2014 Fantasy Baseball: The Week 3 Closer Report
Welcome back to The Fantasy Fix’s Closer Report for Week 3. We continue to see closers drop like flies and the unsettled nature of bullpens all around the league has fantasy owners wanting to dump the saves category completely.
Let’s take a look at what has changed in the last week at the top of the bullpen pecking order.
As always, feel free to ask a question in the comments below or shoot me a note on Twitter.
Craig Kimbrel’s shoulder “injury” had all Kimbrel owners scared. He seems to be fine after a bit of rest. David Carpenter picked up a save in Kimbrel’s absence. However, I don’t think this changes the pecking order. Jordan Walden is still the handcuff for Kimbrel in my opinion – Walden had pitched three straight days prior to the Carpenter save and was unavailable.
Boston Red Sox
Koji Uehara’s shoulder woes also had people scrambling. He picked up a save Thursday night against Chicago and looks like all systems are go. He’s a fragile pitcher (aren’t they all?). His 86 IP last year (including postseason) were a career high. I suspect the Red Sox may look to rest him a bit more than usual so Edward Mujica (who has a save and a blown save over the last week) and Junichi Tazawa will continue to have value. Based on reader Matt’s comments last week, I have moved Mujica in front of Tazawa because of Mujica’s usage, but I’d rather have Tazawa than Mujica at this point.
Jose Veras is no longer the closer in Chicago and so enters the dreaded committee. I’ve slid Pedro Strop to the head of the conga line, but he’s certainly not to be trusted. Strop has great stuff and if he can keep his walks down (which he’s only been able to do over short periods – 12 1/3 IP in Baltimore in 2011 and last year over 35 1/3 IP for the Cubs). Early on, Strop has walked four in 5 2/3 IP so he doesn’t look like he’s got his control.
Hector Rondon does have a save to his name this year, but he’s also struggled with walks (four in 7 2/3 IP this year). That lack of control is outside of his minor league track record though in line with his 2013 numbers in the majors. I don’t see Rondon as a much different pitcher than Strop (Rondon with better historical control, but less strikeout upside) and would lean Strop for now, but it’s a tossup.
Beyond Strop and Rondon, James Russell could see the matchup save here and there being the resident lefty in the pen. However, his lefty/righty splits will doom him to a LOOGY life.
Chicago White Sox
Nate Jones still hasn’t been cleared for baseball activity so it’s unclear when he’ll return. For now, Matt Lindstrom holds down the closer’s role. Lindstrom picked up a blown save on Wednesday night, but the blame for that save actually falls to Maikel Cleto. Cleto has been talked up as a possible closer with his electric fastball. However, I just don’t see it. He’s been bedeviled by control issues throughout his entire career. Maybe Don Cooper can remake him, but I’m not wasting roster space on Cleto at this point.
Lindstrom is still the play for me until Jones returns. Ronald Belisario has been awful as he’s been eminently hittable. Daniel Webb remains the backup, but who knows what Robin Ventura will do. His management of the bullpen has been a bit mystifying as evidenced by Leury Garcia pitching the 14 th inning of a tie game.
Joe Nathan feels better after going through his dead arm phase. As Aaron Gleeman notes, Nathan had four days off between appearances so we’ll see if Nathan usage patterns changes to give him a bit more reset.
Anthony Bass leads the Astros with two saves. He isn’t the closer. He isn’t even on my radar – perhaps I’m ignoring results, but I don’t see him getting in the front of the line. I still think Josh Fields is the head of the committee, but will likely be overtaken by Chad Qualls at some point in the near future. Jesse Crain lurks, but let me see him get healthy and pitch in the major leagues before I’m jumping on him.
All of that said, the Astros’ bullpen is a mess and you’ll likely waste more FAAB and time chasing saves in this pen then actually picking up saves for your team.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Jim Henderson had been pitching well and his velocity ticked back up such that Henderson owners were hopeful he would usurp Francisco Rodriguez. That is now on hold after Henderson’s implosion on Tuesday that saw him give up three runs on two HRs. K-Rod’s leash just got longer and Henderson shuffles a bit further behind.
Further down the line, we some more shuffling in the Brewers’ pen with Brandon Kintzler hitting the DL this week. Will Smith moves up the pecking order, but his control has been an issue (with five walks in seven IP). Tyler Thornburg has shone early in the season and his stuff is playing up out of the bullpen. It will be interesting to see if the Brewers make the bullpen move permanent for Thornburg. He’d be an intriguing arm and should be monitored in deep leagues.
New York Mets
Last week I said Jose Valverde looked like one of the safest closers in the game currently. A foolish statement if there ever was one. He promptly blew a save and then blew up in a non-save situation. Let’s be real – he can’t be long for the role. So, let’s take a deeper look at the Mets pen.
