Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Scott Downs, Kenley Jansen, Matt Thornton, more

by Nicholas Minnix on April 30, 2012 @ 17:47:19 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)

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Closer: Scott Downs
Understudy: Jordan Walden

Downs handled his first save opportunity as the Halos' newly minted closer in fine fashion. Mike Scioscia must've breathed a sigh of relief, because his hasn't been in position to win often, period.

Los Angeles Dodgers RP Kenley Jansen
Jansen could earn gig soon

The skipper told the media that he's hoping it won't take Walden too long to rediscover his 2011 form. The manager told reporters that his pitching coach, Mike Butcher, seems confident that this tune-up is "more of a quicker fix than a long, detailed project."

So, this is temporary. Did FAAB bids in your league reflect that? Did someone drop Walden? Haste makes waste. Rumors abounded that the Angels were dialing up other clubs in search of their solution, too. They want bullpen help, but they need it whether or not Walden is their man.

How long will it take Walden to be aggressive from the first pitch, to command his slider better and to trust his changeup more? Who's to say? Give it a couple of weeks. It may be less. If we hit June and he's still working on this, then Downs winners will feel a lot better. Until the trade deadline comes around.

Job security score: 1
Health score:

Los Angeles Dodgers

Closer: Javy Guerra
Understudy: Kenley Jansen

Don Mattingly said that he used Jansen to nail one down on Sunday because the flamethrower has the freshest arm - presumably in his bullpen, period. Which is somewhat interesting.

Guerra gave up a walk, two hits and a run on Saturday in his first action since he took a liner to the face on Wednesday, when he also tweaked his foot. The righty fired 22 pitches, and after some traumatic experiences, it's understandable that his skipper wouldn't toss him right back out there on Sunday.

It's also clear that Jansen has been unhittable for a couple of weeks and has saved the Blue's last two games with ease, those two appearances book-ending another rough outing for the named closer.

Mattingly is protecting the man he named in spring training, and doing it well. To back it up, he'd use Guerra the next time that the Dodgers run into a save opportunity. If Guerra stumbles - it'll probably take a run, maybe two, depending on the circumstances - one has to believe that the skipper will be pondering a change. And fantasy owners should be prepared.

Job security score: 1
Health score:

Chicago White Sox

Closer: Hector Santiago
Understudy: Matt Thornton, Addison Reed
Lurkers: Jesse Crain DL

Thornton notched four outs on Sunday to earn the ChiSox's first save since Santiago's latest meltdown, which occurred on Wednesday. Like Thornton, Santiago hadn't pitched since.

Robin Ventura maintained his support of Santiago, but he told the media, "... you're looking at guy with a body of work against those three guys" - the hitters who were due up for the Boston Red Sox in the ninth, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz. CSNChicago blogger JJ Stankevitz theorized that Ventura may pick his spots with Santiago, until the younger southpaw gets right.

So, what's Ventura saying? Santiago is still my closer, but for now only when the hitters aren't so good? And hopefully, most of them are left-handed, for Santiago's sake, considering how he's performed against right-handed hitters.

But then, Santiago isn't really still the closer, is he? Santiago will already be working uphill, because his next appearance will come at least six days after his last one. All eyes will be on him, and since Thornton has saved one in his stead, he'll be aware of it.

What if Reed has recorded one out, and the hitters due up are right-handed? He's been nearly untouchable.

This situation is unpredictable. As much as Chicago's staff has stated its desire to go with one man in the ninth, it's possible that this is shaping up as a play-it-by-ear tune. If Santiago stumbles once more, then Ventura's surprise plan may have backfired royally. And Thornton, who's a must-own, by the way, is probably the next man up.

Job security score: 1
Health score:

Mound meetings

Heath Bell continues to be Hell's Bells on the Miami Marlins' chances to win. He was incredibly wild while giving up two runs in the ninth today versus the Arizona Diamondbacks, which doubled the size of the hill that the Fish had to try to climb - and failed to do it - in the bottom of the frame.

More to come, but it's not a bad idea to start stashing Steve Cishek or Edward Mujica in the event that Ozzie Guillen gives Bell a break.


