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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
Astros SP Scott Feldman looks average in Double-A rehab start
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:35 am ET) Astros starting pitcher Scott Feldman didn't look overly impressive during a rehab start for Double-A Cospus Christi on Sunday.

Feldman allowed three runs, two of them earned, on four hits in three innings of work. He walked three batters, but did manage to strike out another three.

Feldman has been on the 15-day disabled list since late May because of a knee injury.


Yankees RP Andrew Miller could return after one rehab game
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:28 am ET) Yankees relief pitcher Andrew Miller might be able to return to the club after just one rehab appearance, per the New York Post.

Miller will pitch for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Monday, and could possibly come off the 15-day disabled list and rejoin the team after that.

“We will see where he is at. The thing is we don’t have to build him up [like a starter.] We have him throwing 25 pitches [Monday],’’ manager Joe Girardi said. “We will see how he feels. If he feels good we have to make a decision.’’


Mets manager Terry Collins reacts to Matt Harvey's complaints
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:12 am ET) After a 4-3 loss on Sunday, Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey put some of the blame over his recent struggles on the team's six-man rotation. On Sunday, manager Terry Collins fired back and told Harvey to get over it, per MLB.com.

Collins ultimately said that Harvey and the other pitchers need to "get over it"

"They've got to," Collins said. "Matt knows that. I know he's frustrated by it, and he and I have talked about it. But you've got to come up and be creative between starts. I certainly understand it. I certainly do understand it. He's a tremendous competitor and he wants to be out there as much as he can on a regular basis. I guess the easiest way for me to say it is, 'Matt, we'll go back to a five-man, but I hope you enjoy watching the rest of the season sitting on the bench in September when we need you.' So we've got to make the adjustment."


Rays OF Steven Souza gets stitches on hand after HBP
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/5/2015) Rays outfielder Steven Souza had to get stitches on on the pinky of his right hand after being hit by a pitch during Sunday's game against the Yankees.

Souza remained in the game temporarily after being hit. He ran the bases and scored a run but didn't return to the game after that. He isn't sure how much time he will miss because of the injury.

"Right now it's just day to day," Souza said.

Souza received x-rays on the finger, which came up negative. He will undergo more tests on Monday.

"It was a really deep cut, it was deeper than the doctor thought it was when he opened it up," Souza said. "We don't know what's in there. We're going to see a specialist in Kansas City.

"It's just my pinky. A giant laceration that runs up my pinky. I can't really bend it too well now. I'm hoping I wake up tomorrow and it feels little better. But I don't have much feeling in my pinky right now, which is kind of a worry for us. So we'll go from there."


Mariners 2B Robinson Cano hit by pitch, should be OK
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/5/2015) Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano says he should be OK after being hit by a pitch on the ankle during Sunday's game against the Athletics, per Mynorthwest.com.

Cano has a slash line of .248/.289/.363 this season with five home runs and 27 RBI.


Marlins recall 2B Jordany Valdespin from Triple-A
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/5/2015) The Marlins have recalled second baseman Jordany Valdespin from Triple-A New Orleans on Sunday.

The Marlins called up Valdespin in a corresponding move after they optioned outfielder Marcell Ozuna earlier Sunday.


Giants SS Brandon Crawford slugs 12th home run of season
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/5/2015) Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford was the lone offensive bright spot for his team during a 3-1 loss to the Nationals on Sunday.

Crawford went 1 for 4 with a solo home run, his 12th of the season.

Crawford is hitting just .228 over his last 10 games, but he does have eight hits, three home runs and seven RBI.


Nationals RF Bryce Harper enjoys multi-hit game in win
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/5/2015) Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper went 2 for 3 with a double and a run scored in Sunday's win over the Giants.

Harper is hitting .414 with 12 hits, six doubles, a home runs and three RBI over his last seven games.


Nationals C Wilson Ramos homers, records two RBI in win
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/5/2015) Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos went 2 for 3 with a home run and two RBI in Sunday's win over the Giants.

Ramos hit a solo shot, his eighth of the season, in the sixth inning. He followed that up with a single in the eighth inning that scored another run.

Over his last three games, Ramos is hitting .426 with five hits, a home run and three RBI.


Nationals closer Drew Storen notches 25th save of season
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/5/2015) Nationals closer Drew Storen shut the door on the Giants on Sunday and recorded his 25th save of the season while doing do.

Storen needed just 15 pitches to close out the ninth inning of a 3-1 win over San Francisco. He is second in the National league with 25 saves.

Storen (1-0) has a 1.97 ERA with 37 strikeouts and seven walks in 32 innings of relief this season.


 
 
 
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