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While the closer grid is a great tool to use for drafting and during your waiver period, it serves as just a quick glance rather than an insightful tool. It will tell you which pitcher is the primary guy in-line for saves, but it’s not going to tell you who’s on shaky ground and who might still be competing for a job. So with a few tenuous situations out there, let’s take a look at a few names you should keep in mind while watching this spring…

Colorado Rockies

LaTroy Hawkins vs Rex Brothers

Though he didn’t open the season as the Rockies closer in 2013, Brothers did a fairly nice job once he was installed as their ninth-inning guy. He saved 19-of-21 games while posting a 1.74 ERA with a 10.16 K/9 over 67.1 innings. However, between the command problems he continues to have and the fact that he’s a lefty, the Rockies aren’t so sure he’s the right choice for the job in 2014. The team went out and signed Hawkins to a one-year deal and has actually announced that he will open spring training as the team’s closer. He had himself a decent year with the Mets last season, posting a 2.93 ERA with a 5.50 K/BB over 70.2 innings and when Bobby Parnell went down, he filled in admirably, notching 13 saves over the final two months. However, given the injuries in recent years, the 4.37 career ERA and the fact that he is moving to Colorado, one can’t help but be concerned right from the start. While Hawkins may open the year as the closer, the job could head back Brothers’ way before you know it.

Chicago White Sox

Nate Jones vs Daniel Webb

The trade of Addison Reed has opened the door for a spring training competition and the leading candidates here on the South Side are Jones and Webb. You would have to think that, given the two years of big league experience, Jones has the edge here. He’s a ground ball pitcher who now uses his slider almost as often as he does his fastball and the results from that increased usage were found in his 10.27 K/9, up more than two full batters per inning. His ERA suffered last season – 4.15 over 78 innings – but his 2.64 FIP (2.77 xFIP) was a much better indicator to how well he pitched. Webb saw his first action in the bigs late last season and posted a 3.18 ERA (2.34 FIP) with 7.94 K/9 over just 11.1 innings. He also throws a heavy dose of sliders and actually induces more ground balls which, at The Cell, is a big thing. Still, the job will probably start with Jones and move to Webb only if he falters. There’s no guarantee as to how long the leash will be, but it’s difficult to imagine Robin Ventura giving too early a hook.

Chicago Cubs

Jose Veras vs Pedro Strop

While Veras is expected to open as the team’s closer, it might not be all that long before Strop is handed the ball in the ninth. Veras has bounced around as a late-inning reliever throughout his career, often posting an ERA just under 4.00 with a double-digit K/9. However, command issues have plagued him throughout his career, and though he was installed as the Astros closer and fared somewhat decently, he was dealt to the Tigers near the deadline to serve as a set-up man for Joaquin Benoit. Still, he gets the lead nod based on recent experience. Strop gets consideration based on his performance with the Cubs after he came over from Baltimore in a mid-season trade.  With the Orioles, Strop struggled through 22.1 innings with a 7.25 ERA and a 1.70 WHIP. His command and the long ball were his enemies as he issued 15 free passes and allowed four home runs during his time. However, once he came over to Chicago, he posted a much more impressive 2.93 ERA and 0.98 WHIP over 35 innings. He allowed one home run and still issued 11 walks, but his strikeout rate increased with the move to the National League and he just looked more confident on the hill. Veras may open the year as the closer, but Strop has better stuff and could supplant him sooner rather than later.


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