2013 Fantasy BaseballChris GarosiFantasy Baseball

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…

Philadelphia Phillies

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.

Chicago Cubs

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.

Detroit Tigers

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.

Close Calls

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.

J.J. Putz is due back from the DL on Saturday, but it looks like he’ll be eased back into the role giving Heath Bell some residual value.

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.

Tommy Hunter picked up a two inning save on Friday night for the Baltimore Orioles. Interesting. Jim Johnson certainly hasn’t been the most reliable closer over the last month.

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.

RIP Justin Miller.

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  1. whattodo
    June 29, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    I have pestano and brothers…

    should i drop pestano and pick up rondon in case he blows up?

    • June 30, 2013 at 4:53 am

      I just don’t have a ton of faith in Rondon and I don’t think Leyland does either. Rondon is only valuable in very deep leagues or dynasty leagues. I’d rather have Pestano and Brothers as I think they have a better shot at saves (Perez’ injury history and potential drug issues; Betancourt’s potential to be dealt before the deadline) than Rondon.

      Rondon just isn’t ready for high leverage situations in the major leagues.

  2. kelly
    June 30, 2013 at 9:03 am

    Gregg is my third closer. This morning it was reported than Blake Parker was the frontrunner to replace him so I handcuffed him. Brothers and Pestano are available. Do you agree on this handcuff or would you go with Brothers and Pestano. I haven’t seen Blake Parker any.

    • June 30, 2013 at 9:15 am

      Brothers would be my first choice of those three. It’s not clear that Parker would be the one to own in Chicago (they do have Russell and Villanueva). I would take Parker over Pestano how ever as I think Perez ends the year with the Indians and keeps the job.

      Gregg is the most likely of the three to be dealt so I understand the concern and in your situation (owning Gregg) Parker may be more valuable to you than others.

      Thanks for reading.


  3. kelly
    June 30, 2013 at 10:20 am