During the regular season, the Closer Hot Seat will be your go-to guide for Major League Baseball's bullpen chatter. During spring training, KFFL's Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Session will get you tuned up for the fantasy baseball saves chase. Camp happenings don't always impact closer battles, but if there's MLB news you should know for your fantasy baseball draft, you'll find it here.
Don Mattingly emphasized the expected dynamic in the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen: Javy Guerra is "the guy" who lines up to open the season as closer, with fantasy baseball sleeper Kenley Jansen serving as the eighth-inning bridge. (Mike MacDougal also warranted a hypothetical mention. Tuck that name away and cross your fingers, deep NL-only scroungers.)
Mattingly, of course, left the door open for inseason reconsideration: "I really don't know what the right decision is, honestly. If they both throw the ball the way they're capable of, [it's a] good problem. I told Kenley that I really think he'd like to close at some point."
Don't diss Jansen just because
Fantasy baseball owners would like that, too, but Guerra did little to convince Donnie Baseball otherwise with just two blown saves in 23 opps last season. His high-end velocity doesn't yield the drool-inducing K's that Jansen's does, but Guerra has built a solid reliability foundation with skip, at least in the number of wins he locked up.
Will he post another above-average left-on-base percentage? Relievers tend to surpass the league median, but he doesn't have a track record there, so it's hard to gauge, especially when he induces plenty of contact for a stopper.
You should be more worried about that .261 BABIP, which doesn't look settling when you see hitters lined his pitches 20.3 percent of the time. He had fortune on his side, but, as it usually works with closers, if the breaks go his way, he'll stay in the lead.
He let up only two homers all season, but he isn't a grounder-friendly pitcher. Chavez Ravine can only do so much to sustain that favorable luck.
The right-hander can still be obtained at a value, somewhere in the No. 3 mixed stopper lot in dual-universe parties. Even with Mattingly's positive quotes on Guerra, he's one you draft for immediate contribution and hope it sticks, not for targeting long-term security.
While damning Jansen for the short term, this announcement will lower his price in many mixed leagues. Don't let it scare you away from rostering him with future closures in mind - say, if you have a deep bench.
Drafting prospective saves can often cripple your roster potential, but his record-setting K prowess puts him among the select group of setup men worth owning without save opps in shallower mixed formats; he's an optimal RP employment for leagues with IP caps. Biding time with him will still give you fulfilling statistics.
Guerra owners, in fact, should consider handcuffing the two wherever possible and practical; not doing so could have direr consequences in NL games.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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