Death, Taxes and Closer Turnover: Disabled and Replaced: Fuentes, Gonzalez and Frasor Are Out

Here we go again.  Not even two weeks in the books and more closers are turning over.  There are new situations in Toronto, Baltimore and Anaheim, but these are far from done deals.

Kevin Gregg has been getting his share of save opportunities early this season and now he has been named the “primary” closer for the Blue Jays.  This makes Gregg the guy to have for saves, but don’t go out and drop Jason Frasor just yet.  He could still see a save opportunity two or three times a week as Gregg did early on and take over once again should Gregg struggle.

In Baltimore, struggling closer Mike Gonzalez is headed to the DL with a strained left shoulder.  This opens the door for Jim Johnson to take over closing duties.  However, as I wrote last week, Johnson is not a guy to rush out and get unless your team is starving for saves.  Last season Johnson posted a 4.11 ERA (4.30 FIP, 4.10 xFIP), 1.37 WHIP, 73 hits in 70 innings and only 6.3 K/9.  That makes him a very risky play.
There is a chance that Cla Meredith gets some chances as well. 
If this injury lingers for Gonzalez and forces him to miss an extended amount of time, we could see Koji Uehara take over the role at some point.  Uehara’s arsenal is not typical closer material, but he does have exceptional command and he showed the ability to miss bats (22.4 percent whiff rate) in his 66.2 innings as a starter last season.  He was tabbed as a possibility to close this offseason before the Orioles signed Mike Gonzalez and is set to return from a pulled hamstring soon.
The Angels placed Brian Fuentes on the DL, possibly saving them money and a big headache for next season.  I looked at Fuentes’ lack of velocity as a cause for concern last week.  He had back problems early last season as well, so this is yet another warning sign that 2010 could be a long and frustrating year for Fuentes. 
Fernando Rodney replaces Fuentes, at least initially. 
The Angels were blinded by Rodney’s 37 saves in 38 tries last season, but the truth is that he is a below average bullpen arm.  Rodney has a career 1.80 K/BB rate and a career 4.63 BB/9.  His results have been horrible so far in 2010 as he has allowed four earned runs in four innings with only two strikeouts and two walks.  In reality Rodney is not a closer, in fantasy he is an ERA and WHIP killer good for cheap saves only.  I’d stay away.
The Angels do have a potential closer in their bullpen and his name is Kevin Jepsen.  With the ability to miss bats (27 percent whiff rate in 2009), and a mid-90’s fastball that sinks, generating a ton of ground balls, Jepsen should be the go-to guy in the ninth for the Angels. 
If you are hard pressed to find saves in your league, I’d take a flier on Jepsen now.  If Fuentes can’t return on time and Fernando Rodney pitches like Fernando Rodney, it could be Jepsen’s job to run with before long.