Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Session: Ryan Madson, Drew Storen, Joakim Soria, more

by Tim Heaney on March 27, 2012 @ 13:33:51 PDT

 


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.

In case you missed it over the weekend: Ryan Madson (elbow) will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss all of 2012. Remove him from your cheat sheets.

Sean Marshall is the consensus pick to take the Cincinnati Reds' job, at least in the fantasy world. Dusty Baker hasn't decided on the saves arrangement yet. He does not want the southpaw to pitch three days in a row.

Washington Nationals RP Drew Storen
Watch that elbow

Bill Bray, Aroldis Chapman and Nick Masset are in the running for saves, per MLB.com. Chapman would be the most intriguing asset here if he opens the season in the 'pen.

Masset has a reliable track record in setup duty but carries only a miniscule fraction of statistical upside, especially since his K yield looks to be on the decline. The 28-year-old Bray has low-90s velocity but has produced ample whiffs with his pitching acumen.

Marshall, Chapman (with a 'pen spot), Masset and Bray should be your fantasy speculation depth chart, with Marshall in a wide lead. Chapman, of course, has the talent to run away with the job and could be had much cheaper.

Oh, and the article speculates Kevin Gregg, who's on the Baltimore Orioles' trade block, could become an option. Seems like something the vet-loving Baker could get behind. Yikes.

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Joakim Soria has also pulled the trigger on TJS. No decision yet on who'll take his place for the Kansas City Royals. It could be a time share between Jonathan Broxton and Greg Holland. Both are worth specs, with Brox being the slight favorite if he can finish spring healthy. It's a close race, though. Stay tuned.

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The Washington Nationals are preparing for Drew Storen (elbow) not being ready for opening day. Tests last week revealed inflammation but no structural damage to his ulnar collateral ligament. With such little time before real play begins, Storen isn't looking like he'll join his teammates immediately.

We'll know more on that soon. If you're drafting without the final verdict, he could come at a discount. At a certain point among the top stoppers, he'll become a value, and his absence will become easier to prepare for. Decide when that point is for you.

If he's held up, Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez will probably get the first shot at saves. Even with his shaky history, Lidge's experience tips the fantasy scales in his direction - barely. Rodriguez's triple-digit stuff should get a decent look, too, in the interim without Storen.

What about the potent Tyler Clippard? Reportedly, Davey Johnson doesn't want to move him out of a setup role and weaken two vital spots in the bullpen. The right-hander's skills top those of his noted competitors, and he won't hurt his drafters because of his elite peripherals.

Still, this looks like a vital point of team construction for the typically steadfast Johnson, and - at least immediately - Clippard, who can comfortably throw multiple frames, will have a hard time supplementing his setup contributions with consistent closures. Johnson cares about the flexibility Clippard affords him, not about building up his roto resume. Managers don't always believe that their best RP should close.

Though any UCL injury should be taken with caution when figuring fantasy saves, don't write off Storen for much time just yet. Even though managers' words are hardly gospel, it's hard to put Clippard first on your fantasy list, despite his contributions, if you're only targeting the best avenue for saves help. Lidge and Rodriguez, in that order, should be your targets, without us knowing anything else.

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Frank Francisco moved his spring ERA down to 6.00 with a scoreless fourth inning Sunday. The New York Mets' closer showed improved velocity in that outing. He has allowed a run in six of his eight tune-up innings, but, for what it's worth, he views his rough March as a good preparation for dealing with stressful innings. (His owners must take the positives wherever possible.)

He'll allow plenty of runners - and struggle to hold them at first base - but his dominance is alluring as you enter the bottom tier of mixed closers. He'll likely be undervalued in many circles. Take advantage.

Fellow Met Bobby Parnell, meanwhile, has locked up a key bullpen role with a stellar spring. His 100 mph velo is his calling card; the rest ... iffy. But he's a watch candidate, especially in NLs.

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Thanks to his perfect saves season, Jose Valverde will be overvalued in many fantasy pick 'ems. He's not a top-10 mixed option, and the all but cemented regression of his conversion success will cap his upside.

Papa Grande, however, has become less grande, having lost 40 pounds by improving his diet over the offseason; throw in better velocity, per Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland. Valverde's improved physique and potentially improved stamina could make him less of a health risk; his once more lumbering build used to look like it was constantly in danger of crumbling.

At minimum, his preparations go a long way in negating some of his downward correction and make him a decent investment if you're drafting in a doubt-filled room.

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The Seattle Mariners optioned potential stopper Chance Ruffin to Triple-A Tacoma, where he'll probably see save chances. This opens up Tom Wilhelmsen as the most likely secondary option to Brandon League, who could be on the trade block later on this year. A healthy Shawn Kelley deserves AL-only consideration, too, and isn't far off from Wilhelmsen's status.

Ruffin is the best long-term option to succeed League, though, and that could come at some point in the second half of 2012. Don't lose track of him.

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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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