Fantasy Baseball Today

Most American League closers fairly safe in their roles

By Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com

Zach Britton has earned the right to keep the closer role in Baltimore. (USATSI)
Zach Britton has earned the right to keep the closer role in Baltimore. (USATSI)

There's no more fluid role in major league baseball than closer. On some teams, the period in which a closer remains in that position is akin to the life span of your average house fly (15-30 days ... I looked it up).

The retirement of Mariano Rivera shrunk by one the small number of closers that have thrived long-term with one team. So it's prudent every so often for Fantasy owners, especially those seeking to bolster their closer spot, to closely examine the situation club-by-club. How safe in that role is each individual currently holding it down? Who is breathing down their necks as possible replacements?

We examined the National League on Wednesday. Let's look at the American League, where there are fewer closers in danger of losing their jobs.

Zach Britton (Baltimore): The left-hander has taken the role and run with it on the strength of excellent control, penchant for double plays and a surprisingly high number of strikeouts. He has nailed down nine of 11 save opportunties and owns a 1.56 ERA on the year. Darren O'Day, who was considered a possibility, is no longer a threat. Safe-o-Meter: 7

Koji Uehara (Boston): Uehara has proven himself a bit more vulnerable lately with runs given up in two of his last four appearances, but he remains one of the best in baseball, as his 0.757 WHIP attests. Safe-o-Meter: 10

Ronald Belisario (Chicago White Sox): OK, so pitching coach Don Cooper did say he's the best option. That speaks more of their other closing candidates than it does for Belisario, who either escapes or doesn't escape trouble every time he takes the mound. He's given up an average of two hits per inning in his last six games. If a better option does emerge, he will be out. Safe-o-Meter: 3

Cody Allen (Cleveland): This right-hander has taken the job and run with it after John Axford was axed as closer. Allen throws in the upper 90s and is virtually unhittable when he has his curve in the strike zone. He's 7 for 8 in save chances and has fanned 44 in 35 2/3 innings. With Bryan Shaw struggling, nobody is close to taking his job. Safe-o-Meter: 9

Joe Nathan (Detroit): Much has been said and written about his struggles, but Brad Ausmus appears hell-bent on keeping the aging right-hander in that spot. Joba Chamberlain performs poorly in closing situations and the Tigers like Phil Coke as a situational lefty. Nathan has given up at least one run in seven of his last 14 appearances, but he's not on the verge of losing his job. Yet. Safe-o-Meter: 4

Chad Qualls (Houston): At age 35, Qualls has proven to be one of the most surprising closers in baseball after getting the nod from Bo Porter. His ERA has been shrinking steadily since late April and is down to 2.05 after he pitched shutout ball in 20 of his last 21 games. He has just one save since June 9, but that is due only to a lack of chances. Safe-o-Meter: 9

Greg Holland (Kansas City): The best bullpen in the American League just might have the best closer. Holland has converted 22 of 23 save chances and has 44 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings. He's as safe as safe can be. Safe-o-Meter: 10

Joe Smith (Los Angeles): His status in that role appears more dependent on how well ousted Ernesto Frieri performs. Mike Scioscia believes the bullpen falls in line more effectively with Frieri as closer. Smith has pitched better as a setup man than as a closer, so he doesn't appear long for this job. Safe-o-Meter: 2

Glen Perkins (Minnesota): Perkins has been among the steadiest in the game since assuming the role for the Twins in 2012 and there is no reason to believe he will lose his hold on it any time soon. He had a small hiccup recently, but he's always been adept at securing saves despite giving up baserunners. Safe-o-Meter: 9

David Robertson (New York Yankees): Robertson has grown into the role after the initial pressure of replacing the legendary Rivera. He hasn't given up a run in his last eight appearances and has 47 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings. He could be set not just for this season, but for years to come. Safe-o-Meter: 10

Sean Doolittle (Oakland): Along with Qualls, he has been the stunner of the 2014 closer class in the American League. Doolittle hasn't yielded an earned run in two months and has allowed just one hit in 12 innings covering the month of June. Enough said. Safe-o-Meter: 10

Fernando Rodney (Seattle): Some feared this 37-year-old veteran was declining when he started slowly this season, but he has emerged again as an effective closer. He has surrendered just one earned run in his last 15 outings and could be an American League all-star on the basis of his 21 saves in 23 opportunities. Danny Farquhar is waiting in the wings, but Rodney is still solid in his spot. Safe-o-Meter: 9

Joel Peralta (Tampa Bay): Or is it Jake McGee? Or is it still Grant Balfour? Nobody seems to know who is closing these days for the Rays, but Peralta nailed down their last save, so what the heck? The job is about as secure for any of them as an ant walking on a sidewalk in Times Square. Safe-o-Meter: 1

Joakim Soria (Texas): The injury-riddled, sliding Rangers are unlikely to give Soria too many save chances, but he has been fine when getting the opportunity. He has pitched once - in a non-save situation - since June 14. But his numbers are sensational. He has given up just 13 hits and has fanned 35 in 25 2/3 innings.

Casey Janssen (Toronto): Janssen has been one of the steadiest in the game for three years with 68 saves in 75 chances. He returned from injury early this season as the same dependable closer. He is unchallenged with the Blue Jays. Safe-o-Meter: 10

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