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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
Nationals sign pitcher Rich Hill to minor-league deal
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:26 pm ET) The Nationals signed pitcher Rich Hill to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training, the team announced Friday night

Hill spent time with the Angels and Yankees in 2014 and posted a 3.38 ERA in 16 appearances. 

His career ERA is 4.72 over 10 years, which includes additional stops with the Cubs, Orioles, Red Sox and Indians. 


Tim Melville, Kyle Lobstein to start Monday and Tuesday for Tigers
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:18 pm ET) Tigers coach Brad Ausmus announced that pitchers Tim Melville and Kyle Lobstein, respectively, will get starts in upcoming games on Monday and Tuesday, according to MLB.com

Melville will start in an exhibition between the Tigers and college team Florida Southern. Lobstein will start in Tuesday's Grapefruit League game against the Orioles. 


Diamondbacks' Mark Trumbo more comfortable in right field
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:55 pm ET) Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart decided after last season that Mark Trumbo would be better in right field than left, where he started the 2014 season, MLB.com reports.

"From what I understood from talking to [Trumbo's former manager] Mike Scioscia, he's a much better right fielder than he is in left," Stewart said.

Trumbo indicated that he feels more comfortable in right field.

"Just reads off the bat, what I feel more comfortable with," Trumbo said. "Being right-handed I've just found right field, especially with some of those balls coming in, it's much easier for me with that angle as opposed to the one in left."

Trumbo has seen most of his defensive work in his five-year career at first base but has made 65 appearances in right field. He hit .235/.293/.415 with 14 home runs and 61 RBI in 328 at-bats last season.


Padres, Tyson Gillies agree to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:49 pm ET) The Padres have agreed to a minor-league deal with outfielder Tyson Gillies, ESPN.com reports.

Gillies has spent time in the Seattle and Philadelphia organizations since being selected in the 25th round of the 2006 draft. He hit .214/.270/.289 with two home runs, 10 RBI and three stolen bases in 159 at-bats with Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2014.


Pirates' Hurdle: Jose Tabata 'worked very hard' on swing leverage
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:46 pm ET) Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata drove three balls over the left-field fence and onto the roof of the indoor batting cages, and manager Clint Hurdle said Friday that the team wants the outfielder to mash longer drives, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

"We've talked to Jose about putting more leverage in his swing,” Hurdle said. “He worked very hard with that through the winter. He's shown a liking for it. It's something that takes time."

Tabata recreated his swing during a stint in the Mexican League and increased his power production. He had a conversation with Marlon Byrd about it this past offseason.

"He's always had a forward-down strike and a lot of ground balls have come off his bat," Hurdle said of Tabata. "We talked to him about hooking up with Marlon Byrd."

Tabata hit .282/.314/.333 with no home runs in 174 at-bats with the Pirates in 2014.


White Sox SP Jose Quintana ready to go after Friday session
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:34 pm ET) White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana began his throwing program later than normal at the team's request but said Friday after throwing two simulated innings that he's ready to go, CSNChicago.com reports.

"I feel really good, my arm is good and I’m ready for the first day against the Dodgers," Quintana said. "I’m excited for opening day. It’s spring training, but it’s Opening Day, you know?"

The White Sox asked Quintana to delay his throwing program in the hopes of having him stronger and fresher if the team makes the postseason. After throwing 200 innings in each of the last two seasons, he hopes to feel strong long after he has in the past.

"It’s good for your arm because here you throw a lot, eight months throwing and you need a good rest," Quintana said. "I feel really good, better than last year. I hope this year I’m better."

Quintana went 9-11 with a 3.32 ERA and 178:52 K:BB ratio in 200 1/3 innings in 2014.


Rangers' Banister talks about Choo's move to right field
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:27 pm ET) Rangers manager Jeff Banister spoke about moving Shin-Soo Choo from left field to right field for the first time Friday, MLB.com reports.

"We think he'll be more comfortable in right field," Banister said.

Choo spent six years in right field with the Indians but played center field with the Reds in 2013 and left field in most of his first season with the Rangers. He'll have less ground to cover in right field than left during Rangers home games.

"It doesn't matter to me where they put me. I can play all three positions," Choo said.

Choo is returning from elbow and ankle surgeries. He hit .242/.340/.374 with 13 home runs,40 RBI and just three steals in 455 at-bats last season.


Diamondbacks' Brandon Drury to split time at 2B, 3B this spring
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:21 pm ET) Diamondbacks infielder Brandon Drury will split time at second base and third base this spring, the Arizona Republic reports.

Drury will pick up work at second base after the team signed Yasmany Tomas this offseason. He saw time at the position during the Arizona Fall League and also spent two games there with Double-A Mobile last season.

"I don't feel like I need extra reps at second to be game-ready there," Drury said. "I felt good there."

Drury approached starting second baseman Aaron Hill for advice during fielding drills Friday, impressing Hill with his ability to ask for help as well as the quickness of his adjustment to the advice.

"He made the adjustments easy. Easy," Hill said. "What's great, too, is when a guy is willing to ask question. He's a sponge and he wants to learn. I think it's awesome."

Drury hit .299/.362/.510 with 23 home runs and 95 RBI in 535 at-bats between high Class A Visalia and Mobile in 2014.


Blue Jays' Michael Saunders to miss 5-6 weeks after procedure
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:05 pm ET) Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders underwent successful surgery on his knee Friday, and he is now expected to be sidelined for five-to-six weeks, the team announced.

Saunders was initially expected to miss half the season while recovering from a meniscus tear. He had 60 percent of the meniscus removed from his left knee Friday, MLB.com reports. The cartilage was unable to be repaired, which would have resulted in a longer recovery time for the outfielder.

On his new timetable, Saunders could be back in action by early-to-mid April if the team chooses not to have him open the season on the disabled list.


CC Sabathia not expected to be among Yankees' first spring starters
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:00 pm ET) Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia is not expected to be among the team's first starters this spring as he continues to focus on his return from knee surgery, MLB.com reports.

"We're taking it slow with him, knowing that we don't really think that he's behind and he's got plenty of time," Girardi said. "We're not rushing it because of his knee, and we want to take it step by step."

Giradi also added that he has no issues with Sabathia continuing to wear his knee brace during the season, though he has yet to talk to the team's trainers about it.

"I've said all along, you're really not going to know until we get into the season and he's going every fifth day, how his leg is going to do," Girardi said. "I've said all along, it's a concern of mine. The fact that he's wearing a brace or not wearing a brace doesn't concern me anymore. If [trainers] feel that he'll stay healthier wearing the brace, then I would tell him, wear the brace."

Sabathia was held to just eight starts last season, going 3-4 with a 5.28 ERA and 48:10 K:BB ratio in 46 innings.


 
 
 
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