2013 Fantasy Baseball: The Week 5 Closer Report
Things are settling in nicely here at the Closer Report. We’re starting to get some clarity on jobs as manager’s back new closers and incumbents pitch and solidify their status.
Papa Grande is back! Jose Valverde has retaken the closer role for the Detroit Tigers and I like it. You’ll hear experts like ESPN’s Matthew Berry say “I’m not really buying Valverde. It’s literally like, let’s try this. They didn’t want him back. He was ineffective in the playoffs…” Wait? They didn’t want him back? Says who? Certainly not Jim Leyland. Read this….I’ll wait. This piece is from February 2013 from ESPN. I guess the TMR doesn’t read his own site. Now, I’m sure the Tigers didn’t want him back for the $9M per year he made in 2012. And who knows what his agent was asking for in the offseason. But, it certainly seems like Leyland thought he had something left. None of that matters now. Jose Valverde is back!
As I’ve written before, I believe Valverde will lead the Tigers in saves this year. However, the key to Valverde’s success lies in his ability to throw a second pitch for strikes this season. In his first appearance in 2013 he threw nothing but fastballs in picking up the save against the Royals. His average velocity was just over 93mph in line with last season. But the key is the second pitch – he needs to have his splitter working. It has been his out pitch for his career and that’s where his strikeouts come from. If he gets that splitter back, his success will likely be short lived. He won’t see his fastball velocity up in the mid-90s again so he’ll need to get outs with his splitter.
It’s been an interesting start to the season for incumbent closer J.J. Putz. He’s picked up a couple of saves. He’s blown a couple of saves. He’s seen Matt Reynolds (who?) pick up two saves and his heir apparent David Hernandez struggle along with Putz. What do we make of the bullpen now?
Putz is still the lead dog and I’m sure Kirk Gibson believes Putz has grit or grime or scrappiness or grimy gritty scrappiness enough to work through these issues. What is nearly guaranteed is that Putz will spend time on the DL. Last season was the first Putz did not spend time on the DL since 2007. Odds are he’ll be back and David Hernandez will step into the void. Hernandez has been hurt by two HRs and his luck should even out in the future.
Matt Reynolds has two saves. And that’s about all I think I need to say about him. He’s not an option should anything happen to Putz and Hernandez. He’s a lefty and could be a matchup play. The dark horse? Heath Bell. Yes, that Heath Bell. Don’t look now but, since his first appearance Bell has thrown 7 2/3 innings given up one run, nine hits and struck out 13 while walking no one. Keep an eye on the rotund one. He could be a factor.
Steve Cishek is a major league closer (in the same way that Wilton Veras is a major league closer). However, his numbers through his first 10 IP do not inspire confidence. I wouldn’t go dropping him at this point as he has been hurt by the long ball and a relatively low LOB%. He could make a solid trade target in deeper leagues. He won’t save 40 games (as the Marlins may not win 40 games), but he’ll get his share and may come cheaply.
If you are concerned about Cishek, there is one interesting arm in the Marlins’ bullpen. Jon Rauch has closer experience in the past and could be the first one to jump in should Cishek falter. However, the Marlins wouldn’t gain much from putting Rauch in that position – they are in development mode at this point. Ryan Webb doesn’t have the wipeout stuff to succeed long term in the closer’s role
However, A.J. Ramos has some intriguing skills worth a closer look in deep leagues. He’s got closer experience in the minors (83 saves in 178 games over four minor league seasons), a ridiculous K/9 (12.3 in the minors; 11.9 in the majors), K% of over 30% at every stop except this season and a relatively high walk rate. His out pitch is a changeup, but he’s got a starter’s arsenal throwing at least four pitches. He could fall into some save chances if Cishek fails and is going to have some value in deeper leagues with that strikeout rate.
What in the world is going on in the Chicago bullpen? Both Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol have picked up saves this week. Shawn Camp and James Russell are still hanging around and Kyuji Fujikawa remains on the DL, but has begun throwing.
Fujikawa is still the man to own for the long term. In the short term? I’ll be honest – I have no idea. I’m sure the Cubs would like to see Marmol pitch semi-effectively so they could deal him for more than a ham sandwich. I’m going to guess Marmol and Gregg get the opportunities for now, but neither of them (nor anyone else in the Cubs’ bullpen) should be counted on to deliver saves with any regularity.
Edward Mujica has solidified himself as the closer for the St. Louis cardinals. Feel free to drop Mitchell Boggs in all leagues. Trevor Rosenthal still has value, but I could see the Cards dropping him to AAA if he continues to be hittable.
Greg Holland has also been masterful lately and has lengthened his leash as the closer in Kansas City.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were kind enough to lay out their bullpen hierarchy behind closer Jason Grilli. Mark Melancon is the clear back up to Grilli. When neither was available, Clint Hurdle turned to lefthander Tony Watson. Watson was converted to relief work in 2010 and has seen his K/9 rate increase while maintain a solid walk rate. He’s a deep league play only.
Ryan Madson had some issues with his surgically repaired elbow this week. It doesn’t look like he has done any new damage, but this will probably set him back a week or two. His target return date is now probably closer to May 15. I still think he’s the closer for the Angels two weeks after he returns and Ernesto Frieri will still have value.
John Axford has pitched well lately. In his last six appearances, he’s struck out six batters in 5 1/3 IP giving up only two hits and zero walks. However, Jimmy Henderson has been equally effective since Opening Day giving up only one run, six hits and two walks over his first 10 IP. I think Henderson will need to falter for Axford to head back the closer’s role. However, it won’t take much for the Brewers to swap the pitchers’ roles.