Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Jim Johnson needs break, Rafael Soriano blown up, more

by Nicholas Minnix on August 16, 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)
Baltimore Orioles
2
5
Francisco Rodriguez Darren O'Day
Brian Matusz
Tommy Hunter

Johnson has blown three consecutive save opportunities, all coming in the past week. Each of them was the result of a singular run charged to the right-hander, but the damage could have been worse: He walked two and allowed seven hits combined in the three innings spanning those appearances. Johnson has blown nine of 48 chances in 2013.

Washington Nationals  RP Rafael Soriano
Soriano failed to untuck Thursday

Buried in this piece from the team's official site, although not altogether, is Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter's declaration that Johnson will remain the closer. That's not a total surprise, but it has reached the point of disappointment, to say the least. The reliever's stuff isn't as sharp as it was last year, and he appears to be mentally drained.

MASN.com's Roch Kubatko shared his thoughts on the subject, and he's pretty much on the money: Showalter's loyalty is admirable, but at this point, it's a disservice to the player and his team. ESPN SweetSpot blogger David Schoenfield makes the case that Johnson has been the club's least valuable player, and it's difficult to argue otherwise.

Basically, fantasy owners shouldn't drop Johnson, but they can't bank on him for the rest of the season. They need insurance, because the O's need to make a change, at least temporarily. K-Rod appears to be the smartest bet; that's sort of why Baltimore acquired him, right? O'Day and Hunter are adequate AL-only plays, at least, as well.

Mound meetings

Rafael Soriano notched his fifth blown save of 2013 on Thursday when he served up a three-run homer to San Francisco Giants catcher Hector Sanchez, who was pinch hitting. Soriano was working on his third day in a row, but after the contest, Davey Johnson said afterward that such a schedule shouldn't be a problem for any closer.

New York Mets RP Gonzalez Germen
Germen in mix for Mets

Soriano has a 7.84 ERA in 10 1/3 innings since the All-Star break. He has been known to let his emotions affect him on the mound, but Johnson was unhappiest with the righty's mental mistakes prior to the Sanchez bomb.

Johnson has a working excuse -- the overall failings of the Nats' bullpen -- for Soriano, but he has alternatives, and he abhors mental errors. In case Soriano continues to lapse, fantasy owners should be prepared.

The Washington Nationals recalled Drew Storen from Triple-A Syracuse on Thursday, coincidentally. Tyler Clippard, who has a 2.03 ERA and did the job for a spell last year, seems likelier to be Soriano's replacement in the event of a change, however.

Walt Weiss confirmed that he's uncertain whether he'll allow Rafael Betancourt (appendectomy) to reassume closing duties when the right-hander returns from the disabled list, at least right away. The Colorado Rockies plan to activate Betancourt Saturday. The skipper told the media that he may ease the veteran back into the job.

Weiss indicated that he'd take into account Betancourt's performance in his lone rehab appearance, which took place on Thursday. The hurler gave up a run on two hits and fanned one in one inning. That sounds to Closer Hot Seat like part of a good excuse to stick with Rex Brothers in the ninth initially. The left-hander has been a bit shaky recently, so the performances of both pitchers will affect the arrangement.

Still, as CHS has discussed in previous editions, the Rockies have broadcasted that Betancourt is available. They still have two weeks to deal him via waivers. It's not inconceivable that Brothers, the closer of the future, remains the closer of the present for the rest of this campaign. One way or another, Betancourt may be a setup man for the same period.

***

Danny Farquhar picked up his first blown save on Wednesday. He failed to retire any Tampa Bay Rays, giving up four hits and a free pass that resulted in a pair of runs and the Seattle Mariners' loss that day.

An inevitable outcome for a pitcher who entered that contest with a 4.70 ERA and two MLB innings under his belt prior to this season? Perhaps. Farquhar's stretch of 14 2/3 scoreless innings prior to that outing wasn't the result of a magic spell, however. There's a light bulb here, and it has come on. Reportedly, while the right-handed flame-thrower made mistakes, a couple of Tampa Bay's knocks were fortunately well-placed.

Farquhar is 5-for-6 in SVOs now. The M's established confidence in him quickly after he began to take off with the help of catcher Henry Blanco. There's no reason to expect an immediate ouster, considering their alternatives. Farquhar displayed the right attitude after that letdown effort, too, so he and his stuff are a decent bet to get on another roll.

***

LaTroy Hawkins (bruising in the reproductive region) was unavailable on Thursday. Instead of going to another reliever in the New York Mets' Thursday save situation versus the San Diego Padres, Terry Collins stuck with right-hander Gonzalez Germen for a second inning. It probably didn't hurt that the Mets had extended their two-run lead to three.

Germen, 25, walked two in the eighth frame, but he also struck out a pair and didn't allow a hit. He then pitched a perfect ninth to seal the deal.

It's not clear whether Bobby Parnell (herniated disc in neck) will return this season. If he doesn't, Hawkins is the favorite to see the majority of save chances the Mets generate.

Germen is clearly the next man up, though. His resume doesn't scream guaranteed success, but his stuff is nasty, and TC is infatuated. (As Adam Rubin notes, Germen threw 36 pitches to register his first big-league save, so David Aardsma looks like the guy on Friday.)

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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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