Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Rafael Betancourt, John Axford, Aroldis Chapman, more

by Tim Heaney on June 21, 2012 @ 11:15:42 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)


Colorado Rockies

Closer: Rafael Betancourt
Understudy/Fill-in: Matt Belisle, Rex Brothers
Lurkers: Matt Reynolds

Milwaukee Brewers RP John Axford
Not getting Axed yet

You shouldn't blindly follow the adage that a horrible team hurts its closer's volume of save chances; numerous factors can affect that frequency. But in this case ... quite true. Betancourt has entered only three of those spots all month.

After Wednesday's walk-off debacle (two runs - one earned - on three hits, an intentional walk and an error, all with two outs), he has blown his last two, with his latest wrap-up coming June 3. He had trouble finishing off the Philadelphia Phillies with his high fastballs. Under wild circumstances, the Phils wound up redeeming Jonathan Papelbon, getting him a little-earned W after he let up the go-ahead run in the top half.

The high cheese point speaks to a statistical red flag. Betancourt's fly-ball rate has been his bane for some time - it's what scared many off him considering he calls Coors Field home. He had gotten by, however, because the top-of-the-zone stuff was tough to hit and produced high infield loft rates. Last year, that frequency came in at 16.5 percent. In 2012, it's just 8.8. More aerial shots are carrying where they can do more damage; his 5.9 percent HR/FB is a bit lucky. The righty's velocity is a bit down, as well.

He's changed things a bit, though, instituting a cutter frequently into his arsenal. It's done a decent part in alleviating the four-seam drop-off. Also, the 37-year-old was 9-for-10 in opps before his recent poor run, with his last gaffe coming May 2. He has been scored upon in only five of his 25 appearances this year; his 3.28 ERA is a bit bloated.

You'd like to see him induce more cans of corn within the diamond, but it's going to take more than a tough loss inflicted by a run-scoring, two-out error to jeopardize Betancourt's gig, especially since the Rox haven't set themselves up to use him often. If you must, follow the speculative chart.

Job security score: 4
Health score:

Mound meetings

Tests revaled no structural damage to Jose Valverde's wrist, only irritation in the flexor tendon. The Detroit Tigers expect him to be back in the next handful of days. Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke and Octavio Dotel is the speculative order you should follow.


Ron Roenicke said that John Axford remains the Milwaukee Brewers' closer despite his recent self-afflicted ax wounds in the save department. His wife's recent delivery of their second son complicated this week's appearance. For on-field matters, his control has gotten him into trouble by forcing him to throw fastballs on 3-1 counts often. Both of the taters he yielded Tuesday came on 3-1 heat.

Despite skip's vote of confidence, Francisco Rodriguez shouldn't be far out of your reach.


Expanding on the Aroldis Chapman discussion from yesterday, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the Cincinnati Reds lefty has had some lower back issues. Dusty Baker and pitching coach Bryan Price are downplaying the balkiness, though. The former instead insists that hitters are making adjustments to his fastball-heavy approach. Price said that during Chapman's Tuesday BS, the hurler was having difficulties with his delivery and command.

Don't be as lax as Baker and Price are in writing off the impact of Chapman's soreness on his performance; his mechanics can be violent sometimes, and any extra strain put on that by an injury can linger. It's all the more reason to speculate on Sean Marshall, who should be owned in deep leagues anyway.


Per the Minnesota Twins, Matt Capps (shoulder inflammation) should be ready for action today or tomorrow after throwing a bullpen session Wednesday afternoon. Glen Perkins handled closer duties yesterday, facing two from each side of the batter's box and working around a leadoff walk for a scoreless frame. The southpaw is worth hanging on to until Capps proves he's healthy in game action. Because naturally, managers always give firm injury timelines, right?

Though the rejuvenated Jared Burton might get the call if it's a slew of righty wood, Perkins has a bit more cred in this arrangement and would be the primary choice if Capps remains sidelined or changes unis.

Other Wednesday saviors

Jonathan Broxton (18), Royals Allowed at least 1 H for 6th time in 7 G
Frank Francisco (17), Mets Sacks-jacked, 2-out BB, but held on
Joe Nathan (15), Rangers In 28 2/3 IP: 34 K, 2 BB ... bully.
Tyler Clippard (10), Nationals 10-for-10 in SVO since snatching job




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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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