Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Hong-Chih Kuo, Kenley Jansen return, more

by Nicholas Minnix on June 20, 2011 @ 18:20:55 PDT

 


What are the odds that you still own the relief pitchers you rostered in your fantasy baseball draft? KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat series gives you no-nonsense ratings of performances, injuries and managerial decisions in MLB bullpens. Get your arm loose: Let's find fantasy baseball players in your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball league who'll get 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 (DL)

Understudy: Hong-Chih Kuo, Kenley Jansen

Lurkers: Javy Guerra, Blake Hawksworth, Matt Guerrier, Mike MacDougal, Scott Elbert, Vicente Padilla (DL)

Hong-Chih Kuo RP Los Angeles Dodgers
Kuo back from the yips

The Dodgers activated Jansen (shoulder inflammation) from the DL on Saturday and Kuo (anxiety disorder) from the DL on Sunday. The former pitched a scoreless sixth frame, allowing one hit and fanning one; the latter didn't appear in his first game back.

Jansen pitched five times on his assignment, allowing no runs and striking out seven in five frames. He remains an intriguing hold, even in deep mixed leagues, because he doesn't have the injury concerns (acknowledging the shoulder issue) that the other arms in this strange mix have. He has nasty, closer-like stuff and by the end of the year, may yet capture the role.

Their mere presences should provide the Blue with a little relief in a bullpen devoid of closing acumen. Don Mattingly will likely take his time easing Kuo in, however, in terms of both usage and situations. The club loathes dispatching him on back-to-back days, of course. Then there's the anxiety issue, which has to be a factor to some degree in how the skipper uses his left-hander in late innings. It's a good idea to stash him, but don't put the odds in your favor.

Broxton (bone bruise in right elbow) begins a rehab assignment on Monday with Triple-A Albuquerque. He'll do it again on Wednesday before he's re-evaluated. The club could activate him afterward, or continue his rehab at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga. The Blue probably want to see a series of things before they bring him back and would probably prefer that he's about ready to step back into the closer's role once he is. It seems likelier that the Dodgers will have him continue his assignment, but these two games will determine a lot.

Complicating matters only slightly is that Guerra saved a 1-0 contest against the Houston Astros on Sunday with three straight ground-ball outs. Mattingly has already anointed him the "semi-closer," whatever that is. Mattingly sort of trusts him and finds him intriguing, it seems, but only while the other relievers are getting their bearings back, however long that takes. It's worth noting (and, in NL leagues, he's worth stashing) that Guerra is a fallback fallback fallback plan, give or take a "fallback."

Oh, at least this much is clear: Padilla (neck surgery) is likely done for the year.

Job security score: 1

Health score: 4

St. Louis Cardinals

Closer: Fernando Salas

Understudy: Eduardo Sanchez (DL), Mitchell Boggs

Lurkers: Jason Motte, Ryan Franklin, Trever Miller

Fernando Salas is attempting to relinquish the job he worked so hard to wrangle from the rest of the Cards' band of misfits on a temporary basis in May. He fits right in! The right-hander surrendered a leadoff home run to the Kansas City Royals' Alcides Escobar in the ninth before retiring the next three hitters. He picked up a victory thanks to a walk-off Skip Schumaker shot in the bottom half.

The Post-Dispatch's Bernie Miklasz noted that, since May 22, Salas has compiled a 5.40 ERA in 13 1/3 innings and blown two saves. He also lost a contest in extras when he served up a three-run jack against the Washington Nationals on Thursday. He's missing his spots, quite consistently, something that won't endear him to Tony La Russa for much longer.

Miklasz implies that Salas is still the closer, however, and judging from TLR's stealth commitments historically, it wouldn't be surprising to learn that the 26-year-old has more wiggle room than his previous, deposed teammates. The writer also suggests that St. Louis will pursue a closer at the deadline. In recent years, the club hasn't been willing to surrender much of value to get one, though.

As the paper noted over the weekend, Franklin seems to think he has corrected a flaw in his delivery that caused him to lose some deception. It's only a positive, though, not a reason to look in his direction soon. Sanchez (strain in shoulder) may not be back when he's eligible. The club called up flame-throwing prospect Maikel Cleto, who was thrashed in his debut. The club remains uncertain about how to use Mitchell Boggs in the long term, so don't expect him to be an immediate candidate. Motte is ineffective against left-handed hitters.

Of course, don't rule anything out. Salas will have to show improvement very soon to remain in La Russa's favor, one would assume, but the lack of quality alternatives still gives Salas a little breathing room.

Job security score: 2

Health score: 5

Mound meetings

  • Brian Fuentes picked up a save for the Oakland Athletics on Sunday with a perfect inning that included a strikeout. It's virtually certain that Bob Melvin was just giving Andrew Bailey a break after the right-hander had pitched on both Friday and Saturday.
    Bailey has been on the active roster for only three weeks, but since blowing his first save opp, on June 4 at the Boston Red Sox, he has closed four games with no trouble.
  • The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Joe Nathan's fastball hit 93 mph in his rehab outing with Triple-A Rochester on Saturday. It's encouraging in terms of his recovery from the strained flexor tendon that has sidelined him for nearly four weeks. The right-hander regularly registered 95 pre-surgery, so this is at minimum where fantasy owners would like to see him.
    Matt Capps ran into some trouble in May and early June, but the eight-day rest he received while he was dealing with tendonitis in the wrist on his pitching arm appears to have done him some good. He made three straight appearances (two of them perfect), beginning on June 16, and notched saves in each. A 2011 transition back to Nathan continues to look like it'll be a slow process.
  • Houston Astros general manager Ed Wade tipped the scales from possibly to probably on Brandon Lyon's "Will he have surgery?" balance. The news just makes Mark Melancon owners a little giddier. He hasn't yielded a run in his last eight appearances, three of them resulting in saves.
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    About Nicholas Minnix

    Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

    The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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