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Fantasy Relief: Bullpen bargains to be had

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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I have to thank Javy Guerra and Jim Johnson for proving that it's not worth Fantasy owners' time on Draft Day to be chasing closers.

As I pointed out last week, Guerra was drafted behind teammate and setup man Kenley Jansen in most formats, and Johnson was drafted behind both Dodgers relievers. On average, Johnson was drafted in the 19th round of Rotisserie formats and 20th round in Head-to-Head leagues (mixed leagues).

Let's not forget that Guerra and Johnson weren't even drafted in all Fantasy formats. Guerra's ownership was at 55 percent at the start of Week 1 and Johnson was at 39 percent. Their low ownership had a lot to do with uncertainty about their bullpen roles, but nonetheless it strengthens the point that Fantasy owners need to divert their resources to hitters and starting pitchers on Draft Day and only worry about saves in the mid-to-late rounds.

Top non-closers in Week 3 (H2H)
Player Points
1. Cory Luebke, RP, Padres 57.5
2. Pedro Strop, RP, Orioles 28.5
3. Anthony Bass, RP, Padres 27
4. Lance Lynn, RP, Cardinals 27
5. Jose Veras, RP, Brewers 23.5
6. Chris Sale, RP, White Sox 21.5
7. Luis Perez, RP, Blue Jays 20
8. Juan Cruz, RP, Pirates 18.5
9. Duane Below, RP, Tigers 18
10. Lucas Harrell, RP, Astros 17

Heading into Tuesday, Guerra was the highest-scoring closer (72 Fantasy points) and Johnson was second (63) in Head-to-Head formats. Behind them were Fernando Rodney (62.5), Grant Balfour (55), Chris Perez (52.5) and Rafael Betancourt (50.5) -- all players that were either nabbed off waivers or drafted in the late rounds.

Is that to say Jonathan Papelbon or Craig Kimbrel, who were the two-highest drafted closers in CBSSports.com leagues, were bad investments? Not at all. In the end, both closers will likely finish the year as top 10 Fantasy relievers.

But both players on average were going in the early rounds of drafts this spring, which definitely seems like a reach as we see the type of value you can get in the late rounds or off waivers when it comes to relievers.

What's done is done. We just have to learn from the past, but hopefully the way the 2012 season has started for closers will serve as a lasting memory when Draft Day 2013 rolls around.

Closing Time

Each week we'll break down closer situations worthy of further examination ...

Toronto: Sergio Santos is not having a good start to his Toronto career. First, he blows his first two save chances and now he's on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. As of Monday, Santos isn't expected to throw for 10-14 days. Francisco Cordero, who has 328 career saves, steps into the closer's role in Santos' absence.

Pittsburgh: We saw further proof in Week 3 (April 16-22) that the Pirates aren't ready to trust Evan Meek in a key late-inning role by leaning on Juan Cruz to close out games while Joel Hanrahan was hurt. Hanrahan returned over the weekend from a hamstring injury, but now we know who the Pirates will turn to in the event Hanrahan needs a rest or misses time again.

N.Y. Mets: Mets manager Terry Collins continues to back Frank Francisco as his closer despite some recent struggles. Francisco entered play Tuesday with a 23.14 ERA in his last three outings. Setup man Jon Rauch has an unblemished ERA through 8 1/3 innings and has experience as a closer, but Collins is committed to Francisco. Francisco said his issues stem from a flaw in his delivery, which he said he has fixed. Only time will tell if Francisco, who also has a balky left knee, will be able to hold off Rauch.

Miami: All is back to normal for Marlins closer Heath Bell, who blew his first two save chances this season. According to the Sun-Sentinel, all Bell needed was a pep talk from his wife. Bell's wife left him a Facebook message after his April 14 meltdown against the Astros. Bell called the message "inspirational." Fantasy owners aren't going to complain about the means of his turnaround with Bell back on track. He's 2 for 2 in save opportunities since blowing his first two saves. The Marlins and Fantasy owners can take their fingers off the panic button.

