Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Jose Valverde, Aroldis Chapman, John Axford, more

by Tim Heaney on June 20, 2012 @ 12:21:50 PDT



Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat | AL depth charts | NL depth charts'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)


Detroit Tigers

Closer: Jose Valverde
Understudy/Fill-in: Joaquin Benoit
Lurkers: Octavio Dotel, Phil Coke, Brayan Villarreal

Cincinnati Reds RP Aroldis Chapman
Chapman becoming heater-happy

Valverde started feeling soreness his right wrist while making warm-up tosses before the ninth inning of Tuesday's game. The right-hander was held out and will be shut down until further tests are done. The RP and Tigers skipper Jim Leyland expressed concern yesterday, but an X-ray revealed nothing serious, and the team doctor told Valverde it's not all that serious. Results from an MRI are pending.

Coke was turned to in an emergency, got ready in a jiff and locked down last night's save spot with a 1-2-3 frame. Benoit had already appeared in the eighth in the presumption that Valverde would go. Now that Detroit actually plans to be without their stopper for a bit, at least, expect Benoit to serve the fill-in role, with righty Dotel and southpaw Coke being secondary matchup options.

If it's temporary, mixed leaguers will have a frustrating time relying on the latter two but might grab one or two lefty-on-lefty spots out of Coke in the meantime. Dotel ranks above Coke on the dart-throw hierarchy if this is a long-term absence for Papa Grande.

Job security score: 4
Health score:

Cincinnati Reds

Closer: Aroldis Chapman
Understudy/Fill-in: Sean Marshall, Jose Arredondo

After blowing the save yesterday on a walk-off, two-run blast from Asdrubal Cabrera, Chapman has now allowed six runs in his last six contests (5 1/3 innings). The recently invincible arm has blown two of his last four opps.

Cincinnati Enquirer scribe John Fay suggests Chapman start mixing up his pitches. A whopping 77.9 percent of the lefty's offerings are four-seamers, per the PITCHf/x listings on

Important note, though: As the basis of his analysis, Fay cites the 88.3 percent figure used by the site's house metrics. PITCHf/x, however, registers that Chapman uses a changeup 10.6 percent of the time, which at an average velo of 93.3 mph could easily be confused for straight heat by many scales and lumped into that category. The site's default system seems to do just that.

So PITCHf/x numbers dictate Chapman already is installing some variety. But the dominant issue is that his game logs show a drop-off in average velocity over the last handful of contests. His heat from Tuesday clocked at a mean of 95.8 mph, far below the 99.3 that was recorded on June 2. With his loss of gas, the decreasing difference between his fastball and PITCHf/x-labeled changeup might be hurting him more now than it had previously.

Is he tiring or intentionally taking a bit off his stuff as the season wears on? Chapman already toned his signature pitch down a bit heading into the season to become more efficient. In this case, he hadn't worked in three days, so there's a small point of concern there until we get some sort of explanation.

Safe to say Dusty Baker probably isn't a master of sabermetric regression indicators, but even he probably thinks Chapman deserves some leeway considering he didn't give up an earned run until his 25th game of the season. This could just be the statistical normalization we've braced for attacking violently.

Still, if Chapman continues to stumble, Sean Marshall could at least re-enter the saves discussion soon, thanks to his 0.77 ERA in his last 11 2/3 innings after losing the stopper gig to the Cuban in late May. Reinstalling Marshall might not necessarily be the right decision, but Baker has made similar veteran-leaning moves before. Maybe Chapman will get some rest if they discover something physically wrong, or some other defect that's hindering him, including mechanics.

When a velo-reliant pitcher's giddy-up giddies down, it's worth watching. Chapman has the stuff to turn things around in short order, but since Cincy's situation has carried a low Job Security score all season, it wouldn't hurt to stash Marshall, especially if you own Chapman, considering the former already aids fantasy teams regardless of role.

Job security score: 1
Health score:

Milwaukee Brewers

Closer: John Axford
Understudy/Fill-in: Francisco Rodriguez

Axford halted the brief momentum he had built up by allowing back-to-back solo homers in the ninth last night to lose the Milwaukee Brewers' one-run lead and absorb the third blown save in his last five chances.

He had scrambled to the ballpark after his wife gave birth to their second son earlier in the day; she had a false alarm with contractions last month the same day his streak of 49 straight save conversions was snapped. There were two instances of potential child arrival, and two botched baseball actions - a potential mental contributor to his recent issues.

Axford likely won't be available Wednesday considering he appeared both Monday and Tuesday. Given the likely nerve-wracking week he had ahead of his boy's delivery and the hints of improvement he showed before yesterday, he'll be given more rope to get back on track. Of course, in case he doesn't right the ship soon, scooping up K-Rod wouldn't hurt.

Job security score: 3
Health score:

Mound meetings

Despite throwing in the bullpen earlier, Matt Capps was unavailable for last night's contest. The Minnesota Twins wanted to hold him out another day so he can for sure rest his balky shoulder. They didn't need a savior in their loss. Glen Perkins and Jared Burton would be used in some combination if Capps misses more time and Ron Gardenhire plays the matchups, but Perkins is the safer fantasy play.


Carlos Marmol worked around a two-out walk to register the Tuesday save; he registered a backwards K and two ground-outs in his fourth straight scoreless appearance. The Chicago Cubs like what they see - not just because there seems to be a hint of growth in Marmol's approach and stability at the back end, but they're prepped to reap the benefits his recent stretch might have on his trade value in their likely fire sale.

Maybe, in that case, James Russell will finally get a save opportunity, but farm inhabitant Rafael Dolis, Shawn Camp or someone else might step up by that time. Despite the urge to pick up the potential Marmol successor now, it's far too early to say which secondary target would prevail in the speculative game. The hierarchy can change drastically in a month, especially since it was an erratic setup the last time Marmol was out of the picture.


During the 10th inning in last night's extra-innings home affair, J.J. Putz allowed a walk and a single before being removed without recording an out. The Arizona Diamondbacks' stopper had pitched a 1-2-3 ninth before Brad Ziegler allowed both inherited runners to cross the plate in the 10th. It's not jeopardizing his status as closer; there wasn't a save chance at that point. It's merely a reminder that despite his recent stretch of excellence, he still has some work to do.

Other Tuesday saviors

Craig Kimbrel (20), Braves
Fernando Rodney (20), Rays
Jonathan Broxton (17), Royals
Alfredo Aceves (17), Red Sox
Casey Janssen (7), Blue Jays
Tom Wilhelmsen (5), Mariners
Ryan Cook (4), Athletics







Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat | AL depth charts | NL depth charts

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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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