NL Focus: Ranking the bullpens
By SN correspondents - SportingNews
In preparation for spring training, Sporting News correspondents examine position situations for every team. Today's focus is on National League bullpens.
RHP Salomon Torres, LHP John Grabow, RHP Matt Capps, LHP Damaso Marte, RHP Dan Kolb
Editor's note: evaluations made before closer Mike Gonzalez was traded to Atlanta. Torres is an underrated workhorse who proved he can close games.
LHP Billy Wagner, RHP Aaron Heilman, RHP Duaner Sanchez, LHP Scott Schoeneweis, RHP Ambiorix Burgos
Wagner and Heilman are formidable, but Sanchez (shoulder) is a question mark and RHP Guillermo Mota was suspended for the first 50 games. Burgos can be a key figure if he gains control.
RHP Trevor Hoffman, RHP Scott Linebrink, RHP Cla Meredith, RHP Heath Bell, LHP Royce Ring
Hoffman anchors a back end that's the equal of any in the game. Bell's power could be an excellent complement to Meredith's finesse.
RHP Takashi Saito, RHP Jonathan Broxton, RHP Brett Tomko, RHP Elmer Dessens, LHP Joe Beimel
Saito was an unexpected savior last season. Beimel was particularly effective as a situational lefthander. Displaced starters LHPs Mark Hendrickson and Hong-Chih Kuo provide depth.
RHP Francisco Cordero, RHP Derrick Turnbow, RHP Jose Capellan, RHP Matt Wise, LHP Brian Shouse
The power of Cordero, Turnbow and Capellan is complemented by changeup specialist Wise and lefthanded specialist Shouse. Capellan has closer potential.
RHP Jason Isringhausen, RHP Braden Looper, RHP Josh Kinney, LHP Randy Flores, LHP Tyler Johnson
If Isringhausen (hip) is healthy, this is an excellent group. Johnson could take a huge step forward; he has excellent stuff and showed great poise in the playoffs.
RHP Brad Lidge, RHP Dan Wheeler, RHP Chad Qualls, RHP Dave Borkowski, LHP Trever Miller
The back end of Qualls, Wheeler and Lidge is expected to be a strength. Wheeler will close if Lidge struggles; manager Phil Garner likes Wheeler's aggressiveness and ability to throw strikes.
RHP Bob Wickman, RHP Rafael Soriano, RHP Tyler Yates, LHP Macay McBride, RHP Chad Paronto
Wickman and Soriano form a reliable late-inning duo. Once RHP Tanyon Sturtze (shoulder) is healthy, he'll join McBride and Yates in middle relief.
RHP Ryan Dempster, RHP Bob Howry, LHP Scott Eyre, LHP Neal Cotts, LHP Will Ohman
Howry could step in as the closer if Dempster falters. Eyre was more successful against righthanders last season. RHP Kerry Wood (shoulder) is the X-factor.
RHP Chad Cordero, RHP Jon Rauch, RHP Luis Ayala, RHP Ryan Wagner, LHP Ray King
This probably is the Nationals' biggest strength. Wagner is poised for a breakout and might be the new closer if Cordero is traded. Ayala is coming off elbow surgery.
LHP Brian Fuentes, RHP LaTroy Hawkins, LHP Jeremy Affeldt, RHP Ramon Ramirez, RHP Manny Corpas
Fuentes is a two-time All-Star closer. Affeldt got away from using his plus curve at times last season. Ramirez and Corpas have bright futures.
RHP Tom Gordon, RHP Geoff Geary, RHP Ryan Madson, LHP Matt Smith, LHP Fabio Castro
The team needs to add a veteran setup man with the ability to cover for Gordon, who had shoulder problems last season. Everybody else in this group lacks consistency or experience.
RHP Jose Valverde, RHP Brandon Lyon, RHP Tony Pena, RHP Jorge Julio, LHP Doug Slaten
There is a lot of power here. Valverde is expected to start out as the closer, but he has been inconsistent the past two years and could be supplanted by Pena.
RHP Armando Benitez, RHP Brian Wilson, LHP Steve Kline, RHP Kevin Correia, LHP Jack Taschner
Benitez or Wilson will close, depending on Benitez's health. It's vital for Kline to improve his conditioning. Taschner must rebound from an off year. RHP Tim Worrell's retirement won't hurt.
RHP David Weathers, RHP Todd Coffey, LHP Mike Stanton, RHP Gary Majewski, LHP Bill Bray
The unit is deep in the middle and may boast three or four lefthanders, which could provide matchup advantages. The club believes Bray has closer potential.
LHP Taylor Tankersley, RHP Matt Lindstrom, LHP Renyel Pinto, RHP Kevin Gregg, RHP Sergio Mitre
A number of quality but untested arms will get shots to win jobs. Tankersley and Lindstrom will be closer candidates if the club can't acquire a veteran.
From SN so take it as you will, but this brings up a thought, will wagner end up being the biggest piece of "The Trade" to haunt us. Although I am not completely decided on "The Trade" itself, could wagner have been the answer to our closer question, I think just as possible as Coffey or Bray really, but I always felt he had the "stuff" to be a good closer. And Rank 'em.
4. Cubs (I believe Kerry Wood will close, if otherwise they drop about 6 spots
16. Giants (Worrell retiring, if not flip-flop them and Marlins)