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Closer Watch: Who Will Get Saves for Braves?

November 30, 2009 | by RotoRob | Comments (4)
Eric_O'Flaherty could be a sleeper for the Atlanta Braves in 2010.
Depending on how things shake out this winter, Eric O’Flaherty (left) could be a very valuable reliever in 2010.

The possibility exists that the Atlanta Braves will lose both Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez to free agency this winter, begging the question who will be earning saves for the Braves in 2010?

Soriano could be headed to the Yankees, but if not, it might be Gonzalez headed there. Gonzalez could also find his way back to Pittsburgh. Either way, it’s quite conceivable they will both be gone from Atlanta.

Billy Wagner’s name has been thrown around as a possible solution, and the veteran reliever certainly proved he was healthy late last year, looking untouchable. He’d come fairly cheaply and has a proven track record.

But if Atlanta can’t land Wagner or another closing candidate through free agency, what about its internal candidates?

Peter Moylan would be the top remaining right-handed reliever, and while I have reported previously about how impressed I was with him, I’m not sure there’s any upside here. Assuming Gonzalez is gone, the Braves’ top lefty remaining will be Eric O’Flaherty – an arm that intrigues me as a closer possibility.

He’s got a bit of experience earning saves in the minors, but mostly in the low minors, earlier in his career. However, his fastball/slider combination and ability to keep the ball in the park interests me. O’Flaherty is a dominant type (although he did average a K per inning at Triple-A in 2008), but he I think he’s got much more potential than simply being a LOOGY type.

Yes, he is nasty against lefties (they hit just .215 against him last year), but it’s not as if he can’t get righties out, limiting them to a 676 OPS last year. That’s not bad, and it stands to reason that this 24-year-old has room to grow in that department.

O’Flaherty originally caught our eye when the Mariners called him up early in 2007 http://www.rotorob.com/2007/04/25/mariner-mound-misery/, but it wasn’t until this season that he finally settled in as a legitimate major league reliever, enjoying a career year in his first season in Atlanta. The kid’s groundball rates just keep improving (0.67 in 2006, 0.86 in 2007, 1.00 in 2008 and 1.25 this year), a trend that will serve him well as a contact pitcher.

He was somewhat inconsistent in the first half, but O’Flaherty really settled into a groove from July on.

Much can happen between now and Opening Day, but come Spring Training, O’Flaherty is a name that you should be tracking if the closer competition remains open. Another internal, albeit more of a dark horse candidate worth thinking about is minor leaguer Craig Kimbrel, a closer who soared through the system this year despite his serious control issues. In two pro seasons, he’s averaging 15 K/9, but also 5.7 BB/9.

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Free Agency Report: NL, Part X

March 3, 2009 | by RotoRob | Comments (2)
The World Champion Phillies think they will be stronger with Raul Ibanez instead of Pat Burrell in left field. Spring Training is officially underway, and all is right with the world again. That means it’s time for us to step up our baseball coverage, starting with the completion of our free agent report. Miss a section? [...]
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Monday Morning Musings Before NHL Trade Deadline

March 2, 2009 | by TSM | Comments (0)
Over the next couple of days, Brian Burke’s legacy as GM of the Leafs will begin to form. It’s a frosty Monday morning, folks. It’s a blustery -15 C here in Toronto. The only place it may be colder is on Brian Burke’s cellphone. There are numerous theories out there this morning as to what is [...]
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Free Agency Report: National League, Part X

February 24, 2009 | by RotoRob | Comments (5)
Is Jerry Manuel putting a gun to his own head by shifting Jose Reyes out of the leadoff spot? Oh, baby! Spring Training games start Wednesday – meaning that in less than 24 hours, we’re going to be checking out boxscores. It doesn’t get any sweeter than that. Well, except checking out boxscores while being hand-fed [...]
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Free Agency Report: National League, Part IX

February 21, 2009 | by RotoRob | Comments (8)
C.C. Sabathia was the ultimate hired gun for the Brewers, and although they really did try to bring him back, the Yanks gave him 161 million reasons to bolt. Spring Training is underway and we’ll have actual boxscores to peruse come Wednesday! How sweet is that? With that in mind, we push forward with our Free [...]
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