AL Closer Report: June 26

We’re trying a new closers format this week; we’re touching on fewer pitchers, but going into more detail on the ones that we discuss. We looked at some National League stoppers yesterday, and the AL closers are up now.

Consider This…

Neftali Feliz, Texas
Feliz has the AL lead in saves and is tied with San Francisco’s Brian Wilson for second in the Majors with 20 saves. This is all well and good – and darn impressive considering that Feliz is a 22-year-old rookie – but I have my concerns with his workload. The right-hander has appeared in more games and thrown more innings than any other closer in the American League. Only veterans Francisco Cordero (Good ol’ Dusty) and Francisco Rodriguez have been abused more amongst Major League stoppers. In one nine-game stretch in mid-May, Feliz was used six times. This workload has yet to catch up to the young star – and maybe he’ll be OK the entire 2010 season – but it definitely makes me worried for his future.

Key Targets

Bobby Jenks, Chicago
I’ve been talking Jenks up for a few weeks now, and he continues to make me look smart, but there are still a lot of owners out there that will be turned off by his 4.03 ERA and the hit rate of 9.62 H/9. However, Jenks’ strikeout rate (10.86 K/9) is sitting close to his career high set during his rookie season in 2005. His xFIP is also sitting at 2.68 and he’s allowed just one earned run in his last 13 appearances. It’s possible that other fantasy manages have already caught on to the reversal of fortunes but, if not, pounce on Jenks.

Dump ‘Em Now

Kevin Gregg, Toronto
One of the best things since sliced bread during about the first six weeks of the season, Gregg has come crashing back down to earth (which has all Cubs fans saying “We warned you”). Like Matt Capps in Washington, Gregg could end up being a trade chip during the July trade deadline, but he’s unlikely to end up in a closer’s situation if he does get moved. It’s also possible that Toronto will hold on to him, as his trade value has diminished with his recent struggles, and the organization also has an option on his contract for 2011. Gregg has pitched a little bit better in the last week or so and has gone 4-for-4 in saves since his last blown save, so you might be able to find a taker on the trade market.

Jonathan Papelbon, Boston
Papelbon is owned in just as many Yahoo leagues as Mariano Rivera (98%), but the Yankees closer has been twice as value in traditional 5X5 leagues. He has been one of the best closers in baseball over the previous four seasons, but the 29-year-old closer has just not been himself this season. Papelbon has seen his strikeout rate drop from 10.06 in ’09 to 7.67 K/9 in ’10. His xFIP is almost a full run higher and he’s really been beaten by the long ball (1.71 HR/9). After seeing his WAR value hit 3.0 in ’08, it’s dropped to 1.9 in ’09 and -0.2 so far in ’10. He was touched up for five runs and two blown saves in the recent series with Colorado so you might want to wait a week or two before trying to get something for him in a trade. Papelbon will have value based on his reputation.

Daniel Bard is setting himself up quite nicely to be ready to assume the closer’s role in 2011. The 25-year-old sophomore pitcher has a strikeout rate of 9.39 K/9 and he’s shown significantly-improved control this season. He’s also shown two plus pitches: a 98-mph fastball and a wipe-out slider. Bard has gone 3-for-4 in save opportunities.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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House on a Hill
13 years ago

I agree that Papelbon might not be worth too much for fantasy, but I don’t believe Bard will be taking his saves too soon. If Boston wants to flip Papelbon this season, they’re going to want to want to sell him as a closer to justify his price tag. If Bard is really going to assume the closer role it will be after giving Papelbon all the time in the world to work himself out.