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Fantasy Baseball Rest-of-Season Projections: Second-Half Closers

American League pitcher Mariano Rivera
American League pitcher Mariano Rivera

ul 16, 2013; Flushing, NY, USA; American League pitcher Mariano Rivera (42) of the New York Yankees throws a pitch in the 8th inning in the 2013 All Star Game at Citi Field. Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The closer position may be the most frustrating in the fantasy world. Already, the Red Sox, Tigers, Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals, Diamondbacks and Dodgers all have different closers than they started the season with. That’s not to mention guys who are filling in for injured closers like Jason Grilli and Rafael Betancourt. With 60-some-odd games left in the season, let’s take a look at which closers are locks and which ones are bound to disappoint.

American League:

Orioles – Jim Johnson (35 Saves/6 Blown Saves): Johnson has the most saves in the league but he also has the most blown saves. His 3.55 ERA and 1.29 WHIP are all significant drop-offs from his stellar 2012 campaign. With that in mind, four of his six blown saves came during a six game stretch in May so he’s been very reliable and I don’t see the O’s opting to go with K-Rod. He had 51 saves last season and I fully expect him to hit 50 again.

Red Sox – Koji Uehara (9/3): There’s a lot of speculation about the Sox looking to acquire a closer and he did blow a couple of saves since becoming the ninth-inning man but his 1.59 ERA and 0.73 WHIP are as good as anyone in the league and Boston may be better served getting a middle reliever. If he remains as closer, I can definitely see Koji hitting 25 saves for arguably the best team in the AL.

Yankees – Mariano Rivera (33/2): Mo isn’t going anywhere and he should finish the season with around 45 saves.

Rays – Fernando Rodney (24/5): On paper Rodney’s numbers aren’t pretty but most of his struggled came early on. He hasn’t blown a save since May 25 and owns a 2.35 ERA and .195 BAA since. I don’t know if he can hit 40 saves but the Rays have been winning more than anyone of late so it’s definitely possible. At the very least, he’ll be right around 40-ish.

Blue Jays – Casey Janssen (18/2): Janssen is one of the most underrated guys in the league, owning a 2.43 ERA and 0.96 WHIP over the last three seasons. He’s only blown two saves all year and I think he should hit 30 by the time it’s all said and done.

White Sox – Addison Reed (26/4): Reed blew three saves back in June but has been pretty reliable otherwise. He’s not going anywhere but it’s hard to say for sure that he’ll come close to 40 saves the way the ChiSox have been playing. SJN’s AccuScore Projections have him at exactly 15 saves the rest of the way and whether he gets 15 or not he’ll be close.

Indians – Chris Perez (13/2): Like most people, I don’t have much confidence in Perez and his 1.34 WHIP is far from what you want in a closer but he’s saved 75 games over the previous two seasons and barring injury or imprisonment he’s the closer the rest of the way. SJN’s AccuScore Projections have him at 12-13 saves the rest of the way which sounds about right and puts him in the 25 save category.

Tigers – Joaquin Benoit (9/0): The Tigers are looking at closers on the trade market and, like the BoSox, I feel they shouldn’t mess with a good thing and get a middle reliever to take over Benoit’s previous role instead. Benoit has been stellar all season, owning a 1.54 ERA and 1.02 WHIP but odds are the Tigers will move him back to the eighth inning. If they don’t, Benoit can get you another 16 or so saves for sure – putting him in the 25 save category. Alas.

Royals – Greg Holland (25/2): With a 1.89 ERA and 0.92 WHIP, Holland has certainly solidified his place in the Royals’ hierarchy. SJN’s AccuScore Projections have him at 13 saves the rest of the season which sounds right. He could definitely come close to 40 depending which Royals team we see the rest of the way.

Twins – Glen Perkins (24/3): Like Holland, Perkins is proving that he’s a legit closer with a 1.85 ERA and 0.92 WHIP on the season. SJN’s AccuScore Projections have him at 14 saves the rest of the way but I think he only gets about 10-12, still putting him at a solid 35-ish.

Astros – Jose Veras (18/3): It’s likely that Veras gets traded in the next week since, well, what are the Astros going to do with a closer? If Veras lands on the Tigers, Detroit will have made a terrible error but he’ll definitely be worth more in fantasy. If he lands elsewhere, he may finish out the season as a middle-reliever so keep an eye on how the Houston situation develops.

Athletics – Grant Balfour (26/1): Balfour just blew his first save of the season and has been stellar all year. I think 40 saves is almost a given at this point.

Angels – Ernesto Frieri (25/2): Aside from giving up five runs in the 10th inning to the Twins on Tuesday, Frieri has been excellent and has only blown one save since April. If the Angels can make a push in the final 60 games, he should definitely end up with around 40 saves.

Mariners – Tom Wilhelmsen (23/5): Wilhelmsen has a 6.94 ERA and .271 BAA since May 29 so if anyone’s spot was in jeopardy it’s his. Luckily for him, the only option the M’s seem to have is Oliver Perez so he should remain the closer the rest of the way. The Mariners have been playing better of late so he could definitely make a run at 35 saves this year.

