National League Fantasy, and Closers

Promised a few National League notes for anybody still drafting, as soon as my league was set, and here they are (the American League auctions next Sunday, so I doubt that will be of any use to anybody, but I’ll try to put in some abridged notes then, too).

Nothing drives me more nuts than hearing a Rookie Of The Year candidate described as a sleeper, so let’s just describe a few guys in terms of how seriously you should take them when compared to more proven commodities. I believe in Cameron Maybin (didn’t draft him only because Beltran, Chris Young, Bruce, and Upton were all available in the first 71 picks) and would expect he will outperform the likes of Andre Ethier and Mike Cameron.
Another guy I can’t praise too much is Daniel Murphy (again, had to go and fill out a pitching staff after the primo guys fell into my lap unexpectedly and late). There’s the potential for a batting champion in there – plate discipline that is all but lost in the 21st century game. Fernando Tatis will see a little work in leftfield, maybe Nick Evans too, against tougher righthanders but I would expect Murphy will get 450 or more plate appearances and is several times the player that some of the guys drafted ahead of him in our outfit are – Spilborghs, Fukudome, Byrnes. Right now, Murphy may be what Chase Headley is supposed to be.
Two outfielders could either shine this year or wind up in AAA and I took chances on both of them in the later rounds. Two weeks ago Hal McRae told me the difference between a successful Colby Rasmus and the one who coughed it up in the minors last year, is how much he can talk himself out of swinging for the fences. There will be homers, but this is a line drive guy and this spring, Hal says, he’s been doing a great job of – cliche warning – staying within himself.
You should think long and hard about Jordan Schafer. The suspension last year, the limited experience in the minors, the youth, the presence behind him of Gorkys Hernandez, the usefulness of Josh Anderson ahead of him – these factors are irrelevant. It’s not a lock that he’s going to open the season in centerfield for them, but the Braves would be delighted if he did. This is the real deal and he’s ready to play in the bigs today. If you are drafting this week, and he hasn’t been sent out, and it’s round 20 and your choice is between him and a Hairston brother – take the kid, then take the Hairston brother later if you have to (alter the analogy as needed for keeper leagues, reserve drafts, auctions, etc.)
And if you like redemption stories, one of the top prospects of 2007 may have finally straightened himself out. The Pirates think they’ve leveled both Andy LaRoche’s swing and his mentality. Too many people know about Travis Ishikawa’s homer-happy spring to make him the guy you sneak in to your 1B/3B slot – try LaRoche.
Let’s wrap this up with that most vexing of dilemmas: the Closer follies. Here’s all I know, culled from a variety of sources (and if you think these people annoy you, consider my plight – our league also counts Holds – try figuring them out in advance).
Arizona: Qualls is set. Pena is the alternative, but I don’t think it’ll come to that. Do not listen to any Max Scherzer rumors – he’ll open on the DL, then start.
Atlanta: This too is surprisingly clear. Moylan (when he gets off the DL 4/15 or so) and Soriano will set up Mike Gonzalez. The problem here isn’t with the intent, it’s with the curse. The list of Bobby Cox’s closers since he returned to manage the Bravos 19 years ago is now about 30 guys long. They change often, and usually after big messy explosions and injuries. For crying out loud, he literally had a closer for one day last year in Smoltz.
Chicago: I love and respect Lou Piniella but this announcement tonight about Kevin Gregg neither makes any sense nor will it last. Gregg barely hung on to the job in Florida and will not repeat the trick at loftier atmospheres. This makes Marmol more of a risk, but it’s a risk I’d take – he seems really (and appropriately) steamed. Another reason the Cubs are a lot more vulnerable than they, or most fans, think.
Cincinnati: Cordero has gotten lit up like Christmas this spring, but as we saw last year with Eric Gagne, a lot of money in a small market means you can blow about 10 saves before the manager dares to switch off. And to whom? Weathers?
Colorado: No freaking clue. Street pitched well, terribly, well. Corpas pitched well, but it’s as if he’s waiting, waiting for you to rely on him.
Florida: No information to back this up but any time they say “oh, we’re just going to let our closer sit out the rest of spring training but he’ll be fine come Opening Day,” I tend towards disbelief. I would guess Lindstrom is in far rockier shape than they are letting on – or know. The backup here was Scott Proctor, but he is officially hurt. Behind him is Leonel Nunez. Good luck sorting that out.
Houston: Valverde. As long as you don’t have to watch him pitch in person or have your job or your health depend on him, he’s fine.
Los Angeles: Broxton. Up and down but certainly the best arm of any of the closers or would-be’s in the NL and Joe Torre doesn’t have a second option.
Milwaukee: Florida, only colder. Hoffman is hurt, they’re being coy with the information, and Ken Macha says the sub could be Seth McClung. Or Carlos Villanueva. Or Todd Coffey for crying out loud. McClung of course is also a possible starter, long man, and 8th Inning guy. He’ll be busy.
New York: K-Rod, obviously. Putz in the 8th. Some suggestion Feliciano may move back to a full-time 7th Inning guy rather than a specialist against lefty batters.
Philadelphia: Lidge, period. As unambiguous as New York. Unless his saves streak ends with three or four in a row and then… who knows? There’s a Peter Pan quality to his stardom.
Pittsburgh: Capps, although there are fears that last year’s injury might return.
St. Louis: I think it’s going to be Motte as evidently he’s been given nearly all the pseudo-save situations in camp. The latest crystal ball readings suggest Chris Perez is going back to AAA. I don’t think McClellan or Franklin are options.
San Diego: It’s Heath Bell and I think he’ll do okay. Then again he might get fewer than 30 save opportunities. It’s not a robust ballclub.
San Francisco: Brian Wilson, and he has a touch of Valverde in him, but unless you subtract blown saves from counted ones, that’s not your problem.
Washington: Joel Hanrahan, in circumstances not unlike Wilson.
So to rank them:
1 K-Rod
2 Lidge
3 Broxton
4 Qualls
5 Cordero
6 Valverde
7 Wilson
8 Marmol
9 Hoffman
10 Bell
11 Capps

