Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat

by Nicholas Minnix on August 3, 2009 @ 12:00:01 PDT

 


Also see: Fantasy baseball closer depth charts

In fantasy baseball, the closer position remains volatile. Rarely does every closer hang on to the job for the entire season - injuries, poor performance and managerial decisions can cloud a team's bullpen picture.

Should you be concerned about a struggling stopper? Which setup men are climbing the depth chart? Any lingering injuries popping up? KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat series keeps you informed when you're looking for saves.

Key

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

Toronto Blue Jays

Closer: Jason Frasor

Next in line: Brandon League

Other possibilities: Josh Roenicke, Jeremy Accardo, Jesse Carlson

Disabled list: Scott Downs

Downs (toe) aggravated the injury to his left foot that forced him to miss 19 games in June and July. Frasor assumes ninth-inning duties. If yourself or someone like you hasn't already done so, grab him.

Manager Cito Gaston acknowledged that Downs was probably pitching with a little pain and didn't want to admit it. It seems obvious in hindsight, but it was apparent throughout Downs' string of inconsistent efforts since his return from his first stint on the disabled list. It has been suggested that Toronto may have activated him hastily after the club reacted swiftly to B.J. Ryan's comments about his workload by releasing him.

Even pitching coach-slash-messiah Brad Arnsberg couldn't pinpoint Downs' problem, though; Arnsberg noted only that Downs wasn't hitting his spots as much and his sinker wasn't as sharp. "I didn't really see mechanical flaws, or anything like nursing his toe or anything that got my dander up as far as, 'Boy, we need to make an adjustment.'"

Gaston said he's uncertain when Downs will be back, but don't expect it be in the near future. The Jays will make sure the southpaw is completely healthy before they subject him to the rigors again. Reports today surmise: likely not until September.

Frasor, who has a 2.09 ERA and four saves, should have long-term value considering how relatively few games remain. The right-hander punctuated a victory Saturday by pitching two-thirds of an inning. Keep in mind, however, that he has been a little shaky in save situations (three earned runs allowed in 7 1/3 innings).

Gaston said he might mix in League, too, at least when Frasor is unavailable. Accardo was recalled after the Downs move. Toronto acquired Roenicke at the deadline; the hard-throwing righty has experiencing closing contests in the minors. League and perhaps Roenicke will have AL value, but ignore Accardo.

Job Security score: 3

Health score: 5

Chicago Cubs

Closer: Kevin Gregg

Next in line: Carlos Marmol, John Grabow

Other possibilities: Angel Guzman, Jeff Samardzija, Aaron Heilman

Gregg was awful in the first couple of days of our eighth month: two blown saves, six hits, including three round-trippers and five earned runs allowed in 1 1/3 innings. However, manager Lou Piniella reiterated that Gregg is his man, to the dismay of Cubs fans who've chosen to express their anger in the five-seven-five syllabic pattern made popular somewhere in the Far East.

Kevin Gregg, Chicago Cubs Chicago's latest prodigal son

Piniella can't possibly view Marmol, with his 8.47 walks per nine, as a better option. Guzman is incredibly inexperienced, which doesn't work in his favor. Grabow is likely to be a matchup play. This bullpen is just heavily taxed; in July, North Side relievers pitched more innings than any other big league club's 'pen. Gregg logged 14, his heaviest monthly workload to date.

Heilman picked up Gregg's slack Saturday by pitching a perfect 10th to seal a victory. He couldn't repeat his effectiveness Sunday, dishing out two hits, including a homer, to "blow" a save in the seventh. Samardzija, the newly acquired Grabow, Guzman and Marmol had already appeared in Saturday's contest, so don't read into it.

Lefty B.J. Ryan can opt out of his contract if he's not up by Aug. 10, and it's uncertain if he will be. Piniella wondered aloud why the club might need three southpaws in the bullpen. He then pointed out that he doesn't make such decisions. Ryan's gas has been averaging a mere 86 to 88 mph. The former Toronto Blue Jays reliever can stick around until rosters expand next month, if he desires.

Gregg isn't going anywhere - at least not any time soon. The rest of Chicago's relievers have little value outside NL leagues, except for maybe Marmol, who'd be your handcuff if you're worried.

Job Security score: 5

Health score: 4

Mound meetings

  • Matt Lindstrom, Florida Marlins Watch out, Nunez: Lindstrom is back
    The Florida Marlins activated Matt Lindstrom (elbow) from the DL Friday. On Sunday, the righty received his first work since June 23 and pitched a scoreless eighth frame, with a hit allowed. Of his 13 pitches, 10 were strikes. The stated - stated - plan is still to ease him back into the closer's role.
  • During Lindstrom's absence, Leo Nunez saved seven games in seven chances, with a 3.52 ERA in 15 1/3 innings. On Saturday he gave up the go-ahead homer to first baseman Derrek Lee in the 10th inning to take a loss to the Chicago Cubs. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Nunez is "doing a nice job." We'll see how quickly or even if Lindstrom reclaims the role....
  • A day after yielding two hits, including a solo dinger, on Saturday in a non-save sitch, the Houston Astros' Jose Valverde pitched 1 2/3 scoreless against the St. Louis Cardinals to nail one down for the 12th time. The latter effort required 31 pitches, for a total of 48 for the weekend. The guess is that he won't be available Monday. It's unclear who'd get the nod if it comes up. Chris Sampson has been awful lately. Doug Brocail has pitched twice since his return from the DL; in the first outing, he was rusty. He still makes sense because of his experience.
  • If you took the over on July 31 for the first blown save of 2009 by Detroit Tigers' Fernando Rodney, you're a rich man - that had to pay well. On Saturday 'Do-Rod served up a leadoff triple and then a sac fly to the Cleveland Indians in the bottom of the ninth, thus handing Motown's closer his first BS blemish.
  • Joakim Soria picked up his second two-inning save in a little more than a week, with a little trouble, against the Tampa Bay Rays Sunday. KC must not have hesitated since the righty hadn't worked since Tuesday.
  • Oakland Athletics closer Andrew Bailey sailed through a perfect inning, with a K, to record a save Friday. It was his first spotless outing since July 12.
  • Detroit right-hander Zach Miner picked up his first career save in that contest with the Tribe, which became a 12-inning affair. Miner did so despite giving up two hits and a run. He cracked that all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman better watch out.
  • The Texas Rangers activated Frank Francisco (pneumonia) from the disabled list Sunday. The righty pitched a perfect eighth in that night's tilt, setting up C.J. Wilson. As before, Francisco won't close right away but shouldn't be far off. Regardless, retain Wilson if you have the roster space.
  • Texas also called up top prospect Neftali Feliz over the weekend. The organization moved him to the bullpen at Triple-A Oklahoma with the express purpose of using him as a big league reliever during a possible playoff run. Wilson has the backup closer duty on lockdown, but Feliz's smoke touches triple digits on occasion, so he's a must-add in AL leagues, at least.
  • The Cleveland Indians called up Jensen Lewis Sunday. The right-hander struggled (5.03 ERA) before his June demotion but struck out 28 and walked seven without allowing a run in 18 2/3 innings at Triple-A Columbus. The Tribe hoped he'd improve the command of his heat and change; mission accomplished, it appears. Incidentally, Kerry Wood blew another save Friday.
  • Kidney stones, Schmidney stones for Bobby Jenks. On Saturday, the Chicago White Sox's final-out framer experienced no issues in his first outing since the rather painful predicament. He'll be monitored but should be fine moving forward.

Also see: Fantasy baseball closer depth charts

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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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