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

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

Job Security (JS):
1 (unstable)
5 (untouchable)
Health Outlook (HO):
1 (fragile)
5 (durable)
: Up
+: Added
INJ: Injured
: Down
M: Minors
DL: Disabled List


Arizona Diamondbacks
J.J. Putz David Hernandez Heath Bell
Matt Reynolds +

Putz issued a two-out free pass but otherwise dispatched the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning on Thursday night, in the process telling fantasy owners to chill the Putz out about his job security. Should they? Hernandez has had problems of his own (including a blown save opp in the ninth on Wednesday), so Putz owners may want to relax.

Detroit Tigers RP Jose Valverde
Big outing for Papa Grande

For how long? That's an interesting question. This is Putz's second straight rocky beginning to a season, and he's gone through a number of rough patches in his career, only to rebound. Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson told the team's official site that his closer's problems are related to poor command of his splitter. Sounds familiar, too.

Putz's stuff isn't what it used to be, however. And why is it that, every so often, he finds himself in one of these same old ruts, and yet it takes him quite awhile to correct the problem? It just doesn't sound like the kind of pattern a conscious pitcher who learns from adversity and his mistakes would follow.

Incidentally, in his last six appearances (5 2/3 innings), Bell hasn't given up a run while striking out 11 and walking no one. Correct: the right-hander of the calamitous 2012 campaign with the misfortunate Miami Marlins as well as a 4.50 ERA this season. The beginning of that sizzling performance coincides with some dedicated film study by Bell and his administrators a few weeks ago.

What if? Hernandez is still next in line. The Snakes picked up most of the ridic salary the Fish tossed at Bell two winters ago, though. There's math, algebra, calculus and then whatever some teams use to determine their closer. Hey, there's always southpaw and extra-stanzas savior extraordinaire Reynolds (two closures this week). But, really, no.

Detroit Tigers
Jose Valverde Joaquin Benoit Phil Coke
Octavio Dotel DL
Bruce Rondon
Al Alburquerque

Boy did Motown turn back the clock. And quickly. OK, so the Detroit Tigers cut short Valverde's minor league trial, promoted him to the parent club, signed him to a major league deal that includes sweet incentives and then handed him the closer's role, all in one shot. Are los Tigres loco? How will he perform? Isn't it telling that Detroit called up Rondon, too -- and first?

On Wednesday, in his first 2013 appearance -- a save chance, naturally -- Valverde looked pretty darn good. He allowed two deep fly balls, one of them hit fairly well off the bat of Billy Butler, but he retired the Kansas City Royals' side in order. He was pumping four-seamers -- 18 of them, to be exact and to account for all offerings -- up there at 93, 94, even 95.

Sorry, haters. This is not the pitcher who spiraled downward in the second half of 2012 and flamed out in the postseason. So is Valverde a changed man, just like all the feel-good, eagerly dismissed reports said? "One scout said it's the best he's ever seen him throw the ball," Leyland told, "as far as velocity and coming out of his hand."

Big ups to MLB Network staffers, including Harold Reynolds (who knows the art, if not the science. OK, not "if."). They provided visual analysis of the differences between and similarities of Valverde in 2011 (when he was 49-for-49 and posted a 2.24 ERA), 2012 and his initial outing of this campaign. The evidence is telling, if you can get this video clip to play. (WTH,

HR pointed out to viewers that Valverde's hand placement at the set in 2012 was near his waist. In the odd-numbered years, the righty's hands came set near his head. The question: How important is the position of the reliever's hands to his results? Statistically and graphically, there don't appear to be drastic differences. Results-wise, in limited time, so far so good. Although the data don't show vast distinctions, there are distinctions.

What does it all mean? TBD. Plenty of folks believe that Valverde will revert to the form of the pitcher who was clearly in severe decline last year, and that Rondon (who gave up a lead in the seventh yesterday) will ascend to the throne eventually. That's a little too easily dismissive of a pitcher who, as Reynolds also stated, was humbled by the lack of interest in his services this past winter, though. Valverde went back to the drawing board and completely re-evaluated his process.

No one should be predicting 40-for-40 and a 2.50 ERA from here on out. Everyone should be willing to see Valverde as a commodity with long-term possibilities, though.

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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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