Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: J.J. Putz, Jose Valverde, more

by Nicholas Minnix on April 26, 2013 @ 13:43:29 PDT

 

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Team
JS
HO
Closer
Understudy/Fill-in
Lurker(s)
Milwaukee Brewers
1
5
Jim Henderson John Axford Francisco Rodriguez M
Brandon Kintzler
Mike Gonzalez
Mark Rogers DL

Ron Roenicke sounds like a manager who's ready to put Axford back in the closer's role. He said so, basically. Henderson, who's allowed one run on six hits and two walks, with 10 K's and five saves, in his 10 innings, shouldn't take it personally. The skipper said so. This has been the Milwaukee Brewers' plan from the word "demotion."

Milwaukee Brewers RP Jim Henderson
Henderson chopped soon?

Not so fast. Note that Roenicke also discussed his acknowledgment of the importance of using his best relievers for the biggest outs, and that the toughest situations often come up before he might otherwise go to his best relievers. The Ax's improvements since his miserable opening week have made him one of Roenicke's most treasured bullpen weapons again. What's he saying, then?

At some point, the Brew Crew will probably go back to Axford in the ninth. Roenicke hasn't demonstrated with his actions yet that he's not a slave to the customary bullpen hierarchy. But "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is the mantra of the day in Milwaukee, so Henderson has life. Assuming that he continues to pitch well -- no given, but he has the skills to be borderline dominant -- he may warrant ownership all season given Axford's propensity to lose it in save sitches and Roenicke's potential evolution as a thinker.

Mound meetings

Joe Nathan recorded his seventh save of 2013 on Thursday against one of his old clubs, the Minnesota Twins, without much of problem. He's allowed only one run, on seven hits and a walk with nine K's, in 8 1/3 frames, so it might surprise fantasy owners to find out that the right-hander's velocity is down notably across the board compared to last season's.

"Honestly my velocity has been down but I have been effective with other stuff," he told his team's official site. Nathan is correct. The 38-year-old can't be expected to fire rockets up there anymore, so he doesn't have as much margin for error. He'll have some rough appearances this year, no doubt. But he's smarter. Here's proof. Besides, there's no one on the Texas Rangers to challenge him for his job any time soon.

***

Steve Cishek was saddled with a loss on Thursday because he entered the Miami Marlins' knotted affair with the Chicago Cubs in the ninth and allowed a solo ding dong to Luis Valbuena. The outing leaves him at 1-3, with two saves in three chances, and a 5.40 ERA in 10 innings.

Fantasy owners don't have to be too worried, yet, if they invested in the right-hander. But it's clear that he's still not very confident in his slider, something he's been working on since the season began. He's relied on fastballs more often in 2013, and that trend continued on Thursday.

Cishek must have the opposite of the disease afflicts Carlos Marmol. Thankfully, this means Cishek's ailment comes with a lower rate of walks per nine. But it'll probably hurt a little more, anyway, until the Fish flinger is throwing his slide piece the way he likes it, and walking dudes more frequently is a possible -- but welcome -- side effect.

***

Something to monitor: Casey Janssen told Shi Davidi of Canada's Sportsnet that his right shoulder still isn't quite where it needs to be. No need to panic. It doesn't sound like a big deal -- for now. Janssen, like Nathan, has the stuff and the wits to retire the opposition despite downturns in pitch speeds.

But what happens if the Toronto Blue Jays' closer doesn't receive the days off here and there that he hopes for? What if the tax on his right shoulder becomes too hefty to pay? It sounds like Janssen isn't in immediate danger of stressing out the surgically repaired joint. Given the start to Toronto's season and his desire to contribute, however, how much will he push it, and how much will John Gibbons, one of those old warrior types, allow him?

This is far from ideal. Janssen may be just fine in the long run, but it sounds like the Jays could've stood to bring him back a little more slowly. If you can get something close to draft-day value for him in return, why not do it?

***

Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon were unavailable on Thursday, so the Pittsburgh Pirates turned to southpaw Tony Watson in a save situation against the Philadelphia Phillies.

It appears that Watson is third in line for saves in this bullpen. The Phils were scheduled to send two left-handed batters to the dish to open the bottom of the ninth. That didn't hurt, but Watson is probably most qualified among the Bucs' other options, anyway.

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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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