Rangers – Joe Nathan (32/2): Nathan should easily finish with 45+ saves.

National League:

Braves – Craig Kimbrel (28/3): With a 1.45 ERA and 0.99 WHIP, Kimbrel is as good as they come and those numbers aren’t even as good as last season. The Braves have been shaky so I’m not sure if 45 saves is realistic but 40-42 is a definite. SJN’s AccuScore Projections have him at 15-16 the rest of the way which would put him at 43-44.

Marlins – Steve Cishek (20/2): Cishek only has 20 saves yet leads the National League in games finished. The life of a Marlins closer. Cishek has been solid but with the Marlins just playing terrible as always I’m not sure he’ll touch 30 saves. SJN’s AccuScore Projections have him at eight saves the rest of season which would put him at 27.

Mets – Bobby Parnell (20/4): Parnell may yet get traded but for now remains the Mets’ closer of the future. His 2.35 ERA and 0.96 WHIP are all much better than his save percentage. SJN’s AccuScore Projections have him at 12-13 saves the rest of the season which puts him at 31-32 which sounds about right, depending on how the Mets play.

Phillies – Jonathan Papelbon (20/5): Papelbon may get traded, he might not. He has one of the worst save percentage of anyone on this list but four of those five blown saves came in a single week between June 17 and June 24 so it’s not really indicative of the other 16 weeks he’s played. SJN’s AccuScore Projections have him at 13-14 saves for the rest of the season, he could get even more if he moves to a team like the Tigers or the Red Sox.

Nationals – Rafael Soriano (25/4): Soriano has blown just one save since May 21 and has almost identical numbers to what he put up with the Yankees last season. SJN’s AccuScore Projections have him a 14 saves the rest of the way, I don’t think he comes that close to 40 unless the Nats really show something over these next 60 games.

Cubs – Kevin Gregg (19/3): Like Houston, what are the Cubs going to do with a closer? So Gregg is likely to go but that doesn’t mean his fantasy value will improve. Over his last 13 appearances, Gregg has blown three saves, and given up 10 runs, 16 hits, 10 walks, and three homers in 14 IP. He’s starting to look like the Kevin Gregg we all know and don’t love again so I have doubts about him getting 30 or even closing the rest of the season.

Reds – Aroldis Chapman (24/3): Like Kimbrel, Aroldis hasn’t had the same epic season as 2012 but should match his 38 saves last year. SJN’s AccuScore Projections have him at 15 the rest of the way which puts him exactly at 38.

Brewers – Jim Henderson (10/3): Henderson looked good as closer earlier but was lost in the shuffle when he got injured and K-Rod took his place. I doubt the Brewers look to John Axford ever again so Henderson should be the closer the rest of the way and finish with around 21-22 saves.

Pirates – Mark Melancon (3/1)/Jason Grilli (30/1): This one is complicated. Grilli’s strained forearm could be worse than most but for now let’s assume Grilli only missed three weeks. Melancon should fill in nicely with his stellar 0.93 ERA and 0.81 WHIP and collect maybe 7-9 more saves. Depending on how long he’s out, Grilli can still get 40+ saves but forearms can be tricky – teammate Wandy Rodriguez hasn’t pitched since June 5 with the same injury.

Cardinals – Edward Mujica (30/2): Mujica has had a great breakout season and SJN’s AccuScore Projections have him at 13-14 saves the rest of the way, putting him around 42-43.

Diamondbacks – Brad Ziegler (5/0): So Heath Bell didn’t work out and the DBacks are obviously not inclined to put JJ Putz back in the closer role so for the time being the job is Ziegler’s. I don’t see him as a long-term option and the DBacks may look to acquire a closer on the trade market. If he does stay in the ninth-inning, Ziegler could certainly make a run at 15+ saves but his poor closing history in Oakland and the fact that he’s more a sidearm righty specialist can’t make you optimistic.

Rockies – Rex Brothers (6/1)/Rafael Betancourt (15/1): Betancourt is only expected to miss two more weeks or so meaning 25+ saves is still very possible. In the meantime, look for Brothers to move into the double-digits until Betancourt returns.

Dodgers – Kenley Jansen (12/3): Jansen has been as good as last season and might have better stuff than Aroldis. SJN’s AccuScore Projections have him at 17 saves over the next 60+ games and while that number is high, the Dodgers are playing great and he could certainly make a run at 30.

Padres – Houston Street (18/1): Despite a 3.90 ERA, Street has only blown one save all season. He also has a 3.06 ERA since his blown save on May 11 so that ERA is down from it’s previous 4.91. SJN’s AccuScore Projections have him at 11-12 the rest of the season which would put him around 28-29.

Giants – Sergio Romo (24/3): The Giants have certainly slowed down so it’s hard to tell how many chances Romo will have but SJN’s AccuScore Projections have him at 12 saves the rest of the season and that sounds about right.

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