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03/21/2007 2:15 PM ET
Relievers playing the in-waiting game
Some setup men could be closing in the near future

 Ask Rotoman
 Peter Kreutzer


Fireballer Joel Zumaya could step in as Detroit's closer if incumbent Todd Jones stumbles.  (Getty Images)

Question 1: COMPARE

Dear Rotoman:

I'm having a hard time choosing a backup third baseman behind Garrett Atkins. There are three quality players left to choose from: Joe Crede, Mark Teahan and the rookie, Alex Gordon. What's your take on these three?

"3-4-3rd"

Dear 3rd:

Last year, in a 12-team mixed roto league, Crede earned $10, Teahen $7 and Gordon zilch (unless you play in a Double-A fantasy league -- in which case he would have been very good).

This year, I've assigned bid prices of $15 for Teahen and $14 each for Gordon and Crede. Bid prices aren't projections (for those, I have Teahen at $16, Gordon at $15 and Crede at $14), though they take into account what a player's projected stats will be worth. They also fold in an evaluation of risk and upside potential.

In my mind, overall, I see your three third basemen as being pretty equal, but when I read those names, I don't feel that way. Maybe a closer look will help us figure out which of these guys will be best for you ...

Joe Crede

What's to like: He has the longest history as a regular of these three and is coming off his best year. He's got good power and is an excellent third baseman.

What's not to like: A good bit of his extra value last year came from a bump up in his batting average, which he is unlikely to sustain. He has two herniated disks in his back, which he is trying to rehab with strength conditioning rather than surgery.

Summary: He's earned as much as $10 only once in the past five seasons and is an injury risk.

Maek Teahen

What's to like: This once-touted prospect shook off a stumble at the Major League level in 2005 and a bad start in 2006 to emerge as a patient power-hitting third baseman by the end of last season. With the move to the outfield, he'll have multi-position eligibility this year. And he's just 25.

What's not to like: Moving to the outfield has to be a distraction (though he's hitting up a storm in Spring Training so far), and his chronically sore shoulder isn't going to help him.

Summary: He's at a good age to continue to develop.

Alex Gordon

What's to like: In the Minor Leagues, he showed patience, bat control, good speed and power. He's got the whole package and is expected to soon be one of the best hitters in the game.

What's not to like: He's played one season of professional ball at Double-A and hasn't been tested at the Major League level. Plus, he isn't thought to be as good of a third baseman as Teahen.

Summary: If he's ready, he's clearly the cream of these three. That's why I would take him over the other guys. But the risk is that if he starts slowly, he'll be dropped to Triple-A for a while.

Conclusion

You have a good third baseman in Atkins, and assuming you don't really need Teahen's eligibility in the outfield, I'd go with Gordon. He's riskier than Teahen, but because of his speed and overwhelming talent, there's a chance he'll be way better right off the bat.

Pun intended,
Rotoman


Question 2: PROJECTION

Rotoman:

I'm in a new keeper league this year. We will be able to keep five players at the end of the year. With the last pick of the draft, what are your thoughts on taking Francisco Liriano? I know he won't play this year, but what is his value as a keeper?

"Leery"

Dear Leery:

I looked at starters who missed a whole season when they were young after having some success at an earlier age. The results are not encouraging.

Vinegar Bend Mizell, a lefty, spent most of his career with the Cardinals in the 1950s. He missed both his age-24 and age-25 seasons, but as a 26-year-old, Sporting News named his fastball as one of the best in the game. He had modest success for the next few years before eventually becoming a U.S. congressperson. Something for Liriano to aspire to, perhaps.

Righty Art Houtteman debuted as an 18-year-old with the Tigers and was the only pitcher in the group who was an All-Star the year before the one he missed -- just like Liriano. Houtteman missed his age-22 season to serve in the military, and though he pitched well after his return, he never had another All-Star campaign.

Lefty Johnny Podres' best pitch was a changeup, and his most successful season came the year after he sat out.

Righty Hal Reniff, who debuted as a 22-year-old, spent much of the two years after he sat out in the Minors but went on to have a fine career.

Finally, there is Carlos Perez, brother of Melido and Pasqual and another lefty who had success as a 23-year-old. Carlos missed his age-24 season and followed it up with a few years of very effective pitching.

Three of these five guys are lefties, but that wasn't part of the criteria I used. In sum, few players have gone on to have much success after missing a developmental year. The fantasy lesson is that Liriano probably isn't a good keeper this year. Still, how can you resist taking him with the last pick?

Realistically,
Rotoman


Question 3: THE BIG ONE

Dear Rotoman:

Could you list some closers-in-waiting such as Jonathan Broxton, Akinori Otsuka etc.?

"The Closer You Look"

Dear Closer:

Here's a guide to the Major League bullpens, with an eye on weak spots and the guys who may do the job if asked.

