded and (less) possible that the Pirates pick up his 2011 $4.5MM option, there's a good chance that Joel Hanrahan or Evan Meek is the closer in Pittsburgh next year. Hanrahan's numbers are very good, and even stronger when you take out the 1 IP, 7 H/BB, 6 ER abomination he put up way back in April. I think either reliever would be good in the role, but Hanrahan has the stuff that would make him more of a shut down guy if the Pirates go that way.

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