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Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Jordan Walden, Heath Bell, Sean Marshall, more

By Tim Heaney
Edited by Nicholas Minnix

What are the odds that you still own the relief pitchers you rostered in your fantasy baseball draft? 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.

Job security (JS) score 1 (unstable) to 5 (untouchable)
Health (H) score 1 (injury-prone) to 5 (durable)

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Closer: Jordan Walden
Understudy: Scott Downs
Lurkers: LaTroy Hawkins, Jason Isringhausen

With the Angels up one run in the bottom of the ninth Thursday, Mike Scioscia used Downs to start the frame after the southpaw pitched a clean eighth; he retired lefty bat Matt Joyce, who remained hitless versus the vet.

Miami Marlins RP Heath Bell
Hell's Bells ringing softly

Fireman Walden entered and promptly gave up a single and a game-losing two-run dinger. He served up a meatball with a four-seamer, his bread-and-butter offering. In fact, all four of his pitches to hero Brandon Allen were of that variety. He threw eight fastballs and two sliders overall.

The wild Walden has fallen behind on the first pitch against nearly two-thirds of the batters he has faced - hardly an encouraging sign for a backender. Though still above-average, his inducement rate of empty hacks has also dropped notably. Though exaggerated early in the season, Walden's average of nearly one walk per inning speaks to his ongoing weakness. The changeup he's starting to use more often didn't make an appearance; sure, you got beat with your best pitch, but mixing up your selection before that could've helped.

He led the league with 10 BS marks last year. At least he converted his only other save chance, on April 20, and still is fanning more than one batter per frame, which is his most beneficial statistical contribution. Luckily, so to speak, for his job security, this 'pen as a whole is tied for the league lead with five blown opps, so Walden has been robbed of appearances that fantasy owners care about.

Maybe Scioscia will keep using Downs to start a save inning against a lefty bat, or let him do the job if there are multiple same-handedness bats due up. Still, it's too soon to assume that would be a frequent approach. Hawkins and Isringhausen are mentors for Walden, not threats to him; if they have to enter the picture, this will get messy.

Walden's quiet April is a combo of his flaws being overly magnified and the Halos setting him up to help his fantasy owners. It's merely something to monitor, not an alarm-sounding event, especially since Anaheim's supporting relief corps remains weak.

Job security score: 4
Health score:
5

Miami Marlins

Closer: Heath Bell
Understudy: Edward Mujica, Steve Cishek
Lurkers: Mike Dunn, Randy Choate, Juan Oviedo R

The struggling Marlins haven't provided Bell with many chances, either. But the big-money signing has blown three of his five opps, including a Thursday outing sloppy in both his control (four walks, one hit, two runs), pitch count (47) and weather (slight drizzle). He hadn't pitched in a week.

If we exclude his three blowups from this season, he'd have four scoreless, hitless innings with three walks and five K's. It's not an every-game case of horrific pitching. That's not to excuse his meltdowns, though; he was working through mechanical issues earlier this month and was hinting at a decline in dominance last year with his more contact-based approach.

Don't expect him to go Friday given his big workload. Mujica or Cishek would likely stand in, with Dunn or Choate a possibility if lefty sticks await. It's not something to chase for one night given the random variance that could occur, unless you're desperate in a daily league with a spot to waste on such occurrences.

Ozzie Guillen told reporters he "believes in" Bell and won't yank him from the role unless he's having these mishaps at a more frequent pace or they discover an injury. In a hypothetical Bell removal, the veteran Mujica would probably get the long-term edge because he has been the eighth-inning man, but Cishek has been the better arm of late and could easily push Mujica back. Stay tuned.

Job security score: 4
Health score:
5

Mound meetings

Cast aside, at least temporarily, by fantasy owners, Santiago Casilla hammered an authoritative three-strikeout scoreless frame Thursday to record the save. Eleven of his 14 tosses were strikes. He's now 8-for-8 at the job since last August, and though he won't get the opp every time, he's the leader of the San Francisco Giants' committee.

***

Jim Johnson (flu-like symptoms, bacterial infection) remained hospitalized Thursday night, but Baltimore Orioles skipper Buck Showalter was optimistic his closer would be released Friday or soon after. Of course, that doesn't mean he'll push JJ back into stopper work immediately; they want him to recover from what has probably been a draining experience. That could take another week, at least.

In the interim, Pedro Strop should serve as the primary stopper and stands as the best fantasy pickup, with Matt Lindstrom in second place.

Don't put stock in Luis Ayala, who grabbed his first save of the year Thursday while working around a hit and a walk with a three-run lead. Strop pitched on each of the previous two days and likely wasn't available.

***

Before Casilla's closure, Sean Marshall gave up a leadoff walk, a single and a one-out, three-run dinger on a hanging curveball following a borderline 0-2 pitch called a ball. Alas, he absorbed the "BS, L." He's 4-for-5 on saves this year, and despite giving up nine hits in his 7 1/3 frames, he has a notably sized leash on the Cincinnati Reds' stopper gig.

More Thursday saviors

Brandon League (7), Mariners
Jonathan Broxton (2), Royals
Huston Street (2), Padres Worked around a hit; 7 IP, 9 K's, 1 BB, 1 ER so far
Junichi Tazawa (1), Red Sox 3 IP with BOS up big late - LIMA arm, not a CL


 


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