Who are the new arms you need to know about who could be racking up saves in the near future? Which former fantasy stars are returning from injury? Which hurlers have over/underperformed over the past month? All this and more. I know, I'm getting tingly too. BULLPEN SITUATIONS Rangers Current closer: Joe Nathan Potential closer: Tanner Scheppers, Joakim Soria Reports suggest that Nathan could be dealt. He's 38 years old and is due $9 million next season, so he could be an affordable trade option if a team were willing to take on the righty given his age. Looking at his performance this season there should be no need to worry about his age. Nathan has a 1.73 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 9.50 K/9 and 4.00 K/BB ratio. There's been no give in his game. Oh, he's also 32 for 34 in save chances this season. The Rangers are six games behind the Athletics and they seem intent on making a run at the playoffs so it remains to be seen if the Rangers would actually deal Nathan (they are looking to add more weapons even after bringing in Matt Garza). If Nathan was dealt, who would close? The natural assumption is that Joakim Soria would slide into the 9th if a deal was consummated. Soria saved at least 28 games each year from 2008-11, but he blew out his arm for a second time and required another Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss all of the 2012 season. He's therefore only thrown 5.2 innings in more than a year and a half in the big leagues so it's hard to feel completely confident that he's really ready to take over in the 9th inning. For what it's worth he's allowed only two hits but has walked three batters in 5.2 innings this season. One could posit that Tanner Scheppers could get a shot in the 9th. After all, he's had a great season this year and he's totally healthy. Tanner has provided a 1.70 ERA and 1.05 WHIP through 47 outings, but he's also not a big strikeout arm with a 6.23 K/9 mark as he tends to get by more on the ground ball with a 53 percent mark in that category. Not exactly the skill set most teams want in the 9th inning. In the end it would seem likely that Soria would be given a shot in the 9th inning first, even if he's not exactly in mid-season form and still two years away from a full season of work. Tigers Current closer: Joaquin Benoit Potential closer: Jose Veras The Tigers made a deal to add Jose Veras to their bullpen as they sent OF Danry Vasquez and a PTBNL to the Astros (more on the 'Stros bullpen in a moment). The assumption in some circles is that Veras will take over in the 9th inning for the Tigers. Not so fast. Bob Nightengale has reported that Joaquin Benoit will remain the closer for the Tigers, as he should. Here is what Benoit has done this season, and by the way it's plenty to continue to hold on to the 9th inning. Benoit is 10-for-10 in saves. Benoit has a 1.50 ERA. Benoit has a 1.02 WHIP. Benoit has an 11.14 K/9 mark. Benoit has a 4.33 K/BB ratio. That is elite pitching folks, elite. You really can't do much better than that unless your name is Craig Kimbrel, Greg Holland or Aroldis Chapman. Benoit is, and should, remain the closer. On the surface, this means that Veras has lost pretty much all his mixed league value as he goes from a closer to being a setup man. Too bad too as Veras was having a very impressive under the radar type effort for mixed leaguers. Veras is 0-4 with three blown saves, but he also has a 2.93 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 19 saves an a 9.21 K/9 mark. How many pitchers have an ERA under three, a WHIP of 1.00 or lower and 19 or more saves? The answer is 10 men: Joe Nathan, Craig Kimbrel, Edward Mujica, Jason Grilli, Greg Holland, Glen Perkins, Steve Cishek, Jonathan Papelbon, Bobby Parnell and Veras. The Tigers got themselves a solid setup man in Veras and a great guy to slot in to the 9th inning if Benoit folds or is injured. Astros Current closer: ? Potential closer: Jose Cisnero, Wesley Wright As noted Jose Veras was dealt from the Astros to the Tigers leaving a void in the 9th inning. According to Brian Braggart Astros' GM Jeff Luhnow stated that the 9th inning for the Astros situation falls into the TBD category. So who are the two main options for the club from Texas? Jose Cisnero is probably the arm that will get the first crack at the last frame. Cisnero transitioned from starting to the bullpen this season where his heater has helped lead him to 40 Ks in 41.1 innings as he's also posted a 3.48 ERA. Unfortunately he's also been saddled with a 1.48 WHIP thanks to walking more than four batters per nine innings. There's also the fact that he's performed very poorly of late – over his last nine outings his ERA has gone from 2.14 to 3.48 as he's allowed eight runs. That's not exactly what you want to see from a guy who would be handling the 9th inning for the first time in professional career. Wesley Wright has nearly 200 more innings of big league experience than Cisnero, but there are two key concerns with Wright. First, he's as lefty, and that might mean he's better left to be a matchup play in a setup role than working the 9th inning. Second, he's not an overly successful arm. His current ratios – a 4.30 ERA and 1.46 WHIP – are near matches for his 4.51 and 1.42 career marks. He strikes guys out with 234 in 235.1 innings, but he too is struggling of late (four runs, including three homers, in his last 6.2 innings). I'd say Cisnero has a small leg up, but it could end up in a bullpen by committee situation until someone emerges. IN THE NEWS – INJURY RETURNS Brandon Beachy is back from the DL (Tommy John surgery) and he will start for the Braves Monday. Beachy posted a 3.00 ERA in seven minor league starts working his way back to health, but he also walked 18 batters in 30 innings which is hardly an inspiring total. Everyone assumes he will just return and be the guy who dominated last year season (2.00 ERA, 0.96 WHIP over 13 starts), but that's expecting an awful lot at the moment. He'll have to produce or he could have trouble holding on to his rotation spot with Paul Maholm and Alex Wood in the mix. Carlos Gonzalez (.297-26-67-71-19) will have to deal with a finger issue the rest of the year, it's sprained, but he returned to the lineup Monday after sitting out the weekend. CarGo is always hurt, he's never appeared in 146 games in a season, but he's always productive. Continue to roll with him in all leagues. Derek Jeter is back from his quad injury. His return last one game a few weeks back when he was injured in his first game. How long will his return last this time? LAST 30 DAYS Chris Archer: 4-0, 1.29 ERA, 5.36 K/9 Scott Kazmir: 2-0, 2.03 ERA, 6.97 K/9 Wade Miley: 3-1, 1.89 ERA, 6.48 K/9 Wily Peralta: 2-1, 1.64 ERA, 7.64 K/9 C.J. Wilson: 4-1, 1.25 ERA, 8.75 K/9 R.A. Dickey: 1-3, 5.24 ERA Josh Johnson: 0-5, 7.96 ERA Lance Lynn: 2-3, 5.52 ERA CC Sabathia: 1-3, 6.60 ERA Jeff Samardzija: 1-2, 5.87 ERA FAAB MOVEMENT To see who I added this week off the waiver-wire in my leagues give Fantasy Baseball – FAAB Report, Wk.17 a read. FANTASY FOOTBALL Did you get your copy of the nearly 200 pages Fantasy Football Draft Guide yet? Come on, where ya been?! Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday at 7 PM EDT. For more of Ray's analysis you can check out BaseballGuys.com where he has a Fantasy Football Draft Guide for sale, or the BaseballGuys' Twitter account where he tirelessly answer everyone's questions.


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About Ray Flowers

The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Thurs 7 PM, Fri. 9 PM EDT), Ray also hosts a show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.

Ray Flowers on Twitter

RT @FantasySportsTA: Happy Holidays from FSTA! http://t.co/qGGqyYZqGC

yep, just go to IDP. RT @eddieucla: @SiriusXMFantasy we should remove defense all together? !