Forgot Log-in or  Password? |  Help  Not a member, Register Now!
      
Fantasy Football Today
Fantasy Football Today Blog
Gameday Inactives
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Get Your Draft Board
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Scores
Fantasy Games
Playoff Challenge
Commissioner
Prize Leagues
Free
Office Pool Manager
Game Pick'em
Player Challenge
Fantasy Baseball Today
Fantasy Baseball Today Blog
2015 Draft Prep Guide
Mock Drafts
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Rankings
Projections
Schedules
Probable Pitchers
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injuries
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Message Boards
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Downloadable Draft Kit
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
No Fantasy Teams Found
 
 
 

Reality Check: Closers at a crossroads

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

What a mess.

Picture a room in disarray. Not just a sock here or there, but an entire wardrobe scattered across the floor, with an article or two dangling from the ceiling fan. Then maybe a sack of flour ripped open and strewn about, an army of ants pouring in from underneath a baseboard, a sink stopped up and still running, spilling water over its sides, tufts of animal hair floating around like Glinda the Good Witch in bubble form, an unhinged curtain rod smashed through the front of an old tube TV, a washing machine on spin cycle lurching across the floor, and a macaw perched on the edge of a bookcase, taunting a ravenous cat below with three or four of the phrases it overheard on the Home Shopping Network. You know, complete mayhem.

That's the closer landscape in the big leagues right now.

As of the start of Fantasy Week 13 (June 24-30), just 18 true relievers were owned in more than 70 percent of Fantasy leagues, which suggests nearly half of all closer situations have become too convoluted for Fantasy owners to sort out.

Granted, some of the lower ownership rates have to do with format. Provided the six most valuable relief-eligible starting pitchers -- Shelby Miller, Hisashi Iwakuma, Kris Medlen, Kyle Kendrick, Hector Santiago, Andrew Cashner and David Phelps -- are rostered in a standard 12-team Head-to-Head league where each team has two relief pitcher slots to fill, 18 closers are enough to meet the demand.

Most Added Relievers (as of 6/25)
Player % change
1. Esmil Rogers, RP, Blue Jays 41
2. Joaquin Benoit, RP, Tigers 34
3. Koji Uehara, RP, Red Sox 33
4. Steve Cishek, RP, Marlins 9
5. Junichi Tazawa, RP, Red Sox 6
6. Casey Janssen, RP, Blue Jays 5
7. Bobby Parnell, RP, Mets 4
8. Kevin Gregg, RP, Cubs 4
9. Drew Smyly, RP, Tigers 4
10. Brett Cecil, RP, Blue Jays 4

OK, so maybe a big drop-off in ownership rates is warranted, but why the disparity within the bottom 12? Why is Tom Wilhelmsen, whose struggles recently cost him the role, owned in 70 percent of leagues while Steve Cishek, in the role since Day 1, is owned in 49 percent, and Koji Uehara, new to but long overdue for the role, is owned in 41 percent?

Nobody knows who to trust anymore. At a position where player value is tied directly to managerial decision, committing to a player means taking a stranger's word for it, assuming he bothers to comment on it at all.

So then, it's up to me to address this mess, weighing in on the closer situations that are, at least in the minds of Fantasy owners, still up in the air. I'll focus on the frontrunners for each of the 12, listing them in the order they appear in my rankings but also presenting scenarios for when you might want to break from the rankings. Different closers can meet different needs, even if you're ultimately just looking for saves.

And hopefully, you're just looking for saves, because if you're looking for your keys, there's a very real chance the cat ate them.

Tom Wilhelmsen, Mariners

No, Wilhelmsen isn't closing right now, but the Mariners' decision to remove him from the role is more for his sake than theirs. They don't have a replacement in-house, and as a last-place team, they won't be trading for one. Because they have every incentive to get him right and get him right fast, cutting him seems awfully short-sighted.
Go the extra dollar if ... you want the closer with the best chance of being top-10 the rest of the way. Wilhelmsen was lights-out last year and allowed just two earned runs in his first 24 innings this year.
Don't even bother if ... you'd have to start him right away. Obviously, a middle reliever working his way back to closing isn't going to do as much for you as an actual closer.