Top non-closers Week 3 (Roto)
Player Rank
1. Cory Luebke, RP, Padres 2
2. Pedro Strop, RP, Orioles 8
3. Jose Veras, RP, Brewers 15
4. Luis Perez, RP, Blue Jays 32
5. Anthony Bass, RP, Padres 35
6. Lance Lynn, RP, Cardinals 37
7. Clay Hensley, RP, Giants 43
8. Matt Belisle, RP, Rockies 45
9. Rafael Perez, RP, Indians 58
10. Marco Estrada, RP, Brewers 63

Washington: Manager Davey Johnson is sticking with his co-closer tandem of Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez, despite Lidge having blown two saves and Rodriguez a perfect 4 for 4. Lidge, who has a 5.14 ERA, admits to battling some location problems. He was very efficient for the Phillies the last two seasons when he wasn't injured and has years of experience as a closer. Rodriguez is new to the closer's role, which is why Johnson isn't giving up on his current approach. He probably doesn't want to put a ton of pressure on Rodriguez while continuing to ease him into the ninth-inning role.

San Francisco: Clay Hensley earned a save during an extra-inning win against the Mets on Friday. Don't be surprised if Hensley is in the mix for some save chances in Bruce Bochy's committee approach to the closer's role. Hensley worked as a setup man for Juan Oviedo with the Marlins and even had seven saves in 2010. However, Santiago Casilla (owned 51 percent of leagues) is the option Fantasy owners want to nab off waivers. We still feel he's the top candidate to get most of the save chances.

Call to the 'pen

Each week we'll break down pertinent Fantasy news with setup men and other relievers ...

Mitchell Boggs is emerging as the primary setup man for Cardinals closer Jason Motte. He has appeared in the eighth inning in four straight appearances and entered play Tuesday tied for second in the majors with five holds ... Chad Qualls is surprisingly getting a lot of setup work for closer Jonathan Papelbon, even with Antonio Bastardo and Jose Contreras healthy. All six of Qualls' appearances have come in the eighth inning and he already has four holds. He also has tossed six scoreless innings ... He might have lost out on the closer's role, but White Sox reliever Matt Thornton hasn't let it affect his performance. He's opened the year with eight scoreless innings and four holds ... Tigers manager Jim Leyland said pitcher Duane Below, who lost out on the final spot in the team's rotation this spring, will remain as the team's left-handed long reliever. Below's name surfaced as a potential rotation replacement while Doug Fister is on the disabled list, but Below has pitched so well in long relief that Leyland would rather keep him in that role ... Indians reliever Tony Sipp hasn't been efficient through his first seven outings, posting a 11.57 ERA and 2.14 WHIP, but that hasn't cost him his seventh-inning role. He has four holds through 4 2/3 innings and remains a viable Fantasy option in leagues that reward for that category ... Speaking of Holland, at least we now have a reason for his early-season struggles. Holland is going to be shut down for a few days and might not resurface in a game for at least three weeks. He has immense strikeout potential and is an option for holds when healthy, so he might be worth stashing in deeper Fantasy formats ... I'm not sure how long Cory Gearrin will be in the majors with Braves starting pitcher Tim Hudson set to come off the disabled list on Sunday, but this kid is a reliever to watch. Gearrin posted a 7.85 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in his first taste of the majors last year, but he struck out 12.3 batters per nine innings. Before his recall Tuesday, Gearrin tossed 12 1/3 scoreless innings at Triple-A Gwinnett and had a 15-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. If he can stay in the majors, Gearrin might emerge as a viable Rotisserie Fantasy option.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Michael Hurcomb at @CBSHurc . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Mariners' Mike Zunino homers to extend hitting streak on Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:56 am ET) Mariners catcher Mike Zunino connected on his 10th home run of the season in Tuesday's 8-4 loss to the Diamondbacks. Zunino's third-inning solo shot cut Arizona's lead to one, but it would the D-Backs would tack on more insurance run to take the victory.

The 2015 season has been mainly a struggle for Zunino so far. But Tuesday's home run did extend his current hitting streak to eight games. During that stretch, he's hitting .393 with a home run and six RBI.


