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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
Reds sign Brennan Boesch to minor league deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:09 pm ET) The Reds have signed outfielder Brennan Boesch to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. Boesch, 29, is a career .256/.309/.412 hitter over five seasons for the Tigers, Yankees and Angels.

He was in the minors for most of last season, hitting .332 with 25 homers for the Angels Triple-A affiliate. 


Royals acquire infielder Ryan Jackson from Dodgers
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:16 pm ET) The Royals have acquired infielder Ryan Jackson from the Dodgers for cash considerations. Jackson was out for most of last season with a wrist injury. 

Jackson hit .278 with 34 RBI at Triple-A Memphis, playing 122 games at shortstop and third base in 2013.


Report: Talks break down between Yanks, Phils about Rollins deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:18 pm ET) The Yankees and Phillies reportedly discussed a deal for 35-year-old shortstop Jimmy Rollins before talks broke down, according to ESPN reporter Jayson Stark.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Rollins is "one of the best shortstops in baseball still" but wouldn't confirm Yankees interest in the veteran. Amaro also said Rollins is "somebody we want on our club and would be very hard to replace."

Rollins is due $11 million this season and his contract is up at the end of 2015. Rollins hit .243 with 55 RBI and stole 28 bases in 2014. 


Padres' Blaine Boyer clears waivers, heads for free agency
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:08 pm ET) Padres right-handed pitcher Blaine Boyer cleared waivers Wednesday and will enter free agency, according to U-T San Diego. Boyer was designated for assignment last week.

Boyer appeared in 32 games last season for the Padres and posted a 3.57 ERA. 


Rays designate Sean Rodriguez for assignment
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:04 pm ET) The Rays have designated 29-year-old Sean Rodriguez for assignment. 

Rodriguez hit .211 with 12 home runs last season. 


Jose Molina, Cole Figueroa clear waivers, released by Rays
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:55 pm ET) Catcher Jose Molina and infielder Cole Figueroa cleared waivers and were released by the Rays Wednesday. 

Both Molina and Figueroa were designated for assignment Thursday. Molina, 39, hit .178 over 225 at-bats last year, while Figueroa hit .233 in 43 at-bats. 


Rays sign right-hander Ernesto Frieri to major-league contract
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:33 pm ET) The Rays have announced signing of right-hand pitcher Ernesto Frieri to a one-year contract. Frieri will make a base salary of $800,000, going up to $3.15 million with incentives, according to the Tampa Tribune.

Frieri, who had a career-high 37 saves in 2013, had 11 last season with a 7.34 ERA.


Yankees' Sabathia confident he can return to being 200-inning pitcher
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:23 pm ET) Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia continues to deliver positive updates coming off July knee surgery.

"The knee, I have no complaints," Sabathia told YES Network. "I’m able to do all of my workouts. … I’m changing a few things. Not as much pounding and running. I’m in the pool a lot, on different machines to get cardio, (on the) bike. Just adding a few different things to get some cardio in."

Despite coming off surgery and being limited to eight starts (46 innings) in 2014, Sabathia feels he can get back to being a 30-start, 200-inning pitcher in 2015.

"Yeah, for sure," he said. "I feel like I can. If you asked me that a couple of months ago, I would have said, ‘I don’t know,’ but the way I’m feeling now and being able to work out, definitely."


Report: Indians expressing interest in Kendrys Morales
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:05 pm ET) The Indians have expressed inerest in DH/first baseman Kendrys Morales

Morales, who split time between the Twins and Mariners last season, hit .218 with 42 RBI.


Brewers' Ryan Braun 'cautiously optimistic' coming off thumb surgery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:54 am ET) Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is optimistic coming off October thumb surgery. Braun underwent a cryotherapy procedure in Los Angeles on Oct. 2, in which a needle was inserted at the base of his right thumb to essentially freeze a nerve.

"It definitely worked," Braun said Wednesday, per MLB.com. "It makes a huge difference."

Braun swung a bat 10 days after the procedure and was happy the pain in his thumb was gone.

"Right now, I don’t feel any [discomfort], and I haven’t been able to say that for two years," he said. "I think I’ve told you guys, it [bothered him] shaking hands, writing -- you know, just everyday activities. Now I don’t feel it at all, so I’m excited."

While Braun is definitely optimistic, he is also a bit cautious because he isn't in the grind of playing baseball every day. He has received full clearance, however, for all offseason activities.

"I’m encouraged by how it feels, but at the same time, I think I have to be cautiously optimistic [until] I get into spring training and see how it responds," Braun said. "But it hasn’t felt this good in a really long time."


 
 
 
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