Also see: Fantasy baseball closer depth charts
In fantasy baseball, the closer position remains volatile. Rarely does every closer hang on to the job for the entire season - injuries, poor performance and managerial decisions can cloud a team's bullpen picture.
Should you be concerned about a struggling stopper? Which setup men are climbing the depth chart? Any lingering injuries popping up? KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat series keeps you informed when you're looking for saves.
Job Security (JS) score
Health (H) score
1 (unstable) to 5 (untouchable)
1 (injury-prone) to 5 (durable)
Closer: Franklin Morales
Next in line: Rafael Betancourt
Other possibilities: Huston Street
Huston, we have a problem. Can you help?
Are the wheels falling off for Morales? The Rockies' interim closer allowed a run and three walks in his Sept. 12 outing and didn't fare better last night with a four-run advantage against the San Francisco Giants.
He allowed three consecutive singles and a run before handing the ball to Betancourt in what became a save situation. A run then scored on a throwing error; a stolen base and a popout followed. An RBI groundout and a strikeout ended the affair in the Rockies' favor.
Luckily for the Purples, Street (biceps) had a successful bullpen session Wednesday and, if his Friday simulated game goes well, will be on track to return Sunday. Earlier in the week manager Jim Tracy said he wouldn't use his closer in save situations right away, but might the performance of his alternatives change his mind?
Job security score: 1
Health score: 4
Closer: Brian Fuentes
Next in line: Kevin Jepsen
Some unforeseen events worked against him, but Fuentes blew a one-run lead again last night in a loss to the Boston Red Sox. Some close ball calls and outfielder Juan Rivera's failure to dive for a close blooper spelled doom for the lefty, but he couldn't help his own cause, either. After a popout and a flyout, he allowed a walk and two infield singles before a full-count walk scored the tying run. The aforementioned Texas leaguer then stole one from the Angels.
Afterward skipper Mike Scioscia played armchair ump: "What was the count at the end? 3-and-4 to Green?" Fuentes said the umps are "timid to make calls" in that atmosphere - at Fenway Park.
On the bright side for Fuentes owners, Jepsen wasn't much better (two runs, one hit, one walk in 1 1/3 frames after entering in the seventh). Since both relievers - and in the opinion of many, the umpires - stunk up the joint, you shouldn't worry about the hierarchy changing.
Durability grade: 4
Job security grade: 5
St. Louis Cardinals stopper Ryan Franklin returned to an in-game mound Wednesday, tossing a scoreless inning in a non-save situation. The Cards were down by four when Franklin came in for his first game action since Sept. 12; he had only two appearances in the last 10 days before last night. The Cards staff said Franklin's stuff had been "dropping off a little," according to the righty, but he said he felt good Wednesday.
Franklin: back on track?
- The Houston Astros' Jose Valverde (illness) should be available when their series against the Milwaukee Brewers starts Friday. Houston has today off.
- Francisco Rodriguez was lined up for his first four-out save since 2007 Wednesday, but he couldn't hold it in the ninth for the New York Mets. After whiffing his only eighth-inning hitter, he allowed a leadoff double in the ninth before a hit batsman, a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk. He allowed a sacrifice fly to score the tying run, and an error by Mets first baseman Daniel Murphy allowed the winning run to score on the next hitter. K-Rod's previous outing came Sept. 12; you may see outings like this if he still can't adapt to an erratic schedule.
- Maybe they'll rest him after this, but the Florida Marlins last night trotted out Leo Nunez, who closed the door for the second straight day despite plunking two batters and allowing a run. Given their efforts to temper his workload, he may not be on the mound if the Marlins need a bow tied tonight. Expect Matt Lindstrom or a matchup play, but if you need an extra save chance, keep Nunez in your lineup just in case he feels like he can go.
- Since Francisco Cordero recorded his third save in three days, we may not see the righty close things out if needed Thursday. Our rough guess would be Arthur Rhodes or MAYBE Jared Burton since Nick Masset has had a packed September schedule, too. We wouldn't bother trying to steal a save from this game.
- The Home Page Jinx continues. The Toronto Blue Jays' Jason Frasor absorbed the loss after giving up a walkoff run in two-thirds of an inning last night. You can probably blame speedy New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner, who singled, stole second and went to third on a grounder to short. A weak grounder sealed the deal.
- Sticking with the Jays, maybe Scott Downs (hamstring) should avoid running toward first base under any circumstances. The southpaw and saves understudy injured his toe while running out a batted ball earlier this year. On Wednesday he injured his hammy while covering first in the eighth inning.
- Jim Johnson allowed a dinger that tied the game last night, but the Baltimore Orioles' reliever backed into a win. He hasn't had much of a chance to fix his recent struggles since Baltimore is struggling to find him work. Since Aug. 15: an 8.74 ERA, a .319 opponents' average and five walks in 11 1/3 frames. If you don't need the minimal saves contribution, there's no reason to own him in most setups.
- Joe Nathan put out the Minnesota Twins' fire last night. In what wasn't supposed to be a save chance with a four-run lead entering, two singles and a groundout put runners at second and third. Luckily, Nathan fanned the next two batters to douse the flames.
- Mike Gonzalez (back) left the Atlanta Braves' contest last night with a stiff back after allowing a homer to give the New York Mets the lead. Keep posted to Hot off the Wire for more on the Braves' understudy and useful K reliever.
For those concerned: Heath Bell, the San Diego Padres' closer, pitched a perfect inning, despite letting up a walk, and earned the win in extras last night, halting a bad streak of appearances. Nothing else to see here.
- An overworked Jonathan Papelbon wasn't available to the Boston Red Sox Wednesday, with Daniel Bard, the BoSox's rumored future closer, instead serving in the role. Entering in the ninth with the score tied, Bard induced two groundouts but then allowed three singles, which led to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's go-ahead run. He backed into the win, though, with the Brian Fuentes happenings mentioned above.
- The Arizona Diamondbacks gave Esmerling Vasquez a shot to save the game Wednesday since Juan Gutierrez had pitched the previous three days. Unfortunately, Padres first sacker Adrian Gonzalez had other ideas, sending a Vasquez pitch over the wall with a man on to tie things up. Safe to say no other D-backs reliever is as qualified to assume save duties.
Also see: Fantasy baseball closer 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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