Mariners DH Nelson Cruz blasts 26th home run in loss Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:53 am ET) Mariners slugger Nelson Cruz went deep for his 26th home run on Tuesday, but it would be for naught as the Mariners lost the game 8-4 to the Diamondbacks. It was Cruz's only hit of the game, as the solo shot cut the D-Backs' lead to 6-2 in the sixth inning. 

Cruz has been smoking at the plate recently, batting .333 (15 for 45) with four home runs and eight RBI over his past 10 games.


D-Backs' Ender Inciarte chips in solo home run in win Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:50 am ET) Diamondbacks right fielder Ender Inciarte powered up for his third home run of the season in the 8-4 win over the Mariners on Tuesday. Inciarte went 2 for 5 from the lead-off spot in the order. He drove in two runs, one on his solo homer in the fifth inning. 

Since returning from the disabled list earlier this month, Inciarte is batting .348 (16 for 46) with a home run and five RBI in 11 games (10 starts).


Diamondbacks' David Peralta does it all in victory on Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:47 am ET) Diamondbacks left fielder David Peralta filled up the score sheet in Tuesday's 8-4 win over the Giants. Peralta went 3 for 4 with a double, two RBI, a walk, a stolen base and a run scored. 

The double was Peralta's 18th of the season, and the steal was his fifth. While getting partial playing time, Peralta is batting .363 with a home run and six RBI over his past 10 games (eight starts).


Cubs RP Neil Ramirez was not available to pitch Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:42 am ET) Cubs reliever Neil Ramirez was unavailable out of the bullpen in Tuesday's game against the Rockies. It is not exactly known what has Ramirez ailing, with manager Joe Maddon telling ESPN.com "He was not OK tonight. That's why I could not use him. I have to find out more about that."

Ramirez returned from the disabled list on June 28 after dealing with a shoulder injury. It is not known if his current issue is related to that injury, or if it's something new. 


Yankees' Adam Warren picks up save in rout of Rangers
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:33 am ET) Despite the lop-sided score, Yankees pitcher Adam Warren recorded his first save of the season in Tuesday's 21-5 thrashing of the Rangers. Warren pitched the final three innings of the game, which credits him with the save regardless of the score.

Warren, who was ousted from the rotation in late June, pitched three perfect innings on Tuesday. He now has five saves in his four-year career with the Yankees.


Diamondbacks summon RP Addison Reed from Triple-A
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:30 am ET) Diamondbacks reliever Addison Reed was recalled from Triple-A Reno following Tuesday's game. Reed struggled this year with Arizona, as he lost his closer's job prior to being sent down to the minors on June 22.

In 25 relief appearances with the D-Backs in 2015, Reed owns an unsightly 5.92 ERA. He's been better with the Reno Aces however, as he has a 1.74 in 11 games at Triple-A.

He will take the roster spot of Randall Delgado, who was placed on the disabled list on Tuesday.


D-Backs RP Randall Delgado sent to DL with ankle sprain
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:27 am ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Randall Delgado has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with an ankle sprain. Delgado apparently suffered the injury during warm-ups on Tuesday, and the injury was significant enough to warrant a stay on the DL. 

Reliever Addison Reed was recalled from Triple-A Reno to take Delgado's spot on the roster.


Mariners SP Hisashi Iwakuma takes loss on Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:24 am ET) Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma regressed in his latest start on Tuesday against the Diamondbacks. Hisashi allowed six runs on 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out five, but needed 96 pitches without getting through the sixth. The Mariners wound up losing the game 8-4.

Iwakuma (2-2, 5.10 ERA) came into the game on a bit of a roll, having allowed a total of four runs over his previous three starts. But on Tuesday he gave up individual runs in the first, third and fifth innings, culminating with a three-run sixth inning.


Giants 2B Joe Panik (back) out Tuesday, likely out Wednesday too
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:19 am ET) Giants second baseman Joe Panik was held out of Tuesday's game against the Brewers due to back stiffness, manager Bruce Bochy said. Bochy also said Panik will likely miss Wednesday's game, which would give him three days off with Thursday's scheduled off-day. 

Panik has been hitting decently over the last several games, as he is batting .281 over his last 10 contests.


 
 
 
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