Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Andrew Bailey, Kevin Gregg, more

by Nicholas Minnix on April 30, 2013 @ 13:45:30 PDT

 

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Mound meetings

Jim Leyland was probably pretty smart to make Jose Valverde unavailable on Monday. On his second straight night of work, in a non-save situation on Sunday versus the Atlanta Braves, the seemingly rejuvenated right-hander peaked at 93 mph -- although he hit 92 consistently and his stuff still had plenty of movement.

St. Louis Cardinals RP Jason Motte
Motte's 2013 spoiled?

On Sunday, ESPN's broadcast team was discussing Valverde's re-emergence and speculated that Leyland may have inserted the 35-year-old to issue him his first test entailing appearances on back-to-back days. In addition, the crew added, it was the reliever's first trial with men on base; Valverde's reinvigoration of sorts involves an incorporation of the windup (and thus, obviously, nothing from the stretch). He relied exclusively on four-seamers (although he mixed in a couple of splitters on Saturday).

Valverde required only six pitches to dispatch the Bravos, but the first ball in play against him was well-struck and had to be hauled in just in front of the track. He seemed to be fairly quick to the plate, and the other two outs resulted from jam shots.

So far, so good, but fantasy owners will need much more evidence in order to feel confident that Valverde is fit to handle adverse situations. We're basically nearing the tail end of spring training, as far as he's concerned, so he's not in peak shape. But we won't have a better idea of how he'll handle base runners until he's forced to deal with them again and again. Will that be his Achilles' heel?

***

Jason Motte (partial tear in UCL) threw on both Saturday and Sunday, doing so on the latter date from 60 feet, and reported no unusual soreness. Those efforts mark the first time he's thrown in about five weeks. Rumor is, he was scheduled to toss it again on Monday, depending on his reaction, but he told reporters on Sunday that "It felt good" after he threw the second time.

The signs are good. Multiple sources reported that the St. Louis Cardinals are willing to push back their May 1 deadline as long as Motte is making progress. Motte knows that it's not unrealistic for him to pitch in his current condition.

Still, it's unlikely that he will, or if he does, that he's extremely effective. If you own Motte, consider this nothing more than a pipedream and continue to make provisions. If he comes back, great, bonus. Many people will be happy to trade for saves later this season.

***

Huston Street is 5-for-5 in save chances, but, in 10 stanzas, he's allowed five earned runs, 12 hits (three of them jacks) and four walks. He's fanned only five. He escaped one opportunity for a save with the help of a questionable (though seemingly correct) interference call.

Is something wrong? There's been no news suggesting a problem. As his Brooks Baseball page shows, Street's release points have changed over the years, and his pitch speed continues to decline, but the latter isn't alarmingly low for this time of year.

It's early. But perhaps Street has a slight mechanical issue to work out. Or perhaps he's still learning to adjust to the depletion of some physical ability that his repeated health problems may have caused. It's no time to panic, but Street may not be quite as much of a bargain as a second closer these days.

***

Bobby Parnell has already registered two blown save opportunities -- both coming in games in which the New York Mets' D could have been more helpful, as observers have pointed out. Fantasy owners have no need to worry. The right-hander has been superb, for the most part.

High-end relievers eventually learn to make up for things like their glove men's shortcomings. Hurlers must learn, with the help of their backstops, to pitch effectively based on the situation. Those who consistently get the types of outs they need (a strikeout, a double play) learn to do so by setting up hitters with strategic sequences and locations, or both.

Perhaps Parnell is already there, but he's still a bit of a work-in-progress. He's still a better answer than Frank Francisco (elbow discomfort), of course. Incidentally, and shockingly, the latter's movement toward a rehab assignment at the end of this week has been slow going.

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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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