Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Rex Brothers, Huston Street, more

by Nicholas Minnix on June 4, 2013 @ 14:15:10 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)
Colorado Rockies
4
5
Rafael Betancourt DL Rex Brothers Wilton Lopez
Matt Belisle

This past weekend, the Colorado Rockies resorted to a DL stint for Betancourt (strained right groin). The staff was optimistic that their closer would be fine a few days after he received anti-inflammatory medication a couple of weeks ago. Since, the right-hander has yielded two runs each in each of two of his three appearances, and discomfort has been an antagonist.

Cleveland Indians RP Vinnie Pestano
O Brothers, thou art closing

According to multiple reports, Betancourt has been dealing with some sort of issue in the area for most of the season. The 38-year-old isn't experiencing much, if any, pain, but if there's an underlying problem, it may take longer than expected to heal, or the veteran may be tempted to return earlier than he should.

Those who've invested in Brothers may not have long to enjoy him, but they should be mildly optimistic about the possibility that he'll have more value than they anticipated. Given the way that Brothers, the possible closer of the future in Denver, has pitched (a 0.36 ERA, 9.12 K/9 and 4.38 BB/9), it may not hurt to keep him around, even well after Betancourt comes back.

Team
JS
HO
Closer
Understudy/Fill-in
Lurker(s)
San Diego Padres
5
3
Huston Street DL Luke Gregerson
Dale Thayer
Brad Brach
Brad Boxberger

As May was about to expire, it occurred to Street that he hadn't yet visited the DL this season. It was definitely an overdue appointment. The San Diego Padres' closer strained his left calf -- the same muscle that caused him so much grief in 2012 -- while running prior to his club's game on Friday. The righty was confident that this ailment isn't be as serious as last year's.

This scenario's script reads a bit like that from last August and September, despite (and in part because of) Street's assurances. The righty is a notoriously slow healer. The main difference this time is that, so far, there are no posthumous (if you will) reports of soreness in the area prior to the injury's occurrence.

Street may very well miss only the minimum 15 days. Fantasy owners should know that a bet on Street is anything besides safe, however. The terms of Gregerson and, to a lesser extent, Thayer may be a little longer than Bud Black planned. And don't discard them right away; Street delayed his recovery last season by aggravating his nearly healed strain while ... running.

Team
JS
HO
Closer
Understudy/Fill-in
Lurker(s)
Seattle Mariners
4
5
Tom Wilhelmsen Stephen Pryor DL Carter Capps
Yoervis Medina

Wilhelmsen endured what is heretofore the worst of his struggles this season on Saturday, when he surrendered three runs on a hit and three free passes to the Minnesota Twins to blow a chance and take an L. The right-hander recorded only one out. On Monday night, he logged a save against the Chicago White Sox, but not before yielding a run on a hit and a walk.

The Seattle Mariners' closer appears to have reached the point at which a turnaround is up to him, mentally. The M's are in no hurry to remove him from the role, as Carl Willis stated to The News Tribune. The pitching coach believes that Wilhelmsen's dip in velocity this past weekend is a byproduct of, basically, trying too hard. This is likely something that the righty can easily change.

Whatever the cause -- Willis' explanation being the least alarming possibility -- poor control, trouble getting ahead and reduced pitch speed are all snowball effects, however. Wilhelmsen is clearly feeling a pressure with which he's unfamiliar, judging from his comments.

The peace of mind is almost certainly worth more to a Wilhelmsen owner than is a speculative bid for Seattle saves to a league-mate. Capps doesn't cost much when there's no suggestion that a change is possible. In the event that Wilhelmsen falters well into June, one can breathe easily.

Mound meetings

Chicago Cubs RP Kevin Gregg
Sveum hopes Gregg keeps this up

Now that Kyuji Fujikawa (Tommy John surgery) is out for the rest of the season (and a portion of 2014), Kevin Gregg's job security is on the rise. The Asian import seemed to be the only serious threat to the well-traveled right-hander's position. Gregg is 6-for-6 in save opportunities and has posted a 0.59 ERA, 8.80 K/9 and 3.52 BB/9 in 15 1/3 innings.

Last week, after the Fujikawa news broke, Dale Sveum was asked if Carlos Marmol is a possibility to close again. The skipper's reply -- "To be honest with you, I hope not" -- gained some gossip-rag traction, but it appears to have been taken out of context. Sveum's goal, he says, is still to get Marmol back in the role, at some point, but the manager hopes that Gregg continues to pitch as well as he has.

Gregg is highly unlikely to finish this campaign with a sub-1.00 ERA, but his modification of his arsenal has certainly aided his flashier 2013 results. Marmol hasn't made any sort of significant progress in the past four years and then sustained it. Left-hander James Russell is a trade chip come July. A healthy Shawn Camp isn't a long-term option. Gregg seems much likelier to right a ship -- should it capsize -- than Marmol does to keep one afloat.

***

The Milwaukee Brewers expect to activate Jim Henderson (strained right hamstring) from the disabled list when he's first eligible to return, sometime this weekend. Some reports have called it Saturday, but the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says it's Sunday, and the official backdate is to May 25. Henderson will close immediately upon activation.

Francisco Rodriguez (three saves and a 1.23 ERA) has perhaps done enough to stick as first alternate, even though John Axford hasn't allowed a run in his last 11 appearances. That'll depend on the performances of each as well as Ron Roenicke's mood, should the need arise again. The skipper didn't want to mess with the Ax's success the first time it came up.

***

Brandon League saved a contest on Monday night against the San Diego Padres, rebounding from his latest blown opportunity, which went down on Friday night versus the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. The Los Angeles Dodgers (and League) ended up with a win, anyway. The victorious team's manager gave credit to the hitter when asked about League's failure.

A few weeks ago, Don Mattingly seemed to be rattled by his team's continually poor results, and his statements about the closer's role seemed to reflect that. Now that he and the organization have made this public, made a united stand and are making changes to address things, the skipper has toned down the talk of League's possible removal. The right-hander picked up a couple of saves last week, prior to the Todd Helton bomb.

Mattingly seems to be a little more arduous about sticking with his original aim, which was to employ Kenley Jansen when he's most needed and League just to dot i's and cross t's. Consider that the plan, but remember that drama is always just around the corner in Hollywood, so Jansen should be tucked where possible.

***

J.J. Putz (sprained elbow ligament) has been playing catch from increasingly greater distances and may progress to a mound this weekend. The Arizona Diamondbacks still have no timetable for the return of their closer, however.

Heath Bell has racked up five saves in his last six appearances (5 2/3 innings), all scoreless. He'll remain valuable even if Putz comes back, considering how tenuous Putz's health seems likely to be in that event.

***

Jonathan Papelbon wasn't available to the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers. because of an illness. (Antonio Bastardo picked up a save.) It sounds as if Charlie Manuel would turn out to be extra glad to see Kyle Kendrick go the distance on Monday against the Miami Marlins, too. The manager said of Papelbon before last night's game, "He didn't look real good."

It's not clear exactly what the Phils' closer has or how much longer he needs. Mike Adams will almost certainly get the ball the next time or two, at least, in which a late-game save chance arises. Those in leagues with daily transactions may take advantage.

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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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