Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Joe Nathan, Ryan Madson and plenty more

by Nicholas Minnix on July 18, 2011 @ 16:24:01 PDT


What are the odds that you still own the relief pitchers you rostered in your fantasy baseball draft?'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.


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


Minnesota Twins

Closer: Joe Nathan

Understudy: Glen Perkins

Lurkers: Matt Capps

Ron Gardenhire informed the press on Saturday morning that he was going back to old faithful Nathan to wrap up things. The recovered right-hander didn't disappoint his skipper; he notched a save that evening and another on Sunday. He allowed one hit and nothing else, but with no K's, in each of those one-inning stints. What made the appearances even more significant: That stretch, along with a spotless setup stanza on Friday, is the first of 2011 in which Nathan has pitched on back-to-back-to-back days.

Gardy made the move because, as you know, Capps blew a save opp on Friday in his first post-break appearance. He seemed to be righting the ship before it capsized again. The righty, after he yielded a solo homer in Monday's Game 1 of a doubleheader, has allowed eight earned runs in 6 2/3 frames.

Perkins' usage and performance might've suggested this scenario, but Gardenhire affirmed: If the Twinkies determined that Nathan was unavailable on Sunday (since he hadn't yet pitched in three straight, as mentioned), then they'd go to the southpaw in a save sitch. Minnesota has developed plenty of faith in Perkins, who sports a 1.77 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and 39 K's in 35 2/3 frames.

Joe Nathan, RP, Minnesota Twins
Nathan is the man in the ninth

Capps is quite a distance from re-establishing himself as an alternative in the ninth. Perkins is worth ownership, even in deep mixed leagues, because he could sneak in the occasional save without causing damage. For all intents and purposes and despite the potential for some stormy waters ahead, however, Nathan is back in charge, and that shouldn't change.

