We've looked at all the other closers across baseball so far. Now let's take a look at some NL Central closer situations.
National League Central Bullpens
St. Louis Cardinals
If I had to choose one young slinger to become an elite closer in 2014, my choice would be Trevor Rosenthal. The hard, snowball-throwing hurler proved at the end of last season and through the playoffs that he is fully capable of becoming one of the top closers in the league. Rosenthal struck out 108 batters in 75.1 innings with a 12.91 K/9 last year, and he could easily raise his K/9 this year with increased changeup usage. But if for some reason he cannot handle the closer’s role, or if your life needs to be this much more delusional, then one of these pitchers could fill in: Kevin Siegrist, Jason Motte (when healthy) or maybe Seth Maness. I don’t have a saves sleeper for this team because I think that Rosenthal will keep the job all year, though Jason Motte is hoping to be back in mid-March and would be the ultimate handcuff.
Jason Grilli will open up the 2014 season as the Pirates closer, but the big question is whether he will be able to finish it. Last year, I correctly predicted that he would not be able to hold up the entire year, and I can envision the same thing happening again. If you’re a Grilli owner, I hope that he doesn't get too cold and have to fly south. Grilli is 37 years old, so when he fades (and he will fade), then one of these guys could pitch the ninth: Mark Melancon, Tony Watson or Justin Wilson. Now, for my really dark horse sleeper for saves: Duke Welker. The Pirates traded Welker to Minnesota in the deal that involved Justin Morneau, but they liked Welker so much that they reacquired him in the offseason. Keep Welker’s name stored in your mind for the future.
Aroldis Chapman is the unquestionable closer for the Reds in 2014. Unless he gets injured, I see no reason to look at the pitchers next in line. But since I’m a charitable person, I will list a few of his possible replacements should he go down with an injury: Sean Marshall, J.J. Hoover, Sam LeCure or Jonathan Broxton (if healthy).
As long as Jim Henderson can stay effective, he has a good chance to keep the closer role this year. Henderson relies heavily on his high-90s fastball, which helped him reach a pretty stellar 11.25 K/9. Henderson pitched well for the Ice Cold Brew Crew last year, converting 28 saves after taking over for John Axford. Henderson’s main downfall is that he is prone to the longball. If Henderson loses the job or gets traded then one of these relief pitchers could step up: Francisco Rodriguez, Brandon Kintzler, Rob Wooten or Alfredo Figaro. K-Rod would most likely get the first crack, but it is always good to know the other possibilities.
On December 27th, the Cubs signed Jose Veras to a one-year deal. Recent reports indicate that the Cubs have named him their closer. One would assume that he'll get a decent leash, but he may have some tough competition with Pedro Strop if he falters. If you read any of my pieces last season, I very strongly touted Strop. I really like his stuff and believe he has the mentality to close. The main thing that worries me with Strop, though, is his control. If he can harness those issues, he could be a nice bargain in 2014. Should either Veras or Strop falter, then one of these pitchers could grab some cheap saves: Blake Parker, James Russell and Kyuji Fujikawa (in the second half).