BallparkBob  has always believed that a solid bullpen is one of the keys to success in Fantasy Baseball. Usually, everybody has one solid closer and a second one who is pretty good too. Getting that third closer is the key to winning the category. 

Here’s nine relief pitchers who have been newly dubbed as closers for the 2008 season or who are ready for a breakout season compared to last year.

1.  Brandon Lyon, Arizona Diamondbacks — Lyon, 27, has been dubbed as Arizona’s closer for the new season. Given the strong starting pitching staff that the Diamondbacks have, the Salt Lake City native was going to be given plenty of save opportunities in 2008. Lyon is not an overpowering closer with 218 K’s in 356 career innings with the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, and, of course, the D-Backs. He spent his first two years in Toronto as a starter and was converted to the bullpen with Boston.  In 2005, he saved 15 games in his first year with Arizona. Bingo, now Lyon is the closer for the D-Backs.

2.  George Sherrill, Baltimore Orioles — The lefty Sherrill was acquired in the Erik Bedard trade from the Seattle Mariners and was just named as the O’s closer. Sherrill, 30, spent the last three years in middle relief in Seattle where he appeared in 195 games with a 10-8, 3.65. He struck out 138 in 128 innings and had a 1.23 WHIP. Sherrill was primarily used in Seattle as a situational lefty and is in his first role as a closer with Baltimore. Unfortunately, the Orioles play in a tough division with an improved Rays team and Sherrill may not get all that many chances to close games.

3.  Kerry Wood, Chicago Cubs — If you haven’t followed baseball closely the past year, you may be surprised to see Wood listed among relief pitchers. Right, it’s the same Kerry Wood who once struckout 20 in a single game! But, Wood has had continued right arm and shoulder problems, but has worked out hard at home, and a move to short relief will surely prolong the talented Wood’s career. The Cubs’ Ryan Dempster has moved to the starting rotation to allow Wood to close at Wrigley. He’s done a great job this spring with allowing no walks and one run in his last nine appearances. If Wood has more arm problems, the Cubs’ Carlos Marmol is a great addition as a setup man and might get the save opportunities as the season progresses.

4.  Eric Gagne, Milwaukee Brewers — Yes, this is the same scowling reliever with the Los Angeles Dodgers who saved 152 games from 2002 - 04. Gagne had 16 saves and a 2.16 ERA last year with the Texas Rangers before being shipped to Boston where he couldn’t cut it. The Brewers picked up the Quebec native and he’s poised to rack up a lot more saves for a good Milwaukee teams this season.

5.  Rafael Soriano, Atlanta Braves — Gone are Octavio Dotel and Bob Wickman, leaving the bullpen door open for Soriano as the Braves' closer. The 27-year-old Dominican emerged as the Braves closer after a solid season last year that saw him rack up a 0.86 WHIP and holding opposing batters to a .181 average in 72 innings of work.  Soriano has hit 94 MPH in spring training and appears to have found the perfect home after six seasons in Seattle.

6.  Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals — Soria is a bit of a surprise as a closer in that he doesn’t throw that hard, but he gets people out. He had an impressive 2007 season with a 2.48 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and 75 K’s in 69 innings pitched while holding opposing hitters to a .187 average and earning 17 saves.  The 6′3″ native of Mexico is solidly positioned as the improved Royals closer in 2008.

7.  Manny Corpas, Colorado Rockies — Corpas, a native of Panama City, Panama, same as Mariano Rivera, took over as the Rockies closer after three time all-star Brian Fuentes went down with an injury last July 7. Corpas converted on his first 16 save opportunities and recorded a 2.08 ERA–lowest ever for a Colorado pitcher. We all know the Rockies are on a roll since last year and Fuentes came back from  his injury, did not pout, and put up excellent numbers with a 1.52 ERA in his last 24 games last year. Clearly, however, the amazing Corpas has retained the closer’s role.

8.  Jeremy Accardo, Toronto Blue Jays — Accardo posted a 30 save season last year while B.J. Ryan was out with an injury. Accardo will start the season as the Jays closer, but Ryan appears to be on the road back to recovery from Tommy John surgery and could be back in the lineup by April 13. Given Ryan’s $7 million salary, FBD suspects he’ll get the closer job back when he returns.

9.  Tom “Flash” Gordon — The aging Gordon is not the dominating pitcher that he once was, but as the Philadelphia Phillies open the 2008 season, Flash is the designated closer, at least until Brad Lidge returns. Lidge will miss at least the first five games, but remember that the free agent Lidge injured both knees so who knows?

Remember, two closers are better than one and three are even better than two.  Rack up saves with your relief pitching corpse–it’s the easiest fantasy baseball category to win.

BallparkBob is the editor of Fantasy Baseball Dugout which provides free fantasy baseball tips to fans everywhere.

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