Huston Street, Padres

Street has allowed at least one earned run in three of his six appearances since returning from a calf strain, but the injury can't take all the blame. He has allowed at least one earned run in 11 of 27 appearances overall.
Go the extra dollar if ... you appreciate job security and track record. Of this group, Street offers the best of both. His would-be replacement, Luke Gregerson, was equally shaky in a fill-in role, granting Street a longer leash than most closers.
Don't even bother if ... you get all the saves you need already. That's about the only reason you'd let Street go unowned, and if that's the case, why are you here?

Rafael Betancourt, Rockies

Betancourt was as reliable as ever for a surprisingly competitive Rockies team before his groin started acting up midway through May. He's due back later this week, but with closer-in-waiting Rex Brothers doing a bang-up job in his absence, the Rockies will likely ease Betancourt back into the role.
Go the extra dollar if ... you don't mind waiting for saves. Betancourt's chances might be touch-and-go for the next couple weeks, but he's a virtual lock to close full-time again, provided he doesn't re-aggravate the injury.
Don't even bother if ... you need saves today. But that just means Betancourt shouldn't be your first choice. In the long run, you still want him.

Bobby Parnell, Mets

Though not the most owned of this group, Parnell is probably the safest bet in Fantasy. He's been adequate for the Mets so far (not that they have anyone who could replace him) and has performed like a top-25 reliever to date.
Go the extra dollar if ... you need saves any way you can get them. Parnell is a closer. He's going to remain a closer. Saves are just part of the equation.
Don't even bother if ... you want not just any old closer, but a great one. Though he hasn't embarrassed himself, Parnell is on pace for only 27 saves and doesn't figure to pick up the pace with the Mets looking like sellers at the trade deadline. And it's not like he has an other-worldly strikeout total to make up for the lack of saves.

Jim Henderson, Brewers

Henderson has gotten just one of the Brewers' last three save opportunities, switching off with Francisco Rodriguez. Though he looked like a lock to reclaim the role once the Brewers eased him back into it, his four earned runs allowed in seven appearances since returning from a hamstring injury aren't helping his case.
Go the extra dollar if ... you think the Henderson we saw before the injury was legitimate. That guy was ridiculous, allowing just two earned runs in 20 appearances and striking out well more than a batter per inning.
Don't even bother if ... you have no patience for closer platoons. It's possible the Brewers could keep Francisco Rodriguez in the mix until they find a taker on the trade market.

Chris Perez, Indians

Though the struggles of his replacement, Vinnie Pestano, have only improved his job security, Perez hasn't inspired much confidence in his rehabilitation from a strained rotator cuff, allowing three homers in his most recent appearance for Double-A Akron.
Go the extra dollar if ... you want to gamble on a big saves total. Again, the job is Perez's, if he's healthy, and the Indians are at least fringe contenders.
Don't even bother if ... you can't justify the risk. Given his recurring shoulder issues and occasional implosions, Perez may soon discover he's more injured than he thought.

Kevin Gregg, Cubs

Gregg has been lights out since assuming the closer role in Chicago, defying a track record that bordered on ghastly, particularly in recent years. Kind of says it all right there, doesn't it?
Go the extra dollar if ... you have a strong stable of relievers already and just want to pad your saves total.
Don't even bother if ... you won't be able to pull the plug on him at a moment's notice. With Kyuji Fujikawa out for the year and Carlos Marmol more or less out of the picture, the Cubs will sink or swim with Gregg. But the fall could be swift and ugly.

Koji Uehara, Red Sox

Uehara did an excellent job closing for the Orioles down the stretch in 2010 and has a 2.13 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings in middle relief since then. If the Red Sox intend for him to be more than just a fill-in until Andrew Bailey gets right, he could dominate.
Go the extra dollar if ... you want to make a big splash. Uehara's numbers in middle relief suggest his transition to the closer role could end up being a bigger deal for Fantasy owners than Kenley Jansen's.
Don't even bother if ... you can't risk burning a roster spot. In addition to Bailey breathing down his neck, Uehara also has an extensive injury history.

