Poll: Saving the day

It is the one late gamble by a fantasy owner that can be the difference between winning the league and coming in last place. The leap of faith often revolves around saves. Our MLB Publishers voted on the players most likely to secure 30 saves this season - coming out out of nowhere to reach that number. So, forget the Mariano Rivera's and Frankie Rodriguez' - think, Kansas City Royals?

Octavio Dotel, Kansas City Royals: 38 (6)
Joel Zumaya, Detroit Tigers: 21 (3)
Taylor Tankersley, Florida Marlins: 18 (1)
Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers: 11 (1)
Kerry Wood, Chicago Cubs: 9 (1)
Brendan Donnelly, Boston Red Sox: 8 (1)
Salomon Torres, Pittsburgh Pirates: 4
Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants: 3
Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants: 2
Matt Lindstrom, Florida Marlins: 1
Akinori Otsuka, Texas Rangers: 1
Eric Gagne, Texas Rangers: 1

Given the small sample size and high leverage situations they perform in, it's no surprise that relievers can be the flakiest players on the team. While some teams are lucky enough to have a reliever they can rely on to rack up the lion's share of saves, many jobs are up for grabs. Fantasy players, take note - three pitchers stand out above all the others as candidates to come out of nowhere and notch 30 saves.

It's easy to see why Dotel tops the list. Teammates Joel Peralta and David Riske have their uses, but nobody in Kansas City's pen matches his upside. Despite sitting out the majority of 2006 recovering from Tommy John surgery, and showing very little in a late audition for the Yankees' playoff roster, the closer's job is his to lose. Given that the Royals are paying him closer money, you can forgive them for being optimistic that he will be one of the lucky TJ survivors that come back stronger in year two.

The Royals even gave Dotel a vote of confidence with the trades of Ambiorix Burgos and Andy Sisco, who were the only relievers on last year's squad with legitimate closer upside. If this truly is the year that Alex Gordon and Billy Butler make their major league debuts, the Royals should even have a few more save opportunities than they are used to.

The Detroit Tigers' bullpen is not nearly as shallow as the Royals. Todd Jones is the nominal closer heading into the season, but he turns 39-years old in April and struck out less than four batters per 9 innings last year. Joel Zumaya, on the other hand, may only be 22-years old, but his electric fastball vaulted him to star status in his rookie season. It's hard to imagine anyone watch Zumaya set-up Jones and come away with the impression that Jones is still the better pitcher. Jim Leyland will stay loyal to his veterans to a point, but, in the ultra-competitive AL Central, mistakes like this can cost you a playoff berth.

The Florida Marlins have a plethora of talented arms, but most of them are vying for slots in the starting rotation. Among the bullpen arms, Taylor Tankersley has the inside track for the closer's job. He has all the goods - good command of a low-90's fastball, no major platoon splits, and a demonstrated ability to miss bats at the highest level. There is a bias against using lefties in the closer's role, but the Marlins know that Tankersley could emerge as the next B.J. Ryan.

All MLB publishers contributed as the panel of voters. First place was awarded five points, second place awarded three and third place received one.

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