Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat

by Tim Heaney on August 4, 2009 @ 01:00:01 PDT

 


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.

Key

Job Security (JS) score
Health (H) score
1 (unstable) to 5 (untouchable)
1 (injury-prone) to 5 (durable)

Chicago Cubs

Closer: Kevin Gregg

Next in line: Carlos Marmol, John Grabow

Other possibilities: Angel Guzman, Jeff Samardzija, Aaron Heilman

As we noted in yesterday's report, Cubs fans have tired of their stopper, but they really can't blame their stopper for the workload manager Lou Piniella has given him. Skip said earlier in the season he would try to conserve his closer, but Gregg is dealing with a tired arm. He'll probably get a few days off, making Marmol the temporary closer.

Cubs starters tallied only 14 of the possible 28 innings in their recent series against the Florida Marlins, taxing the 'pen as a result. Sunday Gregg told his skipper that he was fine when Piniella asked twice before sending him in. That led to another multirun blowup for the righty whose innings totals have increased in each 2009 month.

Meanwhile, Marmol shut the door for the Cubbies last night but made things interesting along the way. Entering with a three-run lead, he allowed a walk, a single and a double while mixing in two outs; after the lead was cut to two, Marmol induced a grounder to end the excitement.

Dropping Gregg in any format would be an overreaction. Piniella has stood by Gregg throughout the season, and you can't count on Marmol's new role being permanent unless Gregg's fatigue leads to an injury. Naturally, he should be scooped up if available, but prepare yourself for turbulence.

Job Security score: 5

Health score: 4

The Texas Rangers' Frank Francisco
Francisco is still working his way back

Texas Rangers

Closer: C.J. Wilson

Next in line: Frank Francisco

Other possibilities: Darren O'Day, Neftali Feliz, Eddie Guardado

Disabled list: Joaquin Benoit

The Rangers' future may also be their present. Recent callup Feliz retired his first six major league batters Monday, punctuating his strikeout of the side in his first frame by touching 101 mph on the gun; he would total four on the night. His changeup - changeup - came in at 91 mph.

Still navigating his odyssey back to the closer role, Francisco endured some trouble in the eighth inning. After retiring the first two hitters, he allowed a single and a walk before worming his way out.

The bad news for Texas: Wilson took the loss during a blown save by yielding three runs on the final two hitters he faced.

It's hasty to presume Feliz would receive save chances, barring a meltdown of the first two listed on this depth chart. He was a starter most of the season, meaning he has the endurance to give the Rangers their version of Carlos Marmol; you should pounce if Feliz is for the taking in deep leagues.

Both Francisco and Wilson have pitched on back-to-back days, so a Texas save chance tonight may come from someone else. The safer bet to pitch is Wilson, because the Rangers are still trying to inch Francisco along after his return to action.

Job Security score: 3

Health score: 3

Mound meetings

  • Houston Astros manager Cecil Cooper probably scoffed at our assessment yesterday. Jose Valverde took the mound for the third straight day, recording a one-inning save. Maybe the appearance streak took a toll on him: Despite only throwing 17 pitches (he threw 48 this weekend), Valverde allowed two hits and a run before escaping with a one-run advantage. We expect him to have today off if punctuation is needed, especially since he threw a season-high 1 2/3 frames Sunday. If he takes the mound, you should be concerned. Doug Brocail, a valuable piece of the 'pen before this injury-shortened campaign, would be the best bet to sub for Valverde; he hasn't pitched since July 30.
  • On the human vocational hierarchy, many say the life of an MLB player is easy, especially for relief pitchers. The Washington Nationals' Mike MacDougal echoes that sentiment; he needed five pitches to retire his only opposing batter for a Washington Nationals closure. He's holding off Sean Burnett in the Nats' derby with saves of back-to-back outings. MacDougal's light workload probably won't preclude him from working for a third straight day.
  • It was a bruising outing for the Milwaukee Brewers' Trevor Hoffman, who notched another save but surrendered three runs, including both inherited opponents. The fact that he tied the bow on a bases-loaded flyout by Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez was about the only positive to take from that experience.

Also see: Fantasy baseball closer 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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