There is a fair bit of movement in the bottom half of the rankings as a result of injuries and spring performance. Below the rankings are comments for the key players on the move in this update.
Jonathan Papelbon, BOS—Migraine issues have plagued Papelbon lately, but it’s not enough of a problem to consider dropping him down a tier. He’s holding steady as the No. 2 AL closer.
Brad Lidge, PHI—Lidge, currently shelved with elbow and knee problems, is targeting April 10 to come off the DL and start his season. If you’re drafting Lidge, it’s a good idea to pick up Ryan Madson just in case Lidge has any setbacks.
Huston Street, COL—Shoulder inflammation has kept Street from participating in anything but simulations, and it looks like he’s headed to the DL to start the season despite an MRI that showed no structural damage. For now, he’s a high-risk, high-reward guy. Drop him down a tier in your rankings until there’s word he’ll be okay.
Mike Gonzalez, BAL—Gonzalez has struggled a bit with back issues but pitched an inning on Sunday and gave up just one hit during the scoreless frame. He’s not popping his fastball in the 90s, but he said that’s common for him during the spring. I’m not overly concerned about his status, but if you are, the appropriate handcuff would be Jim Johnson.
Leo Nunez, FLA—Mike MacDougal got released and it looks like Nunez has a bit more job security as the Opening Day closer.
Chris Perez, CLE—Perez was inspiring during the second half of 2009 and put up solid peripherals for the year (10.74 K/9, 2.52 K/BB, 1.19 WHIP). He was the closer-of-the-future in St. Louis until Ryan Franklin took the reins and now gets a chance to prove his worth with Wood out in Cleveland. The big right-hander uses a mid-90s fastball and a hard slider to get outs, and he does it with impressive righty-lefty splits (.198/.206 L/R BAA). I’d move him up my list past the closer situation in Toronto and definitely take him before Wood in drafts.
Matt Lindstrom, HOU—With Brandon Lyon still not 100 percent, Astros manager Brad Mills is likely to look at Lindstrom to be the Opening Day closer. He’s been boosted a tier.
Scott Downs, TOR—Downs has been the superior pitcher this spring and will probably get the first look as the Jays’ closer.
Jason Frasor, TOR—Frasor’s lofty spring ERA has knocked him back in the competition for the closer’s job. While Kevin Gregg is still in the mix and has the most experience in the closing role, he’s also getting battered around.
Franklin Morales, COL—It’s a jumbled mess in Colorado with Street having shoulder problems, but Morales is the favorite over Manny Corpas to get the most save opportunities until their real closer returns. Morales didn’t have great peripherals in 2009 (9.23 K.9, 1.78 K/BB, 1.53 WHIP, 4.15 FIP, 4.72 xFIP), but he’ll be a bargain on draft day and could have the job for a while if Street’s issues are more serious than the initial diagnosis predicted.
Brandon Lyon, HOU—Lyon is still on the mend following surgery in late January to drain a cyst on his right shoulder and for now has yielded the closer’s job to Lindstrom.
Ryan Madson, PHI—He’s never been an effective closer, but he’ll start the season as the Phils’ top ninth-inning guy. Buyer beware: He blew 6 out of 16 save opportunities last season filling in for Lidge. I’ll take a late-round shot on him, but he’s not a long-term answer.
Kerry Wood, CLE—As of this weekend, Wood is sidelined for 6 to 8 weeks with a strained muscle below his right shoulder. The oft-injured reliever said Sunday he’s confident he’ll return sooner, but I find it hard to trust him. He’s a last gasp pick at best given the latest developments.