Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Brian Fuentes, White Sox committee, Frank Francisco, more

by Nicholas Minnix on May 14, 2012 @ 17:05:10 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)

Oakland Athletics

Closer: Brian Fuentes
Understudy/Fill-in: Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook

Bob Melvin decided to go away from Balfour before he announced it on Saturday night, after his team's victory against the Detroit Tigers. Fuentes recorded each of the A's last two saves, including one that night. The left-hander is probably a somewhat hot pickup in deep leagues - perhaps unwisely.

Chicago White Sox RP Addison Reed
Will Reed ever take the reins?

A couple of weeks ago, Melvin stated that he wasn't ready to make a switch, even though Balfour was struggling. The skipper must've been aware that his then-closer was under the weather and complaining about back pain during his rough stretch to close April and open May.

Since then, Balfour has converted a save chance (on Cinco de Mayo) and has allowed one run and four hits in 3 2/3 innings, with two K's and two walks. His last appearance came after Melvin announcement.

As has been chronicled on the Internet, Balfour wasn't thrilled with the decision. The manager apparently told his right-hander that he could get the job back, though, and Balfour seems intent. It's not smart to dump him.

Fuentes has yielded a run in each of each of his save conversions, and for the last couple of years, he's become reliable only as a matchup lefty. The 36-year-old is pitching with a bit more verve this year, and his early improvement in BB/9 is highly encouraging.

Performance indicators still give the nod to Balfour, sooner or later. Cook is a decent post-deadline bet, although ineffectiveness from both of the vets could always increase Oakland's desire to test the rookie.

Job security score: 1
Health score:

Chicago White Sox

Closer: Matt Thornton, Addison Reed, Hector Santiago
Understudy/Fill-in: Jesse Crain DL

On Friday, Chris Sale's MRI came back clean, so Kenny Williams announced that he was re-entering the rotation, beginning on Saturday. That set Robin Ventura back to the end of spring training, minus his desire to name one pitcher his closer.

"We've got the opportunity to use Matt, Addison and Hector in that role. You're seeing what (opponents) are lined up with and [we'll] go from there."

That's right, it's every fantasy baseball owner's favorite arrangement: closer-by-committee.

Reed was two lengths ahead of his committee-mates when the skipper made his declaration, but the Kansas City Royals blew him up for six runs in only a third of an inning on Sunday. With the way things have gone in this bullpen so far, the meltdown should have little bearing on his standing, but Ventura has been reluctant to use him as the primary man.

Any of these pitchers can be worth owning in any deep format, but the ChiSox's rookie manager has succeeded in making none of them exciting. Thornton seems the safest play. Reed looks like the smartest play, at least for the long term.

Santiago? Well, Ventura mentioned that only Santiago was a candidate to face both right-handed and left-handed betters. Maybe that actually makes him the favorite. It makes little sense, though, because the other two have had documented success against hitters on either side of the dish.

Crain (strained oblique) should be back at the beginning of this week. Hell, tuck him away in AL-only leagues. Ventura needs to take a few steps back, stop over-thinking and assert his authority, or he'll begin to lose control.

Job security score: 1
Health score:

Mound meetings

This past weekend, Terry Collins was much ado about nothing, apparently, because on Monday the New York Mets announced that Frank Francisco would remain their closer, despite his blown save opps on Friday and Sunday. The righty has an 8.56 ERA, but this past weekend's were his first two blown chances of the season.

Frank Frank let his emotions get the better of him on Sunday, when it appeared that the home-plate ump was squeezing him on at least a couple of pitches, perhaps more. In addition, Collins added on Monday that Francisco might be tipping pitches and that there was even another issue at work that he wouldn't discuss.

The news from this past weekend probably made Jon Rauch a somewhat popular pickup, at least in deep leagues, but this outcome seemed like a good possibility. The 6-foot-11 setup man still has retainer value, at least in NL-only setups and some deep mixers. He's been sharp (2.93 ERA, 0.98 WHIP).

Bobby Parnell (2.25 ERA, 9.00 K/9) lurks as an alternative to the alternative. His curveball has been a difference-maker; it's easier to command than his old breaking ball, and his control (1.69 BB/9) has improved immensely.


Ozzie Guillen's move back to Heath Bell was a nice gesture after just one clean Bell appearance, but it was also a leap of faith. That was evidenced in the W that Bell backed into on Sunday, when the Milwaukee Brewers lit him up for two hits and two runs, with help from two walks, after he entered a tied contest. He fanned no one in the frame.

Hopefully, you didn't drop Steve Cishek, or even Edward Mujica, just yet. Bell was destined to get his job back, but he didn't deserve to get it back so soon. One more foul outing from Bell, and Guillen will second-guess himself, for sure.


Davey Johnson is also standing by his man. His temp man, anyway. Henry Rodriguez has been great, per the Washington Nationals' skipper, and won't be budged from his fill-in duty any time soon. On Sunday, H-Rod was one Joey Votto grand slam short of his ninth save, but instead, it was the third he's blown. If Rodriguez had induced a bases-loaded ground-out or pop-up there, it might not have come up. He locked down a 2-1 victory the night before.

Per his skipper, Drew Storen (minor elbow surgery) threw on Monday and felt great. He could return by the end of June. Brad Lidge (hernia surgery) just began tossing it and is at least a month away.


Rafael Dolis' blown save chance on Friday night could tempt Dale Sveum to consider evening out the split of the ninth-inning load, which would benefit James Russell. Sveum, unlike Ventura, hasn't looked like a sniper with a quick trigger finger, however.

With a strained hamstring that landed him on the DL, Carlos Marmol moved further away from regaining his job. Gordon Wittenmeyer called the right-hander a likely candidate to be traded. Sveum acknowledged that Marmol showed a little progress before he hit the DL, at least.


On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Pirates Hanrahan activated Joel Hanrahan from the bereavement list. Juan Cruz picked up a save while Hanny was out. With a pair of saves prior, it's pretty clear that Cruz is the choice over setup man Jason Grilli when the Bucs' closer isn't around.


John Axford blew a save chance on Friday against the Chicago Cubs, ending his streak of consecutive save opps converted at 49. It didn't look good coming just one appearance after the Cincinnati Reds tagged him for a couple of runs in the ninth inning of a 0-0 tilt two days prior.

Axford was under duress on Friday, however, and it had nothing to do with the Cubbies' lumber. A photo of the note the Milwaukee Brewers' closer left for the media after that BS has been a mildly popular topic on the viral front. Apparently, the Ax blames the luck gods, just like roto owners do. The K's have been there, and the walks have disappeared lately, so maybe his fortunes will change soon.


Judd Zulgad put up an interesting post on something Matt Capps picked up in spring training that has made a big difference for him.

Other notable weekend saviors

Craig Kimbrel (11), Braves
Jim Johnson 2 (11), Orioles
Jonathan Papelbon (10), Phillies
Fernando Rodney (10), Rays
Brett Myers (9), Astros
Jose Valverde (7), Tigers
Santiago Casilla (7), Giants
Matt Capps 2 (7), Twins
Alfredo Aceves 2 (7), Red Sox
Kenley Jansen (3), Dodgers
Scott Downs (3), Angels
Dale Thayer (3), Padres
Casey Janssen (2), Blue Jays
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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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