Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Huston Street, Heath Bell, Scott Downs, more

by Tim Heaney on May 7, 2012 @ 14:15:26 PDT


What are the odds that you still own the relief pitchers you rostered in your fantasy baseball draft?'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)

Miami Marlins

Closer: Steve Cishek, Edward Mujica
Understudy: Heath Bell

San Diego Padres RP Andrew Cashner
Cashner money?

Bell's Friday blown save proved to be too much for Ozzie Guillen, who booted the high-priced signing and leans toward using Cishek as the main option in the interim. "We're going to move [Bell] down, maybe for a few days, to get him back on track," said Guillen. "It's not like I'm removing him from his job. We're going to come up with something positive for him to resolve the problem."

Unfortunately, Cishek stashers couldn't capitalize because the righty had to clean up Bell's mess Friday and tossed three innings in the extra-innings affair. So Mujica locked down one.

While most times you can be skeptical over "skip speak," it wouldn't surprise if this move lasted merely a week or two. The organization values Bell in the titular role and will work to get him back. Maybe his mechanics can be straightened out again. However, his owners must come to the stark reality that he won't be as consistent as he was during his recent peak stretch.

Cishek and Mujica are both worth owning, but it could be a frustrating arrangement that might not last very long, especially since Miami might involve Ryan Webb or a lefty matchup with Randy Choate once in a while, as well.

Job security score: 2
Health score: 5

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Closer: Scott Downs INJ
Understudy: Ernesto Frieri, Jordan Walden
Lurkers: LaTroy Hawkins INJ, Jason Isringhausen

The Halos' bullpen could have even more wings clipped after a pair of Sunday injuries with arms that are both day-to-day. Downs' knee seemingly buckled after he tried to avoid a line drive; the southpaw "didn't feel a pop or anything but he got up and felt like a strain back there," per Mike Scioscia. Hawkins wound up replacing Downs and logged a two-out save; turns out the vet jammed his right pinkie when snagging a liner to start the game-ending, 1-3 double play.

Frieri, acquired from the San Diego Padres last week, has impressed Scioscia early on with his fastball precision and liveliness and is a realistic candidate if Downs and Hawkins have to miss time. In fact, had Frieri hadn't already been used in the eighth frame, it's safe to think he'd have gotten the call. Since they didn't do so in Sunday's emergency, the Halos don't appear ready to reinstall Walden until he fixes his control and approach issues.

Frieri is worth an addition ahead of Hawkins and Isringhausen and has the skills to run with the job. He needed a few dominoes to fall in his favor to earn this chance; they could be on their way to the ground. Walden, meanwhile, is worth clinging to in deep leagues if you have space and the need down the road.

Job security score: 1
Health score:

San Diego Padres

Closer: Huston Street DL
Understudy: Andrew Cashner, Luke Gregerson
Lurkers: Dale Thayer

The Pads placed Street in a familiar place on Saturday. His strained right latissimus dorsi muscle doesn't need surgery but could easily need rest exceeding the minimum DL stint, especially given the often dragging pace of Street's healing in recent years from various injuries.

Bud Black mentioned Cashner, Gregerson and Thayer as candidates for saves in Street's absence - committee, anyone? They all have a touch of late-innings experience but don't present a clear front runner.

Though Cashner last closed games in his college career and is still on the long-term starter track in San Diego, his frequent appearances in eighth innings and triple digits on the radar gun make him a logical choice. Gregerson has long pitched important frames for the Friars, but he isn't all that dominant and has chiefly been the seventh-inning employee in 2012. Cashner and Gregerson can pitch multiple innings, as well, so Black utilizing them that way could limit their fantasy yield.

The 31-year-old Thayer, who holds 173 farm saves over nearly a decade of action, has had fleeting K/9 success and can dial up his velocity when needed. His big-league tenure, however, has hardly been dominant (5.10 ERA, 5.4 K/9 in 27 games), and though Black probably appreciates Thayer's four scoreless frames for SD this year, there isn't much long-term payoff here.

