Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Heath Bell, Jim Johnson, more at All-Star break

by Nicholas Minnix on July 10, 2012 @ 15:25:09 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)

Miami Marlins

Closer: Heath Bell
Understudy/Fill-in: Steve Cishek, Juan Oviedo R

Bell is again at the point where his job is no longer safe. This past weekend, he blew one chance in grand fashion and came close on another occasion, although the damage wasn't too bad.

The right-hander was throwing strikes regularly for a while. He'd also made some corrections that pushed his velocity back into the mid-90s. Until his last couple of outings, he'd retained it, but his heat has again been diminished a little.

Ozzie Guillen has run out of excuses and will consider using others in save situations if Bell isn't up to the task.

Oviedo has begun a "rehab assignment" and should be activated in roughly two weeks. He's a candidate to share the role, once he's back in shape. How quickly will he get there, given how long it's been since he pitched in an MLB game? He wasn't the most dependable closer before then, either.

Cishek has been reliable, which makes him an appealing pickup to those in deep leagues who are waiting to see where the chips fall.

Job security score: 3
Health score:

Houston Astros

Closer: Brett Myers
Understudy/Fill-in: Brandon Lyon, Wilton Lopez
Lurkers: David Carpenter M

Secret: The Astros would like to swap Myers for someone younger. Not long ago, Tim revealed the sleeper to take over in the ninth inning should Myers move on: Lyon.

The only potential problem: Lyon is also on the block. Houston doesn't seem like the most enticing place to speculate, does it? But Lyon (3.24, 9.45 K/9, 2.16 BB/9) has been quite good this season, and he may be tough to move.

Lopez has proven to be a reliable setup man who can pitch multiple frames. If both of the long-time vets are gone, he might be the choice, though. Carpenter has endured an up-and-down 2012.

Job security score: 4
Health score:

Kansas City Royals

Closer: Jonathan Broxton
Understudy/Fill-in: Aaron Crow, Greg Holland

KC has made it known that Broxton is on the block. Because of the new CBA, who knows what the market will dictate, but the Royals may be willing to deal him for little more than spare parts.

There are really only two likely candidates to replace Broxton, should he be dealt, although a committee is also possible. Last week, Tim prepared fantasy owners. (I lean Holland.)

With Broxton gone, what would the organization expect to gauge in the season's final two months? The pitcher who can handle the role next season, probably, in case Joakim Soria (Tommy John surgery) stumbles the way Joe Nathan did last season.

Job security score: 4
Health score:

Chicago Cubs

Closer: Carlos Marmol

The Chicago Cubs are probably stuck with Carlos Marmol at closer for the balance of the season. They're willing to part with him, but it's hard to imagine that another club views him as a viable long-term option. He's owed nearly $10 million next year, so that's almost a requirement.

For better, the right-hander's K/9 for has been greater than 13.00 in each of the past two months and so far in this one. For worse, his BB/9, though improving, is an unsightly 9.82. Marmol has, somewhat, thrown his fastball often and for strikes, thankfully - on the staff's insistence.

Management has probably already made up its mind about Marmol, but they have no one else. A deadline deal of some other player would probably net them only an heir apparent, too.

Job security score: 3
Health score:

Toronto Blue Jays

Closer: Sergio Santos DL
Understudy/Fill-in: Casey Janssen

Texas Rangers RP Joe Nathan
Nathan's famous again

The big mystery: When will Santos (shoulder inflammation) be back? One more setback, and fantasy owners probably won't be able to hope for some saves production from him in 2012. If he returns in September, he probably won't be ready for high-stress innings right away.

Toronto's commitment to Santos, 29, as its long-term closer likely hasn't wavered much, but they must be concerned.

Janssen may still be an undervalued roto commodity - someone to target slyly in a trade with someone who assumes that he's still a temp answer.

Job security score: 3
Health score:

Minnesota Twins

Closer: Matt Capps DL
Understudy/Fill-in: Glen Perkins, Jared Burton

The Twins have made the replacement options apparent, if they weren't already, should they be able to unload Capps (shoulder inflammation) by the non-waiver trade deadline. Those in deep leagues should hang on to these arms until after that date, at least, if possible.

In Capps' absence, Perkins has received more opportunities than Burton has, so the roto priority of each is also apparent. The right-hander, Burton, has an injury history that Ron Gardenhire respects enough to limit his number of back-to-back appearances, too.

Performance would likely determine whether that changes. Each has flaws, but Perkins' numbers seem likelier to improve than Burton's do to remain so good.

Job security score: 4
Health score:

New York Mets

Closer: Frank Francisco DL
Understudy/Fill-in: Bobby Parnell

The Mets are searching for bullpen help in case they make a magical run to the postseason. If they land a reliever, he seems unlikely to be a closing candidate; the cost would probably be too great for the Mets, who are on the hook for some decent coin to Frank Frank already.