12 Gonzalez
13 Hanrahan
14 Motte
15 Gregg
16 Lindstrom
17 Corpas
18 Street
19 Villanueva
20 Nunez
21 C. Perez
22 Soriano (for Gonzalez, if the curse hits him afresh)
23 Moylan (for Soriano, if it then gets him)
24 Kerry Ligtenberg (if they lose the first three, it might as well be him or Schafer, or maybe it’s Stephen Marek)
Lastly, we all do this. Comes the fourteenth round, Jose Reyes having long since been the overall first pic
k (mine), my offense rounding out nicely, but my bullpen – in a Saves and Holds league – empty except for Broxton. And I pick… Edgar Renteria. I do not know what I was thinking.
Nevertheless, I was topped in the 23rd round (of 25) when my buddy the Commissioner, worried that Ramon Hernandez would be insufficient in a one-catcher league, taps… Sal Fasano, who was in camp with the Rockies this year. He apparently had him briefly in ’06 when Fasano was with the Phillies (he thought it was last year) and he hit a home run or something. So my Commish remembered his home run fondly. And his mustache.


  1. beearl

    My moment came in the 11th round of my mixed league draft. I needed some pop or some pitching, and I had Brian McCann already drafted behind the plate. So, of course, I draft Matt Wieters for my bench. A guy who may not get called up until June. But I had to have him, I guess.

  2. trolley_dodger

    Kuo would probably be the other option for LA closer if Broxton folds or gets hurt. He’s got amazing stuff, but only if his arm stays attached to his body.

  3. jarchive

    Hey Keith,

    Nice closer break down. Chasing Saves has got to be one of the cruelest parts of roto, but boy what a delight when you land that Yhency Brazoban or Derrick Turnbow!? I remember getting Smoltz as a throw-in as part of a 3-3 deal last year, and when he finally came back, I was ready to claim victory in that deal! Oops! Oh well, I went on to win the league anyway.

    Btw, I heard Chris Iannetta is starting to wilt under the pressure of Sal Fasano and is quietly asking for a trade. 😛

    -Johnny Archive

  4. sisterdaedalus

    Give Cordero some time – he’s still recovering from ankle surgery. I wouldn’t recommend dropping him for a few weeks.

    The Reds had the third best bullpen ERA in the NL last year and bring back the same pen, minus Affeldt plus Rhodes, the latter who threw well this spring. Even if Cordero falters, it is not the end of the world – there are plenty of young arms to take over, though Weathers would probably get the nod first, and while that’s not ideal and while he’ll give you a heart attack before game’s end, the truth is he is a pretty effective closer when that is his role. Jared Burton is a closer in the making – any serious fantasy league should pick him up. Down on the farm, the Reds have guys like Jeremy Roenicke and Pedro Viola who could take spots in the pen should Cordero find his way to the DL.

    Just some names to watch out for.


    I have to agree with you on this one, regarding the Cubbies.

    After Gregg blew one game in Houston and nearly blew that Milwaukee game on Sunday night. (Thank you, Reed Johnson and Milwaukee pitching for giving the Cubs that one). Lou should put in Marmol sooner than later in that closer spot. Anyway, I love the show, sorry for the long post. Deepest sympathies on your mother. I’m an aspiring broadcaster for many of the same reasons as you: I’d be horrible if I ever picked up a bat, but my brain is fine-tuned, filled with useless baseball factoids.

  6. marshall98144

    The Phillies’ Opening Day uni’s were pikers compared to McGraw’s Giants uni’s in 1906 — In place of “GIANTS” their uni tops boasted “World Series Champions.” Today’s team ain’t got no style.

  7. fergiej


    I am sorry for your loss.

    Thank you for Countdown and your humor.

    On the Curse of the Billy Goat:

    Sam Sianis was the owner of The Billy Goat Tavern–Yes, THAT Billy Goat Tavern made famous by Belushi and his pals at SNL.

    The Goat had its own ticket to the games and did attend a game at the World Series. However, even back then there were non-regulars attending big games and the Goat did what goats do and the sight and smell made the patrons upset so the Goat was evicted along with Sam. Sam was denied entry to the next game–and thus, the Curse.

    Curse with animals are legendary and the Cubs have tried to exorcize the curse time and again.

    They even had Sam’s nephew bring a new goat to the park one day where it apparently made a deposit in the bullpen. This reportedly unnerved a certain already unstable and untalented pitcher who was bombed yet again–an occurance that was definately only once attributable to a goat. He, himself turned into a goat–

    And–as a further explanation as to why my favorite team has not been in the World Series since 1945–they brought that goat/pitcher back for a second tour of duty with the team–He finally retired–when as no one else wanted him.

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