AL Central Closers and their Handcuffs


Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

A continuation of our series Closers and their Handcuffs with the AL Central Closers…

Chicago White Sox

  • Closer: Matt Lindstrom, Nate Jones
  • Risk: Extreme
  • Next in Line: Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom

Matt Lindstrom and Nate Jones are still battling for the closer role on the south side. The battle could very well run into the regular season if no one can separate themselves in the last few days of spring training.

Lindstrom has more experience as a closer, but he hasn’t really held that role since 2010. If that doesn’t earn points in your fantasy big board, neither will his numbers from last year. His K/9 of 6.82 is fairly weak, especially for a closer, not to mention he paired that with a BB/9 of 3.41.

Jones seems to be the fantasy player’s choice to win the role and rightfully so, as his stats from last year are more impressive. His average heater was 96.7 MPH last year and contributed to a solid SwStr% of 13.2. Also, his xFIP of 2.77 suggests that his 4.15 ERA was a tad inflated.

Despite those intriguing numbers, the biggest stat you need to remember is this kid has ZERO saves at the major league level. He needs to prove himself in that role to earn a lower risk level on this blog.

Fortunately, for the fantasy player, Jones ADP makes the risk of selecting late very minimal.

Cleveland Indians

  • Closer: John Axford
  • Risk: High
  • Next in Line: Cody Allen

The only reason why John Axford does not get the extreme risk, is because the Cardinals touched him, and every pitcher they touch turns to gold.

But, now that I think about it, that piece of gold usually turns back into a lump of… coal once that pitcher leaves the Lou. Time will tell how Axford’s story ends, but his 2013 season is a chapter he would like to forget. He was unable to register a single save in just seven opportunities.

The silver lining to the Ax Man’s season, the Cardinals found out he was tipping pitches. Which may have been a catalyst for the improved performance Axford showed with the Cards.

Whether you buy that argument or not, you have to remember that Ax is still a guy that saved 81 games in 2011-2012. He might be able to right the ship, but if he can’t, Cody Allen will probably get the nod. Allen had an impressive 11.26 K/9 with an average fastball sitting at 95.3. This was a pair I targeted in my leagues were both saves and holds are scored.

Detroit Tigers

  • Closer: Joe Nathan
  • Risk: Moderate
  • Next in Line: Bruce Rondon, Joba Chamberlain

Yeah, Joba Chamberlain could be next in line to close if the Tigers lose Nathan. Those screams you here are either Tigers fans reading this, or someone getting mugged on 8 Mile.

Either way, if the Tigers lose Joe Nathan, they will immediately hit the phones to see what the market is for a proven closer. The reasons why I am giving Nathan a moderate risk of losing his job include the fact that he is 39 years-old, he is changing teams and will have to adjust to a new clubhouse and coaching staff, and he did experience a drop in velocity.

Despite that drop in velocity, Nathan had a great season last year with the Rangers. Nathan’s stats from last year, including a K/9 of 10.16 and an ERA of 1.39, suggests he may have one or two more fun years left under the sun. Also, he does move to a more pitcher friendly park, which could help limit expected regression from last year.

I will probably will stay away from Nathan this year not only because of his age but because of his inflated value as well. In addition, I have never owned Joba Chamberlain, and I am guessing I never will want to in the future.

Kansas City Royals

  • Closer: Greg Holland
  • Risk: Low
  • Next in Line: Kelvin Herrera

Greg Holland actually lost the closer’s role for a few games early last season. However, Herrera struggled as well. Holland was given another opportunity and took advantage of his second chance. Holland’s 13.84 K/9, 2.42 BB/9, 1.21 ERA, 1.68 xFIP, 16.6 SwStr%, and steady high heat to the tune of 96.1 MPH was fantasy gold in 2013.

Holland’s confidence has to be pretty high heading into this season and may experience some regression due to how sick his numbers were last year. Even if he slips a bit, Holland should still put up ideal numbers for your fantasy team.

Kelvin Herrera had a rough first half where he posted a 5.20 ERA, but his ERA in the month of August was at 0.51. If you are in a deep league were saves and holds both score, I’m guessing you will have to spend a pretty penny or relatively high pick on Holland.

To protect your investment in leagues that score saves and holds, I would make room for Herrera at the tail end of the draft or claim him on waivers sooner rather than later.

Minnesota Twins

  • Closer: Glen Perkins
  • Risk: Moderate
  • Next in Line: Jared Burton

Ahh, Glen Perkins, the guy that is breaking down barriers and paving the way for future generations of left handed relievers to come. I want to be clear to any left handed activist groups out there that I did no bump Perkins up to moderate risk because he throws the ball with the wrong hand. I did it because Perkins is coming off of arthroscopic knee surgery, and knees may not seem all that important for a pitcher, but they play a role in a pitcher’s mechanics.

But, if Perkins feels the slightest bit of difference in that knee it could physically alter his mechanics just a bit, or get in Perkins’ head just enough to throw of his confidence. That’s a worst-case scenario.

Hopefully the less invasive arthroscopic surgery will limit any discomfort if it produces any at all at this point and Perkins can start where he left off in 2013. If you do not require a reminder of where he left off, excuse me while I whip this out.

A K/9 of 11.06, a 2.14 BB/9, a 2.30 ERA, a 2.61 ERA, and a SwStr% of 13.1. Those numbers make Perkins a lock for Grand Marshall for any future left handed activist’s parades. As far as Jared Burton goes, well if Perkins were to ever get hurt, I would walk, not run to the computer to put in a claim for him.