Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Francisco Rodriguez, Matt Capps, more

by Tim Heaney on July 5, 2011 @ 13:22:57 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)


Houston Astros

Closer: Mark Melancon

Understudy: Wilton Lopez

Lurkers: David Carpenter

Opponents have scored on Melancon in four of his last five appearances, including a five-run debacle June 26. He came in during a tied game Sunday but allowed a hit and three walks, including the game-losing, bases-loaded free pass. His ERA, which was at 1.62 on June 15 before this horrid stretch, now stands at 3.23.

New York Mets RP Francisco Rodriguez
Plan for Mets' life after K-Rod

Though he had just one save chance in this window (that five-spot) and probably isn't in immediate job danger, performances like this chip away at your manager's secure feeling. Lopez or the slightly more intriguing Carpenter might get a chance if Melancon continues down this path.

Lopez has the speculative edge because Bradley Mills likely trusts him more. That's mostly experience-based, though, and could easily change. Carpenter, who saved 14 combined games for Class AAA Oklahoma City and Double-A Corpus Christi this season along with 49 in his farm career, has a better skills profile for the role, having fanned 9.72 hitters per nine minor league frames.

Melancon owners should probably grab Lopez, especially in deep setups, but they should do so while keeping tabs on Carpenter and understanding that the backup hierarchy could change.

Job security score: 2

Health score: 5

Minnesota Twins

Closer: Matt Capps

Understudy: Joe Nathan

Plenty of fireworks in Capps' holiday weekend: He blew a Saturday save opportunity, allowing four runs on five hits. Even more telling, in a less subtle stumble: Capps was removed from a Sunday save chance after allowing two hits in just one-third of an inning. Glen Perkins closed it out by fanning the next two hitters.

Ron Gardenhire had the lefty warming in case Prince Fielder stepped to the plate with runners on. Fielder was 0-for-7 against Capps in his career, but Gardy went with the handedness matchup. Nathan had already pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, so he wasn't an option.

Gardy maintains Capps is still the team's closer and said the righty was in line to be so Monday (a fireman wasn't needed in the 7-0 triumph). But with the righty's recent ups and downs and Nathan showing glimpses of his former self, you have to start wondering when the latter will have a shot to take over, especially if the skipper has enough reason to remove his "stopper" when facing a lefty bat. That doesn't scream confidence.

Oh, and trade rumors continue to float about Capps, further jeopardizing his closer status. Capps owners must prepare by adding Nathan (actually, everyone should do this if he's unowned) or finding another avenue for saves. Heck, even if Nathan is traded, he might wind up in save chances, too; either way, it's worth grabbing him to find out what his future path will be.

Don't overvalue this Perkins appearance as a chance for long-term saves; again, Nathan wasn't available. Plus, Gardy likes how versatile the southpaw has been in 'pen situations and probably doesn't want to limit his appearance circumstances. Still, he's worth owning in ALs.

Job security score: 2

Health score: 5

New York Mets

Closer: Francisco Rodriguez

Understudy: Jason Isringhausen, Bobby Parnell

Time to crank up the heat on the K-Rod trade watch. If K-Rod finishes (not saves) 55 games, a whopping $17.5 million option vests for 2012; he's well ahead of the pace there, increasing the Mets' urgency to ship him out. Reports say the Mets are starting chatter, but tabbing his replacement for a fantasy addition isn't as easy as first thought.

Minnesota Twins RP Matt Capps
Capps in danger?

For Monday's contest, Terry Collins felt "leery" about using Izzy, the normal setup arm, in the eighth because he threw 23 pitches Sunday. Parnell seized the chance to show something, throwing perfect ball in the seventh and eighth while compiling two K's before Rodriguez recorded his 21st save and 32nd finish contest.

While rehabbing from numbness in his pitching hand's middle finger after his April 19 DL placement, Parnell also cleaned up his delivery and approach. Pitching coach Dan Warthen cites a quicker tempo between Parnell's pitches for the flame-thrower's recent success: 1.17 ERA, 16 K's and four walks in 15 1/3 frames since returning from the DL.

Isringhausen, 39 in September, has enjoyed a renaissance season but holds a 4.00 ERA since May ended. It's likely that in a Mets 'pen without K-Rod, Collins would continue to worry about using Izzy on back-to-back days even if he's the main closer, which would still give Parnell a chance here and there.

The elder statesman makes sense as the replacement grab because the eighth-to-ninth transition probably appeals to Collins. But Parnell has better stopper stuff and, naturally, has a better chance of being a long-term Rodriguez replacement; it wouldn't hurt the Mets to test out their future in a lost campaign. One reporter speculates Parnell will slide into the role whenever K-Rod is shown the door.

A K-Rod departure could devolve into a messy timeshare that would also include Pedro Beato, and maybe Tim Byrdak coming in against lefties. That's not as likely, though; New York needs to test the alternative waters with a solo gig.

While chasing saves runoff here, remember that trading K-Rod won't be easy, and the Mets are hardly in an optimal position to eat a sizable portion of his money. Still, you must be prepared.

Parnell has shown enough to leapfrog Isringhausen. Though that might not be enough to give him the edge initially after a Rodriguez exit, this aids in believing Parnell could see more save chances for the rest of the season, making him a more appealing target.

Job security score: 5

Health score: 5

Mound meetings

  • It sounds like J.J. Putz (elbow) will be ready to return not long after the All-Star break. With Putz's history of elbow problems, he isn't completely out of the woods, but a speedy recovery would limit the impact David Hernandez has in the SV column after the Midsummer Classic. Hernandez is worth stashing in mixed leagues even after Putz returns, especially by Putz owners, because he's a useful K arm and Putz is brittle.
  • Don't expect Ryan Madson (hand) to rejoin the Philadelphia Phillies before the All-Star break. The right-hander just starting playing catch this weekend and will have to pitch off a mound a few times before coming back. This solidifies Antonio Bastardo's closing value for at least another week, and, like Hernandez, the southpaw is a solid deep mixed contributor anyway.
  • Frank Francisco's first two July save opps showed us the two Franks. On Thursday, bad Frank surfaced; he gave up two runs on three hits and a walk to fail that test. Good Frank showed more resolve Monday, powering his way past a leadoff ground-ball single to strike out the next three batters and preserve the two-run victory.
    With Jon Rauch displaying his typical shakiness (pitching, going Ultimate Warrior-crazy on an umpire) and Frank Squared tapping into his more aggressive, dominant self (2.79 ERA, 12 K's in 9 2/3 innings from June 1 on), the latter looks to be safe in the stopper gig for now.
  • Keep an eye on Brian Wilson, whose tirade after blowing a Friday save chance (and later backing into the win after Jeremy Affeldt closed it out) involved him attacking a Gatorade cooler with a running start to a Happy Gilmore golf swing. At one point, it looked like he was flexing his right hand in pain after hitting something off screen, reportedly a gum or sunflower seed box. He said his hand was fine, but it's worth watching and keeping Sergio Romo at your fingertips for any Wilson absence.
  • Mariano Rivera was unavailable Monday due to a sore triceps, and possibly the fact that he threw 23 pitches in blowing the save for the New York Yankees on Sunday. This doesn't sound overly serious; hardly one to say he's hurt, Rivera said he should be good to go Tuesday. David Robertson would've closed if needed Monday and would step in if Rivera is forced to the sidelines.
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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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