Every spring training we see our share of twists and turns, usually of ankles and shoulders. With only 30 viable closer spots, having the upper hand at solid game-stoppers is a valuable fantasy commodity.
Jon Rauch, TOR
Up in Toronto, the Blue Jays brought in former Texas Rangers stopper Frank Francisco. Personally he's never lit my candle, but he's managed to rack up decent Saves. Still the Blue Jays may have equal if not better options in Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch.
Now we have news that, at least to start the season, the herd has thinned a bit. According to manager John Farrell, Frank Francisco will not be ready for the start of the season. Francisco met with Dr. Andrews who diagnosed him with bicep tendinitis and pectoral tightness. In my mind, that puts Rauch first in line for early Save opportunities. And if he does well he could hang on to the job. Remember, Rauch saved 21 games for the Minnesota Twins last season and he's been a closer for the Washington Nationals as well.
But wait, what about Octavio Dotel? Realistically Dotel is a fine set up man who has had briefs stints at closing games, but has never really flourished in the role. Jon Rauch is your guy in Toronto.
Andrew Bailey, OAK
While many are concerned with Bailey heading into the 2011 season, I think the worry is overblown. While he may not be ready on opening day, he should be in the mix early in the season and be a top flight closer.
His official diagnosis is a strained right forearm. Which may actually be good news for Bailey. Strains are fairly common in spring. Last Fall Bailey had elbow surgery, so the prognosis could have been more dire. The A's have to be breathing a sigh of relief that this wasn't an elbow issue again.
The A's have yet to rule Bailey out as the Opening Day closer, but at this point it's likely he may start the season late, leaving Save ops up for grabs. The most likely guy to have first crack at those is former Rockies and Angels hurler Brian Fuentes.
The good news for you is Bailey may become a bargain on draft day.
While I have said all along I expect Craig Kimbrel to take the Closer position outright, lefty Jonny Venters will make a strong case for splitting that role. In his first 9 innings of spring training ball Venters has struck out 9 and given up only 2 hits and 2 walks.
Kimbrel however has a slightly roughed up ERA in his 9.1 innings, having surrendered 7 hits and 4 runs. Of course much of that damage came off a home run. He has still notched 12 K's and a 1.07 WHIP with a Win. I'll take 9 innings with 12 Ks a 1.07 WHIP and a Win all season long.
For now I'm sticking with my original assessment that Kimbrel gets the gig, albeit with a short leash.