Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat - NL

by Tim Heaney on July 26, 2010 @ 12:45:00 PDT

 


In fantasy baseball, the closer position remains volatile. Rarely does every closer hang on to the job for an entire season - injuries, poor performance and managerial decisions can cloud a team's bullpen picture.

Should you be concerned about a struggling stopper? Which relievers are climbing the depth chart? Are any injuries popping up? KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat keeps you informed when you're looking for saves.

Key

Job security (JS) score 1 (unstable) to 5 (untouchable)
Health (H) score 1 (injury-prone) to 5 (durable)

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

Closer: Jonathan Broxton

Understudy: Hong-Chih Kuo

Lurkers: Kenley Jansen

The recently promoted Jansen helped give Broxton and Kuo a break Sunday by wrapping things up. Jansen, a converted catcher with about a year of professional pitching experience, has retired his first six opposing MLB batters, including four K's. The righty displayed his heat, which touched the upper 90s.

Atlanta Braves RP Billy Wagner
What's up with Wags?

Brox was technically available Sunday but had pitched two innings of non-pressure work Saturday - his first such duty since May '09. The Dodgers wanted to keep his day-to-day duties limited; he was battling a gastrointestinal illness last week and has been worked hard recently.

Jansen is an intriguing saves Hail Mary in NL-only and could be a roto relief rental if he stays in the bigs - not a crazy proposition given the Dodgers' beleaguered 'pen. Maybe Torre rotates him into a few save opportunities from here on out to keep Broxton fresh down the stretch.

Job security score: 5

Health score: 5

Atlanta Braves

Closer: Billy Wagner

Understudy: Takashi Saito

Wagner has now allowed four runs (three earned) over his last two outings (five hits, two walks in 1 2/3 innings) - both blown saves, including Friday's gaffe. The Atlanta Braves' southpaw is human after all. Before those two outings, he had allowed a run in only one showcase since May 19.

It's hard to complain given his performance so far this year, but will this rough patch linger? His velocity isn't an issue, reportedly. Wags' recent inability to locate his heat on the inner half of the plate is a bigger concern. Wags has been pitching with ankle soreness but hasn't blamed it for his stumbles.

Wagner recently put in some bullpen work on his release point. The lefty is one arm that you can trust to make corrections; he's certainly experienced enough. Keep tabs on how he bounces back from this weekend, but don't panic.

Job security score: 5

Health score: 4

Milwaukee Brewers

Closer: John Axford

Understudy: Trevor Hoffman

Milwaukee Brewers RP John Axford
John's first weak swing of the Axford

Axford botched Saturday's Milwaukee Brewers affair - his first lost chance of the year - but ended up with a win. On Friday, he notched a one-inning save. Luckily, he wasn't needed Sunday - he had pitched on each of the previous three days.

Hoffman probably was in line for the save Sunday given Axford's schedule, but the former wasn't needed as Milwaukee took the game 8-3. The Hoff hasn't been hassled by a run in 13 of his last 15 outings. He could still see chances down the stretch so he can reach 600, especially with Axford's blade potentially dulling down via overuse. If you have the room and the need to speculate on this, go for it.

Job security score: 3

Health score: 5

Philadelphia Phillies

Closer: Brad Lidge

Understudy: Ryan Madson

Against the Colorado Rockies on Sunday Lidge tip-toed around a bases-loaded jam and a 2-0 count to preserve a one-run victory. He threw just 15 of his 30 pitches for strikes but recorded three whiffs, including the final out with the bags juiced.

Lidge has walked at least one batter in five of his last six appearances but has tallied four straight successful closures and allowed one run in that time. The Phils really don't have a better option, and they're probably willing to ride it out.

Madson is the best speculative option, but he shouldn't be in your lineup if he isn't receiving save chances.

Job security score: 4

Health score: 3

Mound meetings

  • Francisco Cordero has rebounded with authority in July, posting a 2.35 ERA with six saves in 7 2/3 innings despite recording only three K's for the Cincinnati Reds. Even if Cincy trades for bullpen help, they probably won't move away from the vet, especially since they're in contention.
  • Carlos Marmol pitched scoreless, two-K frames Saturday and Sunday. The dominant Chicago Cubs righty might be kept on the pine if a save situation arises today.
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Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: AL | NL

Fantasy baseball closer depth charts: AL | NL

About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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