Cashner is the most alluring but hardly has a wide advantage over his competitors. Tread carefully in price and long-term expectations, even with the brittle Street being their main obstacle.

Job security score: 1
Health score:

Mound meetings

If you started your Cinco de Mayo partying a bit early, you might've missed that Chris Sale is the new Chicago White Sox closer, deflating the short-term values of Matt Thornton and Addison Reed while rendering Hector Santiago, the deposed stopper, useless in mixed formats. Thornton and Reed can still be put in deep-mixed storage if your league values elite setup men or you missed out on other potential save sources.


More Chitown saves: With a spotless Friday frame, Rafael Dolis registered the first wrap-up sans Carlos Marmol. He also worked two innings Sunday for the win. And therein lies the issue with the Chicago Cubs' bullpen; Dolis' ability to eat frames could limit his chances depending on the situation. Southpaw James Russell looks like a situational bet, and Kerry Wood could factor in as this goes along. Dolis has the lead, but it's not concrete.


Miami Marlins RP Heath Bell
Bell's toll on MIA too much

Javy Guerra has lost his "swag." Don Mattingly has no other way to put it after the righty failed to convert a save chance Sunday. After fanning the leadoff bat, the Los Angeles Dodgers' right-hander gave up a single, a walk and a run-scoring double that would've also plated the winning run if not for a relay throw that nailed the potential game-ender. Guerra fanned the next hitter, but the damage had been done.

Maybe the liner he took to the jaw nearly two weeks ago shook his confidence, or the residual lower-body injuries he suffered are still hindering him. Including that fateful contest, he's been touched up in four of his last five outings, for a 13.50 ERA in a four-inning span. He needs to regain his efficiency and aggressiveness.

Guerra's up-and-down nature could draw out how long you'll need to stash Kenley Jansen, but the understudy remains a smart play for the future.


The New York Yankees didn't need a savior in their first weekend after losing Mariano Rivera (torn right ACL) for the year, but David Robertson was used in the ninth on Friday while successfully protecting a four-run ninth-inning advantage. Rafael Soriano came on in the eighth inning Sunday after the Bombers doubled their lead with a three-run top half; Cory Wade worked an essentially meaningless final frame.

Joe Girardi said he'd use both backenders over the course of the season. Robertson has priority for the moment, but Soriano, whose 45 saves as a Tampa Bay Ray two years ago probably sit in the front of the organization's consciousness, will get his share. Robertson's situational versatility and New York's suddenly cost-conscious planning could boost Soriano's cred.


Santiago Casilla yielded a mixed bag this weekend. He worked around a one-out single for a clean save Saturday. On Sunday, he seemed rattled at times while blowing the closing opp. The leadoff hitter reached on a hard liner to third that was ruled an E5, and Casilla would give up a two-run double to allow the tying tally to score.

He's still the head option in the San Francisco Giants' setup, but maybe we'll see Sergio Romo mixed in more often if they decide Casilla won't work back-to-back days.

Other notable weekend saviors

Chris Perez 2 (11), Indians 10 straight SV conversions
Craig Kimbrel (9), Braves  
Jim Johnson (8), Orioles Back on track in role following illness
Joe Nathan (7), Rangers  
Grant Balfour (7), Athletics Scoreless IP helps halt some talk of change
Brett Myers (7), Astros  
Frank Francisco 2 (7), Mets Scoreless SV on back-to-back days aids security
John Axford (6), Brewers  
J.J. Putz (6), Diamondbacks Despite rough early go: 12 K's, 0 BB in 9 IP
Joel Hanrahan (5), Pirates  
Jose Valverde (5), Tigers  
Matt Capps (5), Twins For talk of his issues, 5-for-5 on SV opps
Joel Peralta (2), Rays 1-outer with five-run lead, bases loaded
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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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