Steve Cishek, Marlins

Cishek had just five saves over the Marlins' first 59 games this season. He has seven over their last 13. They've made incremental improvements during that time but still have one of the worst teams in baseball.
Go the extra dollar if ... you believe Cishek can maintain close to his recent pace. Bad teams have trouble scoring runs, so when they win, they win close. Trevor Hoffman often had big save totals for bad Padres teams.
Don't even bother if ... you think the Marlins are historically bad, even with Giancarlo Stanton back. If 20-25 saves are the most you can hope get from Cishek, he's a last resort in Fantasy.

Joaquin Benoit, Tigers

Tigers manager Jim Leyland doesn't want Benoit to close, but with Jose Valverde now out of the picture and Bruce Rondon still not ready for the big stage, he doesn't have much choice anymore.
Go the extra dollar if ... you trust talent to win out in the end. Benoit has plenty of it. As a setup man over the last four years, he has a compiled a 2.62 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings. Sounds like Sergio Romo, right? The Giants were once reluctant to make him their closer, and clearly that's worked out OK.
Don't even bother if ... you're thinking in rest-of-season terms. Even if Benoit performs well in the ninth inning, the contending Tigers are still likely to bring in a proven closer to improve their bullpen depth and placate Leyland.

Jose Veras, Astros

Not intending to contend in 2013, the Astros would have been fine sticking just about any hard-throwing veteran in the closer role this spring and have probably gotten more than they hoped from Veras, who had a 3.63 ERA and 1.51 WHIP with the Brewers last year.
Go the extra dollar if ... it's between him, Parnell and Cishek and you mostly care about a raw saves total. Veras' save chances are as inconsistent as the Astros offense, but they tend to come in bunches.
Don't even bother if ... you want anything close to safe and secure. Again, Veras has never done this closing thing before -- and his track record didn't suggest he'd be good at it. Plus, the Astros could always trade him now that he has some measure of value.

Heath Bell, Diamondbacks

Bell was adequate in his first few weeks filling in for J.J. Putz, who's out with a strained elbow, but has since reverted to the pitcher who suffered one ninth-inning meltdown after another with the Marlins last year, allowing a home run in five straight games.
Go the extra dollar if ... you're just waiting for Putz to get back and want to make sure you have the Diamondbacks closer locked down either way.
Don't even bother if ... you want to preserve your ERA or WHIP. Seriously, among the pitchers in line for saves right now, Bell should probably be your last choice. He's not long for the role anyway

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

Get player news notifications, manage your team and check scores
- all updated in real time. Download the CBS Fantasy App.

  •  
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 
 
Player News
A's 3B Brett Lawrie busts out with four hits, four RBI on Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(2:01 am ET) Athletics third baseman Brett Lawrie had himself quite a night at the plate against the Dodgers on Wednesday. Lawrie went 4 for 5 with a home run, two doubles, four RBI, three runs scored and a stolen base.

In the fifth inning, Lawrie brought his team to with a run when he ripped an RBI double to make the score 3-2. In the seventh, he chipped in a two-run single to give the A's a 4-3 lead. And he capped off his night by launching a solo home run, his ninth of the year, in the ninth inning. It was too little too late however, as the Dodgers held on for the 10-7 win.

This was the first four-hit game and third four-RBI game of Lawrie's career. The strong showing at the dish gives Lawrie a .268 batting average over his last 10 games.


Dodgers RF Yasiel Puig hits seventh home run in win Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:54 am ET) Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig had a nice night at the plate in Wednesday's 10-7 win over the A's. Puig went 2 for 4 with a home run, three RBI and a run scored. Puig's two-run home run, his seventh of the year, gave the Dodgers a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning.

He also had an RBI single in the Dodgers' five-run eighth inning, as the team rallied from behind to claim the victory.

Puig has three home runs over his last eight games, but he has just one other hit in 24 at-bats over that stretch. 


Rangers SP Colby Lewis quiets Yankees' bats in 5-2 win
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:48 am ET) Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis earned his 11th win of the season in the 5-2 win over the Yankees on Wednesday. Lewis allowed two runs on seven hits over six innings. He struck out five and did not issue a walk, throwing 71 of his 102 pitches for strikes.

Lewis (11-4, 4.42 ERA) gave up a solo home run to Carlos Beltran in the second inning before allowing another run to score in the seventh. Otherwise, Lewis was on top of his game against a tough lineup. 

Since Lewis had a 10-run explosion on July 5, he has allowed a total of nine runs over 28 innings in his last four starts.


