Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Brett Myers, John Axford, J.J. Putz

by Tim Heaney on June 19, 2012 @ 11:53:31 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)

Houston Astros

Closer: Brett Myers
Understudy/Fill-in: Brandon Lyon, Wilton Lopez (DL)
Lurkers: David Carpenter

Arizona Diamondbacks RP J.J. Putz
Bieber Fever the cure?

Myers wasted no time in taking his statistical correction beating. On Monday, the Houston Astros' stopper allowed five runs on eight singles and a sacrifice fly. Even after that blowup, he didn't blow the save. Of course, he was replaced, and Xavier Cedeno did the deed for the first time in his career with a one-out job.

The soft-tossing southpaw was a desperation matchup installed to quell lefty stick Mike Moustakas. Carpenter was used in the seventh, Lyon in the eighth. Lopez (strained right elbow) is sidelined. Houston ran out of options.

Myers' ERA jumped from 1.99 to 3.86. Still, he has been a revelation, proving the Astros right thus far in their decision to transform him into a stopper. 6.17 K/9, 1.54 BB/9, 50.7 grounder percentage display a nice indicator trio, accompanied by an expected uptick in four-seam giddy-up of more than 3 mph. Of course, he's a candidate for trade, which would complete the Astros' diabolical plan.

A healthy Lopez has long been considered the favorite to step in, but how long will it be until he returns ... and is that even the proper avenue to follow in your league? Since Bradley Mills leans on Lopez for appearances in both the seventh and eighth frames, it's not outlandish to think he'd want to keep the right-hander's availability as open as possible for high-leverage spots, ala how the New York Yankees are treating the stopper-quality David Robertson in having him set up Rafael Soriano. Carpenter has long-term promise but hasn't earned consistent trust with his performance just yet.

There's nothing wrong with your screen: Bet on Lyon to take over for a Myers-less 'pen. He's having a revival of his own, fanning 28 in 26 1/3 thanks to a stronger reliance on his cut fastball. He's inducing more empty hacks - a stopper trait he hasn't necessarily posted every year. His 5.9 percent HR/FB is a tad lucky considering how many flies he yields, but a reliever's small sample size doesn't necessarily warrant heavy caution and correction if he's becoming harder to hit.

And of course, as checkered as Lyon's closing history has been, at least he has one, and this turnaround following recovery from a detached right biceps and torn right shoulder labrum has to please Houston. Heck, maybe the 32-year-old will be trade bait, too, but if he stays put and Myers departs, Lyon would be the best in-house option. Plan accordingly.

Job security score: 4
Health score:

Mound meetings

John Axford logged a save for the second straight chance with a perfect Monday frame. The embattled Milwaukee Brewers buoy didn't follow the same velocity restraint he showed Friday night, though, instead returning to gunning his four-seamer (for eight of his nine pitches) between 95 and 98 mph, per Gameday.

Maybe if he has to pitch on consecutive days, he'll tone down his No. 1. He's not out of the woods yet, but the lumberjack is chopping down enough trees to escape soon.


It's always interesting to see how relief pitchers bide time and stay fresh between appearances - throw bullpens, eat chicken ... revel in their newly acquired autographed Justin Bieber cards. J.J. Putz has engaged in two of those, with poultry being left out, especially since he's had plenty of downtime.

The Arizona Diamondbacks' right-hander has made eight appearances this year on the back of at least three days' rest, including two with at least seven. The Snakes' struggles can be thanked, to a degree. He threw a bullpen session after a contest last week to try staying sharp.

Though he's been idle, he's back to being a fantasy idol. Since his ERA stood at 9.00 after a May 9 disaster, and counting his scoreless non-save Monday frame (his first appearance in seven days), he has rattled off a 1.64 ERA with 11 K's over his last 11 appearances (11 frames). Mechanical malfunctions created much of his early-season tension, and once he was able to get his velocity back up in mid-May, his struggles started subsiding.

Injury looks like the only thing that can slow him down at this point. If it does, David Hernandez should be scooped up immediately.

Other Monday saviors

Chris Perez (22), Indians With 2 outs: 1B, DI, R-scoring 1B, held on to 1-R advantage
Santiago Casilla (19), Giants  
Joe Nathan (14), Rangers Worked around pair of 2-out 1B



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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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