Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Joakim Soria's demotion, more

by Tim Heaney on May 31, 2011 @ 01:02:59 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)


Kansas City Royals

Closer: Aaron Crow

Understudy: Joakim Soria

Lurkers: Louis Coleman, Blake Wood, Tim Collins, Jeremy Jeffress

Ned Yost yanked Soria from the closer's role after the righty blew his third save opportunity in a row during a Monday meltdown. Though the Royals could mix in other options, Crow takes over as the primary replacement and should be added everywhere.

Texas Rangers RP Neftali Feliz
Feliz making owners unhappy

Before his latest nightmarish stretch began May 24, Soria posted a 2.00 ERA in his previous nine outings, but he allowed eight runs on 11 hits (three homers) in 3 1/3 innings over his last four appearances. The Royals thought they found a mechanical solution to his problems, but it hasn't helped. Soria's stuff remains hittable. He isn't fooling as many batters outside the zone, and his fastball velocity remains below his career average. With the continued mechanical tinkering, maybe he's tipping his pitches.

After shutting out all of his April opponents, some correction was coming for Crow; his May ERA stands at an ugly, grotesque, woeful, hopeless 2.70. But even with that possibility of a continued downturn (looking at you, left-on-base percentage), KC's most frequent eighth-inning man this year has a sound pedigree complete with competent K/9 and grounder inducement to avoid a drastic collapse.

Soria's pre-2011 body of work and Yost's post-game comments hint KC wants him back in the role once he rights his ship. Hang tight by parking him on your bench to wait this out.

Job security score: 1

Health score: 5

Texas Rangers

Closer: Neftali Feliz

Understudy: Darren Oliver, Arthur Rhodes

Lurkers: Mark Lowe, Darren O'Day (DL), Tanner Scheppers

Feliz blew a save Saturday by giving up a solo jack. On Sunday, he came into a tied ballgame but was replaced with two outs; he had allowed a leadoff double, but the runner moved to third on an error by Nelson Cruz and scored on a sac fly. Feliz has blown three of his last five opportunities.

The righty's 1.45 ERA shields his problems: a 4.34 K/9, a 6.75 BB/9 and a horrifically low first-strike percentage. His velocity has returned since he came back from the DL, but his command hasn't. Feliz said he's leaving his shoulder open too much and rushing his pitches. His heavy fastball reliance might be catching up with him; Texas wants him to deliver more off-speed pitches. He was mixing his pitches better before going on the DL, and maybe he's fixated on throwing his four-seamer because he has restored its speed.

For what it's worth, Ron Washington said they aren't considering removing Feliz. If you can live without Feliz's avenue to saves in your lineup, it's probably best to bench him for a bit.

They would probably go with the combo of Oliver and Rhodes again if they give Feliz the boot. Lowe has vastly improved since returning from the minors but is hardly a safe candidate. Even then, it's a long shot that it'd even come to that course of action.

Job security score: 5

Health score: 5

Toronto Blue Jays

Closer: Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch

Understudy: Octavio Dotel

Lurkers: Jason Frasor

Oakland Athletics RP Andew Bailey
Bailey could come on quickly

Rauch recorded the first committee save Friday by wrapping up an inning that started with two lefty bats. Francisco blew the Saturday save, but John Farrell sympathized with Frank's bad luck: A double squirted inside the first base line, and a bloop two-bagger fell into right field to score the tying tally.

Farrell held a meeting with the relievers Thursday to clarify the Jays' statistically themed plan for using the arms. In general, consider Francisco and Rauch the likeliest save options, based on matchups and their usage. Dotel is the guy when they need to strike out righties.

Frasor's use is the loosest of these three - he can pitch in the middle innings if the need arises. Others like Shawn Camp and Marc Rzepczynski might sneak into the late frames based on opposing hitters but are far less likely to steal saves.

Pick up what you must from this tree, but its branches won't consistently produce fruit.

Job security score: 1

Health score: 4

Mound meetings

  • Andrew Bailey (forearm) came off the DL Sunday for the Oakland Athletics and tossed a scoreless seventh inning. He probably won't be used on back-to-back days in the near future and will be given the closer job back when ready. If he impresses early on, that could happen sooner than Oakland expects.
    Bob Geren recently stripped Brian Fuentes from interim closer duties but gave it back to the lefty after Grant Balfour's rough non-save outing Thursday. Fuentes wrapped up Oakland's Saturday and Sunday victories. His shelf life remains short, but if Bailey's schedule is light, Fuentes might pluck a few even after Bailey returns to being the chief savior.
  • Huston Street's Colorado Rockies job isn't in jeopardy, but the five homers he has given up in May point to some location issues. The bright side: He's forcing grounders more frequently and yielding fly balls less often than ever in his career. His homer allowance seems to be extremely unfortunate.
    His dropping swinging-strike percentage and opponents' bump in contact rate might signify that he's trying to pitch to contact more often. But he remains aggressive in hitting the strike zone and has been hard to hit for most of the season. Even though his rate of stranding opponents could see a big drop, Street owners should remain confident in him correcting the tater problem and stick with him. He's doing just about everything else right.
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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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