2013 Fantasy Baseball: The Week 14 Closer Report
Jonathan Papelbon and the Philadelphia Phillies may need to work up some new dance moves. He’s struggled this week and there are signs he might be in trouble. And for fantasy owners, there is the chance he’s dealt at the deadline. Kevin Gregg could also see himself the train out of town at the deadline. Those pens offer a dearth of options if either of those closers are dealt. Is there anything to see in those pens? Read on…
Jonathan Papelbon has blown saves in three of his last four appearances. Is there cause for concern? Yes. Is there a viable alternative in the Phillies bullpen? Likely not. Papelbon’s velocity is down across the board. From 2006 to 2012, Papelbon’s average fastball hung around 95 mph. He saw it dip just below 94 mph (93.8) last season. This year? He’s down to 92.5 mph. There is no mention of an injury, but something has changed. And recall, the Phillies have over $30M left on Papelbon’s deal. So, it would behoove the Phils to find a trading partner for the 32 year old Papelbon.
Mike Adams would have been the clear handcuff to Papelbon, but Adams has two tears in his right labrum and one in his rotator cuff. And he’s not having surgery. Pass.
Antonio Bastardo is probably the best pitcher (outside of Papelbon) in the bullpen. He’s left handed which could hurt him as he vies for a closer role. Also, his strike out rate is down significantly this season. He does have some closer experience in his past, but could struggle if he can’t improve his K/9 rate back to what he’d see in 2011 and 2012. He’s my recommended handcuff for Papelbon owners, but it’s a tepid endorsement at best.
Justin De Fratus has closer experience in the minors, but his short major league career shows a much different control profile (5.2 BB/9 in the majors; 2.0 BB/9 in the minors) and couldn’t be trusted at this point.
Phillippe Aumont has struck out 9.6 batters per nine innings this season. He’s walked 7.2 batters per nine innings. That’s just not going to fly. His career minor league BB/9 is 5.2. That’s not going to fly. He’s still just 24 years old so he does have some time to figure things out (remember – Randy Johnson didn’t debut in the majors until he was 24 and didn’t get his walk rate under control until 28).
Anything on the farm? Nope. The guys who have strikeout stuff, walk too many guys to be an option. And those who have some semblance of control, don’t have enough of the strikeout stuff to be successful.
If Kevin Gregg is dealt (as it seems he will be), who takes over the closer’s role in Chicago as the three most likely candidates at the beginning of the season (Carlos Marmol, Kyuji Fujikawa and Arodys Vizcaino) aren’t going to pitch for the Cubs again this season. I think there are only two real options.
James Russell’s dad closed if that counts for anything. Russell is the left handed setup guy for the Cubs and he’s been the most reliable arm in the pen this year outside of Gregg. With an increasing strikeout rate and diminishing walk rate, Russell makes an attractive handcuff to Gregg.
Carlos Villanueva could have a shot at the role if the Cubs are loathe to use a lefty as closer (as some teams are). Villanueva looks to be a failed starter at this point, but his stuff plays up in the bullpen (9.1 K/9 for his career as a reliever, 6.4 as starter). I still think the Cubs go with Russell should Gregg be dealt, but Villanueva could see some opportunities as well. Both Villanueva and Russell are under club control for next season.
There’s nothing exciting at AAA for the Cubs…well, maybe Zach Putnam would have a 1 in 100 chance of getting a call and contributing.
Joaquin Benoit is the closer for the Tigers for now. He picked up another save on Friday night and has been successful so far in the role.
Bruce Rondon was recalled on Friday and everyone want crazy. As we know, Jim Leyland doesn’t a rookie closing and he was clear that Rondon would be used in lower leverage situations. Rondon’s biggest bugaboo has been the walk. He struggled with his control in the majors in his first go round. However, he’s been solid on that front over his last nine appearances in the minors prior to his recall. He’d walked only two batters in his last 8 1/3 innings and 14 strikeouts. Does he have a chance to close this season? Sure. The Tigers trotted out Jose Valverde this season. I don’t think there is more than a 10% chance that he gets any meaningful run as the closer in 2013. And I think the Tigers look outside the organization before they give Rondon a shot.
Jose Valverde accepted his assignment to the minor leagues. So, who knows? He could end up back in Detroit. Stranger things have happened, but it’s close to a zero chance.
Rafael Betancourt was activated Friday and should slide back into the closer role. Rex Brothers is still valuable handcuff as we could see Betancourt dealt during the next month, but be prepared for some Brothers’ regression as his ERA sits at 0.27, but has a FIP of 2.45 and xFIP of 3.59.
Jose Cisnero will continue to be used in high leverage situations. He should be monitored in case Jose Veras is dealt. However, tread with some caution. His BB/9 rate (4.6) in the minors was too high for long term success. He’s kept his walk rate low in the majors (2.9), but it’s unclear if he can maintain this skill level.
Francisco Rodriguez picked up save number 300 this week so Jim Henderson should be back to the full time closing gig. Henderson hasn’t been great since his return from the DL with a 4.50 ERA over eight games and eight innings pitched. He’s been a bit wild with four walks over that time frame.
Chris Perez’s was activated from the DL on Friday. He’ll be the closer moving Vinnie Pestano back to a setup role. Perez wasn’t great in rehab so Pestano still has handcuff value. And don’t forget about Brett Myers rehabbing as a reliever right now. There is still no resolution to his dog’s glaucoma issue.
Koji Uehara pitched for the third night in a row on Friday. Looks like John Farrell will ride him as the closer. Andrew Bailey gave up another run in the same game and kept Allen Webster from picking up his first major league win.