Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Jim Henderson, Kyuji Fujikawa, more

by Nicholas Minnix on April 9, 2013 @ 12:38:19 PDT


Pages 1 | 2 | all'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.

Milwaukee Brewers
Jim Henderson John Axford Brandon Kintzler
Mike Gonzalez
Mark Rogers DL

On Monday morning, Tom Haudricort shared the writing on the bathroom wall: Axford is probably about to give it up. Sure enough, Ron Roenicke called on Henderson to do the deed for the Brew Crew on Monday night, against the Chicago Cubs. The other Canadian right-hander in this bullpen allowed an inherited runner to score but stopped most of the bleeding to seal the W.

Milwaukee Brewers RP Jim Henderson
Escaped in his audition

Milwaukee's skipper confirmed after that contest that he was making the switch -- a temporary one, he hopes. Henderson sympathized with his countryman and told the team's official site that he expects Axford to regain the job as well. Roenicke acknowledged that sending Axford out for a second inning on Sunday at the Arizona Diamondbacks wasn't ideal, but the manager felt as if he'd run out of options.

Nonetheless, Axford has been crap to open the campaign. His velocity is down considerably -- by, like, 5 mph or so -- and he's become incredibly predictable. Until the Brewers develop a plan to set him straight, there's little to evaluate for the short term.

Fantasy owners in shallow mixed leagues don't need to be loyal to the Ax unless they have nothing better to do with that roster spot. Anything deeper, and pause is comprehensible, since Milwaukee hopes to be able to call on him in the ninth again. This may take awhile, however, and whether it'll be for a good time is TBD.

Chicago Cubs
Kyuji Fujikawa James Russell
Shawn Camp +
Carlos Marmol
Arodys Vizcaino DL

Dale Sveum had seen enough. (So had fantasy owners -- at least those who drafted or picked up Fujikawa.) The skipper made the switch to the Asian import official before the Cubbies' contest on Sunday, despite the fact that Fujikawa had yielded three runs in a frame against the Atlanta Braves on Saturday and that Sveum had previously mentioned Russell and Camp as potentially interim options in the ninth. Marmol's performance against Atlanta on Saturday (home runs surrendered to the brothers Upton) did in the wild right-hander.

Reportedly, Sveum would prefer to see Fujikawa pitch well enough to retain the job. The skipper's pitching coach, Chris Bosio, told the media that his team's long-range goal is to have Marmol serve as closer, however. Those goals are, on some level, in conflict, although not necessarily directly. Sveum said that the Cubbies will take the same approach they took last year at this time with Marmol: work him in the sixth and seventh innings, and focus on pitch selection.

It seems as if the North Siders' staff is willing to let performance dictate roles, at least to some degree, this year, and that doesn't work in the incumbent's favor. Last year, Sveum's goal was assuredly to get Marmol back into the ninth inning, and that's something the team's front office would probably still prefer to see. At some point, the Cubs have to accept that they may not be able to fix Marmol's confidence and whatever else troubles him, and that they may have to cut their losses.

There isn't much reason to hold Marmol in mixed leagues. In NL-only leagues, there is probably little incentive to drop him, unless an owner isn't allowed to bench him. In the caveat's case, although one may find that to be a tough decision to make, cutting him loose appears to be a safer play. Perhaps Marmol would draw more in a FAAB war than as potential fantasy trade bait.

Mound meetings

Jason Motte has been telling folks that he's been feeling better while he rests and waits for answers regarding his elbow and forearm discomfort. That's only natural. Medical personnel waited for the inflammation in the area to subside so that they could perform a follow-up MRI. The St. Louis Cardinals expect to know more about his time table once they receive the results of such an exam, which Motte is scheduled for today.

St. Louis Cardinals RP Jason Motte
Brace yourself

Motte owners should already have braced themselves for the worst possible news: an eventual recommendation of Tommy John surgery. The procedure is seemingly inevitable for the right-hander, considering the type of wear he's sustained. It's probably just a question of how far into the future -- two weeks, two months, two years, longer? -- it'll be.

Perhaps multiple weeks of rest will do the trick. If so, Mitchell Boggs may keep it together long enough to do the job in the interim. Yesterday's meltdown in the ninth against the Cincinnati Reds was a snowballing pile of feces to which the entire contributed. Trevor Rosenthal gave up a run in the frame prior that tied the tilt. He's already done so twice in 2013.

The Cardinals are faced with the very real possibility that a longer-term solution is necessary. Boggs is a solid reliever, but his lack of purely dominant stuff and experience retiring hitters in so many other ways limits his upside. Rosenthal, by way of need and because he has the kind of stuff that would change the dynamic of the ninth, may very well end up following Adam Wainwright's path to the rotation -- by detour as closer. Pick him up.


Ned Yost is sticking by his closer, Greg Holland, who blew a save chance on Saturday and nearly did on Sunday before the skipper called on nasty right-hander Kelvin Herrera to bail out the Kansas City Royals. Neither of those relievers was available on Monday, when Aaron Crow did the duty.

Yost is right about Holland: He started slowly last year (although that turned out to be injury-related), and he has the goods to get the job done. Slow starts are forgivable for only so long, however -- especially when your team has a number of legit alternatives, like the pair already mentioned in this blurb.

Holland's job security grade has decreased, but a change isn't imminent. A pretty clean appearance or two would certainly keep the peasants placated, though. Herrera should be owned because of his marvelous skill set in most formats, either way.


Jim Leyland doesn't want the media to pigeonhole him. "Now, I'm not saying (Joaquin Benoit) is the closer," the manager told the press when attempting to clarify how he'll handle save situations for the time being.

Of course, what he's saying is, Benoit will close, as long as the righty is available, especially if the opponent's lineup has alternating sticks due up, because he can get hitters from both sides of the dish out. Managers frequently make such a pitcher's obstacle course a priority when they fill out their lineup cards nowadays.

So, all along, Benoit, the reliever with the most dependable record and skills of the bunch, has been the one to own. Shocking. Of course, others may snipe an opp here and there, but it's probably only AL-only managers who should be pursuing those vultures.

Jose Valverde may alter the arrangement sometime after he joins the parent club, especially if he's indeed overcome last season's mild health and control problems, as his camp claims. Benoit's performance and Leyland's comfort level will tell the rest of the story.

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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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