Plus, Parnell is doing a fine job in place of his handsomely paid superior and for most of the campaign. He may be convincing New York's brass that he still deserves a look for the role in the long term. He may warrant a roster spot in deep leagues throughout the second half.

Terry Collins plans to hand the keys back to Francisco (oblique strain) when the righty is back from the DL, which should be not long after the break. His club has a contingency plan it's comfortable with and probably doesn't have the resources to get a bigger arm anyway.

Then again, the Mets have done stranger things.

Job security score: 3
Health score:

San Francisco Giants

Closer: Santiago Casilla
Understudy/Fill-in: Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt

Romo (five saves, 0.72 ERA) has been stellar once again, although his peripheral marks aren't quite as good as they were last season. Bruce Bochy prefers to keep him in a setup role because he's been so good in it - and because the Giants believe that the righty is a bit fragile.

Will Casilla force Bochy's hand? Brian Wilson's de facto sub was unreliable for two-plus weeks before the break. Nagging ailments like a balky knee and a blister made life difficult, certainly.

Casilla is putting up one of the best control rates (3.13) of his career. His BB/9 was unraveling for a month-plus, however, and naturally, his track record suggests more correction is likelier than not. Will the right-hander rein it in?

If Bochy switches things up, he may go to a committee setup, but only the three listed relievers would likely be worth ownership, although Affeldt likely only in NLs. In this district of the Bay Area, a playoff spot will probably be at stake, so don't expect a lot of patience in the second half.

Job security score: 1
Health score:

Washington Nationals

Closer: Tyler Clippard
Understudy/Fill-in: Drew Storen DL

Clippard (14 saves) has been outstanding again and is expected to retain closing duties when Storen (elbow surgery) returns. The latter is on a rehab assignment and should be activated after the break.

It'll be interesting to see how the Nats handle success. Clippard's control rate (3.62) is a little reminiscent of his marks in his seasons prior to 2011.

Storen may need a few weeks to regain his post-break 2011 form. If he gets there and Clippard fails to nail a few down, with a pennant race as the backdrop, Davey Johnson will ponder a change.

Job security score: 2
Health score:

San Diego Padres

Closer: Huston Street
Understudy/Fill-in: Dale Thayer
Lurkers: Luke Gregerson, Brad Brach, Brad Boxberger M

The Friars would be happy to deal the well-paid Street. What are they willing to take for him?

Thayer repped the bullpen in the ninth during Street's 2012 DL stint. He'd probably start out doing the same thing were Street to pack his bags, too, but the right-hander doesn't necessarily have the traction (4.91 ERA, 7.71 K/9, 2.10 BB/9).

SD would probably take a look at its young fire-ballers in such situations, too, at some point. Those options don't include Gregerson (3.46 ERA, 9.46 K/9, 3.00 BB/9), a deceptive soft tosser whom the organization has been reluctant to let close.

Street would probably be a closer if he were to go somewhere else. That's also where anyone but those in NL-only leagues should probably be looking for saves if a deal happens. The bullpen in America's Finest City may have the look of a committee.

Job security score: 5
Health score:

Milwaukee Brewers

Closer: John Axford
Understudy/Fill-in: Fernando Rodriguez

The Brewers don't have a legit alternative to Axford, whose control rate hasn't looked this bad for a couple of years. They probably don't need one, because the right-hander has seemed so close to fixing the issue on a number of occasions.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez's name has come up as a possible trade target for contenders, should the Brew Crew decide for certain that they aren't one. Saves scroungers hoping that he ends up closing somewhere can do better, though.

K-Rod has posted a 3.96 ERA, a 7.91 K/9 and a 3.96 BB/9 in 38 2/3 frames. Milwaukee may have to pay most of the would-be remaining third of his $8 million salary to get a Quad-A prospect, or they could pay none of it and receive a crate of baseballs. That is, if other teams are smart.

Job security score: 4
Health score:

Houston Astros RP Brett Myers
New uni soon?

Mound meetings

Aroldis Chapman, with 11 saves, a 1.83 ERA, a 16.25 K/9 and a 2.75 BB/9 in 39 1/3 innings, looks like one of the best bets to be a top-five closer in the second half.

Chapman was shaky for a week or two, but Dusty Baker loves the left-hander and seems to believe that the bullpen is where he belongs. The Cincinnati Reds' manager doesn't like to admit when he's wrong. Occasionally, a Sean Marshall or Jose Arredondo will pick up a scrap, but that's it.


No one should be shocked that Fernando Rodney is enjoying the best season (0.93 ERA, 25 saves) of his career since he joined the Tampa Bay Rays. The surprise isn't that his control has improved, but how much his control (1.16 BB/9) has improved.

