Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: J.J. Putz, Brandon League, more

by Nicholas Minnix on May 18, 2012 @ 12:55:41 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.

Mound meetings

The outside world fears for J.J. Putz owners. The right-hander allowed three singles to open the bottom of the ninth at the Colorado Rockies before he struck out a pinch hitter (pitcher Alex White, the only option Jim Tracy felt that he had at the time) and then inducing a double-play grounder from the not-so-fleet-footed Ramon Hernandez.

Putz came away with his seventh door-slam, but he was dangerously close to his third blown save opp and has a 7.50 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP in his 12 frames. He's struck out more than nine per nine, but readers are concerned the occasional allusions to his diminished velocity. Pessimists wonder when Kirk Gibson will change his tune, the one in which he has no plans to give Putz a break from the job. Others wonder, Is he hurt?

The Arizona Diamondbacks' skipper believes pretty firmly that it's been an issue of location for his closer. He hasn't walked too many - any, in fact - but he's been missing his spots consistently. But Gibson also believes that the work Putz has been doing lately with pitching coach Charles Nagy is paying off - especially in the form of increased velocity and movement.

The 35-year-old pitcher was hitting 94 to 95 on Tuesday and was almost that good in the rocky one yesterday. But if the improvements are a result of a mechanical adjustment, like it sounds, it'll take a little more time to bring it consistently, which would explain why the follow-up wasn't as good.

Putz's health remains the biggest element of the risk attached to him, and a drop-off in performance may spark fear that an injury is responsible. Despite his start to the 2012 season, however, reports have been plenty encouraging, and the Snakes are doing more than just going through motions, trying to convince themselves. Putz insurance (David Hernandez, Bryan Shaw) is never a bad idea, but there's reason to believe that it'd be just a precaution.

***

When Brandon League has been rocky, usually because of control problems, at most the Seattle Mariners have given him a short break while he figures it out. That has come with some side sessions and an appearance or two in earlier frames. He's figured it out and gone back to doing his job.

Lately, the right-hander has been dealing with those same kinds of issues. In extra innings against the Cleveland Indians on Thursday, he walked the bases loaded - he repeated, as if he was talking to himself, to the reporter - after he'd given up an RBI hit for the blown save chance and before he gave up another to lose the contest.

The hits came from a couple of quality batsmen - Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana - so he won't beat himself up for those. The walks, though ... roto owners have witnessed this kind of wandering from him before. Yesterday wasn't pretty, but don't expect a demotion from the closer's role - if that even occurs - to be more than temporary. And that's justified.

***

In the top of the ninth on Thursday afternoon, Rafael Betancourt gave up the two runs that gained for the D-backs a 9-7 lead against his Colorado Rockies. The righty bookended a Gerardo Parra double and subsequent steal of third with outs, but Justin Upton's two-run bomb to the opposite field did him in.

Betancourt's fly-ball-inducing powers and Coors Field continue to put him at risk for this kind of thing, but the results haven't been much different for nearly two and a half seasons. The 37-year-old has walked five men already this year, which is a mild concern if opponents begin to make him pay with the long ball. An increased BB/9 contributed to his rough times with the Cleveland Indians.

It's just something to keep in mind. Possible closer of the future Rex Brothers has been awful (6.28 ERA) thanks largely and unsurprisingly to his own dreadful control issues (6.91). Matt Belisle might be the reliever Colorado would trust in a short-term substitution. Matt Reynolds, who has been uncharacteristically victimized by the round-tripper, has nasty stuff, but he has other issues to work out.

Betancourt is no danger and probably won't face any for quite some time, if he does at all this season.

***

One of the Oakland Athletics' recently emerged future saves candidates, Ryan Cook, pitched two frames against the Texas Rangers on Thursday to notch a victory - his first MLB W - in extra stanzas. It didn't come without a casualty, however.

Susan Slusser has the story of Cook's fake fingernail - what happened, how it felt and why he uses them. Ouch.

Other Tuesday saviors

Jim Johnson (14), Orioles  
Jonathan Papelbon (11), Phillies Notched last out in hairy 9th for Jake Diekman
Santiago Casilla (9), Giants  
Joel Hanrahan (8), Pirates A hit, a walk, but a K, the SV
Alfredo Aceves (8), Red Sox  
Matt Capps (8), Twins  
Casey Janssen (3), Blue Jays  
Brian Fuentes (3), Athletics 1st '12 SV without giving up a R
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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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