Let's meet Sergio Santos, candidate to close (eventually)


At the moment, we can't definitively say who might close for the White Sox on Tuesday night in the unlikely event that Chicago holds a ninth inning lead at Minnesota. Mr. Pianowski discussed the Bobby Jenks(notes) situation in detail in Closing Time; the short version is that Jenks looks like a one-pitch reliever right now, and opposing batters are hitting .352 against him. After Sunday's blown save, Sox manager Ozzie Guillen offered this:

"Maybe in the next couple of days I might use somebody different to see Bobby regroup and come back to his form."

Matt Thornton(notes) is obviously a dominant set-up man, but he's also the only credible left-handed reliever in Chicago's bullpen. In any case, he was drafted in most competitive fantasy leagues and he's now 63 percent-owned, so you can't simply go add him. The White Sox 'pen is littered with near-closers and ex-closers, so it's possible that one of them — JJ Putz(notes), perhaps — could get a one-game trial.

But I'm not going to recommend any of those names until we're sure they're in line for consistent save opportunities. Instead, the player I'll push is Sergio Santos(notes), a reliever who (like Thornton) can help you regardless of his real-life responsibilities. In Chicago, Santos isn't really considered a "dark horse" closer candidate, as he's often described in the fantasy community. He appears to simply be the future closer … but we don't know if that era begins tomorrow, or in 2011.

Like a few other successful closers (Rafael Soriano(notes) and Carlos Marmol(notes), for example), Santos is a converted position player with a mid to high-90s fastball. He gets serious movement on his pitches, he's struck out 16 hitters in 12.1 innings, and he's held opposing batters to one of the lowest contact-percentages in baseball. (Link to sortable leader board. The only names ahead of Santos on the list are Marmol, Jose Contreras(notes) and Carlos Villanueva(notes)). His stuff is of the highest quality; his current ratios are ridiculous (0.73 ERA, 0.81 WHIP). Santos may not inherit the ninth inning this week, but the 26-year-old right-hander fits the profile and he can assist a fantasy rotation whether he's saving games or not. The Sox haven't used him in many high-leverage situations, which means he'd have to leapfrog several vets in the bullpen hierarchy to get the closing gig.

Pitching coach Don Cooper recently told MLB.com's Scott Merkin that the team would like to get Santos "more and more into prime-time action," although he didn't specify the inning. Merkin speculated that "Santos legitimately could get the call" in the ninth. He's only two percent-owned. (Santos, not Merkin). He's a terrific speculative add while you wait for this situation to resolve itself.

You just know that Lou Piniella is looking at this mess, wondering why Guillen didn't name Jake Peavy(notes) his closer three weeks ago at the first sign of trouble.


Photo via Getty Images

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