Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Tom Wilhelmsen, Edward Mujica, more

by Tim Heaney on July 5, 2013 @ 13:45:00 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)
Seattle Mariners
1
5
Tom Wilhelmsen
Oliver Perez
Yoervis Medina
Carter Capps
Stephen Pryor DL

A day after saying Wilhelmsen might be getting back into save work soon, Eric Wedge called upon that very reliever in that very situation Wednesday. He was rewarded when the formerly deposed door-slammer disposed of three dangerous righty-hitting Texas Rangers (Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Nelson Cruz) in spotless, 13-pitch duty.

St. Louis Cardinals RP Trevor Rosenthal
Will Rosenthal get a crack?

He hasn't recorded a punch-out in three of the five outings in his recent shutout streak, but he has four over those 4 2/3 innings. From this window, we gather that he's focusing on his pair of a four-seam fastball and curveball while ignoring his sinker and changeup. This change might not stick, but it could point him in the right direction to padlock this gig once again.

Remember that his appearance doesn't mean he's regained full trust from management. Wedge said the "due up" matchups, Capps' illness and Danny Farquhar's lack of bow-tying experience made the decision to bring in Wilhelmsen much easier. Perez and Medina still might pick off cameo spots, notably the former because of his left-handedness.

That being said, it's relatively safe to surmise that, given how much time passed since his demotion and the fact that no one else staked a claim, Wilhelmsen will at least receive the most immediate opportunity to erase any doubt over who mans the ninth.

Team
JS
HO
Closer
Understudy/Fill-in
Lurker(s)
St. Louis Cardinals
3
5
Edward Mujica Trevor Rosenthal Seth Maness +
Kevin Siegrist +
Fernando Salas M

Mujica continued a spotty stretch by yielding a two-run homer during a four-hit meltdown Thursday and suffering the loss via his first blown chance of 2013. The Cardinals' savior has allowed at least one run in four of his last six appearances, over which he's coughed up three bleacher-reachers.

Mujica's grounder rate (41.8 percent) has dipped to its lowest recorded level since 2009 (39.0). In a starkly scary indicator per Fangraphs, he hasn't allowed an infield fly ball yet this season. Limiting walks has helped him throughout his career, but the homer problems that typically accompanied that directive have revisited him. It's also the likely start of a correction on an inflated left-on-base rate that, even after his turmoil, stands at a ridiculous (even for a reliever) 85.7 percent.

If Rosenthal remains unclaimed in your league, give him a try if you're trying to predict a potential change. Any hint at a change at the back end will require further contribution from the negative side of Mujica, as he's established ample rope for himself. Still, enjoying Rosenthal's RP dominance won't hurt while hopeful fantasy lotto winners wait.

Mound meetings

Houston Astros RP Jose Veras
Veras may be on move

In case you missed it on Tuesday, the Arizona Diamondbacks removed J.J. Putz from the closer role because his arm strength and velocity haven't been up to snuff in his return from the disabled list. Heath Bell will continue closing in his stead, but after he did the deed in a scoreless Wednesday inning, he allowed a solo homer last night for the wrong kind of fireworks: those that produce a blown save.

There's still plenty for Bell to work on, so it could be a brief as well as painful stint while the D-backs try to build Putz up to maximum ability. Putz may need only a few more clean spots following his one-out appearance Thursday to get back on track and regain Kirk Gibson's trust. At this rate, both could end up with significant stretches of save work (David Hernandez or Brad Ziegler -- their eventual Thursday savior -- as well?). Fantasy owners could remain frustrated for the near future, maybe through October.

***

Jose Veras took a comebacker off his right pinkie Thursday but suffered only a contusion, escaping a fracture. The Houston Astros stopper probably will return to mound work soon, but if this turns into something more serious that causes him to miss more time -- or if the 'Stros trade Veras to a contender -- 24-year-old Jose Cisnero could take the reins at the back end. He's posted a 2.95 ERA and an 8.59 K/9 in 36 2/3 frames this season while often pitching in seventh- and eighth-inning pressure spots since the start of June.

Of course, southpaw Wesley Wright and others aren't excluded from consideration, but Cisnero looks like the best solo speculation.

***

Etching a reliever as an eighth-inning mainstay doesn't always translate into that player undoubtedly replacing the closer, but Dale Sveum's endorsement that Blake Parker "pretty much put himself in (the eighth-inning) role right now" on Wednesday bodes well for his hierarchy if the Chicago Cubs were to trade Kevin Gregg.

New acquisitions Pedro Strop and Matt Guerrier could change those plans, but it doesn't look like they're going to slide either into hold spots often. Strop is pressing the reset button on his approach and potentially mechanics. He'll have to work his way up, though that might not take long if he shows the Cubbies the long-term allure they saw in him.

James Russell hindered his cred a tad with an eighth-inning BS Tuesday, during which he allowed a two-run homer. The left-hander looks like the backup plan to Parker, but the fluid nature of this alignment should temper mixed-league confidence.

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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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