Baltimore: Chris Ray had a fine year but has to prove he can do it again. Durability was an issue last season. Danys Baez is waiting for him to fail.

Boston: Joel Pineiro may not be able to do the job. Mike Timlin is on the disabled list. Julian Tavarez can fold at any time. Craig Hansen isn't ready. Brendan Donnelly may be the best pitcher in this group, but he doesn't have the best stuff. I'm waiting for Jonathan Papelbon -- or a trade.

Chicago AL: Bobby Jenks is the guy -- unless he gets hurt or struggles (both are possibilities), in which case Mike MacDougal gets the nod.

Cleveland: Joe Borowski is hardly a sure thing. Roberto Hernandez has the history, but Rafael Betancourt is the guy with a future.

Detroit: Todd Jones is the closer, but is Joel Zumaya really in waiting (he's hitting 102 on the gun this spring and has added a back-breaking changeup)? Oddly enough, if Jones goes, Fernando Rodney could close, with Zumaya continuing to set up.

Kansas City: Octavio Dotel has had problems closing, which is why Todd Wellemeyer should be considered. David Riske could surprise.

Los Angeles AL: Francisco Rodriguez is the man, but Scot Shields has value even in 5x5 leagues.

Minnesota: Joe Nathan has been the American League's best, but Jesse Crain is worthy of 4x4 roster slot.

New York AL: Mariano Rivera is beginning to appear human, which makes Kyle Farnsworth a closer-in-waiting. Scott Proctor looked good last year, but Luis Vizcaino is the more reliable deep backup.

Oakland: Huston Street is one of the best. Justin Duchscherer's elbow continues to bother him, so Kiko Calero is the better choice.

Seattle: If J.J. Putz's stumbles. George Sherrill -- though struggling this spring -- can get lefties out, and Chris Reitsma can handle righties. Both are waiver-wire pickups.

Tampa Bay: Seth McClung is struggling. The most talented guy in the 'pen is Al Reyes, and Chad Orvella has long worn the future-closer mantle.

Texas: Eric Gagne just threw in his first game on Tuesday, but he's a risk to break down, which is one reason why Akinora Otsuka has value. The other is that Otsuka is trade bait.

Toronto: B.J. Ryan has had a sore back this spring. Brandon League will probably start the year on the DL with a strained back muscle, but he should be the setup guy by mid-April.

Arizona: Jose Valverde could be an excellent closer, or he could give way to Jorge Julio, who has done it before, albeit unspectacularly.

Atlanta: Bob Wickman is the incumbent. Mike Gonzalez certainly has the skill and is worth a relief job, even as a setup guy.

Chicago NL: Ryan Dempster is the improbable closer, and Bobby Howry is better suited to set up. Kerry Wood has to be considered, though he'll start the year on the DL.

Cincinnati: Could David Weathers really be the closer again? Todd Coffey is the closer of the future, and a revived Dustin Hermanson is the dark horse.

Colorado: Rockies closers usually don't last, so Brian Fuentes is suspect. LaTroy Hawkins is the setup guy, but Manuel Corpas and Jeremy Affeldt are in waiting.

Florida: Shoulder tendinitis has kept Taylor Tankersley out of spring games so far. Kevin Gregg has the most experience but isn't dominant. Which brings us to two wild cards: Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens. Get them cheap.

Houston: Brad Lidge is likely to be the closer all year, but rostering a cheap Dan Wheeler would be good insurance.

Los Angeles NL: Takashi Saito is healthy. Jonathan Broxton is an exciting young talent who could step in and do the job.

Milwaukee: Francisco Cordero is the closer. Former fireman Derrick Turnbow is having a good spring after a woeful 2006 season.

New York NL: Behind Billy Wagner this year, Aaron Heilman is the one to roster. Though given Heilman's tendinitis, Pedro Feliciano is worthy, too.

Philadelphia: Tom Gordon's history and current forearm and elbow pains are good reason to pick up Ryan Madson (though he's not as polished as he should be).

Pittsburgh: Salomon Torres holds a place for this spring's hot topic, Matt Capps, who's the guy for 2008.

St. Louis: Jason Isringhausen is coming back from a hip injury. If he stumbles, look for starter Adam Wainwright to return to the closer role.

San Diego: Trevor Hoffman must be infinity years old, which is why trade bait Scott Linebrink has draft value.

San Francisco: There's been lots of trade talk involving Armando Benitez, which is why Brian Wilson is an excellent pickup for cheap, a big risk for real money.

Washington: Chad Cordero is the closer until he's traded, with Luis Ayala behind him for now.

Until next time,
Rotoman

Send your toughest fantasy questions to Rotoman.

Ask Rotoman appears weekly on MLB.com. For more insight, go to http://www.askrotoman.com

This story was not subject to approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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