Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat - NL

by Tim Heaney on April 4, 2011 @ 00:28:07 PDT


What are the odds that you still own the same relief pitchers you rostered in your fantasy baseball draft?'s Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat series gives you a no-nonsense perspective on performances, injuries and managerial decisions from MLB bullpens. Get your arm loose: Let's find fantasy baseball players who'll get saves in your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball league.


Job security (JS) score 1 (unstable) to 5 (untouchable)
Health (H) score 1 (injury-prone) to 5 (durable)


Atlanta Braves

Closer: Craig Kimbrel

Understudy: Jonny Venters

Halos have questions, answers:

AL Hot Seat | Depth charts

While Fredi Gonzalez stopped short of naming Kimbrel the main stopper after the righty's brilliant Thursday performance, he made sure we knew his top choice. Venters faced three righties in the eighth inning Thursday before Kimbrel faced a couple of lefties on his way to a save. They used a similar arrangement Monday.

The young righty probably won't be used for more than two days in a row, which helps Venters' cause. The left-hander shouldn't be dropped; he remains a solid fantasy commodity that'll give you double-digit saves with outstanding peripherals.

Job security score: 3

Health score: 5

Houston Astros

Closer: Brandon Lyon

Understudy: Wilton Lopez

The Astros' batting practice pitcher - err, closer was drilled by the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday, allowing three runs on six hits to blow the save in grandiose fashion while struggling to reach 90 mph on his "heat." Houston stuck by him, for better or worse; no one was warming in the 'pen during the disaster.

Bradley Mills' lack of other options keeps Lyon's leash long. Oh, and so does his skepticism of the Phillies' bat performances: "... they really didn't square up a lot of balls. I'm giving them some credit for finding holes and getting hits, but at the same time (Lyon) was keeping the ball off the barrel of the bat for the most part."

Mills doesn't seem threatened by Lyon's thrashing, and Lyon will need more than an opening day meatball feast to lose his job. But you should remember Lyon's underwhelming stuff for the long term and add Lopez to your watch list or your NL-only squad. Though not an exciting K artist, he's next in line and has pristine control.

Job security score: 3

Health score: 5

Los Angeles Dodgers

Closer: Jonathan Broxton

Understudy: Hong-Chih Kuo

Lurkers: Kenley Jansen

Milwaukee Brewers RP John Axford
Don't drop the Axford just yet

Brox registered a save in each of his first three appearances of the year. He has also allowed two homers and three hits while striking out only one batter in 12 opposing plate appearances and struggling to top 90 mph on his fastball. The absence of a walk is promising, but heat will remain his burden of proof.

In all fairness, each homer he allowed came with at least a two-run lead and nobody on. Both Brox and Don Mattingly emphasized that he was pitching to get outs with those leads and downplayed the dingers' impact. While it might not yield the most desirable accompanying fantasy lines, Broxton at least showed he can grind his way to saves. Though you should sit tight on Kuo and Jansen speculations, Broxton has some breathing room, even if he causes his owners and fans to hyperventilate.

Job security score: 3

Health score: 5

Washington Nationals

Closer: Sean Burnett

Understudy: Drew Storen

Lurkers: Tyler Clippard, Todd Coffey

Jim Riggleman gave even more clarity to his stopper situation Saturday, pitching Storen in the eighth - three of the four hitters faced were lefties, and he allowed a solo dinger. Burnett wrapped it up with a 1-2-3 ninth. Riggs confirmed in post-game comments that he wants Burnett available for the ninth "early on."

The soft-tossing lefty posted a 1.94 ERA in his four save chances last year, converting three of them. His ability to handle righty bats bodes well for him, but this is a temporary arrangement. They're not gift-wrapping it, but the Nats still want Storen to take the job eventually. If you still haven't FAABed yet, Burnett is worth a grab that doesn't bust your budget because of the job's long-term volatility.

Job security score: 1

Health score: 5

Mound meetings

  • Ryan Franklin is once again testing the loyalty of Tony La Russa. The St. Louis Cardinals' righty blew an opening day save by allowing a game-tying solo homer, the only hit of the inning. The San Diego Padres went up there hacking, knowing Franklin's propensity to pitch around the plate. The Cards still don't have a solid option behind him. They're going to wait this one out; TLR is stubborn when it comes to closers.
  • John Axford (Milwaukee Brewers) carried over his spring issues, allowing four runs on a walk and two hits for a Thursday blown save and loss; he gave up two hits in two-thirds of an inning of mop-up duty yesterday.
    Concern? Yes, though he had some help with his opening day gaffe. Axford has struggled with his four-seam velocity. Reportedly, he has no mechanical problems. He deserves your patience, but that shouldn't prevent you from having Saito on call, even if his workload will probably be limited throughout the season.
  • Following a heat-filled 27-pitch simulated contest Sunday, Brian Wilson (oblique) looks ready to return to the San Francisco Giants as soon as Wednesday, the first day he's eligible. If Wilson's left side feels OK Monday, that'll facilitate the decision.
    Even if Wilson comes back sharp, deep leaguers could probably use Sergio Romo for his relief ratio help. Plus, those who own Wilson or are thirsty for saves should probably sit on Romo for a bit anyway, given how tricky oblique injuries can be.
  • J.J. Putz fanned two in a one-frame save Friday. The Arizona Diamondbacks' stopper had been battling back issues. Long-term sticky notes: A scout recently expressed concerns that Putz's velocity isn't what it once was and his M.O. might suffer as a result. Another stash: 'Zona named David Hernandez the top setup man - not a guarantee that he's next in line but more reason for you to favor him over Juan Gutierrez.
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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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