Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Ryan Cook, Drew Storen, more

by Nicholas Minnix on August 6, 2012 @ 18:07:36 PDT'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)

Oakland Athletics

Closer: Ryan Cook
Understudy/Fill-in: Grant Balfour
Lurkers: Sean Doolittle

A week ago, Tim mentioned that A's manager Bob Melvin's had already intended to be mindful of how much he'd use Cook. Of course, Melvin hasn't adopted the plan but has merely paid it lip service, as this past weekend's events have attested.

Washington Nationals RP Drew Storen
It's been awhile

Cook appeared on both Friday and Saturday for an inning apiece (38 pitches total), following his Thursday game (two outs recorded, 11 pitches fired), and in both, he blew save opps. It's not clear that the amount of work is the problem, but the results in those BSes (four hits, including two homers, and four runs allowed) were far worse than those in his Thursday save.

So, now Melvin means it. Cook has blown four of his last six chances, so Oakland's manager has raised the possibility of someone else filling the closer's role, at least on occasion.

Doolittle is far from ready for the job. That leaves Balfour, who's been rock-steady since July began and for most of the time before that. All those in deep leagues and to whom saves are vital should own the right-handed vet. Even if Melvin doesn't name Balfour the closer at any point for the rest of the season, he seems to be in line for some opportunities before it's over.

Job security score: 1
Health score:

Mound meetings

Tyler Clippard was unavailable on Sunday because he'd worked on three straight days, including on Friday, when he picked up his 22nd save. As a result, Davey Johnson turned to the man who saved 43 contests for the Washington Nationals in 2011 at the end of this past weekend in a save chance.

Drew Storen picked up his first save of this year by pitching one frame with a three-run lead against the Miami Marlins on Sunday, allowing one hit and fanning one. Afterward, the skipper summed up Storen's comeback from elbow surgery: "... That kind of completes the rehab."

That it does. It also illustrates how little room Clippard, who stumbled quite a bit immediately after the ASB and a couple of time recently, has for error. Just have to reiterate: Johnson has intended to stick with Clippard at the back end, but now that his closer is back in top form, it won't take much for this contending team to consider a switch, as long as Storen continues doing what he does best.


On Saturday, the Minnesota Twins nicked Alfredo Aceves to hand him a blown save chance before blasting him later to hand him and the Boston Red Sox a loss.

In the top of the eighth frame, with no outs on the board, the righty relieved Andrew Miller and gave up a sac fly that tied the score at 2, but Aceves finished that half of the inning cleanly otherwise.

The top of the ninth was a different story. Aceves struck out one and induced a fly-out, but he also yielded an RBI single ... and a three-run bomb to Joe Mauer. What seemed to stand out was the way in which Aceves seemed to lose composure prior to the display of Mauer power. Boston's closer uncorked a wild pitch, which turned out to be innocuous, before he lost focus because of the home-plate ump's call on a 2-2 pitch to Mauer.

Andrew Bailey (thumb surgery) is still at least several rehab appearances from sniffing the majors, following his weekend outing in which he gave up three hits and a run in one inning of work. He's still unlikely to challenge for save opps when he returns, unless he does so in the second half of September.

Bobby Valentine asked Aceves to pitch multiple innings to secure that victory. Aceves rebounded with a clean stanza, which included a strikeout, for his 23rd save on Sunday.


On Friday, Ron Washington seemed to have sense what fantasy owners were feeling since the All-Star break (seven innings, nine hits, seven runs, four walks, six strikeouts): Joe Nathan could use some time off. Apparently, those three days weren't enough.

Wash gave his closer the weekend off. Nathan has attributed his struggles from the past few weeks to dead arm. Excuse? Perhaps.

Or perhaps not. Nathan has pitched 43 1/3 innings this year, without much time off, a year after he pitched 44 2/3 MLB frames, along with three in the minors following a DL stint for the breakup of scar tissue, in his first season back from Tommy John surgery.

The sell-high train that Tim urged you to catch has pretty much left the station. However, there's little reason to believe that the wheels will fall off the hold train, if you're still on it. The Texas Rangers have hit a slump as a whole, but they're likely to turn it back on.

Meanwhile, Alexi Ogando stepped in on both Friday and Saturday to notch his second and third saves of the campaign. There's always the remote chance that the club would need him to get stretched out for a rotation spot, but it's clear who holds the backup closer pass in the meantime.


Chris Perez's thrashing suffered at the hands of the Detroit Tigers on Sunday was so bad that Cleveland Indians GM Chris Antonetti had to issue a vote of confidence in his manager, Manny Acta.

OK, the Tribe's other eight contests on that road trip had something to do with it. Perez had a couple of days off before the implosion in question. He gave up three hits (including Miguel Cabrera's walk-off, two-run bomb), five runs and two walks. Neither of the outs he recorded was on strikes.

(Detroit's Joaquin Benoit didn't exactly do brilliant work in his second inning of the appearance, either.)

Nothing about Perez's appearance seemed worrisome. Other than the result, of course. The righty had gone eight straight games without allowing a run. His last BS, just prior to the ASB, was a disaster, too. It just seems to be the way things are going for the Indians. Perez seemed like a good sell-high candidate last year at this time, but this year, he doesn't have that look.


The New York Mets activated Frank Francisco from the DL on Friday, and he returned to action on Saturday, when he recorded two outs for his 19th save of the year. He's six away from his career high.

He's not removed from health concerns, unsurprisingly. In fact, although his oblique strain has healed, Francisco has been experiencing tightness in his right lat after he pitches. He hopes that it'll go away. (That sounds like a good plan for the injury-prone hurler.) Terry Collins believes that he'll have to be conservative in his use of use Frank Frank.

TC has some peace of mind with regard to save situations in which Francisco us unavailable. The Star-Ledger's Andy McCullough also noted that Bobby Parnell has raised his stock in the eyes of the organization. Parnell, who may still have occasional deep-mixed utility, will fill in when necessary.


Wilton Lopez registered two outs to pick up his first save of 2012 on Saturday, a day after the Houston Astros placed Francisco Cordero (inflammation around the sesamoid bone in his right foot) on the disabled list.

Coco has been dealing with this condition for weeks and will have his foot examined sometime this week. He doesn't seem worthy of holding, for those who are clinging.

Lopez is in control of the saves race, as Bradley Mills asserted last week. He's no sure thing in the health department, either, since he felt tightness in his elbow last Tuesday and has already been on the DL once for an elbow problem.

Houston's other options, besides Wesley Wright, are so unappealing that it seems pointless to speculate, though. As long as Mills manages Lopez properly, the reliever has a reasonable chance of picking up more than a handful of saves in the season's final two months.

Other notable weekend saviors

Joel Hanrahan (32), Pirates
Fernando Rodney (32), Rays
Jim Johnson (32), Orioles
Craig Kimbrel (31), Braves
Aroldis Chapman (24), Reds
Jonathan Papelbon (24), Phillies
Jason Motte (24), Cardinals
Kenley Jansen (21), Dodgers Blew one on Sun., allowed solo HR, but picked up W
J.J. Putz (20), Diamondbacks
Addison Reed (19), White Sox
Huston Street (18), Padres
Casey Janssen (14), Blue Jays
Ernesto Frieri (13), Angels
Steve Cishek (6), Marlins
Jared Burton 2 (5), Twins In relief of a not-so-sharp Glen Perkins on Sat.
Darren Oliver (2), Blue Jays In extras, after Janssen pitched ninth
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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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