Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: J.J. Putz, Craig Kimbrel, more

by Tim Heaney on May 10, 2013 @ 13:00:00 PDT

 

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KFFL.com'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.

Team
JS
HO
Closer
Understudy/Fill-in
Lurker(s)
Arizona Diamondbacks
4
3
J.J. Putz DL Heath Bell David Hernandez
Matt Reynolds

After leaving his Tuesday save opp with elbow stiffness, Putz was placed on the disabled list. Docs diagnosed him with an ulnar collateral ligament sprain, and Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said Bell would get first crack at replacing the vet. Putz will refrain from throwing for a while, but surgery isn't planned.

That said, anything involving the UCL warrants long-term trepidation. Aggravation could lead to Tommy John surgery. Putz has a history of elbow setbacks: Back in '08, he hyper-extended it. The next year, bone chips kept him out for most of the campaign. In 2011, it endured tendonitis.

Meanwhile, Bell has rolled along by recording a save on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, giving up two hits and fanning two in three total frames. He'll rest Friday, so Hernandez or Reynolds may sneak one in.

Atlanta Braves RP Craig Kimbrel
No worries about Kimbrel?

In 16 games, Bell has struck out 20 and walked three; the 35-year-old's career-high K percentage pace of 30.8 and his improved rate of swinging-strikes induced further bolsters his cred. He's inducing a similar off-the-plate whiff frequency to what he did in his peak years.

Of course, his .400 BAABIP has also been justified, thanks to opponents' 29.3 liner rate. However, don't read heavily into that 1.17 HR/9 and 16.7 HR/FB; he hasn't given up a homer since his first outing of the year, during which he surrendered two. Besides a few blowup outings, he's worked around trouble effectively.

Hernandez remains a sound long-term speculation, and Reynolds can serve a fainter but comparable role in leagues where waiver options run thin. The number of solid successors behind him and some volatile indicators, in theory, make Bell a decent trade candidate. He's close to, if not at, his peak value with the likelihood of Putz missing extensive time.

On the other hand, the portly punctuator seems to have moved past his rough 2012 and should be a fine hold for however long he clutches this job, so don't fret if no one bites.

Team
JS
HO
Closer
Understudy/Fill-in
Lurker(s)
Boston Red Sox
1
2
Junichi Tazawa +
Koji Uehara

Bailey (biceps) played catch Thursday but hinted that he won't return from the disabled list to the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday, when he's first eligible. Tazawa, the fill-in fireman, possesses the skills to make this gig his but also has an unknown window. Luckily for Tazawa's owners, Hanrahan's seemingly serious forearm injury provides Tazawa with more breathing room.

Bailey's voluminous medical chart has already reared its ugly head in his hesitant verbalized timetable. Maybe he's just being cautious -- not a bad thing -- but maybe he's reminding himself of his numerous sideline stays and seems resigned to another one. If Bailey must use more DL days, Uehara would threaten to steal a few SVOs per month, but John Farrell's desire to conserve the elderly righty would box him out from a noteworthy stint.

This chain primarily depends on Bailey's health, so stay tuned, but if Tazawa blows away the competition, that might become a moot point. Farrell rolled with the punches and demoted Hanrahan when Bailey was excelling and given the opp, so maybe the manager will continue playing the momentum game.

Team
JS
HO
Closer
Understudy/Fill-in
Lurker(s)
Altanta Braves
5
5
Craig Kimbrel Jordan Walden
Eric O'Flaherty
Jonny Venters DL

Kimbrel, conversely, looked to have lost his energy after giving up back-to-back jacks with two outs for a "BS, L" at the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday, hours after CHS addressed previous issues. Of course, playing at Great American Ball Park didn't help him. His May 3 stumble also came off a homer by stud David Wright, but his first gaffe of the season stemmed from faulty outfield defense.

Kimbrel took a breather Wednesday and emerged yesterday for a shutout inning to record his 11th save of the year and the 100th of his career. He worked around a two-out ground-rule double to preserve the Atlanta Braves' three-run victory.

Brooks Baseball says his fastball hasn't been generating as many whiffs as it did in previous years, and his curveball is getting rocked upon contact more often, but he's still punching out hitters. He recovered enough to buy himself some time, and we're not going to panic yet. Walden and O'Flaherty loom should he sink further into a funk, though a few more Kimbrel-like outings should stomp out that fire for the foreseeable future.

Mound meetings

Los Angeles Dodgers RP Brandon League
Skipper settling for League average?

On Wednesday, Dale Sveum confirmed the widely guessed notion that Kevin Gregg would handle Chicago Cubs saves for now, citing that the vet's sample size was big enough to back his decision. Kyuji Fujikawa (forearm), now that he has been activated from the DL, will serve as the next-in-line setup man while he works back into form. (Sorry, Carlos Marmol speculators ... maybe later this summer.)

Gregg and Fujikawa must reside on deep-mixed rosters, with the latter still deserving a stash in case Gregg's improvements lose luster. He'll have to give up a run at some point, yet his successful focus on keeping pitches down looks to have revived his career. Stop being stubborn and start believing at least that Gregg has evolved into something more than roto excrement.

***

The Closer Depth Charts docked Brandon League's Job Security score this week thanks to this aside from Don Mattingly. A move probably isn't imminent, but it's a good time to grab Kenley Jansen if he's still available, possible in casual or shallow mixers. League's last two game entries have come in tied situations, and he's taken the loss by allowing a solo jack in each.

Remember, however, that of eight save situations this year, he's cinched seven. Of course, he's allowed a run in three of his successful attempts and at least one walk or hit in five. He's making it interesting. Mattingly may simply want someone with Jansen's skills to make things calmer, but League's contract and superficial success dictate he'll actually have to fail at his job a few more times to warrant getting kicked out.

***

CHS must've pissed off Fernando Rodney with the note Tuesday that his approach and stuff looked shoddy. On Thursday, in ninth-inning but non-save Tampa Bay Rays work, he ran into a bit of trouble with a two-out HBP and single, but he averaged 98.4 mph on his four-seam fastball, including touching 100 twice in burying Melky Cabrera.

Rodney was still pitching from the first-base side of the rubber, however, so if he sticks there, continue expecting bumps unless he can keep blowing away hitters or makes another, similar modification. The best way for him to regain his punch is to move to the other side of the hill. Tuck away Joel Peralta if you want to take a conservative toe-dip, but you'll have to remain patient.

***

On two days' rest, Sergio Romo was tagged for two runs on two hits and a walk to let a closure slip away Wednesday, but the San Francisco Giants picked him up with an extra-innings win. Those were the first runs Romo had allowed in six games and, though the recently lights-out Santiago Casilla and the steady Jeremy Affeldt will chime in during San Fran's conservation efforts, there's no job change coming anytime soon.

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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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