Welcome back to The Fantasy Fix’s Closer Report for Week 13. It was a quiet week on the closer front with the only real rumblings from those quagmires in Los Angeles (Anaheim chapter) and Chicago South side chapter). Until the Angels and Pirates traded headaches on Friday night. Follow along to see where we are today.
Remember, we’ve moved the Fantasy Fix Closer Report Chart to its full time home right here.
As always, feel free to ask a question in the comments below or shoot me a note on Twitter.
Addison Reed blew another save Tuesday night. It’s only his third blown save of the year. He still has a good K/BB ratio of 38 to 6, but he’s been crushed by the long ball giving up eight HRs in only 32 1/3 IP after giving up six in each of the last two seasons in 55 and 71 1/3 innings respectively. Should that rate normalize, we should see Reed’s ERA head back down below 4.00.
Hector Rondon blew up Monday, but came back on Thursday to pick up the save. He’s going to have these ups and downs and Neil Ramirez is a must own for those who roster Rondon. And my favorite closer sleeper, Arodys Vizcaino, has been promoted to AAA and got crushed in his first appearance though he settled down in his next two games. Oh, yeah, he’s still only 23 years old.
Chicago White Sox
I am just going to leave this quote from White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper right here:
“Belisario is good. He’s got balls, he’s got heart … He’s our best option right now.” – Don Cooper
— It’s a long season. (@mighty_flynn) June 26, 2014
I think it’s a helpful reminder that organizational choices aren’t always based on statistics or charts. Sometimes they just want a guy with balls.
Also, the White Sox pen had no problem imploding against the O’s on Wednesday without Belisario participating. Belisario isn’t the problem as the White Sox just don’t have any reliable arms in the pen.
And Belisario isn’t completely terrible. He’s a ground ball pitcher in front of an average infield defense. Belisario has the best FIP, xFIP and SIERA in the White Sox bullpen for the season.
And of course Belisario was kind enough to give up a leadoff homerun tonight to Colby Rasmus and only get one out before he was pulled in another save situation. The Sox then pulled in recent callup Eric Surkamp to face a lefty and a fielding error by Conor Gillaspie loaded the bases. Ventura then moved on to Jake Petricka who got two ground outs to pick up the save.
Late Friday night it was reported that Belisario is indeed out as closer. It seems no decision will be made until Ventura and Cooper discuss it. Over the last 30 days, Petricka has been the best reliever in the pen and I think he gets the first shot with Javy Guerra (and his past closing experience a close second). But, as you can see from the chart, every pitcher in that pen has an issue with walks – something that late game relievers can’t pitch around forever. There really isn’t an attractive option at this point. I’d go with Petricka (if it were me) – he’s got a bit of a pedigree and has been one of the more effective Sox relievers this year.
Old friend Jose Veras has returned to the last scene of his success. He won’t likely usurp Chad Qualls, but he’s in the mix to get higher leverage opportunities if he can find the “magic” he had here in 2013.
Los Angeles Angels
Joe Smith officially replaced Ernesto Frieri as the closer in Anaheim this week with Frieri deep into one of his patented flat spins. Then, Friday night, the Angels swapped Frieri to the Pirates for Jason Grilli – an exchange of struggling closers. Does Grilli slot right in as the closer? Not so fast my friend.
Alden Gonzalez has a good piece on the trade and it’s worth the read. For those who don’t want to read, let me summarize. Angels’ GM Jerry DiPoto acknowledges that is is a change of scenery deal. Mike Scioscia looks to take a wait and see approach with Grilli while acknowledging that Grilli still has all of the tools he did when he was an All-Star in 2013. Perhaps most importantly, DiPoto outlines what other upgrades he’s looking to make in the ‘pen (another lefty and perhaps another closing option to free Joe Smith up for “a more versatile role.”)
That sure sounds like the Angels value Smith more in the seventh or eighth innings where he might get multiple innings than they do as a closer. So, do not invest too heavily in Smith – for whatever reason the Angels would rather have Smith out of the ninth inning. Indeed, in the tweet at the beginning of the Angels’ piece, it seemed that Scioscia wanted to get Frieri back into the role when he was effective again.
But what’s wrong with Grilli this year and can it be corrected? He doesn’t seem to have a velocity issue (as his fastball velocity is only 0.3 mph lower this year than last). His batted ball profile is somewhat worse as he’s giving up more flyballs than he ever has in his career. And more of those flyballs are heading out of the park (14.3% HR/FB rate) than since his rookie year of 2004. His K% is down (22.6% this year, 36.6% and 36.9% the last two years) and his BB% is up (11.8% this year, 6.4% and 9.0% the prior two seasons).
He did deal with an oblique injury earlier in the season and spent about a month on the DL, but seems to be healthy now. He hasn’t been any more successful since his return as he’s pitched to a 5.14 ERA in 12 1/ 3 IP with 14 strikeouts and 7 walks though that comes along with a .371 BABIP. So, it may not have been a health issue.
So, what to do with Grilli? He’s worth a speculative add in all leagues because he’s not too far removed from a successful stint closing games. However, do not expect him to slot into the role in the near future. The key for Grilli will be control – if you see him picking up clean outings without walking batters, he’ll be inching closer to grabbing the closer’s role and he should be inching closer to your lineup.
The other half of the trade on Friday had Ernesto Frieri heading east to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Frieri is eight years younger than Grilli and won’t be a free agent until 2017 (whereas Grilli is a free agent after this season). Also, there seems to be a bit more hope for recovery from Frieri than with Grilli. His batted ball profile actually looks much better with a higher GB%, but he’s been crushed by HRs (21.1% HR/FB rate this year against a career rate of 10.0%). His velocity is in line with his career norms. His K% is down a bit, but so is his BB%.
The Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has a reputation of being able to fix almost anyone (see Liriano, Francisco) so Frieri is in a good spot. However, Frieri’s opportunities are limited far more than Grill’s are. Frieri will need to see Mark Melancon fail in front of him and perhaps even Tony Watson. I don’t think Frieri has any value this year unless Melancon suffers an injury. Frieri is a reasonable stash in deep dynasty leagues, but can be jettisoned in most other leagues.
To summarize, Grill has more opportunity to move into the closer’s role, but bigger problems to fix to get there. Frieri has fewer issues to fix, but more limited opportunity to move up in the pecking order.
San Diego Padres
Both Huston Street and Joaquin Benoit are drawing trade interest. With the firing of Josh Byrnes, I can see the new regime coming in a cleaning house with Street and possibly Benoit both heading out as the Padres try to rebuild their farm system. I’m not sure I see the Padres dealing both pitchers – Street is the one more likely to go in my eyes as he has less of a financial commitment in the future. Benoit is a must own for Street owners. If both are dealt, it’s not clear where they could go – it could be Dale Thayer who has past MLB closing experience or Kevin Quackenbush who has been lights out over the last month.
Tampa Bay Rays
The last five saves for the Rays have now been captured by Grant Balfour, Jake McGee, Juan Carlos Oviedo, Joel Peralta and Jake McGee again. As with last week’s update, it is a pure committee at this point. And as with last week, I still think McGee gets the shot to closer next year, but the Rays are a small-market team and will likely do what they can to keep the arbitration dollars down for a youngster like McGee.
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.