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Fantasy Relief: Janssen no longer just a stopgap option

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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I've got a question for you -- Do you think doctors give discounts for bulk appointments? You know, like businesses reward repeat customers by providing free services after so many visits.

I only ask because I think the Toronto Blue Jays could qualify for a group discount at the rate they have been losing pitchers to injuries in 2012. Most of their misfortunes have come in the rotation, but the team dropped a bomb Sunday by announcing closer Sergio Santos, who has been out since late April, will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery.

It's a disappointing end to Santos' first season as the Blue Jays closer, which featured as many saves (two) as blown saves. Santos is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for spring training. But if he is ever in need of advice of how to bounce back from shoulder surgery, then he can turn to his successor, Casey Janssen, who missed the 2008 season because of a torn labrum.

Janssen's Fantasy appeal (owned in 55 percent of leagues entering Week 16) has remained lukewarm because he was viewed as a stopgap Fantasy option since Santos was expected to return in 2012. But now that Santos is done for the season, it's time to buy stock in Janssen's future.

The 30-year-old reliever hasn't blown a save chance since becoming the team's full-time closer in early May. He has converted 13 consecutive save chances since recording his only blown save of the season in a setup situation April 14. Since he recorded his first save of the season May 9, Janssen has a 1.03 ERA and has held opponents to a .185 batting average.

Top non-closers Week 15 (H2H)
Player Points
1. Chris Sale, RP, White Sox 25
2. Carlos Villanueva, RP, Blue Jays 24
3. Franklin Morales, RP, Red Sox 19.5
4. Greg Holland, RP, Royals 14
5. Francisco Rodriguez, RP, Brewers 14
6. Darren Oliver, RP, Rangers 13
7. Marco Estrada, RP, Brewers 12.5
8. Steve Cishek, RP, Marlins 12.5
9. Anthony Varvaro, RP, Braves 12.5
10. Luis Mendoza, RP, Royals 12

In the last 10 scoring periods, Janssen has totaled less than 13 Fantasy points just twice. In the last 28 days, he is the sixth-highest scoring Fantasy reliever in Head-to-Head formats and a top 30 Fantasy pitcher in Rotisserie leagues.

Can Janssen keep it going? I think so.

He owns a .247 BABIP, which is below his career .298 average, and an 88 percent strand rate, which is well above his career 74.7 average. But outside of those anomalies, Janssen's other numbers aren't out of line, especially his batted ball and plate discipline numbers, which have been on line with what he has done the previous two seasons when he went 11-2 with a 3.04 ERA and 1.26 WHIP.

Janssen has even increased his strikeout rate (9.1 K/9) and decreased his walk rate (1.2 BB/9) this season. His FIP (3.03) suggests his ERA could rise, but at least it's not an astronomical jump from where his ERA (2.21) stood through Monday's games.

I think the only obstacle in Janssen's way the remainder of the season is his health. And you can bet your bottom dollar, too, the Blue Jays' front office is crossing its fingers hoping it doesn't have to send another pitcher to the doctor's waiting room.

Closing Time

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

Milwaukee: Manager Ron Roenicke's patience with struggling closer John Axford finally ran out. He put the 29-year-old reliever on notice after he took his sixth blown save and sixth loss Monday against the Cardinals. Roenicke then removed Axford from the closer's role Tuesday and replaced him with Francisco Rodriguez. Axford continues to get burned by walks and home runs. Roenicke has always backed Axford amid his struggles, which is why I think it might be worth holding onto the struggling reliever in deep mixed leagues. Don't forget Rodriguez has been mentioned heavily in trade rumors and is likely to be moved in what is shaping up to be a lost season for the Brewers. Unless the Brewers quickly climb back in the playoff race, replacing Axford could only last a few weeks in the event K-Rod is traded. I wrote a few weeks ago I expected a second-half bounce back from Axford and I still believe that's a strong possibility. Maybe a temporary demotion is the motivation Axford needs.

Miami: Ozzie Guillen finally did it. He could no longer watch Heath Bell crumble in save situations, so he removed the hefty reliever from the closer's role over the All-Star break. Guillen saw help on the way in former Marlins closer Juan Oviedo, who was weeks away from returning from a suspension. Sadly, Oviedo suffered an elbow injury stretching out his arm in the minors and now the Marlins aren't counting on him returning this season. Guillen has gone to the committee approach, which still could involve save chances for Bell. However, the first two opportunities have gone to Steve Cishek and Mike Dunn. The Marlins closer situation is a mess and one Fantasy owners in shallow formats should avoid.

N.Y. Mets: Frank Francisco suffered a setback with his oblique injury on a rehab assignment and has been shut down while he receives treatment. The Mets aren't sure if he will have to go back to square one once he is ready to throw again, but Francisco won't be back for at least a few more weeks, giving Bobby Parnell a little more time as a stopgap Fantasy option for saves. Although, Francisco's setback could make the Mets serious players to acquire a proven closer by the July 31 deadline. The Mets have been linked to trade rumors involving Padres closer Huston Street and Royals closer Jonathan Broxton.