Miami Marlins RP Heath Bell
More cracks in Bell

Jim Johnson (food poisoning) declared himself available to Buck Showalter on Monday. Actually, according to Roch Kubatko, he told the Baltimore Orioles that he was ready on Sunday.

The news doesn't mean that he'll jump right into save chances, especially since he's heavily dependent on his belt. Those in weekly leagues may have seen no harm in activating him, but Showalter will probably have him pass a test involving an appearance or two in a less important sitch first.

Pedro Strop's shelf life has an inverse relationship with Johnson's readiness, obviously.


The New York Mets won't have Frank Francisco (an "upper hamstring issue") on Monday, either. Apparently, this is for only one game. If it's not performance for Frank Squared, it's pain, and they're usually intertwined, so monitor this - but it doesn't sound serious at all.

On Sunday, Jon Rauch had his first poor game of the 2012 campaign. He ended up charged with three runs in his two-thirds of an inning and spent 22 bullets to do so. If he's too gassed tonight - or perhaps even if not - Ramon Ramirez should be the fill-in, if you're that desperate. Ramirez closed New York's semi-wild 11-inning affair with the Colorado Rockies on Sunday.


On Sunday, the unstoppable Baltimore Orioles tagged Grant Balfour for his second blown save of the week. The right-hander didn't retire one man after he relieved Bartolo Colon and surrendered the double that brought in two inherited runners. After he issued an IBB, Wilson Betemit hit a bomb to walk 'em off.

Balfour is up and down, despite excellent peripherals, so this'll happen. He's still not in danger, especially because the Oakland Athletics would like him to serve as a significant trade chip by the deadline. Live with it. He'll bounce back before too long.


The Washington Nationals placed Brad Lidge (oblique strain) on the DL on Friday, so Henry Rodriguez is the lone stunt man for a few weeks, at least. His first duty while aware of it - on Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers - resulted in a blown save. Amazingly, in his two-thirds of a frame, the damage (two runs) wasn't a result of walks (zero), but of hits (three).

Davey Johnson won't turn anywhere else (Sean Burnett?) unless H-Rod has some more problems. That might present him with a temptation to play the matchups.


Widely circulating: a rumor that the Halos are inquiring about bullpen help. Balfour was apparently at the top of the shopping list, and they may also be kicking the tires on Joel Hanrahan and Brandon League. Huston Street could be on the block down the line, too, although he has a 2013 option.

At this juncture, whether the Angels have actually been working the phones or not, the A's are going to want too much in return. This speaks more to the long-term value of Downs and (perhaps) Walden than it does anyone else's. If and when Balfour relocates, it's fast-rising Ryan Cook who appears to be the man who'd get the next look. In AL leagues, he should be stashed already.


Against the New York Yankees this past weekend, Jose Valverde gave up a few runs in a non-save situation. He's had some rough times this season, but Jim Leyland wanted to get the righty some work because he hadn't pitched in nearly a week. No worries, directly.


For those who hope to profit from a Matt Capps coup, Glen Perkins always looks attractive. A northpaw to watch is Deolis Guerra, who according to Phil Mackey is rattling his cage at Triple-A Rochester after his promotion from Double-A New Britain.

The Show may be a few months away, but those in AL leagues should already know his name. If the Minnesota Twins' season continues moving in the same direction, there'll be less reason to worry about entrusting Guerra with important innings.

Other notable weekend saviors

Craig Kimbrel (8), Braves  
Fernando Rodney (7), Rays  
Grant Balfour (6), Athletics  
John Axford (5), Brewers Got out of 1st-and-3rd, no-out jam to get his 48th straight in regular season
Sean Marshall (5), Reds  
Frank Francisco (5), Mets  
Alfredo Aceves (5), Red Sox  
Joel Hanrahan (4), Pirates  
Brett Myers (4), Astros  
Santiago Casilla 2 (4), Giants  
Huston Street (3), Padres  
Jonathan Broxton (3), Royals  
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Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat | AL depth charts | NL depth charts

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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