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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
Twins CF Aaron Hicks records hit, RBI in rehab game
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(1:23 am ET) Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks went 1 for 5 with a single and a RBI in a Triple-A rehab game on Sunday.

Hicks is on the 15-day disabled list because of a hamstring injury.


Cubs SP Jake Arrieta tosses no-hitter against Dodgers
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(8/30/2015) Cubs starter Jake Arrieta was simply dominant during his start against the Dodgers on Sunday, as he recorded baseball's sixth no-hitter this season.

Arrieta struck out 12 batters, and his only base runners came on an error and a single walk. Other than that, he was as close to perfect as they come.

With the stellar performance, Arrieta improved to 17-6 on the season with an impressive 2.11 ERA.


Dodgers SP Alex Wood no match for Arrieta in strong effort
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(8/30/2015) Dodgers left-hander Alex Wood became a footnote in history Sunday night. He was the losing pitcher in a no-hitter.

Wood allowed two runs on six hits in six innings to the Cubs, but simply couldn't keep up with counterpart Jake Arrieta. Wood walked one and struck out seven. It marked the first time he walked fewer than two betters since July 9.

His only major mistake wound up over the fence, courtesy of Kris Bryant, who slugged a two-run homer in the first inning. Wood threw 72 pitches in the first three innings before settling down and making it through the next three.

His ERA now sits at 3.67.


Dodgers INF Enrique Hernandez out with apparent ankle issue
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(8/30/2015) Dodgers infielder Enrique Hernandez appeared to roll his ankle trying to beat out a ground ball in the eighth inning of the game Sunday night against the Cubs. He was replaced by Justin Turner.

The team has yet to determine the severity of the potential injury.


Diamondbacks closer Brad Ziegler pounded by Athletics
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(8/30/2015) Diamondbacks closer Brad Ziegler was due for a dud. And duds often occur in non-save situations.

Ziegler arrived in a tie game Sunday against Oakland and left with a 7-4 deficit. He gave up three runs on six hits in just one inning.

He loaded the bases in the 10th, but slithered out of the jam with a double play and groundout. He had no such fortune in the 11th, when three two-out singles and a hit-by-pitch resulted in his second loss of the season.

His ERA still sits at a fine 1.88.


Athletics SP Jesse Chavez rebounds Sunday from poor effort
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(8/30/2015) The Jekyll-Hyde run of Athletics starter Jesse Chavez continued Sunday when he followed a terrible performance with a strong one in a no-decision against host Arizona.

Chavez yielded just one earned run on eight hits in five innings with one walk and six strikeouts.

One problem is that it took him 95 pitches to get through five. Another is that he couldn't recover from a two-out error in the second, giving up singles to Ender Inciarte and Chris Owings that resulted in two unearned runs.

Chavez has just three quality starts in his last eight outings.


Diamondbacks SP Allen Webster surprises in Sunday start
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(8/30/2015) Diamondbacks starter Allen Webster provided more evidence Sunday that baseball is unpredictable.

Webster arrived in Arizona after compiling an 8.37 ERA with 109 hits allowed in 71 innings in the minors. But he held Oakland to just one earned run on six hits in five innings with one walk and two strikeouts.

The right-hander, who was saddled with an almost-as-bad 6.86 ERA in the majors this season, yielded two unearned runs on an error and Josh Reddick triple in the third. A Stephen Vogt solo homer in the fourth provided the only earned tally.


Cardinals RP Kevin Siegrist bounces back for save
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(8/30/2015) After taking the loss Friday, Cardinals reliever Kevin Siegrist bounced back to finish off Sunday's victory over the Giants to earn his sixth save of the year. 

With normal closer Trevor Rosenthal on paternity leave, Siegrist came in during a two-run game in the ninth inning and didn't allow a hit, striking out two batters. He allowed two hits and one run in 1/3 inning in Friday's loss. 

Siegrist has been a jack-of-all-trades for the Cards this season, with a 5-1 record and 24 holds to go along with the six saves. 


Giants OF Marlon Byrd has big day on 38th birthday
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(8/30/2015) Giants outfielder Marlon Byrd knows how to celebrate, as the veteran went 3-for-4 with four RBIs on Sunday, his 38th birthday. 

Byrd racked up two doubles and a triple as he single-handedly tried to keep the Giants in a game they would lose 7-5. Byrd now has 56 RBIs on the season, 14 of which have been tallied since he was acquired from the Reds on Aug. 20. 


Giants SP Chris Heston continues August stumbles
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(8/30/2015) Chris Heston has been a pleasant surprise for the Giants this season, but in the dog days of August, he's experienced a rough patch that continued Sunday when he couldn't get out of the fourth inning in a loss against the Cardinals. 

Heston managed to go just 3 2/3 innings, allowing five runs on nine hits, two of them home runs. And while he managed not to walk anyone after combining for nine free passes in his last two starts, he only struck out one batter. 

In five August starts, Heston (11-8) went longer than 4 2/3 innings only once, and finished the month 0-3 with two no-decisions. 


 
 
 
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