Top non-closers Week 15 (Rotisserie)
Player Rank
1. Francisco Rodriguez, RP, Brewers 28
2. Greg Holland, RP, Royals 29
3. Dylan Axelrod, RP, White Sox 30
4. Anthony Varvaro, RP, Braves 33
5. Jeremy Affeldt, RP, Giants 36
6. Kevin Gregg, RP, Orioles 37
7. Sam LeCure, RP, Reds 38
8. Alfredo Simon, RP, Reds 39
9. Cristhian Martinez, RP, Braves 40
10. Alex Hinshaw, RP, Padres 44

Minnesota: Matt Capps is already back on the disabled list after suffering another setback with his shoulder. Manager Ron Gardenhire initially was easing the veteran reliever back into action and the Twins' skipper was right to proceed with caution. Now, you have to wonder if Capps' durability issues have soured his trade value and he might spend the rest of the year in Minnesota. The Twins will likely go back to a co-closer situation featuring Glen Perkins and Jared Burton while Capps is sidelined.

Baltimore: It's time to put a closer watch in effect for Baltimore. Jim Johnson has been very shaky lately. He has a 10.50 ERA and .414 opponents' batting average in his last seven outings (six innings). In his first 32 appearances this year, he posted a 1.10 ERA and .138 opponents' batting average. This could simply be a bit of a market correction since Johnson was outstanding in the first half of the season. His ERA (2.56) is now closer to where it was last year (2.67) and his career mark (3.21). Though, Johnson can't continue his slide for long, especially with Pedro Strop showing earlier this season he could handle the closer's role when Johnson was sidelined.

N.Y. Yankees: The rehab reports have been positive for Mariano Rivera, who was thought to be lost for the season following June knee surgery. However, Rivera's rehab has gone so well that there is a slight notion the veteran reliever could make a return later this year. Rivera said in a radio interview Monday he is focused on a September return, but general manager Brian Cashman continues to say the Yankees are looking toward 2013 for Rivera. My advice -- If you have ample DL spots and you can afford to stash Rivera, then do so. But don't break your back getting to waivers to add him. He's looking at a late-season return at best and how much use can you really get out of him? The Yankees have gotten quality work from Rafael Soriano, so it's not like the team is desperate to rush Rivera back into action. If anything, they would probably be focused on getting him back for the playoffs and not the regular season.

Call to the 'pen

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

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Josh Roenicke has gone from journeyman reliever to one of the Rockies' top bullpen arms. In his last eight appearances, he has two wins and two holds. Although, Fantasy owners in leagues that use middle relievers shouldn't flock to waivers to add Roenicke. He is still more valuable to Colorado as a long reliever and isn't about to ascend to a setup role in front of closer Rafael Betancourt. Also, he has a 1.39 WHIP and is walking 4.8 batters per nine innings this season, so it's not like he is a shutdown reliever. According to FanGraphs.com, Roenicke's FIP (4.27) and xFIP (4.41) suggest he should be in a far worse situation than he currently is … Tigers reliever Octavio Dotel has snagged two relief wins in July. Although, he hasn't recorded a hold since May 26. Manager Jim Leyland has left the setup work to Joaquin Benoit and Phil Coke. Dotel has had a good strikeout rate lately, fanning 31 in his last 19 2/3 innings, but he is best left for Rotisserie formats since he is no longer seeing regular hold chances … Charlie Furbush has found his calling as a major-league reliever. In his last 22 outings, he has posted a 1.03 ERA and .124 opponents' batting average. He also is 2-1 with three holds and 35 strikeouts in that span (26 1/3 innings). Furbush is doing most of his work in long relief, but manager Eric Wedge has used him in setup situations since mid-June, so his Fantasy value is on the rise … Even with some uncertainty in the Braves' rotation, making Kris Medlen a starter seems like a dying idea. Medlen has regained his form as a reliever in July, posting a 1.08 ERA, .138 opponents' batting average and three holds. His versatility to pitch multiple innings and in multiple situations probably outweighs the potential positives of giving him a chance to start … Sticking with the Braves, if you are in need of strikeouts in Rotisserie formats, then perhaps it's time to put reliever Anthony Varvaro on your watch list. After some early-season struggles, Varvaro has a 1.00 ERA and .161 opponents' batting average in his last six appearances (nine innings). For the season, he is striking out 11.9 batters per nine innings and has two-plus strikeouts in seven of his nine appearances. Varvaro still could bounce between the majors and minors because he has options left, but if he continues at his current pace, then he's going to keep his spot in the Atlanta bullpen … Mark Melancon is another reliever that could help Rotisserie owners. Since returning from the minors in mid-June, Melancon has posted a 0.59 ERA in 13 outings and has struck out 13 batters in 15 1/3 innings. Unfortunately, he has just one hold in that timeframe and manager Bobby Valentine isn't using the former setup man and closer candidate in high-leverage situations. But you could certainly use the low WHIP and ERA in Roto formats … Luke Gregerson has settled back down after watching his ERA soar to 4.71 on May 28. Gregerson has a 1.93 ERA, 24 strikeouts and seven holds in his last 21 outings (18 2/3 innings). Unfortunately, Dale Thayer is still likely to get the closer's role in the event Huston Street is traded by July 31.

