Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Athletics, Ryan Cook, Brandon League, more

by Nicholas Minnix on June 11, 2012 @ 15:19:44 PDT



Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat | AL depth charts | NL depth charts'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: Ryan Cook, Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes

Since he officially became closer, on May 12, right after he'd saved one despite giving up a run, Fuentes made nine appearances (8 1/3 innings) and gave up seven runs, all earned. He saved three, but he also blew two chances, both resulting in losses. Roto owners are shocked.

Just kidding. On Saturday, Bob Melvin switched it up, but instead of going with one of his quality right-handers as his closer, solo style (like he's said he prefers), he announced that Cook and Balfour will join Fuentes in a committee. And fantasy owners rejoiced!

Cincinnati Reds RP Aroldis Chapman
Yes, he's human...

The Bay Area press and fans have clamored for Cook to be the man. Susan Slusser reported that Melvin doesn't want to pigeonhole the hard-throwing rookie because the skipper would prefer to go to Cook in many sticky eighth-inning scenarios.

Slusser speculates logically (as usual) that Cook is thus the reliever in whom Melvin has the most confidence, so he may have the most important duties. Those duties might not necessarily result in SVOs, at least in the short term.

Cook is probably the most roto valuable arm to own, and he should be in deep mixed leagues as well as beyond. Balfour should be as well, though; he's pitched fairly well. The vet has an opportunity to prove that he deserves more ninth-inning consideration, something he was displeased to lose a month ago. Fuentes is a sketchy AL-only commodity, nothing more.

Job security score: 1
Health score:

Seattle Mariners

Closer: Tom Wilhelmsen
Understudy/Fill-in: Brandon League
Lurkers: Stephen Pryor

On Sunday, before the club's game versus the Los Angeles Dodgers, Eric Wedge praised League's recent work, as multiple sources reported, and told the media that the righty was close to regaining the closer's role. Then, the top of the eighth inning happened.

The M's were already down five when League entered to open the frame. He gave up four hits and two runs, threw a wild pitch and frittered away a good deal of the good faith that his manager expressed in him. After that contest, Wedge confirmed that: "It was a step back."

Wilhelmsen has done a fine job, as Melvin has already acknowledged. The right-hander has three saves. Trade rumors are going to pick up steam because word circulated that some club has inquired about League, too.

Even if and when League regains the job, he won't be a very good bet to remain a closer in August and beyond. That makes Wilhelmsen a fine hold, and Pryor warrants stashing in very deep formats, just in case.

Job security score: 2
Health score:

Mound meetings

Last Thursday, Aroldis Chapman gave up an earned run for the first time this season. On Sunday, he entered full meltdown mode.

Two of the four runs that the Detroit Tigers scored against Cincinnati in the eighth inning of their Sunday night tilt were charged to Logan Ondrusek. Chapman did his bullpen mate no favors by yielding a couple of hits, hitting a batter and issuing a walk, of course.

Dusty Baker's reaction was unlike that of fans and followers, naturally. He and teammates have plenty of faith in the electric lefty. What else are they going to say? But no matter the concerns anyone has about Chapman, his talent and ridiculous improvement in control are still present. Baker loves having the Cuban at the back end. He'll give Chapman some leeway, as well as his trust, for some time.


That's all it takes. Word was that the New York Yankees would stick with Rafael Soriano even when David Robertson (strained oblique) returned. Next thing you know, Soriano is eking out a save after allowing two base runners on Saturday and blowing one on Sunday by allowing three hits and a run and recording only one out.

Don't expect the plan to change. Joe Girardi told the media that he didn't enjoy having to pull his closer and that he'll go to Soriano the next time a save chance arises. He'd recorded nine saves before this BS. The microscope will be focused on the reliever a little more when it does, however.

In his first rehab appearance with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, D-Rob tossed a clean inning and fanned one. The odds are far from in Robertson's favor, but it doesn't hurt to keep him around.


The Toronto Blue Jays revealed that Sergio Santos (shoulder inflammation) had a setback in his recovery last week, and his timetable to return remains unclear.

John Farrell said that the right-hander felt discomfort after a BP session last week, so instead of ramping up his activity, they backed off a bit. The skipper also noted that pain "can be normal" in that situation, so this may not be the most devastating news, as some have suggested.

Farrell's statement may be more hopeful than it is likely, however. Santos could still be back by the end of the month, or he could be out past the All-Star break. It's terribly frustrating for his owners, not so much for Casey Janssen's.


On Friday, Davey Johnson further cleared up the Washington Nationals' bullpen sitch in the absence of Drew Storen (elbow surgery) by announcing that Tyler Clippard will remain the ninth-inning man.

Clippard did skip proud by recording saves on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which gave him eight. He did the duty without allowing a run in 2 2/3 innings and giving up only one hit and one walk.

If Clippard keeps putting it down like that, there may be controversy when Storen returns, which won't be until after the ASB. If the Nats are in a race and Clippard is getting it done, why would they be in a rush to disrupt it?


Jason Motte (11th save on Saturday) had a couple of rough non-save outings to close May, and on Sunday, he endured another. In the ninth with two men on, Jason Kipnis took him deep to give the Cleveland Indians a 4-1 lead against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Oakland Athletics RP Grant Balfour
Balfour relevant again

Mike Matheny isn't about to consider making a change, in part because most of the bad has come in non-save appearances. Still, Motte is demonstrating that he has a ways to go before he's an elite fireman.

Will he ever be? Motte's above-average velocity doesn't generate the kind of dominance rate that excites fantasy owners because of the minimal movement on them. Even if he puts up numbers that place him in that class, eventually, he's going to have to develop his repertoire extensively to remain there - or follow a path similar to Brian Wilson's.


The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes that Ron Roenicke believes Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford are sharper when they receive work consistently. The Milwaukee Brewers' skipper may have been taking responsibility for the command issues that plagued Axford in the righty's ugly ninth inning against the San Diego Padres on Sunday. Jose Veras had to come on and lock it down, although he wasn't exactly perfect, either.

Roenicke's observation is fair, judging from Axford's results on days before which he's had plenty of time off. It might be a good time to buy low and hope that the manager commits to a routine for his closer. Axford's control rate is increasingly becoming burdensome, though, so acquiring parties will be banking on a turnaround of that command.


This past weekend, the Boston Red Sox recalled Mark Melancon, who'll have a reasonable chance of improving his 49.50 ERA in two MLB innings in 2012. At Triple-A Pawtucket, the right-hander posted a 0.83 ERA, an 11.22 K/9, a 1.25 BB/9 and 11 saves in 21 games. Alfredo Aceves owners need not shake in their boots, however - unless he spirals out of control in the near future.


In "news that probably doesn't matter to fantasy owners," Kyle Farnsworth's rehab assignment begins today. He should return from a strain in his elbow and rejoin the Tampa Bay Rays before the break. Fernando Rodney picked up his 18th save on Sunday.

Other notable weekend saviors

Chris Perez (20), Indians
Craig Kimbrel (18), Braves
Joel Hanrahan 2 (17), Pirates Nice rebound from BS on Thu.
Jonathan Papelbon (16), Phillies
Santiago Casilla (16), Giants
Brett Myers (15), Astros
J.J. Putz (13), Diamondbacks
Jose Valverde 2 (12), Tigers Behold, a Sun. (spitball?) strikeout
Scott Downs (6), Angels Yielded R for first time this season
Huston Street (5), Padres



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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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