Sunday, March 21, 2010

CLE, MIN Closer Situations

Two fairly significant injuries were announced after the cutoff point for consideration for this morning's published projection set, one of which we had pretty much expected and the other being a surprise.

First, the news we didn't see coming was that Kerry Wood could be out of action until May or June with a strained lat muscle.  As it happens, we had just given next-in-line Chris Perez 4 saves in the new forecasts and Perez's saves forecasted will now be upgraded to at least 10+ now.  Wood will be downgraded from 25 saves to no more than 16 or 17, I expect.  Perez is good enough to hold the job until Wood comes back and readers should keep in mind that there is always the risk of a player like Wood not making it back as soon as expected.  Needless to say, Perez now becomes a must-own in fantasy leagues that use saves as a category.

The other news item that was pretty much expected was that Joe Nathan formally confirmed that he will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the 2010 season.  In this case, it was a pretty likely outcome all along since the injury was first announced.  In line with that, we had already downgraded him to just 6 saves left in the version of the forecasts that went online for this morning, with that forecast now to be erased completely.  Of course, there's no guarantee who will step in to replace him and while we've projected saves for all of Jon Rauch, Matt Guerrier and to a lesser degree, Jesse Crain (we still don't believe Francisco Liriano will be moved into this role), it still wouldn't surprise us to see the Twins bring someone in from outside.

If that doesn't happen, the potential contribution from any of these players could be temporarily measured by not giving much regard to the saves.  That is to say that any one of them could easily be declared the closer to start the season and be out of that role within weeks.  So, if you're drafting anyone from the Minnesota bullpen, I'd recommend focusing on their other potential contributions to your team without thinking too much about whether the pitcher is the closer of the week.  Rauch, Guerrier and Crain all are projected to be above-average relievers this year, with Crain being projected to bounce back from last year's disappointment.   So, any one of them can round out your pitching staff by offering a slight bit of benefit to ERA and WHIP.  If you think of each pitcher that way, and you happen to end up with one of the players who doesn't end up in the closer's role for now, you still won't be overly disappointed and they may ultimately get a chance at that role later in the season anyway.