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
Athletics RP Pat Venditte optioned to Triple-A
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(1:56 pm ET) Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte was expected to be recalled to the Athletics after completing a rehab assignment for a shoulder injury in Triple-A Nashville, but instead Oakland optioned the reliever back to the minors for more work, per the San Francisco Chronicle

Venditte appeared in four games with the Athletics this season, but has pitched well in relief at Triple-A, compiling a 1.63 ERA. 


White Sox recall OF Trayce Thompson
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(1:39 pm ET) The White Sox promoted outfielder Trayce Thompson to the majors on Monday, the team announced, and Thompson is in line to make his MLB debut when the Sox take on the Rays.

Thompson is the younger brother of NBA star Klay Thompson and was an All-Star this year at Triple-A Charlotte, where he is hitting .260 with 13 homers, 39 RBIs and 11 steals. 


Reports: Rockies prospect Jon Gray to make MLB debut Tuesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:19 am ET) Rockies starting pitcher prospect Jon Gray will make his major-league debut Tuesday against the Mariners, sources told MLB.com and The Denver Post.

The 23-year-old Gray was the third overall selection in the 2013 MLB Draft. The hard-throwing right-hander is 6-6 with a 4.33 ERA and 1.49 WHIP in 21 outings (20 starts) at Triple-A this season. Although, his numbers are a little inflated due to a rocky start to the season. In his last 17 starts, he is 6-3 with a 3.17 ERA and .256 opponents' batting average.

Gray is 20-11 with a 3.82 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in three minor-league seasons. He is striking out 8.9 batters per nine innings.

He entered the season as a top-25 prospect, according to MLB.com, Baseball America and BaseballProspectus.com.


Athletics RF Josh Reddick (back) doubtful for Monday's game
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(1:44 am ET) Athletics right fielder Josh Reddick is doubtful for Monday's game against the Orioles, according to CSN Bay Area.

“Maybe doubtful tomorrow, but I don’t think it’s enough to where we have to worry about long term,” manager Bob Melvin said.

Reddick left Sunday's game due to lower back tightness. He believed he injured his back while making a play on a foul ball.

“It’s a lot better than when it initially happened,” Reddick said. “My back locked up and started spasming out. After the play I went back and watched it. From what I gathered, it looked like it happened from me avoiding the ballboy, who didn’t move one bit. … Nothing serious. Hopefully it’s something that’s just day to day. I’m sure with Bob (being cautious), I probably won’t start tomorrow. I’ll get some more treatment done so I’ll be ready to go Tuesday.”


Mariners RP Vidal Nuno to make spot start on Tuesday
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(1:40 am ET) Mariners relief pitcher Vidal Nuno will start for his team against the Rockies on Tuesday, according to the Seattle Times.

Nuno last started a game on July 5, but it was for Triple-A Tacoma during a brief demotion.

“It’s just another day,” he said. “Now I just have to go 80 to 100 pitches and set the tone of the game.”

The Mariners are confident Nuno can provide the rotation some much needed rest.

“He can go five easily if we need him to,” McClendon said. “He’s very durable and he’s rested.”


Diamondbacks' Chase Anderson strikes out three in rehab game
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:26 am ET) Diamondbacks starting pitcher Chase Anderson tossed four innings during a Rookie League rehab game on Sunday.

Anderson allowed four hits and struck out three batters, but did not allow any runs in what was a solid performance.

Anderson is on the 15-day disabled list with a triceps injury.


Cubs C Miguel Montero goes 1 for 3 in rehab game Sunday
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:24 am ET) Cubs catcher Miguel Montero went 1 for 3 in a Double-A rehab game on Sunday.

Montero is out of commission with a thumb injury.


Phillies 2B Chase Utley gets two hits in rehab game
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:21 am ET) Phillies second baseman Chase Utley went 2 for 3 with a walk and two singles in a Triple-A rehab game on Sunday.

Utley is on the 15-day disabled list with an ankle injury.


Nationals SP Jordan Zimmermann gives up five runs in loss
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(8/2/2015) Nationals starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann was not sharp during his start against the Mets on Sunday.

Zimmermann gave up five runs on six hits in six innings of work. He struggled at times with his location, as he allowed a season-high three home runs. Zimmermann did manage to strike out seven batters, but the damage from the home runs he allowed proved too costly.

With the loss, Zimmermann dropped to 8-7 this season with a 3.57 ERA.


Mets closer Tyler Clippard notches 18th save of the season
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(8/2/2015) Mets closer Tyler Clippard closed out the ninth inning of his team's win over the Nationals on Sunday with ease.

Clippard gave up one hit, but then put away Washington to pick up his 18th save of the season. He has a 2.55 ERA in 42 1/3 innings of relief.


 
 
 
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