What are the odds that you still own the relief pitchers you rostered in your fantasy baseball draft? KFFL.com'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)
Closer: Sergio Santos
Understudy: Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain
Lurkers: Chris Sale
Those who had to ride Santos' weekend rollercoaster were happy to escape alive. In a disastrous Friday that looked a lot like his Wednesday collapse, the righty was pounded into blown-save submission (four runs on two hits, three walks and one hit batsman in 38 pitches). Santos had to keep feeding fastballs in the zone because he couldn't trust the release point on his slider and wasn't confident in his changeup. His inability to calibrate his approach frustrated catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
Not deposed, but not alone, either
On Saturday, Crain closed the door with Santos unavailable, working around a walk in the four-out effort. Santos kept us biting our nails again Sunday, allowing one run on two hits and a walk, but eventually maneuvered into a save.
Santos is overthrowing and rushing on the mound. Guillen was willing to let him work out of Sunday's jam - surely part of that was because Crain probably wasn't available and Thornton had already worked in the eighth frame. Don't go dropping Santos: Ozzie continues to stand by him even with these recent bumps. But if the righty can't find his secondary stuff on a consistent basis and continues feeding fastballs in the zone, we could see more bullpen turmoil on the South Side.
It would be Thornton or Crain - or some combo of the two - doing the job if Santos were to be deposed; the two have each held eighth-inning duties for most of the season. Thornton threw only two pitches Friday but was passed over for Crain Saturday; however, the former has regained his 2010 form over the last month-plus. Targeting Thornton first makes sense; he has slightly more experience, and Saturday Guillen said Crain would be an option "when Santos needs a day or [Matt] Thornton."
This order isn't cemented, but that's a good hint that Thornton is preferred if needed. The race between the two is tight, though, so Crain isn't a bad stab, either.
Job security score: 3
Health score: 5
Closer: Jonathan Broxton (DL), Vicente Padilla (DL)
Understudy: Hong-Chih Kuo (DL), Kenley Jansen (DL)
Lurkers: Javy Guerra, Blake Hawksworth, Matt Guerrier, Mike MacDougal, Scott Elbert
Having fun yet? Elbert was the latest Dodger to corrupt this fantasy picture, recording a one-out save Sunday. He retired a lefty batter after Hawksworth registered the first two outs, so it's just a matchup appearance for the southpaw Elbert, who isn't worth pursuing in your league.
Guerra has pitched in more closer-like work than the other options but hasn't displayed notable skills. With Rubby De La Rosa now a member of the rotation, Guerra is probably the best option besides the four injured arms if you're desperate.
Padilla's lingering neck issues, Kuo's continued bout with anxiety and Broxton's extensive forearm recovery (expected to last until sometime in July) are keeping the door open for Jansen (shoulder). He has thrown well in rehab work and could be activated sometime this week, maybe as soon as Monday.
Going against Jansen is the Dodgers' desire to use him for multiple innings; Don Mattingly points to a lack of other pitchers that can serve that purpose. But if Jansen turns out to be effective, he could take the baton next. He did the job for a stretch last year, and that might be enough at this point. Hardly a guarantee, but a little more reason to take a chance on him than any other option.
It's hard to bank on any spin of this wheel. Sadly, this might open the door for Broxton to regain his old role. Hopefully you've done your best to avoid this situation. If not, stay tuned, there's plenty more trouble waiting.
Job security score: 1
Health score: 3
Another Jonny Venters save (one inning, one hit allowed Sunday) has Craig Kimbrel owners worried. Fredi Gonzalez, however, proclaimed Kimbrel to be unavailable after throwing 30 pitches Saturday, allowing Venters to step in.
Who's next? Who knows?
Kimbrel remains the Atlanta Braves' chief option, but, as noted previously in this space, Venters could poach saves frequently even for fill-in duty; Kimbrel often produces high pitch counts, so his potential for shutting the door on back-to-back days could be limited. Both pitchers will net saves and belong on fantasy rosters. Owning both will allow you to sleep easier.
- Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell called Jon Rauch "our closer" last week and has removed Frank Francisco from such duties until he can sharpen his location. Rauch returned from his lat issue Friday for a cameo but stumbled Saturday during a Toronto blowout loss (two runs on two hits). This shouldn't affect his job standing, though, considering the game's circumstances.
Farrell said Francisco should resurface in save situations eventually, but it's hardly a guarantee that Frank Frank will get more than a piece of the gig given how opponents have thwacked him. Grab Rauch, and keep Francisco on your bench until he's saves-ready. There's plenty to be ironed out.
- Brandon Lyon pitched an inning Friday but couldn't record an out Saturday. The two-day total: Five earned runs (including a four-run blow-up on the second day), four hits, two homers and a walk. Coming off a DL stint, he probably still isn't 100 percent, but even when he is, these performances aren't surprising.
Yup, the Houston Astros plan to boot Mark Melancon from closing to accommodate this guy. If you need saves, fine, grab Lyon, but you shouldn't feel comfortable about it at all - in job security or performance. Melancon owners must hang tight.
- With Leo Nunez (back stiffness) incapacitated over the weekend, Steve Cishek recorded his first career save Friday for the Florida Marlins. Nunez might be available Tuesday at the earliest, but he still needs to get back on a mound. Either way, picking up Cishek (as effective as he has been) or anyone else here hoping for a significant fantasy contribution won't do you much good, considering the stopper isn't supposed to miss much more time and the Fish could easily give the next chance to someone else.
- Just when you thought Kevin Gregg was becoming safer, he went and blew a closure chance Saturday, his first in his last six opps. The Baltimore Orioles' righty allowed a tough but playable liner to left that resulted in a triple before eventually yielding a walk and a save-blowing single. For as well as Gregg has pitched this month, the case for Koji Uehara speculation remains.
- Joakim Soria's second save chance since returning to the role went smoother than his first. He wrapped things up for the Kansas City Royals on Friday in a 1-2-3 frame, including two K's. His velocity still wasn't up to past levels, but Soria succeeded while still incorporating his infamous cutter.
If he's learning to use it in a friendly manner, he'll have little trouble keeping Aaron Crow in his setup role. Deep leaguers could hang with Crow for his helpful stats, but he should be more so viewed as insurance and a long shot for saves, not as an impending help in the category.
- J.P. Howell filled in for the sidelined Kyle Farnsworth (stomach bug) Sunday to grab a Tampa Bay Rays save in a scoreless frame. Even with Howell's 2009 tenure as stopper, don't write him in as next in line. Though shaky lately, Joel Peralta would earn consideration there, too. There isn't a clear delineation behind the stopper Farnsie.
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.
Don't miss these great reports....