Let’s say you are entering the middle rounds of your fantasy draft, someone has started a run on closers and you’ve yet to take one. You know it would take a load off your mind if you just drafted one already. But nooooooo! you are trying to be strong, you resist the urgings of your mind as it speaks to you, "Hmm, Jose Valverde- he’s very good. Jeez! Jenks is still on the board. Armando, yeahhhhh baby, he should be good for about 35 saves at least." Temptation is just a mouse click away and there’s only 30 seconds left on your draft clock… Yet, something stops you- your PLAN! Yes, you have a plan. You remember that you are fully committed to the ‘I’m not drafting a Closer in an early or middle round, No Matter What!’ strategy. Instead, you’re salivating as Robinson Cano just dangles precariously free on your draft board… Noah Lowry would look darn good as your number three starter… God, if you could just relax… but time is running out… Every bone in your body is saying, ‘CANO, CANO’. All you need is ONE good rationale, one pitcher you’re confident no one else will seriously consider, but you know, in the guts of your soul, will become a closer by season’s end… 15, 14, 13, 12… Ah, ah, ah… Don’t panic, you’re in luck! Here at INSIDE PITCH we’ve decided to give you TWO mind relaxers that should allow you to click worry free as you prepare to steal Robinson Cano or Scott Kazmir, or whomever you deem to be the Rocky Balboa of your draft. The Bullpen Bargain Bin presents Fernando Cabrera and Rafael Soriano.
This 24 year old fireballer from Puerto Rico is, without a doubt, the Clevelend Indians’ closer of the
future. The question is when in the future? All that stands in his way is a ‘whale’ of a reliever, 37 year old ground ball machine Bob Wickman. Wickman’s hold on the lead fireman job is tenuous, even though he is coming off possibly his best season ever. Wickman’s sinking fastball has lost enough movement and speed over the last season in a half because of his surgically repaired elbow (2002 Tommy John Surgery) that his margin for error is growing smaller with every pitch he throws. The added weight Wickman continues to pack on can only hasten his demise.
If you aren’t an Indians’ fan and you haven’t been following the World Baseball Classic, then you might not realize how nasty Cabrera’s stuff is. Standing 6′ 4", Fernando is a towering presence a top the mound. His fastball reaches into the high-nineties, and sets up a menacing splitter that leaves most batters checking for holes in their bats. Cabrera had more than a cup of coffee for the big club last season after dominating at AAA Buffalo. He struck out 29 men for the Indians in a little over 30 innings while pitching to the tune of a 1.47 ERA. Don’t be surprised if Cabrera claims the closer role come May or June.
Drafted as an outfielder in 1996 at the age of 17, the Mariners converted Soriano into a pitcher in 1998 because of a cannon-like arm that threw in the high-nineties. By 2002 Soriano was one of the top prospects in baseball. He capped a brilliant year off by striking out 14 men and clinching the Texas League Championship for AA San Antonio.
In 2003 Soriano made his major league debut. After spending the first half of the season refining a hard slider to off-set his searing heat, Rafael went on a dominating roll after the All-Star break. He ended the year with 68 strikeouts in 53 innings while walking only 12 men. His ERA was a miniscule 1.53. It was just a matter of time before he became Seattle’s closer. Then 2004 came and elbow discomfort turned into ligament damage- the dreaded Tommy John surgery followed. Late last season Soriano finally made it back to the bigs, but he had yet to recover the sharp break on his slider and was only throwing in the low-nineties. In the quick-fix world of fantasy most owners forgot about him. Then, this winter Soriano began to regain the lost speed on his fastball, and now this spring the snap has returned to his hard slider. Once again the Mariners are grooming him as their closer of the future. The only thing standing in his way is 35 year old Eddie "Everyday" Guardado. Guardado’s shoulder and leg problems over the past couple of seasons have left a big question mark about his durability. Eddie is probably one DL stop away from being replaced as the closer permanently. If you wait till May it may be too late to grab Rafael, as fantasy owners are beginning to once again take notice of how special Soriano can be when healthy.
Carl The Cabbie