A's SP Jesse Chavez goes five innings in no-decision Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:44 am ET) Athletics right-hander Jesse Chavez pitched fairly well on Wednesday, allowing three runs on five hits over five innings against the Dodgers. Chavez walked two and struck out five, but was left with a no-decision in the 10-7 loss.

The big blow against Chavez came on a two-run home run by Yasiel Puig in the fourth inning, which gave the Dodgers a 3-1 lead at the time. Chavez left the game trailing 3-2. And although the A's rallied for four runs in the top of the seventh, the Dodgers countered with five of their own in the bottom half.

The month of July was not very kind to Chavez, who finishes the month 1-3 with a 5.34 ERA over five starts.


Dodgers SP Mike Bolsinger goes five innings in impromptu start
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:41 am ET) Thrown into the start at the last minute, Dodgers right-hander Mike Bolsinger pitched reasonably well against the A's. Bolsinger allowed two runs on eight hits over five innings. He walked three and struck out three, needing 90 pitches (57 strikes) to get through the fifth. 

Bolsinger would not factor in the decision however, as the Dodgers won the game 10-7 in the late innings. Bolsinger left the game leading 3-2, but the bullpen allowed four runs to score in the seventh. The Dodgers would counter with five in their half of the inning, en route to the victory.

Bolsinger finishes the month of July with a 1-1 record and a 3.00 ERA in five starts.


Report: Dodgers, Marlins, Braves working on three-team deal
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:52 am ET) The Braves, Dodgers and Marlins are in the working stages of a three-team, nine-player deal. According to reports, the Braves are expected to send top prospect Jose Peraza , left-hander Alex Wood and relievers Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan to the Dodgers.

In return, the Braves would receive prospect Hector Olivera , lefty reliever Paco Rodriguez and minor-league pitcher Zach Bird from the Dodgers, and a 2016 draft pick from the Marlins.

The Marlins are also sending right-hander Mat Latos and first baseman Michael Morse to the Dodgers in exchange for three minor-league pitchers--right-handers Jeff Brigham, Victor Araujo and Kevin Guzman.

None of the three teams have officially announced the deal as of yet. 


Pirates acquire veteran SP Joe Blanton from Royals
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(12:42 am ET) The Pirates made a minor move early Thursday, grabbing veteran starter Joe Blanton from the Royals in exchange for cash considerations, per the teams involved.

Blandon had been designated for assignment by the Royals on Monday, shortly after they acquired starter Johhny Cueto. Blanton was 2-2 with two saves and a 3.89 ERA in 15 games with the Royals this season. 


Red Sox 1B Mike Napoli homers, doubles in loss on Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:35 am ET) First baseman Mike Napoli was the lone bright spot for the Red Sox in the 9-2 loss to the White Sox on Wednesday. Napoli went 2 for 3 with a double, two RBI and a solo home run. 

Napoli's seventh-inning home run, his 12th of the year, gave the Red Sox their second run of the game of Jose Quintana. 

After going through some rough times, Napoli is starting to show some signs of life at the plate. Over his last 10 games, Napoli is batting .364 (12 for 33) with two home runs and seven RBI. 


White Sox CF Adam Eaton stays hot at the plate on Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:28 am ET) White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton homered for the second time in his last six games, as he helped the White Sox beat the Red Sox 9-2 on Wednesday.

Eaton led off the game with his ninth home run of the season. He also singled twice, drove in two runs and scored a pair, finishing the game 3 for 6.

Eaton is batting .366 with two home runs and six RBI over his last 10 games.


Report: Mets' concerns over Carlos Gomez's medicals nixes trade
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:22 am ET) The Mets have reportedly backed out of a deal that would have sent Carlos Gomez to the New York from the Brewers. 

Sources tell FoxSports.com that the Mets had concerns over Gomez's medical records, and decided not to follow through on the proposed deal, which would have sent Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler to Milwaukee. 

Gomez spent time on the disabled list earlier this season with a hip injury, but he has played all but one game since June 23. However, it seems the Mets' staff did not like what they saw in the medical report. 

There had been thought that the Brewers saw something in Wheeler's medical charts, as he had Tommy John surgery in March. But reports are saying it's Gomez's injury history that has nixed the deal. 


 
 
 
Rankings