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Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Tyler Clippard, Santiago Casilla, more

By Nicholas Minnix
Edited by Keith Hernandez


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

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)

Washington Nationals

Closer: Tyler Clippard
Understudy/Fill-in: Drew Storen

San Francisco Giants RP Sergio Romo
Not so fast, Romo

The timing of Washington's activation of Storen from the disabled list on Thursday won't leave Clippard owners feeling comfortable.

The current closer has given up runs in three of his past five appearances. CHS touched on his Tuesday blown save chance, in which he yielded a three-run round-tripper, and on Wednesday night, he nearly blew another by giving up two solo shots. He recorded all three outs by strikeout, however, and hung on to his club's then one-run margin for this 15th save.

Judging from his comments, Clippard wasn't fazed by the dingers he gave up last night. It happens, he says. Eleven of his 15 offerings were fastballs, and was beaten. In the blown opportunity, however, he was much less aggressive, and he was bitten.

James Wagner highlighted the possible overuse of the changeup as a reason for Clippard's struggles on Tuesday. The right-hander tossed 11 changeups among his 27 pitches. Clippard has relied on the pitch more often this season than in previous ones, in fact. It's his best pitch, undoubtedly, but he needs to set it up.

Davey Johnson noted the difficulty of pitching frequently for a reliever; Clippard has pitched on each of the last two days and four of the last six. It sounds as if he'd have the day off on Thursday, should a save sitch arise, but it's unclear who'd get the chance. Johnson's extensive experience gives him the kind of insight to know if he could use Storen in such circumstances already, although it seems too soon.

Storen will probably need some time to establish his command consistently and build up his stamina a bit more. The Nat who recorded 43 saves in 2011 hasn't pitched in an MLB game yet this year. His rehab stint consisted of a not-quite-spring-training-like six minor league games (6 2/3 innings).

Johnson won't be in a rush to remove Clippard from the closer's role, despite the recent tribulations. To retain the job, however, he'll need to remain aggressive and establish his fastball. To usurp, Storen may not need Clippard to falter, results-wise. A change may still occur, if the former begins to display his dominant form of 2011 and the latter is easily second-guessed.

Job security score: 1
Health score:

San Francisco Giants

Closer: Santiago Casilla
Understudy/Fill-in: Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt
Lurkers: Javier Lopez, Clay Hensley, Heath Hembree M

Despite seeming reluctance to the contrary, on Wednesday night, Bruce Bochy announced that he'd be reviewing Santiago Casilla's role as closer. The right-hander blew another save opportunity that night, losing a two-run lead in the 10th inning on a Brian McCann dinger. It was his fifth BS in eight opps (although he did receive credit for the win).

Affeldt, Romo and Lopez teamed up to get through a rocky, yet scoreless, bottom of the ninth in order to get to bonus baseball. That stanza demonstrated the resources of San Fran's bullpen, but it may have also emphasized how important Casilla is.

For various reasons, none of the Giants' other options is a fit for the closer's role by himself. Bochy's declaration came with a ton of reluctance to remove Casilla from the seat, too. The right-hander hasn't pitched all that poorly, but instead of finishing off an opponent, he's made mistakes. Big ones.

Unfortunately, for fantasy owners, the Giants just don't view Romo as a full-time closing option. They're concerned about his health - understandably, judging from his workload and the continued mentions of the aches and pains he endures.

That leaves the club with three approaches: (1) Casilla, (2) a committee or (3) a trade. Don't rule out a trade, but roto players have no real way to prepare for that. A committee is probably a short-term solution. And that leaves Casilla, who probably wouldn't be part of the committee initially. Once Bochy were to reintroduce him to it, there'd probably be a good chance that the ninth became Casilla's domain again, too.

Job security score: 1
Health score:

Mound meetings

The Philadelphia Phillies had a chance yesterday against the Los Angeles Dodgers to make it five in a row since a loss to open the second half. Jonathan Papelbon failed to make a two-run lead stick in the bottom of the 10th, however, when he yielded RBI singles to Bobby Abreu and Matt Kemp.

Things have just not gone Paps' way in recent appearances. A blooper here, a bleeder there and a deflected comebacker that could go anywhere. The righty's 11.19 K/9 and 1.95 BB/9 don't look like the work of a reliever with a 3.41 ERA. His .323 BABIP against would be the highest in a single season of his career, however, if it were to hold up.

Papelbon has made a number of mistakes, assuredly. He remains vulnerable to the occasional long ball or off night. His average fastball velocity is also down noticeably, too. In particular, its rate has been quite up and down all season, and it was down yesterday.

The velocity may point to a larger problem, but until some other revelation comes about, it shouldn't be enough to prevent him from being successful on most nights. As his arsenal diversifies, he's going to have rough periods. He's too good not to recover from this, and besides, the Phils have no one else to do his job.


Francisco Rodriguez gave up multiple base runners (three on walks) and one run on Wednesday afternoon against the St. Louis Cardinals, but he again finished off a victory for the Milwaukee Brewers. It marked his third save of the season and required 35 pitches. Thank goodness for a day off.

Meanwhile, the demoted John Axford was credited with a victory because of his work in relief of starter Tyler Thornburg, who used 103 pitches to get through 4 2/3 frames and walked the last hitter he faced. Axford allowed a hit in the sixth, but otherwise, his appearance was clean.

That had to be encouraging for the Brew Crew's brain trust, whose members desire to restore Axford as closer as soon as they're able to help the reliever restore his command. Fantasy owners should be in no rush to ditch the righty.


Unsurprisingly, the Minnesota Twins have shut down Matt Capps (irritation in right rotator cuff) for a while. La Velle E. Neal III reported that the soreness Capps experienced after his appearance against the Baltimore Orioles on Monday was the worst he's had since developing the shoulder issue.

Glen Perkins and Jared Burton may have value as saves contributors for most of the rest of the season. Capps owners should still hang on, just in case, unless they're in shallow leagues, like 10- or 12-team mixed affairs.


The New York Mets don't expect to get Frank Francisco back until August. He's scheduled to throw a couple of bullpen sessions next week and then begin a rehab assignment next weekend - assuming that he has no more setbacks. He's likely to need a few games to get on track, then, so a July return date is virtually impossible.

Bobby Parnell will probably have roto utility until then, unless the Mets pull off a deal for someone like the Oakland Athletics' Grant Balfour. Parnell could stand a couple of good outings here to re-establish folks' confidence.

Other Wednesday saviors

Jim Johnson (27), Orioles 1st SV since 7/6
Joel Hanrahan (26), Pirates
Huston Street (15), Padres




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