Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Henry Rodriguez, Jose Valverde, Heath Bell, more

by Nicholas Minnix on May 22, 2012 @ 15:11:56 PDT'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)


Washington Nationals

Closer: Drew Storen DL
Understudy/Fill-in: Henry Rodriguez, Brad Lidge DL
Lurkers: Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard, Craig Stammen

Roto owners and fans alike wait to see how well Davey Johnson rested on Monday night. The Nats' skipper was pondering change at the back end of his interim arrangement in the bullpen, but he professed to sleep on it.

That's because H-Rod has struggled in the ninth inning this month. He was incredibly and progressively wild in a save situation against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday night, when his club had a 2-0 lead that he was nowhere near protecting. The righty recorded just one out.

As The Washington Times piece notes, Rodriguez let several pitches fly to the backstop. A couple of his offerings were way off the mark; it's pretty clear that the stress of holding the job has affected his performance. Ian Desmond had an incredibly compassionate take on H-Rod's struggles, which Amanda Comak felt inspired to share.

It's true; Rodriguez has a lot of support. Unfortunately for him, his performance lately pretty much demands a change. That doesn't mean Johnson can't come back to Rodriguez, just that the club needs to do what's necessary to wrap up victories. They believe that they're contenders.

Lefty Burnett seems like the logical man to ascend, since he's bailed out H-Rod twice. Clippard, a righty, might seem like a sensible fit because, when push comes to shove, a manager needs his best setup man in the closer's role.

Another right-hander, Stammen, has gained some momentum because of his superb ERA (1.44 in 25 frames) to this point. Stammen has been a multi-inning reliever, a role in which Johnson has considered him extremely valuable, so if Clippard stayed put, it'd stand to reason that Stammen will as well. But it's impossible to say.

Johnson is expected to go with some sort of committee, and any reliever here is fair game. In anticipation, Burnett and Clippard warrant fantasy interest, but Johnson will probably clarify things - at least a little - with his words and, more so, his actions in the coming days.

Meanwhile, Lidge (hernia surgery) is on track for a return in mid-June, if not before. He belongs at the forefront of rotisserie players' minds as a candidate to see save opps until Storen (elbow surgery) is back, sometime around the All-Star break.

Job security score: 1
Health score:

Mound meetings

Detroit Tigers closer Jose Valverde (tweaked back muscle) is expected to be available on Tuesday night. Get him in there, if you haven't yet. Jim Leyland played it pretty cautiously, so hopefully the righty remains past it.


On Monday against the Colorado Rockies, Heath Bell converted another save opp, his second on back-to-back days, third in four games and sixth of the campaign. The righty pitched a scoreless inning despite the fact that one man reached because of an error. That's four straight scoreless appearances (3 2/3 innings) for the Miami Marlins' closer.

Of mild concern is that the 34-year-old hasn't struck out anyone in his last three appearances (2 2/3 stanzas), however. He's cut out the walks, but even if he's back in the role to stay, he's not the pitcher he used to be. His reclamation of the job might make this a good time to peddle Bell.


Aroldis Chapman celebrated his rise to the closer's role by getting arrested early on Monday for speeding and driving with a suspended license. It's a little worrisome that he was so reckless (93 mph?), but the arrest isn't likely to affect his standing with the Cincinnati Reds.

Washington Nationals RP Henry Rodriguez
H-Rod losing his grip

Dusty Baker doesn't plan to use his Cuban lefty several days in a row, given Chapman's bout with shoulder soreness last year. And when he's unavailable, it's clear that Sean Marshall is still in the picture, along with Jose Arredondo. Those two are worth ownership in NL leagues and possibly very deep mixers, although it's unclear which has the edge. Marshall relieved Arredondo in the midst of a save chance on Monday night. The right-hander, Arredondo, might otherwise have been a smarter target.


Last night against the San Diego Padres, Mike Matheny asked Jason Motte to get the St. Louis Cardinals out of a first-and-third sitch with two down in the eighth frame. The right-hander gave up a two-run double that put the Friars ahead 3-2. Tyler Greene's heroic two-run job in the bottom of the frame set up Motte for the win, which he secured by retiring SD in order in the ninth.

Letting those inherited runners score goes down as a blown save chance, Motte's third of the season, although he's in no danger of losing his job. That was a tough spot, after all. It'd be nice to see him become more reliable when he's asked to pitch in such circumstances, however. He's quite a ways from becoming untouchable.


Unsurprisingly, David Robertson (strained oblique) isn't expected to be activated from the disabled list next week, when he's first eligible. He's scheduled to begin rehabbing at the team's spring training complex later this week, though.

Rafael Soriano hasn't received a save opportunity in eight days and has pitched only once (one-third of an inning, with a hit allowed, on Sunday) since it. The New York Yankees could stand to get him some work, especially if he's to have a chance to stake his claim to the closer's role.


The San Francisco Giants made a winner of Santiago Casilla against the Milwaukee Brewers in extras last night. The righty pitched two innings (one hit, three K's), and between them, his club tallied a run.

The stint required 27 pitches, so it's uncertain if he'll be available on Tuesday night. If most of the rest of San Fran's bullpen is drained, too, Casilla may be needed. He had a couple of days off before last night's affair, so he should be fine.

Other Monday saviors

Joel Hanrahan (10), Pirates
Alfredo Aceves (10), Red Sox
Brian Fuentes (4), Athletics 3 straight ground-outs, all RHBs
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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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