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RP to Watch- Next Closers
Written by Randy Marquis

In fantasy baseball, top closers are like supermodels. They’re rare, they’re expensive and they make otherwise rational men do things they’ll deny to friends later.

“I didn’t draft Jonathan Papelbon in the third round. No, really, what kind of man do you take me for?”

Usually much beer drinking ensues.

Now if Tom Brady’s marriage to Giselle doesn’t work out, since he’s already rich and talented beyond mortal standards, it’s easy for him to pick himself up, dust himself off and go hang out at the Playboy Mansion looking for a rebound.

But if Papelbon, Rivera or K-Rod leave you at the alter, don’t expect Hef to be handing you the keys to his mansion. You’ll have to hit the waiver wire and scrounge for saves like the rest of us mortals trying to decide if Manny Corpas or Huston Street looks like a bridesmaid (setup man) or a bride (closer).

Oh sure, you could pledge allegiance to the single life, trolling the bars (waiver wire) for a one-night stand. Or worse, you could become a saves monk, punting the category and making a vow of saves celibacy. But you’ll never find a supermodel that way…and you probably won’t win a lot of fantasy baseball championships either.

Don’t despair. Here are five names to remember as we enter this week’s Fly 5: Salomon Torres, Jon Rauch, Ryan Franklin, Jonathan Broxton and Jensen Lewis. All entered 2008 as no more than bridesmaids to Eric Gagne, Chad Cordero, Jason Isringhausen, Takashi Saito and Joe Borowski. All ended it with double-digit save totals. Broxton, in fact, may be a borderline marriage prospect going into 2009.

Who can be your Broxton or your Franklin this season? Here are five current bridesmaids you might consider proposing marriage to before the season is out, in order of marriage worthiness:

  1. Jensen Lewis (CLE) – If Kerry Wood were a supermodel, he’d be Kate Moss: in and out of rehab but productive when healthy. The health issue (sore back) has already reared its ugly head this spring, making Lewis a must-have for Wood owners. He converted 13 of 14 save chances as 2008 came to a close, so don’t be afraid to nab Lewis if Wood reverts to his injury prone ways.
  1. Ryan Perry (DET) – The Tigers bullpen is a complete mess, the equivalent of “American’s Next Top Model” if all of the contestants were culled from the ranks of those who failed to make it on the “The Swan.” Fernando Rodney has been announced as the closer going into the season, but Brandon Lyon and Joel Zumaya lurk as unappetizing alternatives. Perry, the Tigers first round selection in 2008, has the stuff, but he’s just 22 years old with 13 innings of professional experience. Still, unless Willie Hernandez comes out of retirement, he may well be the Tigers most appealing option come summer.
  1. Jerry Blevins/Santiago Casilla (OAK) – With Joey Devine en route to visit Dr. James Andrews, sidewinder Brad Ziegler has the closer duties to himself. But it’s his deception, not his stuff, which gets major league hitters out. If the A’s find Ziegler can’t repeat his magic, Blevins and Casilla, profile as more classic closer types with their strikeout abilities. Casilla has already been mentioned as a potential Ziegler sidekick, but Blevins has the better control.
  1. Juan Cruz (KC) – Cruz spent most of the winter like Paris Hilton. He had nearly every team interested in his services, but no firm commitments because of the price tag. Eventually the Royals coughed up the cash and the draft pick to sign him and he’s likely to set up for super closer Joakim Soria. While Soria is secure in his role, Cruz’s stuff (12.37 strikeouts per nine innings in 2008) makes him, along with the Cubs’ Carlos Marmol, the best of the setup men “one heartbeat away” from top dog
  1. Todd Coffey/Jorge Julio (MIL) – Trevor Hoffman is 141 years old. Carlos Villanueva and Seth McClung have eight career big leagues saves between them. David Riske is exactly that. Looming in the back of the Brew Crew ‘pen are Coffey (mentioned by manager Ken Macha as a potential fill-in) and Julio, he of the 99 career saves. Never underestimate what can happen when a manager has a “proven closer” to turn to.