Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Jordan Walden, more

by Tim Heaney on May 17, 2011 @ 13:11:10 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)


Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Closer: Jordan Walden

Understudy: Scott Downs, Fernando Rodney

Lurkers: Rich Thompson, Hisanori Takahashi, Kevin Jepsen

May has not been kind to Walden. The closer has blown three of his last five chances this month, including a gaffe Monday night. He has a 9.00 ERA over his last six games. Though his recently reintegrated changeup has helped Walden be successful in the past, he hasn't used it much, and maybe he's struggling with location and approach as he thinks about when to use it. An over-thinking flamethrower can be disastrous.

Kansas City Royals RP Joakim Soria
Soria's problem pinpointed?

His average fastball velocity is down by slightly more than 1 mph, but it remains a blistering pitch and probably isn't the cause of his struggles. His swinging-strike percentage is on par with last season's MLB stint and bodes well for his K/9, which while decreased remains attractive. But he's forcing fewer grounders and has experienced a normalization of his luck with runners on base, so maybe it's better to expect an ERA closer to 3.50 than 2.50.

That hardly makes him fantasy poison; he still has rope. Rodney hasn't done much better this month (7.94 ERA in 5 2/3 May frames) and might eventually lose his grip on important frames. The excellent performance of Downs and Thompson in setup roles could actually help Walden; maybe Scioscia prefers to keep everyone where he is.

Walden doesn't have a track record, so it's easy to think Mike Scioscia could pull the plug, but he seems to have Scioscia's trust; the skip recently pointed to Walden's troubles as a normal part of a young arm's development. There's still plenty to like about the righty's makeup.

If you're trying to swipe saves from here, Downs looks like the better target despite Rodney's experience. The speculative race between those two is close, though, and a couple of solid performances by Rodney could easily have him back in Scioscia's good graces as he did earlier this season when he converted a save chance.

Job security score: 3

Health score: 5

Mound meetings

  • An explanation for Joakim Soria's struggles: He has been throwing his cut fastball - a secondary pitch for the vet - more often, and it's restricting the follow-through in the delivery of the rest of his arsenal; when he finishes his pitches, he looks like he's "getting ready to cover a bunt. It's abbreviated," said pitching coach Bob McClure.
    Soria's command has suffered since the movement and velocity on his pitches are easily corrupted by such a mechanical flaw. The contending Kansas City Royals would be hard-pressed to kick him out of the role, especially since with all his issues, he's five for his last six save tries.
  • Fernando Salas is now 4-for-4 in save opps after tossing a scoreless, one-K inning Monday night for the St. Louis Cardinals. Though Mitchell Boggs is another option (maybe tonight?), Salas has the slight advantage in this never-ending bird race.
  • Kevin Gregg blew his second save in the last week with a two-walk, one-hit, two-run collapse Monday. No chatter about him losing his job yet, but he's walking a gruesome 7.04 per nine, which sadly matches his K/9. He must need a lot of Preparation H: His seat is perpetually scorching. The Baltimore Orioles also have Koji Uehara waiting in the wings. He remains the best non-Gregg speculation.
  • Drew Storen has simplified his approach, limiting his arsenal to fastball and slider while locating his fastball with more efficiency. The Washington Nationals' closer - let's face it, it's all but official - hasn't allowed a run in his 20 appearances, including a sealed victory Monday, since his 2011 opener.
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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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