Tampa Bay may decide to become a seller at the trade deadline, and setup man Kyle Farnsworth is a candidate to go. Rodney's job could be secure, barring a meltdown, until sometime next year, when he's in Farnsie's situation.


Still think the Texas Rangers made a mistake by bringing in Joe Nathan?

He's been their most effective reliever. Half of the bullpen is on the DL. Nathan has experienced no health concerns and has a more diverse repertoire than he did while he was with the Minnesota Twins.


Will the Baltimore Orioles remain above .500? The club's second-half fortunes may have a large impact on the roto production of Jim Johnson (26 saves). That aspect has been competing with likely corrections of his 1.21 ERA (3.81 FIP, 3.55 xFIP) for the bigger reason to sell high.


Fantasy players couldn't help but wonder how Chris Perez was able to survive last season and whether he would continue to do so this year. His 2012 owners look like they knew something that others didn't, although the price was certainly part of his spring appeal.

The right-hander's ERA is virtually identical to his 2011 mark, but his K/9 (9.74) and BB/9 (1.95) are vastly improved. He's saved 24 of the Cleveland Indians' victories this season. Will the Tribe fade? Hard to say, this time around, but Vinnie Pestano is nowhere close to usurping Perez.


In 12 of his last 13 appearances, J.J. Putz didn't allow a run. His efforts may be overlooked because of his 4.50 ERA, but the righty is back on track.

Although Justin Upton's name has been thrown around, it seems unlikely that the Arizona Diamondbacks will become that kind of seller. What about Putz, who has an affordable $6.5 million option in 2013? Hard to imagine, but those in deep leagues may want to look into David Hernandez.


Rafael Soriano (20 saves) hasn't really given the New York Yankees a reason to reconsider their reconsideration of the use of David Robertson (one save) in the closer's role. The arrangement is unlikely to change.

It could, however, if Soriano revisits his early-season wildness. He's not a stranger to the DL, either. D-Rob is still a mixed-league asset.


Andrew Bailey (surgically repaired thumb ligament) probably won't be back until late August or early September. By then, the Boston Red Sox will have little reason to test him in the closer's role, which Alfredo Aceves has filled fairly well since the season's first couple of weeks.

AL-only players and those with unlimited DL space don't need to kick Bailey to the curb just yet. It won't be surprising if Bobby Valentine inserts him in a save situation or two near the end of the season, especially if the BoSox are out of it.


Why would the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim fix what isn't broken? Jordan Walden has performed ably in a setup role. Mike Scioscia probably believes that he can go back there, if need really be.

Ernesto Frieri and Scott Downs have been outstanding while sharing closing duties. Eventually, they'll give up some runs. Each may have built up enough cred with the manager by now that he'll probably cut them some slack when they do, however. Frieri's and Downs' track records suggest that the adjustments may not be that great, anyway.


The Colorado Rockies are looking to break up parts of the club, but the price tag of Rafael Betancourt (14 saves, 2.84 ERA) will be too high for most teams. The organization appears to be happy with the relative stability he's provided, something that few other pitchers on the roster can claim.


The Seattle Mariners have their post-Brandon League closer: Tom Wilhelmsen, their initially temporary closer. The M's may very well be glad to ship out League for whatever they can get and not concern themselves a great deal with the upside he'd have were he to rediscover his 2011 form.


Reason to Evaluate Relievers by Something Other Than Saves Accrued in the Previous Season Case No. 147: the Detroit Tigers' Jose Valverde, 2012. If you learned that expensive lesson this year, don't be ashamed. You learned, and the team that you outbid may not have.


Addison Reed (13 saves) has given up a run in every fifth appearance or so of his for a couple of months, but he's registered only one blown save chance (on June 16 against the Los Angeles Dodgers) this season. In 18 save situations, he's been sharp (2.12 ERA), and in non-save sitches, he has not (6.43 ERA).

The Chicago White Sox should need a lot more than a string of a few blown opportunities to make a change. Hopefully, for roto managers' sakes, Robin Ventura is comfortable. Matt Thornton (2.89 ERA, 8.44 K/9, 2.41 BB/9) has been the South Siders' most consistent setup man.


Many Oakland Athletics fans believe that Ryan Cook is the closer now and of the future, and he may be. His Brad Lidge-like arsenal is tough to hit. The 4.93 BB/9 should be nerve-racking for his roto managers, if not this season, then in future ones.

Cook is pretty secure now that Brian Fuentes has hit the road and Grant Balfour appears to be on his way out. Kooky question: In the long run, is former first baseman Sean Doolittle (14.73 K/9, 1.84 BB/9) a better fit at the back end?

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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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