Job security score: 3

Health score: 3

Mound meetings

  • Although it sounded as if the Philadelphia Phillies were the front-runners for the San Diego Padres' Heath Bell, there's strong sentiment that the Texas Rangers are now the leaders for his services, as well as those of teammate Mike Adams. The latter's team-friendly deal, which extends beyond this season, makes him quite appealing. Some clubs are concerned about Bell's declining K/9, per FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal.
    Adams is the most logical candidate to fill in for a departed Bell, but fantasy owners who are stashing him may have regrets if both of the club's top relievers move on. Luke Gregerson would then be of interest. San Diego wants a top prospect for the injury-prone Adams, who'll be 33 on July 29, though. That may be a tough sell, which should ease some of the angst of those hoping for saves from Adams. Stay tuned.
  • Francisco Rodriguez agreed to turn his 2012 vesting option for 55 games finished into a mutual option. The development seemed to open the door to his use in the ninth without repercussion. John Axford nailed down consecutive Milwaukee Brewers W's, with K-Rod setting up both, this past weekend, though.
    Is hope for Rodriguez's value squashed? Perhaps. At least now the number won't matter if Axford, who gave up a run (only one earned) in each of those save chances, hits a rough patch. K-Rod may still get a chance to pad his saves total a bit and attempt to raise his free-agent value when the Brewers don't exercise their side of the clause.
  • The Phillies revealed this past weekend that they plan to ease Ryan Madson, who returned from the DL on Friday, back into the closing role. The performance of Antonio Bastardo, who notched another save on Sunday, has no doubt made the Phils comfortable with that arrangement.
    The southpaw yielded a run on two hits in his 1 1/3 frames on Sunday. In his two-thirds of an inning, Madson had given up a run, too, prior to relaying the baseball to Bastardo. That was his second appearance since activation. It probably won't take much longer for the right-hander to reassume backend duties. Bastardo has established himself as a reliable alternative, though, and is worth retaining in deep leagues even after Brad Lidge (partially torn rotator cuff) returns.
  • On Sunday, Lidge made another rehab appearance for Double-A Trenton. He threw 13 of 14 pitches for strikes, according to many sources. The righty yielded two hits but no runs and struck out a pair.
    Lidge's fastball is reportedly hovering around the mid-80s, but his slider was apparently the sharpest it's been on this rehab assignment. That outing marked the second game of his first back-to-back showing on the farm. The heat will be his focus in his next expected showing, on Wednesday for Class A Lakewood. He thinks he'll be ready for activation on Friday, if all goes well. It's not clear if Philadelphia sees it the same way. Don't expect him to leap right into closing consideration.
  • Baltimore Orioles closer Kevin Gregg's reduced suspension (three games) begins on Monday. Koji Uehara, next in line, has pitched in three straight, so if a save opp pops up, Jim Johnson will get consideration. Don't rule out an appearance from Mike Gonzalez, who cleaned up a Gregg mess on Saturday after the righty had yielded a bases-clearing double in a non-save appearance. Uehara should be available on Tuesday.
    Folks in deep leagues may want to keep the Japanese hurler in mind, regardless; Gregg continues to walk a fine line. In all likelihood, Gregg will continue to do just enough to satisfy Buck Showalter, but one of these days, the sub-mediocrity will catch up with him.
  • Roto managers might've felt a little more secure in their Javy Guerra ownership when Don Mattingly brought in the right-hander to record a one-out save on Friday. Hong-Chih Kuo recorded the first two outs of the ninth prior to the switch.
    Mattingly continues to express confidence in Guerra and likes his diverse toolset, but the skipper said that he'll count on his lefty when the matchup is right. Donnie Baseball lifted Kuo with one on and some right-handed hitters due up (although a pinch hitter later changed that). If the Taiwanese pitcher hadn't walked Ryan Roberts and instead retired the side in order, Friday's outing probably would've taken on a different meaning to the fantasy community.
  • The Houston Astros sent Mark Melancon out for a third inning of work in an extra-inning affair on Sunday. The right-hander had recorded a one-inning save on Saturday on just nine pitches, and he'd skated through his first two straight frames on 20 offerings.
    There was rationale behind that usage, but the result led to questions afterward. With one out and one on, Melancon committed an error; a run then scored on a passed ball. Two more runs were charged to him after his relief didn't get the job done. The outing (in which only one of three runs was earned) won't affect his job security. Hopefully, it doesn't affect his performance, either. He should be fine.
  • Dethroned closer Carlos Marmol worked on his mechanics in a side session on Sunday. Mike Quade told the team's official site that he has no timetable for Marmol's return to saves duties.
    To confirm: If the Chicago Cubs encountered a save situation on Sunday, Quade intended to use Kerry Wood, if needed, to set up Sean Marshall.
  • More random trade-deadline tidbits: According to Rosenthal, Texas in fact has several pitchers in its sights. In addition to the Friars' pair, the Washington Nationals' Tyler Clippard and the Oakland Athletics' Andrew Bailey are on their list. And, according to the Colorado Rockies' official site, they might be willing to trade Huston Street, Rafael Betancourt and Matt Belisle.
    Bailey is unlikely to be dealt. Matt Lindstrom would probably end up closing for Colorado if Street departed. Don't rule out the possibility, but that seems less likely than likely, too.
  • Sometime next week, David Aardsma will have Tommy John surgery, which will end the disaster that has been the right-hander's 2011. The Seattle Mariners aren't expected to tender him a contract, but they could bring him back for an incentive-laden deal, according to the Seattle Times' Geoff Baker. It's hard to imagine many other teams being interested in the right-hander; it'd take at least a two-year contract to give a club a shot at a legit contribution from Aardsma.
  • In his first post-break appearance, Joel Hanrahan blew his first save chance of 2011 when he allowed an inherited runner to score with two outs in the eighth frame of the Pittsburgh Pirates' Sunday contest. No harm done in the roto categories, no foul.
  • The St. Louis Cardinals will be full-steam ahead in the barter market for relievers. The news that Eduardo Sanchez (shoulder soreness) had to be shut down for another six weeks or so won't help matters.
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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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