Digging Deeper into Closers: NL Central Bullpen Report

Mitchell Jacobs - RotoBaller

Welcome to the RotoBaller.com Preseason Bullpen Report. This edition features the National League Central. RotoBaller answers your closers questions here, and you can ask us anything else at our Ask Us Anything section of RotoBaller.com.

NL Central Bullpen Report

Cincinnati Reds

Presumed Closer: Jonathan Broxton

% Chance to start the season as closer: 100%
% Chance to be the closer at All-Star break: 85%

Broxton has 111 career saves, but in many of those, he made his manager sweat a little bit first. He will give up hits and runs, but he can get the job done. He holds a career 1.24 ERA and has been very solid as of late. That doesn't mean he will get a long leash, and manager Dusty Baker will not be afraid to pull the plug because he has a fair amount of alternate options.

Others to know: There is a lot to monitor in Cincinnati. First off and most importantly is Aroldis Chapman's transition to the rotation-- there are questions about how long he will stay there, and there have been murmurs of an innings limit. Chapman has 135 career IP including a career-high 71 IP in 2012. Assuming he performs well, he will exceed his career high just a few months into the season. In 2012, Chapman had one of the best seasons a closer could possibly have (38 S, 1.51 ERA and 0.91 WHIP). In April, we will find out how well Chapman makes the transition and should it fail to go according to plan, expect him to be right back into the role of closer, regardless of how Broxton performs. The other guy to watch is Sean Marshall; he gives Dusty much-needed versatility and a left-handed option.

Carlos Mármol Pitching 2009Chicago Cubs

Presumed Closer: Carlos Marmol

% Chance to start the season as closer: 45%
% Chance to be the closer at All-Star break: 9%

Marmol's name has been involved in many trade talks recently. He hasn't been the most stable of closers over the past couple of years, including 10 blown saves in 2011 and only 20 saves in 2012. He was also rumored to be traded much earlier in the offseason. Given those facts, there's a chance Marmol isn't even on the Opening Day roster, and it's fairly certain that he won't be there come mid-season.

Others to know: Kyuji Fujikawa is the likely candidate for closing duties and I wouldn't be shocked if he begins the season there. He saved 202 games for the Hanshin Tigers from 2007 to 2012, so he is not unfamiliar with the 9th inning role. Shawn Camp is another option, but don't count on him getting the call unless things get very ugly for the Cubs.

Milwaukee Brewers

Presumed Closer: John Axford

% Chance to start the season as closer: 90%
% Chance to be the closer at All-Star break: 80%

Axford got lit up a bit last season. However, he was granted every opportunity to close out games, and he ultimately finished with 35 saves. There is nothing to suggest he will get pulled from his closing duties because the options are slim behind him.

Others to know: Veteran lefty Mike Gonzalez looks to be next in line to close, something he hasn't done on a consistent basis since his time in Atlanta. He does own a career 2.94 ERA and has 56 career saves, so keep an eye on Milwaukee as the season progresses.

Jason GrilliPittsburgh Pirates

Presumed Closer: Jason Grilli

% Chance to start the season as closer: 100%
% Chance to be the closer at All-Star break: 80%

There is no data to suggest Grilli can’t be a full time closer. He is coming off of a great season in which he recorded 32 holds and hit career highs in strikeouts, games played and WHIP. These are all decent signs that Grilli could succeed. My concern would be the psychological makeup-- the expectations and the title could rattle the former first-round draft pick.

Others to know: The Pirates new setup man Mark Melancon is next in line to close. Melancon did a decent job in 2011 closing out some of the very few games in which Houston managed a late lead. He struggled in the Red Sox bullpen in 2012, but he is back in the NL and waiting for the call.

St. Louis Cardinals

Presumed Closer: Jason Motte

% Chance to start the season as closer: 100%
% Chance to be the closer at All-Star break: 100%

Motte was quietly one of the best closers in 2012, racking up 42 saves. He has a career 2.87 ERA and few flaws in his game. He will begin the season as the Cardinals closer and barring injury, he will finish the season in that role as well.

Others to know: Mitchell Boggs is next in line if Motte were to get injured. If Motte were to struggle, Edward Mujica would likely step in as closer leaving Boggs in the setup role where he shined last year. This is a situation where Motte would have to struggle mightily or get injured for anything to change as he is as locked-in as one can get as a closer.

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