Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Brewers, Grant Balfour, Padres, more

by Tim Heaney on August 13, 2012 @ 14:30:59 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)

Milwaukee Brewers

Closer: Jim Henderson, John Axford
Understudy/Fill-in: Francisco Rodriguez
Lurkers: Kameron Loe, Jose Veras

On Friday, the same night Axford blew a save chance and took the loss in giving up two runs (one earned), Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Henderson would take over the ninth. Henderson repaid skip by allowing a run of his own on Saturday. Following a scoreless ninth to preserve a tie, the 10th saw the righty allow a single, two walks and then the run-scoring one-bagger that etched the "L."

The trials this bullpen has given Roenicke has prompted him to refrain from telling his relievers what role they'll have heading into each game. Earlier today, Tom Haudricourt answered a Twitter query: Per the beat writer, Roenicke has indicated there isn't a designated closer. Instead he's going day-to-day and considering match-ups. Henderson's rough patch Saturday probably cemented that stance.

Oakland Athletics RP Grant Balfour
Balfour back in command

So did Loe's Sunday closure. He allowed a leadoff single, recorded a K and committed a throwing error to put another on before another inducing strikeout and groundout to end it. Henderson had thrown 33 pitches on Saturday, so you wonder if that factored into Roenicke using Loe, but the latter has been good of late.

Henderson, whose control falls short of ideal, intrigues Roenicke enough that he'll probably get a few more chances at least. Though he'll probably take a back seat in the immediate future, Axford can be stashed instead of dropped for deep leaguers still clinging to all possible saves sources. Shallow mixers shouldn't be as focused on doing so.

Loe earned some praise but isn't worth pursuing in most mixed leagues yet. He's on the verge of passing K-Rod on this hierarchy, but by the time he does that, his contribution window for saves could be limited.

Job security score: 1
Health score:

Mound meetings

For those that missed it, the Oakland Athletics followed through on past hints and shook things up over the weekend, removing the struggling Ryan Cook from save spots for now. Grant Balfour took advantage by putting a bow on Oaktown's Saturday win with a scoreless stanza.

Since June ended, Balfour has a 0.59 ERA with 16 K's in 15 1/3 innings. He's the most qualified to hold the gig. Southpaw Sean Doolittle could see work here and there but is only a secondary waiver target.


Huston Street was placed on the disabled list Saturday with a strained quadriceps. Given his injury history, it doesn't hurt to remain skeptical over his initial proclamation that he'd miss the minimum.

San Diego Padres manager Bud Black pointed to using Dale Thayer and Luke Gregerson, in some form, to fill the void. Thayer has the advantage of having done the job in Street's previous DL stint earlier this year, going 5-for-5 in his opportunities. Gregerson has been the better pitcher of late, though, so that might win him the job.

Thayer has an ever-so-slight edge for pickup warriors. Can you comfortably click both onto your squad?


The Boston Red Sox are scheduled to activate Andrew Bailey (thumb) on Tuesday. As mentioned in this space numerous times, he'll probably land in at least the occasional save chance down the stretch, with the possibility of taking over the gig should Alfredo Aceves fall out of favor. Grab Bailey for that possibility.


The New York Mets needed Jon Rauch to wrap things up Sunday. After entering with a 6-1 lead, Josh Edgin recorded two outs but also loaded the bases with two walks and a plunk. Frank Francisco promptly dished out two free passes with the sacks jacked before allowing a two-run double. Rauch fanned Jason Heyward to end it, but strike 3 got past the backstop and they had to throw out Heyward at first. Whew. Where was Bobby Parnell in all of this?

In four appearances (two innings) since resurfacing from the disabled list, Francisco has allowed three runs on three walks and four hits. He erased much of the goodwill raised by his scoreless Saturday inning. (Still, he was hardly pristine with one walk and one hit accompanied his three K's in that affair.)

Combined with the reported latissimus dorsi tightness he's feeling after his days at the office, he's becoming hazardous to employ if you don't need saves. Parnell isn't a bad hold in many mixed formats for the event that Francisco is booted or needs more time to heal.


Wilton Lopez has a win in each of his last two appearances but only one save since unofficially taking over the Houston Astros' savior slot. He blew a save Saturday when he allowed a double, a single and an RBI groundout in the ninth; he stayed on for a four-batter, scoreless 10th to set up Houston's victory.

He's been rough, but besides mixed league dart throw Wesley Wright, there's no other Astros reliever that endangers Lopez's reign as long as Francisco Cordero (toe) is out. The bigger question is how often Houston will position Lopez to offer what his fantasy owners desire.


In non-save, ninth-inning work Saturday, Steve Cishek allowed a run on one hit but wrapped up a four-run victory for the Miami Marlins. Ozzie Guillen deployed Heath Bell in the eighth inning; he threw a shutout frame, a much better outing than his four-run Sunday gaffe in which he retired only one batter.

Bell deserves to be on desperate mixed-league rosters because of Ozzie's desire to get the burly right-hander back into his traditional role, but expecting dynamic saves contributions will require patience. Heck, it might not even happen.


Matt Capps is slated to have an MRI Monday to check on the irritation in his right rotator cuff that has kept him on the sidelines since July 16. He's aiming to return to the Minnesota Twins in early September. If the tests come back clean, he'll start a throwing program soon.

Glen Perkins and Jared Burton will continue handling closer duties in the meantime, and Capps could cede at least some of his duties if Minnesota wants to ease him back in, making that duo worthy of mixed roster attention.

Other notable weekend saviors

Fernando Rodney 2 (36), Rays
Jim Johnson (34), Orioles
Chris Perez (31), Indians
Rafael Soriano (28), Yankees
Aroldis Chapman 3 (28), Reds
Jason Motte (26), Cardinals
Jonathan Papelbon (25), Phillies
Tyler Clippard (24), Nationals 2 straight scoreless SV, holding off Drew Storen
Kenley Jansen (23), Dodgers
J.J. Putz (22), Diamondbacks
Rafael Betancourt (20), Rockies Sun. BS snapped 8-G streak without allowing a R
Tom Wilhelmsen (16), Mariners
Casey Janssen (15), Blue Jays
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Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat | AL depth charts | NL depth charts

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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