Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Heath Bell, Grant Balfour, Javy Guerra, more

by Nicholas Minnix on May 2, 2012 @ 13:50:55 PDT

 


What are the odds that you still own the relief pitchers you rostered in your fantasy baseball draft? KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat series gives you no-nonsense ratings of performances, injuries and managerial decisions in MLB bullpens. Get your arm loose: Let's find fantasy baseball players in your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball league who'll get saves.

Job security (JS) score 1 (unstable) to 5 (untouchable)
Health (H) score 1 (injury-prone) to 5 (durable)

Miami Marlins

Closer: Heath Bell
Understudy: Steve Cishek, Edward Mujica

Just what Hell's Bells needed: back-to-back appearances! The second of such pairs of outings didn't go well at all the first two times that the righty made them. Of course, the first game of them did. Since the Arizona Diamondbacks had thrashed him on Monday, naturally, a save opportunity against the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday was going to go smoothly.

Los Angeles Dodgers RP Javy Guerra
Positive step for Guerra

Or something. Bell coaxed two fly-outs and a ground-out without yielding a base runner - on 12 pitches, eight of them strikes - to record his third save. Per Brooks Baseball's PitchFX Tool, Bell's stuff last night wasn't anything special - in fact, it was subdued, as you might expect it to be in the second of back-to-back games.

It's a positive that Bell got the result, no question. He needed that. If he reins in the incredibly uncharacteristic wildness, he'll set himself up with a pretty good shot at keeping his job.

But the point here is that, while Bell maintains a hold on the closer's role, Ozzie Guillen admitted that he will consider a change soon, if the outcomes don't start going in the Fish's favor more often. And this was after Bell's lockdown effort against San Fran.

Bell can succeed without the stuff that made him one of the most dominant relievers in the game from 2007 through 2010. But his arsenal isn't quite as good as it was then, so there's some real urgency to figure out how to do so.

Cishek and Mujica remain deep-league stashes, just-in-case props, if you have room and are trolling. It's still not entirely clear which one Ozzie would turn to if he did make a change. Cishek has been much more effective early on, but Mujica has a "usage advantage."

Job security score: 3
Health score:
5

Mound meetings

Although Bob Melvin stated that no bullpen roles have changed, Grant Balfour's performance lately must be concerning.

The righty has blown two save chances in his last four appearances, and on Tuesday night against the Boston Red Sox he gave up two hits and a walk to jam the bases before serving up a two-run knock to Mike Aviles. He recorded just one out, with a K, before yielding to lefty Jordan Norberto, who sat down one of each without a scratch to record his first career save.

The lack of rumblings really may be a positive sign for Balfour's job security, as Melvin's words suggest, but anymore rough goings in the near future and the alarm should sound. Slusser speculates that Balfour will buckle down and that he has some slack in his rope.

Brian Fuentes earns the first fantasy consideration, thanks to a tip from Slusser, and could be tucked aside in deep leagues. Ryan Cook has emerged as a possible heir apparent if the A's can find a new home for Balfour this summer, too. The right-hander also warrants speculation, but he should already have been owned in AL formats and may be a frustrating hold in mixers.

***

On Tuesday night, Don Mattingly stayed true to his word by calling upon Javy Guerra with a one-run lead in the ninth. Pinch hitter Wilin Rosario recorded a base knock, advanced to second on a passed ball and scooted to third on a ground-out. Guerra was poised in stranding the Colorado Rockies' backup catcher, though; he struck out two, including the dangerous Carlos Gonzalez for the final out.

Incidentally, Kenley Jansen was responsible for the reduction of the Los Angeles Dodgers' lead from two runs to one. In the eighth, he gave up a leadoff triple to Troy Tulowitzki, who then scored on Todd Helton's sac fly immediately afterward. Jansen yielded another hit but otherwise shut the Rox down from there on.

Guerra was on the edge, but he backed away by a step on Tuesday night.

***

On Tuesday night, Robin Ventura picked his first spot for Hector Santiago, who made his first appearance since a spectacular implosion last Wednesday. The southpaw threw a scoreless ninth in a 7-2 victory for the Chicago White Sox.

Oakland Athletics RP Grant Balfour
Balfour's rope shrinking?

Santiago struck out the first two he faced - a switch hitter and a left-handed hitter - but he gave up a hit (to a lefty) and two walks (both to righties) to the next three batters before inducing a ground-out from the Cleveland Indians' right-handed catcher, Lou Marson, to escape unscathed.

Santiago tossed 32 pitches, only 15 of them strikes, but he gave up no fly balls. How much of the wildness is evidence that he's becoming gun shy is uncertain, but some of it could be attributed to the layoff. No matter what, this was a positive step, but he still has some work to do.

Meanwhile, the club's two best relievers remain on point. Addison Reed is close to setting the ChiSox's rookie standard, and Matt Thornton has a good feel for everything and has regained his purely dominant form.

***

Evan Longoria's placement on the DL triggered other shuffling, notably the transfer of Kyle Farnsworth (strain near right elbow) from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL. As a result, the Tampa Bay Rays cannot activate him until June 5. Last week, Farnsie had been hoping to begin tossing a baseball sometime this week, but there have been no updates on his progress since.

Fernando Rodney's grip on the temporary closer's role was already firm. The fantasy community tends to lack faith in him, understandably, but another month of this career-year type performing - a 1.59 BB/9! - and Joe Maddon will be awfully reluctant to disrupt a good thing.

Don't put all eggs in the Rodney basket just yet, but here's a dose for skeptics: You thought the same thing about Farnsworth last year. Tampa Bay has a top-notch staff and front office, both of which enable them to see value in free agents whom others don't view favorably. The Rays turn players, particularly pitchers, around. They've simplified things for the talented Rodney and have him focused on one thing: throwing strikes.

***

On Tuesday against the Texas Rangers, Francisco Cordero blew a save opportunity by giving up three hits and a run. It's no surprise to those who expected his demise that he's had some rough times, especially while serving as closer in Sergio Santos' absence.

Toronto Blue Jays skipper John Farrell backed his temp backend man to the media. Shoulder inflammation will keep Santos sidelined for at least another three weeks, however, so if Coco continues to get hit around, look for Farrell to begin playing matchups, at least.

A patchwork scenario for fantasy stinks, but it may present Darren Oliver, Casey Janssen, Jason Frasor, Carlos Villanueva or Luis Perez with an opp to increase his value. Oliver and Perez, both southpaws, are the only real potential commodities here, for AL players. Perez could be considered for a starting role down the road, and his stuff is nasty nasty - two nasties - but if Farrell is sure that the southpaw will get him the outs he needs, he could resort to him.

***

Greg Holland felt fine after a side session on Wednesday and is expected to throw BP this weekend before going on a rehab assignment.

The Kansas City Royals must be thrilled with what Jonathan Broxton has given them, but of course he's no pillar. In deep leagues, J-Brox insurance is still recommended. Holland, with tweaked mechanics to prevent injury, could still fit that role, assuming he's back in form upon activation.

***

Frank Francisco (hamstring tweak) was back to being available on Tuesday, but the New York Mets didn't find a reason to summon him in their 6-3 loss to the Houston Astros.

Other Tuesday saviors

Jonathan Papelbon (9), Phillies
Brett Myers (6), Astros
Huston Street (4), Padres
Jason Motte (4), Cardinals
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Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat | AL depth charts | NL depth charts

About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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