FantasySmackTalk.com takes a close look at AL closer situations. A couple recent updates have sent a lot of fantasy owners who are desperate for saves running to the waiver wires, but are they worth picking up?

George Sherrill | Orioles

Sherrill has had a shaky spring to say the least, he has allowed 17 base runners in 5 1/3 innings of work. Chris Ray, on the other hand, currently has a 1.50 ERA with 7 strikeouts through 6 innings of work. The Orioles will likely begin the season with Sherrill initially, but Ray figures to be back in the closing role early in the season. FST Advice: Avoid either of these guys if you have better options, but if you have to pick one, we feel Ray is the one to own here.

Jonathan Papelbon | Red Sox

Arguably the leagues best closer, Papelbon has a firm hold on the closer position in Boston. Although his miniscule ERA increased slightly from 1.85 in ’07 to 2.34 in ’08, he still remains a top-tier reliever. While walking only 8 batters last season, owners can also expect a low WHIP to go along with a great ERA. If something were to happen to Papelbon, Okajima, Saito and maybe even John Smoltz are waiting in the wings. FST Advice: If you own Papelbon congrats, Okajima may be worth an add if you need a quality set-up man.


Mariano Rivera | Yankees

Overshadowed by Francisco Rodriguez’s record run, Rivera had somewhat of a quiet ’08 season considering he converted on 39 of 40 save opportunities and posted a career best in WHIP and average against. The 39-year-old is making his way back from October shoulder surgery and will be ready for opening day. According to the New York Post, Joba Chamberlain would become the Yankees’ closer if Mariano Rivera “is unable to close” because of an injury, but we think Damaso Marte would get the nod. FST Advice: Until he shows signs of slowing down proceed with confidence, Joba should already be owned in all leagues.

B.J. Ryan | Blue Jays

With spring training concerns about the velocity of Ryan’s fastball, his ’06 dominance may be wishful thinking. Missing a majority of the ’07 with tommy john surgery, Ryan came back with a respectable ’08 season. The job is his for now, but if he does lose it, both Jeremy Accardo (who notched 30 saves in 2007) and Scott Downs (1.78 ERA in 2008) are ready to take over at any time. FST Advice: If you have Ryan don’t panic, but monitor the situation closely especially if Ryan has a couple rough outings.

Troy Percival | Rays

Percival is far from his dominant form he was in the 90’s, however he looks to be the Rays closer for now. He won’t have much of a margin for error with Dan Wheeler, Al Reyes, Grant Balfour, and even Jason Isringhausen waiting in the wings. Durability has been a problem for the 39-year-old Percival and he’s not the most reliable option. FST Advice: Look elsewhere for a closer, if you do own Percival we feel Wheeler is next in line.

Brad Ziegler | Athletics

The closer saga may be over in Oakland, at least for now. Reports out of Oakland are saying Devine will be out at least the first few weeks of the season and has scheduled a visit with Dr. Andrews with a sore elbow. That does not bode well for Devine owners so we suggest stashing him on your DL spot until more details of his injury are available. Manager Bob Green has committed to Devine as the closer if he comes back healthy. FST Advice: If you drafted Ziegler you should get a nice run to start the season, monitor Devine owners as they may get impatient.

Brian Fuentes | Angels

Fuentes was signed after the departure of K-Rod and its now his job to lose. Back stiffness has been the reasoning for Fuentes’ drop in velocity during spring training, however he should be ready to go at the start of the season. The Angels have a great bullpen and several guys that could step in including Shields, Arredondo, and Speier. FST Advice: Fuentes posted great numbers in the hitter-friendly ballpark in Colorado and should have a solid year in LA. If not, Arredondo and Shields are the favorites take over the closing role.

Brandon Morrow | Mariners

Offseason moves sent JJ Putz and Sean Green to the Mets in exchange for six young players which moved Morrow into the closing role for Seattle. Mark Lowe, who filled in capably last year, is the best-looking backup, but the only pitcher looking to compete with Morrow for the job is ex-All Star Chad Cordero. FST Advice: Morrow has decent stuff and should hold the job, 30 plus saves is not out of the question.

Frank Francisco | Rangers

Last season, Francisco posted a 3.13 ERA with 83 strikeouts in 63 1/3 innings and opponents hit just .200 against him. C.J. Wilson should be next in line if Francisco falters, as he converted 24 of 28 save opportunities last year before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery. Eddie Guardado is also a guy to put on the radar, but it seems like the ‘Everyday’ Eddie experiment is over in Texas. FST Advice: It seems like its Francisco’s job to lose.

Bobby Jenks | White Sox

Jenks converted 30-of-34 save chances with a 2.63 ERA last season and still remains a closer worth targeting on draft day. Matt Thornton, Octavio Dotel, Scott Linebrink make up the heart of the White Sox bullpen, while Thornton would most likely get the shot to step in if Jenks is out. There have been some trade rumors circulating, but nothing to worry about yet, and more than likely he would land a closing gig on a better team. FST Advice: Jenks should have another solid year, just hope he gets more than 34 save opportunities.

Kerry Wood | Indians

Cleveland dished out $20.5 million to land Wood so his job as closer is one of the most secure in the league. He still has great stuff and a high K/BB ratio, but is an injury risk. Rafael Perez and Jensen Lewis look to be the favorites to step in if Wood misses any time, but lets not forget about Rafael Betancourt, who in ’07 posted a1.47 ERA and struck out 80 in 79.1 innings pitched. FST Advice: Wood owners cross your fingers and hope he stays healthy.

Fernando Rodney | Tigers

Tigers have announced that Fernando Rodney will be the opening day starter, winning the job over Brandon Lyon. Neither of these guys had an impressive spring, Rodney posted a 7.00 ERA and Lyon, a slightly better 5.73. If the fragile Joel Zumaya can get healthy, look for him to be in the mix as well. FST Advice: Both of these guys look to be horrible options at this point, however Lyon has a bigger up-side and the potential to right the ship. Unless you are truly desperate for saves, stay away from Rodney.

Joakim Soria | Royals

Achieving the Royals’ first 30-save season since Jeff Montgomery had 36 in 1998, Soria blossomed into a top-tier closer on a less than spectacular Royals squad. Finishing the year with 42 saves in 45 chances, he has a firm hold on the closer role in KC. Free agent Kyle Farnsworth is likely to get the nod if Soria goes down. FST Advice: Start Soria with confidence.

Joe Nathan | Twins

Nathan should have been one of the first closers to go in your draft and there is certainly reason why. Nathan has finished with ERAs below 2.00, WHIPs under 1.00 and opposing batting averages under .190 in four of the last five years. Setup man Pat Neshek opted to have Tommy John surgery so he will miss this season, which leaves Jesse Crain the likely candidate to assume the role if Nathan misses time. FST Advice: We see no reason why Nathan should not be around the 40 save mark again this season.