Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Blake Parker, Francisco Rodriguez, more

by Tim Heaney on July 2, 2013 @ 13:00:00 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.

Chicago Cubs
Kevin Gregg James Russell
Blake Parker +
Pedro Strop +
Shawn Camp
Henry Rodriguez

Gregg's Saturday blown save (one run on a hit and a free pass) was his first of the year. First. Numero uno. Seriously. Go check. The 1-2-3 wrap-up the following day (his 13th of 2013), however, reaffirmed how surprisingly effective he's been. His renewed vigor will play to Chicago's advantage -- not for continuing his stopper job throughout the season, but for team president Theo Epstein to see what future chips he could wrangle from a reliever-hungry club.

Milwaukee Brewers RP Francisco Rodriguez
K-Rod: stayin' alive ... ah ah ah ah

Gregg's K/9 boost, partially resulting from a more dynamic downward drop on the movement in his varied fastball cache, could help a contender. His fantasy owners must prepare for him to leave behind the North Side and, in that event, likely about 99.999999 percent of his fantasy value.

This sell-high move would re-open the back-end vacuum for Dale Sveum and simulated save scroungers. Parker, the 28-year-old who picked up Gregg's Saturday slack with his first career save, might be considered. "Maybe you could look at Parker because he has done it in Triple-A if (a Gregg trade) comes to pass," skip recently said. Russell, their high-leverage southpaw weapon, would enter the discussion, as well.

More significantly, Epstein netted two relievers on Tuesday that further muddle the hierarchy. Strop, plucked from the Baltimore Orioles, has a live arm but has been dead weight to any AL-only carrier who's braved his ugly performances. Matt Guerrier was acquired in exchange for Carlos Marmol. (More on him below.) Guerrier's impact will be less directly tied to him earning save chances than for him opening them up for Russell; Guerrier has been competent at minimum versus lefty sticks in his career, which could mean Russell might slide into saves.

Parker, however, seems like the type that this organization could develop for the long haul. The righty registered 66 saves in 257 farm appearances with 41 in 156 for Class AAA Iowa, including seven closures and a 2.04 ERA there this year. The 15 punch-outs he's posted in 12 1/3 MLB frames so far reflect his career 9.7 K/9 in the minors.

He struggles to sit in the mid-90s but boasts several offerings that have at least proven serviceable. Parker has honed his split-finger heater and regained his velocity following a 2012 campaign marred by an elbow stress reaction and a subsequent elbow bone contusion.

Camp has frequented tight game situations, as well. Rodriguez did the job for a spell in D.C. but helped trim many cuticles. Carlos Villanueva has appeared in late-game, high-leverage spots lately, but he still holds more tangible swingman allure for this bullpen's flexibility. These three are probably last-ditch options.

Though Sveum likely would prefer a solo closer in the absence of Gregg, it may very well become a group effort as Epstein and company test different options to move in a solidified direction for 2014. Parker is capable of logging multiple frames per outing, so Saturday might've just been a case of best available RP.

The Cubs have some intriguing (some of them hard-throwing) projects, but it's a speculative mess that won't be sorted out until perhaps long after a would-be Gregg shipment. Early indications, however, peg Russell, Parker and Strop as the three most capable of having a say in a non-Gregg environment.

If you're trying to work ahead in cavernous games, good luck.

Brewers, Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Dodgers get look in "Mound meetings"

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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 the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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