Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Kyle Farnsworth, Andrew Bailey, and more

by Tim Heaney on July 25, 2011 @ 14:27:39 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)


Oakland Athletics

Closer: Andrew Bailey

Understudy: Brian Fuentes, Grant Balfour

Lurkers: Michael Wuertz, Joey Devine, Brad Ziegler

Though the A's recently said they'd need to be overwhelmed to trade Bailey, rumors are still floating around the league. Bailey's contract has him under team control until 2014. His upcoming arbitration after the 2011 season, however, could be motivation for Oakland to get a deal done.

Maybe Oakland trades one of their setup men instead, but either way, you need to be prepared. In the event Bailey is shipped out, this would be messy. Fuentes did the job for a stretch earlier this season but wore out his welcome during a rough May, not long before Bailey came back from the DL. His left-handedness could be an advantage, though, especially given that the four right-handed lurkers could basically be used interchangeably, in theory. Balfour is the leader of that pack, though, and flirted with the interim job amidst Fuentes' struggles.

New A's manager Bob Melvin might not present the same fondness for Fuentes that the deposed Bob Geren had. Experience puts Fuentes in the main understudy role, but Balfour has proven reliable enough that he could easily slide in front of the lefty.

Job security score: 5

Health score: 4

Tampa Bay Rays

Closer: Kyle Farnsworth

Understudy: Joel Peralta, Jake McGee

Lurkers: J.P. Howell

The Rays are open to trading Farnsworth, who has had a stellar rebound season as one of the best fantasy baseball closer values. As much as the Rays love accumulating reclamation projects like this one, they also enjoy making profit on said commodities once they're built up.

Kyle Farnsworth, RP, Tampa Bay Rays
Farnsie's value at its peak?

Tampa Bay isn't necessarily out of the playoff race, but they're hardly in the thick of it at the moment. Prepare yourself for this possibility. Peralta was used for the save Tuesday to give Farnsie a rest, and despite a few rough stretches, he has been Tampa's most frequent eighth-inning man this year.

Howell, who closed out 17 contests in 2009, has improved in July and worked in some tight setup spots. But Joe Maddon relying on the southpaw on a regular basis isn't a mixed-league bet.

You could say the same for McGee, but the young lefty has tossed six shutout appearances (four innings) since being recalled from Class AAA Durham, where he saved nine games. We warned before the campaign's culmination that Maddon probably wouldn't trust a rookie at the back end for a full season; well, maybe the bespectacled boss has lightened his stance, especially with McGee showing positive results throughout this year.

In a 'pen sans Farnsworth, Maddon would at least consider a committee approach, especially since he hasn't even applied the stopper label to Farnsie yet, despite the righty's monopolization of the task. Peralta and McGee are the better options to pursue - it could be a platoon arrangement between them, with Howell mixed in. McGee has more upside if given the role, but Peralta is the more trustworthy entity. Either way, as with Oakland, there probably won't be a singular savior if the Rays ship out their current closer. You'd still be able to strip away a slice even if you have to settle for Howell.

Job security score: 4

Health score: 5

Mound meetings

  • J.J. Putz should be back in the closer role for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday as he returns from elbow tendonitis. Hang on to David Hernandez for now, though, while we see how Putz responds to game action. Hernandez can still be useful in cavernous mixed leagues even if all goes well for the incumbent; a handcuff wouldn't hurt this late in the season, either.
  • The current co-fireman setup between Antonio Bastardo and Ryan Madson continued this past weekend. The Philadelphia Phillies employed Madson on Saturday in his third appearance in as many days and second save in as many days. Bastardo, coming off his worst outing of 2011, followed suit on Sunday by recording a closure of his own in giving Madson a rest.
    Madson is the eventual front-runner here, but Bastardo is building a case to keep this shared arrangement. Even if and when Madson becomes the sole option, Bastardo is worth holding thanks to his helpful Jonny Venters-like contributions. Stashing Brad Lidge in cavernous leagues will require patience and would be banking on the two lead dominoes to fall, making it a desperation move.
  • Meanwhile, it looks like the Chicago White Sox are trying to protect Sergio Santos. Chris Sale, who had worked the eighth inning, faced lefty-hitting Travis Hafner to start the ninth inning Sunday with a two-run lead. After Sale retired him, Santos came on and worked around a walk to induce the final two outs and grab his 20th save of the season.
    We saw how Ozzie Guillen did something similar last week with Matt Thornton giving Santos a push toward the finish line. Maybe skip wants to bring Santos into save spots with one or two outs in the books, regardless of the handedness that waits in the batter's box, just to shorten the inning. But lefty sticks have had much more success versus Santos than righties, so there's a method to this. This isn't much stress for Santos owners, but it isn't something to ignore. Thornton is worth having at your fingertips in case the former stumbles.
  • Carlos Marmol was originally supposed to return to the Chicago Cubs' closing role Friday but was instead used in the eighth inning in favor of Sean Marshall, that game's savior. But Mike Quade said that Marmol has regained his role and was slated to do the job Saturday. He wasn't needed in such a capacity then or yesterday but threw a scoreless inning on each day - naturally, by making it interesting, allowing a combined three hits and a walk.
    Marshall is worth hanging on to for a bit if you're clinging to any saves routes, but Marmol should be owned and placed back in lineups everywhere.
  • Now 7-for-7 on save chances this season, Javy Guerra wrapped up a Sunday sitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The only run he has allowed in 7 1/3 July innings came when the Blue were losing. Don Mattingly won't dub him as such, but Guerra is the lead ninth-inning LA launcher. Whatever leagues that still have him as a free agent aren't paying attention.
    Jonathan Broxton might not appear again in 2011. Hong-Chih Kuo is pitching important innings ... but not at a high level. Kenley Jansen, meanwhile, would likely step in if something happened today. He's looking more and more like the 2010 mower version of himself. He hasn't yielded a tally in 14 innings since coming off the DL, registering 22 K's in that time.
  • Dave Duncan said recently that Lance Lynn is the lead setup man for the St. Louis Cardinals. In his 10 relief appearances this season (16 2/3 innings), he has a 2.70 ERA with 21 K's; the former SP prospect is taking to his new role.
    It probably won't be a long-term switch for him, though, and this might be irrelevant for speculation purposes in the next few days, considering the Redbirds are flying through trade talks for a closer. Fernando Salas likely has just a week's worth of stopper value left. It might be too late to swap him, but see if someone else in your league isn't paying attention.
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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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