Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Chris Perez, Jim Henderson, more

by Tim Heaney on May 28, 2013 @ 12:37:15 PDT

 

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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):
1 (unstable)
to
5 (untouchable)
Health Outlook (HO):
1 (fragile)
to
5 (durable)
: Up
 
+: Added
 
INJ: Injured
: Down
 
M: Minors
 
DL: Disabled List

 

Team
JS
HO
Closer
Understudy/Fill-in
Lurker(s)
Cleveland Indians
5
4
Chris Perez DL Vinnie Pestano Joe Smith
Cody Allen

Perez (shoulder) is on the DL with mild tendonitis in his right shoulder and won't throw for five to seven days. During his Sunday outing, Perez struggled, giving up four earned runs on two hits and three walks. He was removed after reportedly feeling a shoulder pinch after a 1-1 pitch; he was replaced mid-batter, and Smith allowed a two-run double to pad Perez's allowance.

Cleveland Indians RP Vinnie Pestano
Found flaws, SVOs

The Cleveland Indians have dubbed Pestano the primary replacement stopper. Long considered a closer in waiting, the right-hander has a 5.25 ERA in 12 innings on the season. Look closer, though: He boasted a 2.45 ERA before he yielded four tallies on Saturday, his second straight day of work and fourth appearance since coming off the DL on May 17 following elbow trials.

Don't let the surface stats negate his potential. Pestano told the media he has been too hunched over in his delivery and has been dragging his release point far behind where it should be. Rectifying such problems should bring his velocity back up.

Perez could easily return after the minimum DL time, but knowing the problems he's had the last two springs with that part of his body, there's a possibility his absence could linger, potentially leaving Pestano with a month or so working save opps.

Smith and Allen at least have the skills to tread water if Pestano can't rebound, but they'll probably split the difference for secondary chances, leaving their speculative markets quite shaky in mixed leagues.

Team
JS
HO
Closer
Understudy/Fill-in
Lurker(s)
Milwaukee Brewers
3
4
Jim Henderson DL Francisco Rodriguez John Axford
Brandon Kintzler
Mike Gonzalez

Upon Henderson's deactivation (strained right hamstring), Ron Roenicke said he isn't going to name a singular reliever to take over the saves role. Skip said, however, that he likes how the Milwaukee Brewers have used Axford, meaning in non-save deployment.

Roenicke's actions may have hinted at a preference for Rodriguez, though. The former elite fireman came on for a one-out save Friday night after Hendo left with his injury, and Rodriguez entered in the top of the ninth on Sunday night with Milwaukee down one, a typical entrance for a closer sans a save chance.

Back to the old K-Rod? He hasn't allowed a plate crossing in five games (4 1/3 frames) so far after his farm stint. Despite a velocity dip, he's been working the strike zone more effectively, complete with more swinging strikes. The cause might be a decrease in two-seamers and renewed confidence in his changeup, which might play better if he gets back some four-seam giddy-up.

Axford hasn't slouched in his setup role, though: Since May 1, he holds a 1.80 ERA with 11 K's in 10 frames. The seven walks speak to his continued control issues, of course, and that's probably prompting Roenicke to refrain from putting him in save spots.

Though not out of the question, don't bank on either fill-in usurping a healthy Henderson. There's more likely to be turnover between Rodriguez and Axford within the replacement hierarchy, or perhaps the installation of a time share at the back end. This makes Axford a suitable stab in deep leagues if you miss out on Rodriguez.

Team
JS
HO
Closer
Understudy/Fill-in
Lurker(s)
Baltimore Orioles
4
5
Darren O'Day Brian Matusz
Tommy Hunter
Pedro Strop DL

Johnson is dangerously close to becoming a regular after imploding in 37-pitch style on Sunday. He squandered a 5-2 advantage and let the Toronto Blue Jays walk off by allowing four runs on four hits.

Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter appears to be standing by his closer, though. On Monday, Showalter explained, in roundabout fashion, that he didn't want to make a change at the back end yet because of its domino effect on the rest of the relief ranks. Johnson probably wasn't available yesterday because of his prolonged Sunday torture, and that may have constituted enough of a break for things to calm down.

Johnson also probably bought himself a smidge of rope with a clean wrap-up Saturday, and maybe that'll help Showalter excuse his latest gaffe. Buck likes order and precise arrangement, most of the time, and the backup singers to JJ can't carry as solid a tune outside of matchup situations.

That is, of course, except for O'Day, who has improved versus lefty bats this year and whose speculators still have a case because of Johnson's four slip-ups in his last five save situations.

Mound meetings commencing....

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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 LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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