The single most asked question I have received this past week has to do with the closer’s situation in St. Louis, where 38-year-old Ryan Franklin has blown four of five save opportunities and has been eased out of the role, at least temporarily.
While plenty of others have already weighed in on this situation, I would stack up my knowledge of the subject against anyone simply because I cover the Cardinals organization for a living. I know the players and the coaches and believe I can read the tea leaves as well as anyone.
That doesn’t mean I am sitting down with Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan in their internal meetings, however. Anything could happen.
Having gotten that out of the way, here is how I see the situation from here on out.
Mitchell Boggs: The right-hander is the current favorite for saves and if he executes flawlessly, can hold the job. Chances are good that he will experience some bumps, however. The right-hander is now 27 years old and has two partial and one full major league campaign under his belt. While a starter in the minors, Boggs was a reliever at the University of Georgia and knows what it takes to do the job. The fastball-slider pitcher has not been particularly effective against left-handed hitters but after one successful save, may have the job to lose.
Eduardo Sanchez: 22-year-old rookies don’t close games for Tony La Russa-managed teams. Having said that, I was very disappointed I was beaten for Sanchez’ services on a tie-breaker in Monday FAAB bidding in National League Tout Wars. With a better than nine strikeouts per nine innings track record, mid-90’s heat, a good slider, control and an unflappable demeanor, Sanchez could compete for the job in 2012.
Jason Motte: Like Boggs, the hard-throwing Motte had an opportunity to take the job the last time Franklin faltered, but was not ready. While the short-arming Motte, a former catcher, can bring the heat approaching 100 mph, his pitches lack movement and he has yet to master an effective secondary pitch. Though Motte was considered by many outsiders the likely successor to Franklin, I predict a Kyle Farnsworth-type career is ahead.
Trever Miller: As noted above, Boggs is not great against lefties and we all know La Russa’s love of matchups. Enter the left-handed specialist Miller, who may pick up a few saves along the way.
Miguel Batista: The 40-year-old is the kind of pitcher La Russa loves. He can start and he can relieve, though does none of them with particular distinction. Batista could stumble into a save or two but should be ignored in every format.
Ryan Franklin: Don’t forget about him. Despite all the misfortune, La Russa is loyal to his guys, to a fault at times. I predict the Jason Isringhausen plan will be followed. Though it won’t happen right away, Franklin will be eased back into higher leverage situations and if he can handle them, he will see the ninth inning in close games again this season.
In conclusion: Boggs is the man to have for now, with Sanchez the target for keeper leagues. If you are a gambler, pick up Franklin for ten cents on the dollar and stash him away. Keep an eye on Motte and ignore the others.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 13-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC that season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.