Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Jonathan Papelbon, Brad Ziegler, more

by Tim Heaney on July 19, 2013 @ 12:30:00 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)
Philadelphia Phillies
5
5
Jonathan Papelbon Antonio Bastardo Justin De Fratus
Michael Stutes DL
Phillippe Aumont M

The lack of regular-season action this week left us writers and fans speculating about potential trades, including some relief rumblings. Papelbon's availability, a matter of debate depending on which Philadelphia Phillies report you read, might not matter much for his fantasy value, because anyone willing to expend the cost to acquire him would, 99.9999 percent of the time, make him their stopper.

Before dropping the ball Sunday (one run on two hits), Papelbon had converted six consecutive chances following a run of three failures. Regardless of whether he ships to Boston, Detroit or wherever, or stays in Philly, he'll have to fix some things about his game. His sparkly 2.33 ERA hides some warning signs, notably his loss of 1.5 mph off his average four-seam velocity (PITCHf/x) and, from last year's 11.83, nearly four strikeouts from his per-nine rate (7.91, a career low).

Arizona Diamondbacks RP Brad Ziegler
Ziegler just gets down

He's hanging on because he's survived a 48.1 percent fly-ball frequency with a 7.7 percent HR/FB, and his walk allowance has also shriveled to match its 2011 level (1.40 per nine). His two-year trend of embracing the two-seamer partially explains his absurdly low .238 BAABIP (a natural decrease considering his frequent neck-turning). That puny rope allowance rate of 13.9 justifies it, too.

It doesn't save him completely. Despite a percentage of first-pitch strikes that rivals his career best, he's once again trying to get opponents to chase way more often because they're pelting him when he does hit the black. Nibbling can cripple a closer. Papelbon needs to establish confidence after he gets ahead 0-1, because with this sudden abundance of flies and inability to reach back, he could be in for a 2010-like drop-off if he can't recover after the break.

Team
JS
HO
Closer
Understudy/Fill-in
Lurker(s)
Arizona Diamondbacks
1
5
  Brad Ziegler
J.J. Putz
David Hernandez
Heath Bell

Hernandez registered the Arizona Diamondbacks save Friday night in clean fashion with two K's. He's done the job before, so for this mess of a back end, he can't be written off as a possibility.

Maybe DH did the job only because Ziegler, who's registered three closures since July 3, had worked on each of the previous three days, including a closure on Thursday. That's especially noteworthy because Ziegler was called upon Saturday to wrap things up.

Ziegler, he who gases it up all the way to the mid-80s, has been a go-to guy with runners on, befitting the traditional profile of a Winston Wolf RP. But what if the next problem he must clean up happens to be the most glaring one in this 'pen?

In a perfect world, they'd probably like to use Putz; Bell might have fallen out of favor. But if Ziegler, who's hard to hit in an Edward Mujica type of way, can affix himself to the most desirable fantasy spot of this bullpen, he can be just as effective even if he doesn't blow it by folks. He'll simply pound the zone and induce weak contact with some of the most monstrous grounder percentages in recent memory.

Though possible, it doesn't seem like the competing Snakes will buy a closer type, either, merely because of the abundance of in-house options. They'd prefer to fix what they have. Kirk Gibson only cares about his closer throwing strikes and getting outs. It's how Bell earned the job previously, and there's only one RP who's doing that at the moment and could shore up ... not the most important spot, in many teams' eyes, but the proverbial "brain-splattered car."

A deeper look into Twins, post-Perkins, plus Mound meetings

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Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat | AL depth charts | NL depth charts

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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