Ugh, let’s not and say we did. Kyle Farnsworth is supposedly at the top of the heap in terms of those next in line for saves. However, he’s got the same issues as Jose Valverde – increasing reliance on a fastball with diminished velocity (down to 91.5 mph from a peak of just over 96 mph and 92.6 mph just last season). He may get a shot, but he doesn’t have the skills to hold the job. I will keep listing him as the handcuff as I think he gets the first chance to close after Valverde finishes the full implosion, but I’d pass.
German offers a bit more intrigue as he’s only 26 years old (Torres is a bit older at 31). Germen has a three pitch mix (fastball, slider change) and has seen his K% jump in the early going (27.8% from 22.2% in 2013) and drop in his walk rate (10.7% down to 5.6%). Eno Sarris wrote about his two elite pitches (with small sample size caveats of course). I really like him as a solid sleeper to pick up the slack should Valverde lose his grip. Germen has value now in holds leagues and NL-only leagues (even with his struggles on Friday night).
Torres has also been quite good in the early going, showing an increased K% (along with an elevated BB% rate) and a better GB%. He’s had a couple of longer outings so the Mets may choose to keep the veteran in middle relief, but so far he’s been valuable to them.
I’ve moved both Germen and Torres into the closer sheet. I think they have a chance to be valuable in shallower leagues as the season progresses.
New York Yankees
David Robertson is due back from the DL on the day he’s first eligible on Tuesday. Both Shawn Kelley and Adam Warren comported themselves well during Robertson’s absence. Robertson should slot back into the closer’s role immediately.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the A’s bullpen again. Jim Johnson will be back closing sooner rather than later. He’s a got a shot to have another run of poor performance at some point this year – that’s just what he does. If you own Luke Gregerson, Sean Doolittle or Ryan Cook, see what you can get in a deal for any of them. They may be useful for Johnson owners, but less so for anyone else. There are just too many handcuff options in the ‘pen to speculate on (and Bob Melvin said he’s going to stick with a committee) – those rosters spots are better utilized. I hope you followed my advice to save your FAAB money and stay away from the bidding on this bullpen.
Update: Doolittle’s new contract extension makes him a bit more attractive in dynasty leagues as Ryan Cook heads into his first arbitration year this offseason.
St. Louis Cardinals
There has been some concern in St. Louis over Trevor Rosenthal’s drop in fastball velocity from 97.3 in 2013 to 95.9 so far in 2014. He’s seen similar dips in his curve and change as well when compared to last year. His results have been terrible in the early going and there is some cause for concern.
I wouldn’t jump ship on Rosenthal yet, but if I was a Rosenthal owner, I’d make sure that I have Carlos Martinez. The problem with Carlos Martinez is that he could be called upon to shift to the starting rotation if a long term injury presents itself (he’ll stay in the pen with the short term loss of Joe Kelly).
Kevin Siegrist is the head lefty in the pen and hasn’t shown significant lefty/righty splits so he would be an option should Martinez not be available to close.
Rosenthal owners should begin to think about contingency plans as they monitor his fastball velocity.
Fernando Rodney blew a save this week. That he did so is unremarkable. What is remarkable, is his precipitous drop in velocity (down to 94.3 mph from 96.5 last year with the Rays). He has not pitched much this season (4 1/3 IP) so we don’t have much to go on. Again, another situation to monitor.
Danny Farquhar is the play for handcuff purposes. No one else in the bullpen has impressed (and Farquhar’s control has been an issue) and Farquhar did do the job last season.
Toronto Blue Jays
Sergio Santos had an epic meltdown in the eighth inning of Game 1 of the doubleheader on Thursday. Three walks, three wild pitches, no outs recorded. He’s K% is astronomical (42.3%). His BB% is astronomical (23.1%). Neither can nor will continue.
Casey Janssen was shut down with continued soreness in his back and this provides Santos with a bit of a longer leash. It’s unclear when Janssen would return, but I think the earliest would see him is mid/end of May.
Steve Delabar has similar control issues as Santos and I can’t see them moving from one to the other – it’s like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
The best pitcher in the bullpen right now is probably Brett Cecil. I’d like to see him get a chance to close (he did it in college at the University of Maryland). His career right/lefty splits make it look like that wouldn’t work as he gets hammered by righties. However, he did improve last year as he got righties down to a .736 OPS against and is down at .543 so far this season.
I still believe in Santos (unless there was permanent damage from the outing earlier this week – he struggled again on Friday, but did pick up the save in a one run game) and I think he’s the best bet for the Blue Jays to ride and see if they can correct his control issues. I still see Santos as the saves leader for the Jays for 2014.
2014 Closer – The current closer
Handcuff Option – This is the guy who I believe will step into the closer role if the current closer loses his job.
Other Option – Another arm in the pen who could close if the manager chooses to go a different route. And to clarify – this may be the lefty specialist who steps in for match up saves along the way.
Dark Horse Option – If all hell breaks loose in the pen, this guy could get a shot this year.
2015 Closer – This guy should be in the closer’s role on Opening Day 2014.
And if you are looking for the chart, we’ve moved it to its permanent home right here. Updates will be made daily so be sure to check back each day to see any movement.
Thanks as always for reading.