Closer Updates: Thornton, Wilson, Francisco, Kimbrel

We’re eight days away from the start of the season, so let’s check in on some ninth inning situations around the league…

Matt Thornton | White Sox

Ozzie Guillen did us all a favor and said that Thornton will be his guy in the ninth inning this year, clearing up some uncertainty. The hard-throwing lefty was in the fourth tier of our preseason rankings because we just weren’t sure how many save opportunities he’d get, but now that he has the job his value skyrockets. Thornton’s maintained a sub-3.00 ERA, a sub-3.00 BB/9, and a 10.00+ K/9 over the last three years, something only six others have been able to do (min. 100 IP and counting the retired Billy Wagner). Thornton isn’t a top tier closer yet, but he’s definitely one of the five or six best saves options in fantasy in my eyes.

Brian Wilson | Giants

Our top ranked reliever coming into the season, Wilson strained his oblique sometime last week and was scheduled to undergo tests on Monday. Unsurprisingly, the guy who threw the last pitch of the 2010 says says he’ll be ready for Opening Day, though he acknowledged that he’s going to wait a few days before throwing again just because there’s no point in risking a more serious injury. If Wilson is still a question mark a week from now, then start worrying.

Frank Francisco | Blue Jays

Frankie Frank had to visit Dr. James Andrews to get the tightness in his pectoral and biceps looked at, and the good news is that it’s just inflammation with no structural damage. He’ll begin a throwing program this weekend, but manager John Farrell he’s unlikely to be ready for Opening Day. Octavio Dotel is working his way back from a hamstring issue, and they’re taking it slow and steady with his rehab. If both guys start the year on the disabled list, then Jon Rauch becomes the odds-on favorite for early season save opportunities while Jason Frasor waits for the first false step.

Craig Kimbrel | Braves

The preseason favorite to replace Wagner this year, Fredi Gonzalez threw a wrench in the works earlier this month and said he’s going to use both Kimbrel and Jonny Venters in the ninth inning, depending on the matchups. This isn’t unprecedented, and in fact the Braves did it just two years ago with Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez. Kimbrel’s being drafted as if he’s the primary closer in most leagues (14th-15th round or so) while Venters has gone a few rounds later, but having to carry two players to get one team’s saves is a bit of a waste. The only thing you’ll really be able to do early in the season is to track each player’s usage and effectiveness, it’s likely one of the two will get a firm grasp on the job at some point.

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Mike writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues and baseball in general at CBS Sports.

11 Responses to “Closer Updates: Thornton, Wilson, Francisco, Kimbrel”

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  1. CSJ says:

    You spelled closet wrong in the title.

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  2. Manque69 says:

    Do you not value Relievers for their low ERA/WHIP and high K/9 ratios as a better way to use your innings? I would much rather have Kimbrel and Venters handcuffed for the season racking their Ks than take Wilson and Romo knowing I’ll probably drop Romo in May and go fishing in the FA pool (not that you advocate handcuffing Wilson and Romo).

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  3. Uncle Hulka says:

    All things being equal (ie, once they’re all healthy) in Toronto, is Francisco the #1, with Dotel backing up?

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  4. JREwing says:

    Manque69, that depends on your league set-up (HTH vs roto), stats or scoring system, max/min innings pitched, and roster sizes. What may be the right thing for one setup is not the right thing for another.

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  5. Wade8813 says:

    In a league with both Saves and Holds, is picking both Kimbrel and Venters a good idea or a great idea?

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  6. Ed says:

    Would love a little help: With Bailey going down, I need a fill in closer. Fuentes was drafted (yes, we have serious vultures in our league) and I picked up Clippard yesterday when our waiver system opened in hopes of catching a few saves. However I just noticed someone dropped McGee for Farnsworth. Who would you prefer:

    Clippard or McGee or even Peralta


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  7. Rumney says:

    I was offered $13 hellickson and $4 encarnacion for $12 joakim soria in a mixed league, OPS as a cat. Seems like I’m getting all the upside in this offer and I feel like I’ll be able to trade Hellicks for a top closer at the least, and get a free Encarnacion.

    Do I take this offer?

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    • Chad says:

      Nobody in my league would take a first year starter for even a marginal closer. Depends on how they are valued in your league and if it is a keeper or not. In my league people hoard closers and can often find some decent starts here and there off of the waiver wire (more talent due to innings limit).

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