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Updates: Napoli & Toronto’s Closer

Well, so much for that. Two of my recent posts were rendered obsolete or close to it in fell swoop yesterday. Time for some updates…

Mike Napoli: Free At Last

Yeah, no. The move to Texas again brings uncertainty about Napoli’s playing time, so we’re essentially right back where we started. He’s expected to get at-bats at first base, behind the plate, and at designated hitter for the Rangers, but he’s going to be competing with the likes of Michael Young, Mitch Moreland, and Yorvit Torrealba for playing time.

Napoli might just be destined for a career of fantasy frustration when it comes to consistent playing time, though I have a feeling Ron Washington won’t bog him down as much as Mike Scioscia, assuming he hits like he’s capable of.

Who’s Closing For The Blue Jays?

Toronto already has two solid but generally unspectacular closer options in Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch, but now yesterday’s trade adds Frank Francisco to the mix and confusion.

Francisco has quietly been on the game’s most dominant relievers over the last three seasons. His 10.89 K/9 since 2008 (11.6% swinging strikes) is seventh best in the game, just a notch above noted strikeout machines Hong-Chih Kuo, Brad Lidge, and Kerry Wood. When you remove intentional walks, you’ve got a rock solid 2.94 BB/9, and his platoon split is hardly anything to get worked up about (career 3.45 FIP vs. LHB, 3.65 vs. RHB).

The problem with Francisco has always been the long ball, unsurprising since his career ground ball rate barely cracks 30%. He’s surrendered 18 homers in the last three years, almost exactly one for every nine innings pitched. The shift in ballparks won’t haven’t much, if any impact according to StatCorner‘s park factors, so an ERA in the high-3.00’s or low-4.00’s is likely. Francisco also has the closer pedigree, saving 25 in 2009 before losing his job to Neftali Feliz last April. I suspect that Octavio Dotel will still get the ninth inning job at the outset of the season, but his competition just got a little stiffer.

Submit your fan projections for Napoli and Francisco here and here, respectively.