Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat

by Tim Heaney on August 10, 2009 @ 00:00:00 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)

 

New York Mets CL Francisco Rodriguez
K-Rod needs more consistent work

New York Mets

Closer: Francisco Rodriguez

K-Rod was blown up for his second straight botched chance Friday, giving up five earned tallies, including a granny, to take the dreaded "L, BS" at the San Diego Padres. He hadn't produced back-to-back gaffes since 2004. Manager Jerry Manuel deduced his big-money stopper wasn't receiving enough work - not surprising for this team - so he'll look to send K-Rod out more often even if it isn't a K-Rod situation.

Rodriguez pitched a scoreless inning Sunday despite allowing a hit. While avoiding the use of his cutter (a big reason behind his struggles Friday), he reinstated his aggressiveness by relying almost exclusively on his four-seam heat, which topped out at 94 mph. A return to his 2006-2007 velocity and zone-pounding mentality will probably help; as we noted Wednesday, his first-pitch pickiness has hurt his approach.

The horizon looks more promising if you own Rodriguez. If you covet him, it's worth seeing if you can grab K-Rod on a discount. Despite their disastrous 2009, the Mets are tied for the 11th most save chances in the bigs. K-Rod's latest tinkering puts him on a better fantasy path, too.

Job Security score: 5

Health score: 5

Washington Nationals

Closer: Mike MacDougal

Next in line: Jorge Sosa, Sean Burnett

Mac is coming off one of the most prolific saves weeks of the fantasy season, rattling off five stoppages in a five-inning, six-day period. The Nats gave MacDougal some days off, letting Sosa close out two contests this weekend. His second save, however, was a 2 1/3-inning affair in which the Nats' lead ballooned to seven runs.

Despite his good fortune in the latter outing, Sosa hasn't walked a batter in his 8 2/3 frames of work for the Beltway this season. The two homers he has surrendered cloud his success, though. Sosa has typically had decent fastball and slider life over his career and would be the best bet as MacDougal's fantasy understudy. Manager Jim Riggleman flirted with the idea of a committee before MacDougal's latest run, so Sosa should at least be an immediate NL addition.

Job Security score: 4

Health score: 5

Texas Rangers

Closer: Frank Francisco

Next in line: C.J. Wilson

Francisco was reinstated as the closer Friday, and shot-caller Ron Washington plans to use Wilson more liberally in the setup role, possibly for more than one frame of work. Francisco has yet to enter action since regaining his title, and knowing Francisco's rocky health this year, it's worth hanging on to both relievers in all setups.

Job Security score: 5

Health score: 3

Mound meetings

  • Toeing the rubber isn't just a vernacular expression for Jonathan Broxton; it's doing a part in hindering his performance. An irritated nerve in his right big toe is expected to linger all season. He blew a save Friday before coming back to pitch a scoreless non-save inning Saturday. Continue to expect a few save chances to go to George Sherrill and possibly Hong-Chih Kuo to conserve Brox.
  • Brian Fuentes closed out proceedings for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Saturday for his first save since July 22, but it took a fantastic defensive effort by shortstop Erick Aybar to preserve the lead. We may be seeing a K-Rod-like situation here; Fuentes has only 37 1/3 innings of work this year and has taken hits in every major ratio category. His fluctuating dominance (8.92 K/9) and command (2.64 K/BB) have swung downward again. He has enough job security to work through his problems; despite being next in line, the flame-throwing but erratic Kevin Jepsen won't be much of a threat barring a Fuentes meltdown.
  • The Florida Marlins aren't rushing to reinstall Matt Lindstrom in ninth-inning duties. Skipper Fredi Gonzalez said Lindstrom will eventually see save-situation action but wouldn't pinpoint when; despite allowing runs in five of his last nine trips to the mound, Leo Nunez has not broken since June 11. Lindstrom has thrown three scoreless, walk-less frames since his return, so it isn't like his case to regain his job is completely unfounded.
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates' Matt Capps experienced one of a few high-publicity ejections this weekend; entering in the eighth inning with a runner on, the righty gave up a two-run jack to his first batter faced to blow the save; he followed that by plunking the St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols. The poor timing of the HBP gave him his walking papers for the night. Capps had shown improvement in the three outings before the BS, so maybe the Buccos won't bring him in for the eighth much more for the rest of the year.
  • On Sunday an outing of 1 2/3 frames gave Kyle McClellan his second save of the season for the Cardinals, presumably because, with a four-run lead, there was no need to go to stopper Ryan Franklin. McClellan offers the best fantasy speculation for a non-Franklin opportunity.
  • Four runs (one earned), three walks and two hits - a formerly typical Brian Wilson outing surfaced for the San Francisco Giants Friday as the righty was tagged with the loss and blown closure. Wilson recovered Saturday with a one-inning save. He has been elite since May with 16 saves and a 2.13 ERA.
  • The Chicago Cubs' Kevin Gregg gave up five runs in 1 1/3 frames over two blown saves against his old Florida Marlins teammates last week. He apparently was tipping his pitches. He has since adjusted, as evidenced in the two scoreless innings he has pitched since the debacles. Hopefully his schedule is well-managed from here on out too.
  • Though you shouldn't be concerned over his hold on the Tampa Bay Rays job, J.P. Howell has given up two homers, three runs and four walks in his last four outings, which included a walkoff Seattle Mariners home run Friday. Sure, a blast from outfielder Ryan Langerhans can emasculate a pitcher, but the control (lack of?) raises more concerns; Howell recorded his previous four walks from June 27 to July 28.
  • Due to their rarity, we have to chronicle Baltimore Orioles saves. Jim Johnson finally paid dividends in the post-Sherrill era with his first save. Johnson has walked just two hitters in his last 10 games. You should still keep an eye on the rough but improving Chris Ray; the O's are looking to the future.
  • The already festively plump David Weathers was shipped to the land of beer and brats as the Cincinnati Reds sent Stormy to the Milwaukee Brewers. This knocks him down the ladder for saves with Todd Coffey blocking his path. They want Weathers to take some pressure off the middle relievers, which may put him in line for an extra win or two but nothing else to cause any pickup urgency.
  • It looks like Tampa Bay Rays righty Troy Percival (back) is leaning toward retirement. He will probably be best known this year for costing Howell a few saves by delaying the inevitable.

Also see: Fantasy baseball closer depth charts

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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.


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