The road to fifth place is lined with closers of the future, but Yoo-Hoo showers are often borne from the discovery of bargain closers. Enter Matt Lindstrom, who picked up five saves this past September and now becomes the prohibitive favorite to own the Marlins closer job entering 2009 following the trade of Kevin Gregg to the Cubs. Lindstrom complements an upper-90s fastball with an overhand curve, and has fanned 7.6 batters per nine innings while allowing only three homers in 124.1 innings so far in his young career, so he could see immediate success in the role.
-- Cory Schwartz, Host, MLB.com Fantasy 411
The Gregg trade may not have dazzled Cubs fans, but it definitely put Lindstrom on the draft day radar for 2009. He will be the closer for a Marlins team that won 84 games this past season and might even get better if the rotation develops and the infield continues to mash. With the help provided by a good pitcher's park, Lindstrom will be a fantastic choice for a third closer and may end up being a solid number two.
-- Mike Siano, Host, MLB.com Fantasy 411
With the departure of Gregg to Chicago, the Marlins closer job clearly belongs to Lindstrom, and there's nothing in his short track record that suggests he can't handle the new role. Lindstrom finished 2008 in dominant fashion, posting a 1.86 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP after the All-Star break while converting all five of his save opportunities. His '08 K/9 rate of 6.75 is, for a closer, a bit of a concern, but his ability to generate grounders and keep the ball in the park will help him avoid the disaster outings. He isn't exactly someone fantasy owners should actively pursue heading into draft day '09, but Lindstrom could provide solid value as a low-end second or high-end third closer.
-- Zach Steinhorn, Blog Producer, MLB.com Fantasy 411
By acquiring Gregg from the Marlins last week, the Cubs all but waved goodbye to free-agent closer Kerry Wood. That leaves Carlos Marmol as the clear-cut favorite to assume the fireman job in 2009, with Gregg likely to take over his old role of setup man. When you consider that Marmol leads all relievers with 210 strikeouts over the last two seasons, it's no wonder the Cubs seem OK with letting Wood walk. With Wood out of the picture, look for Marmol to establish himself as one of the National League's top closers.
-- Alex Cushing, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy
Over the last two years, Marmol has been one of the filthiest setup men in the game, fanning 210 batters in 156 2/3 innings. Now, he'll have a chance to become the elite closer the Cubs believe he can be. The lanky right-hander was effectively handed the job after Chicago opted not to sign Wood and traded for Gregg. Marmol, who owns a career .185 batting average against, is in prime position to start piling up the saves. The Cubs have put their faith in the hard-throwing 26-year-old. His body of work would indicate they made the right choice.
-- Matt Chaprales, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy
After taking a back seat to Brad Ziegler aka Ziggy Stardust in Oakland, a trade to the Rockies makes Huston Street the favorite for saves in Mile High country. This is a good thing. With Brian Fuentes likely headed elsewhere as a free agent, Street will have every opportunity to rediscover his dominant form of yore and pull a Brad Lidge with a change of scenery -- even with former closer Manny Corpas still on the Rox roster.
-- Dave Feldman, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy
With Josh Willingham no longer taking up a starting spot in the Marlins outfield, Cameron Maybin will get the opportunity to flash his skills in South Florida. The 21-year-old doesn't have much experience above the Class A level, but he showed improved patience with 60 walks and a .375 OBP in 108 games for Double-A Carolina in '08, and the cost-conscious Marlins are known for giving their young talent the chance to start. Unless he struggles royally in Spring Training, the multitalented Maybin will likely be the man in center for the Marlins in '09.
-- Tim Ott, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy
You have to believe that Florida's recent decision to deal Willingham was due much in part to the late-season emergence and bright future of Maybin, who batted .500 with four steals and nine runs in 32 at-bats after being recalled on Sept. 17. True, Maybin didn't tally a single game above Double-A in his three-year stint on the farm, but the former first-round pick torched his way through high school ball in North Carolina and has consistently been ranked among Baseball America's top outfield prospects. He'll more than likely get the Opening Day nod in center field and figures to thrive at the top of a youthful Marlins lineup in '09.
-- Corey Gottlieb, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy
The move from a notorious pitcher's park in Oakland to the thin air in Colorado could spell a power boom for Gonzalez. Oakland's McAfee Coliseum has ranked just 16th and 18th in double and home run rates, respectively, over the last five years. Compared to Coors Field's sixth-place ranking in both categories, it's reasonable to assume Gonzalez -- who compiled four homers and 22 doubles in just 302 at-bats last season -- could approach 20-25 home runs and 40 doubles in a full-time role. The 23-year-old might never have reached his full offensive potential in Oakland, but his newfound home in Colorado could make him a fantasy star.
-- Kyle Stack, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy
Let's go off the grid and talk about Colorado outfielder Ryan Spilborghs. With the trade of Matt Holliday and the likely trade of Willy Taveras, Spilborghs will have a leg up on his younger competition for playing time. While the 29-year-old will have to fend off Dexter Fowler and Gonzalez, he has shown to be quite capable when given an opportunity and with a hot start, Spilborghs could wind up earning full-time status. With his excellent plate patience and good contact rate, the odds are favorable that Spilborghs starts the season off strong and with 600 plate appearances, he is capable of 20-25 homers and 12-15 stolen bases, wrapped around a .300 batting average.
-- Todd Zola, Correspondent, MLB.com Fantasy
Nick Swisher's cross-country move to don Yankee pinstripes puts him in position to benefit most of any player affected by the offseason trades thus far. The versatile switch-hitter, who is coming off a season in which he hit a career-worst .219, has the energy and makeup to shine in the Big Apple. Word out of New York is that Swisher will likely be the team's regular first baseman, but what will really shape his fantasy value is where he hits in the lineup. A return to 30-plus homers with 90-plus RBIs and a .250 batting average are all realistic expectations in 2009 for Swisher.
-- Matt Kerner, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy