In fantasy baseball, the closer position remains volatile. Rarely does every closer hang on to the job for an entire season - injuries, poor performance and managerial decisions can cloud a team's bullpen picture.
Should you be concerned about a struggling stopper? Which relievers are climbing the depth chart? Are any injuries popping up? KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat keeps you informed when you're looking for saves.
Closer: Neftali Feliz
Understudy: Frank Francisco
Ron Washington must be a reader, and he must have paid attention. Francisco logged his first save of the season Tuesday with Feliz unavailable. Frank Squared has shown vast improvement since his April 20 meltdown, throwing four straight shutout appearances (four frames, one hit, 2 K's). He topped out at 93 mph last night, but his control is improved, including that of his split-finger, a key pitch in neutralizing his high flyball rate.
Though Washington is sticking by Feliz, Francisco might be sharing the role soon; Feliz has yet to prove he can pitch effectively on back-to-back nights. Francisco will see chances in the future and must be owned in all leagues.
Job security score: 2
Health score: 4
Closer: Jim Johnson
Understudy: Alfredo Simon
Manager Dave Trembley said he doesn't have an official closer right now. "Who wants it? Somebody take it," the skipper said Tuesday. "Whoever can get outs is going to get the chance," he added. "I don't think there [are] any roles. I don't think you can define roles."
Simon, a former starter who had Tommy John surgery less than a year ago, grabbed the baton Tuesday. He was called up following a successful Triple-A Norfolk stint as a starter (1.59 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 14 K's in 17 frames). The righty worked around two hits, a walk and two unearned runs - caused by shaky Baltimore defense - to lock down the save.
It was an eventful inning, with 29 pitches, but for what it's worth, 20 of them were strikes; he also induced four grounders and hit 96 mph on the gun.
Johnson came into the eighth last night and pitched a one-hit scoreless frame on 14 pitches (11 strikes). Is Trembley's flurry of hostilities a motivational tool for Johnson? Perhaps.
Trembley has used Johnson for multiple innings twice in the righty's last four appearances. Although one of them produced a save, this schedule doesn't go a long way toward helping him stay in the closer job. Johnson's only blemish in the runs column in those four games came after his sixth registered out Sunday.
Although Johnson hasn't been aces in the role, he'll probably continue to see some chances due to his experience in the role. Even this likely decrease of opps doesn't change his fantasy value as a bottom-end No. 3 mixed stopper. Keep him on roster.
Simon, 29 soon, has decent heat and noticeable groundball prowess but has battled control problems in his MLB career. The fact that they threw him into a save situation in his MLB season debut shows either Baltimore's confidence in him or their desperation.
He met their desperate demands, if so. You can't overreact to one outing, but if he consistently paints the black, that'll go a long way in keeping him in the short-term saves picture. According to Trembley, Baltimore's minor league staff noted Simon could be a good fit for the ninth.
Grab him in ALs and in cavernous mixed leagues if you need to be proactive; he has a chance to grab hold of the interim job if he keeps up his effective start. It remains to be seen whether he'll get the call if a save sitch were to arise Wednesday; Trembley said he'd see how the righty feels, considering his big pitch count from Tuesday.
Gonzalez (shoulder), meanwhile, isn't expected to start a throwing program until Monday at the soonest and doesn't have a return timetable. Anyone who steps up in Gonzo's absence could help fantasy owners for a decent chunk of the season, given the lefty's injury history.
If you still need to squeeze something from here after Johnson and Simon, speculate on Meredith, the rehabbing Uehara and Castillo afterward in that order.
Job security score: 1
Health score: 4
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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