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Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Mark Melancon ceding to Jason Grilli? Plus Rafael Soriano, more

By Nicholas Minnix
Edited by Tim Heaney

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.

Mound meetings

Pittsburgh Pirates RP Mark Melancon
Grilli cheese ready to eat?

Mark Melancon made his shakiest appearance of 2013 on Tuesday, allowing four hits and two runs, with three strikeouts, in an inning against the Texas Rangers. Nevertheless, the Pittsburgh Pirates prevailed thanks to the three-run lead they handed their interim, not-so-interim closer.

Was the outing enough to prompt Clint Hurdle to re-evaluate his arrangement, now that Jason Grilli is back? Not likely. The right-hander hasn't quite rediscovered his pre-injury form, lacking a touch of velocity, at minimum. He's given up four hits, two runs and a walk, with three strikeouts, in his 2 1/3 innings since his early September activation from the DL.

But he may not be far off. The strain in Grilli's forearm was to a muscle in his right forearm, not ligaments or tendons. He's reported no difficulties and is probably close to exiting that "spring-training mode," if he hasn't already.

Melancon's elite command rate and ability to prevent the long ball make him dependable in just about any role. Grilli's strikeout, shutdown stuff and excellent record (30 saves in 31 chances) as closer may easily convince Hurdle to go back to his original guy, however. That's especially true if Melancon gets hit around another time or two in the coming weeks.

***

Rafael Soriano has made seven straight scoreless appearances following Tuesday night's clean frame versus the New York Mets. The right-hander has allowed three hits and a walk, with six K's, in that time. All seven of those games resulted in saves for the Washington Nationals' closer.

Davey Johnson had alluded, in the latter half of August, to the possibility of an alteration of his team's late-innings arrangement. Soriano had struggled for several games in a row, and then he nearly coughed up another late lead a few games later.

Soriano has done enough lately to hold off Tyler Clippard. Members of the closing battery cited, to The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, multiple reasons for Soriano's resurgence.

All those things are good news for his owners. But worth noting: The 33-year-old reeled off those lucky seven against the dregs of the NL East. It's clear that Soriano is losing a little something, physically, even if he's turned it around mechanically and such. Clippard remains worthy of a deep-league hold.

***

Boy, when Danny Farquhar blows one, it seems that he really blows one.

The right-hander registered his first save for the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 3. From that date through Tuesday, he's recorded 13 saves in 15 opportunities. The M's have clearly found their front-runner for closer, 2014. Or maybe their official site jinxed him.

Farquhar managed to record only one out while allowing a pair of hits, four runs (three earned) and two walks against the Houston Astros last night, on his way to his second blown save. Both of his BS entries have resulted in losses, the first coming on Aug. 14, when he yielded four hits, two runs and a walk without retiring a batter.

Farquhar has issued five free passes, with only five strikeouts, in his last six games (5 1/3 frames). He was bound to hit this wall sooner or later. How he responds will be telling. The heat-tossing righty has the right outlook after last night's downer.

The next step is executing, however, the same way he did from July 28 through Aug. 27, when he walked only one -- in that blown save -- in 16 1/3 stanzas. His resume says that's not a sure bet. Farquhar's stuff gives him some leeway, thankfully.

***

The first home run against Joshua Fields in seven appearances came on Monday night, but he sealed the deal on the Houston Astros' 6-4 victory against the Seattle Mariners nonetheless. The two-run job that Chia-Jen Lo allowed in the seventh inning gave the M's a temporary lead in that one, so it's not as if Fields should feel the heat.

Houston Astros RP Josh Fields
Fields tending to saves
s

Fields gave up a fly ball to each of the four batters he faced on Monday. He has a scary habit for a pitcher who works regularly in the major leagues, let alone at Minute Maid Park. He works up a bit, but he's continued to drag his outfield fly-ball rate down, and he generates so many infield flies that one has to wonder if he's begun to understand thoroughly how to challenge big leaguers with his mid-90s heaters and low-80s Uncle Charlies and changeups.

Fields, 28, will have dibs on the closer's role entering 2014, barring a disastrous end to this season for him. He probably won't cost much, and that makes him intriguing.

***

Bobby Parnell had surgery on Tuesday to fix the herniated disc in his neck. He's expected to be ready for spring training begins in 2014, according to Sandy Alderson. The New York Mets should enter next season without many questions about that spot, at least.

***

The St. Louis Cardinals may not have it quite so easy. The good news is that Jason Motte (Tommy John surgery in May) began a throwing program on Monday. His recovery is likely to extend into the next regular season. At least, he'll probably need a somewhat lengthy rehab assignment before he rejoins the parent club.

Fantasy owners will be tempted to speculate on Motte with end-game bids or the like. The past performances of pitchers, especially closers it would seem, returning from this procedure tell us that those bids are highly unlikely to pay off.

It'd seem uncharacteristic for this organization to pony up big-time money for Edward Mujica, who's a free agent for the first time this winter. In the long term, St. Louis could still envision Trevor Rosenthal as a starter, but he in fact may be the leading candidate to closer in 2014. Does Carlos Martinez become the young dark horse this time around?

The Cards have had a lot of practice at this whole adversity thing. They've done pretty well most of the time.



 


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