Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Jose Valverde, Tom Wilhelmsen, more

by Tim Heaney on June 14, 2013 @ 12:30:00 PDT


Pages 1 | 2 | all'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.

Detroit Tigers
Jose Valverde Joaquin Benoit
Bruce Rondon M
Phil Coke
Octavio Dotel DL

Valverde escapes a jam, as he did Tuesday, and Detroit Tigers fans forget, albeit briefly, about his trials. When he blows up a spot, as he did the next night, it's off with his head.

Speaking of things splitting, that very offering that has been the key to Papa Grande's vida beisbol ... well, no es bueno. He's yielded all five of his opponents' taters this year in his last 5 1/3 innings (in which he holds an 11.81 ERA and a 3-for-5 SVO sealing rate). Four of them have resulted from split-finger fastballs. As Jason Beck points out, he allowed only three homers last year when he was throwing nearly all fastballs.

Seattle Mariners RP Tom Wilhelmsen
Wilhelmsen: Job in jeopardy yet?

Brooks Baseball cites that the average velocity on Valverde's split-finger has risen as the months have gone by (a positive development considering the late start to his season prep). However, his seasonal splitter mph hasn't caught up to previous levels yet, and Bless You Boys points out that the pitch holds a horrid 44.4 HR/FB percentage. Guess the brilliance that supposedly happened this spring stayed in Lakeland.

Though his 9-for-12 record in closing chances this year isn't pitiful and his K's haven't been an issue, the ghosts of last October have haunted him more frequently. And his 1.04 WHIP doesn't make up for the rash of fence-clearers. Mechanically, he's erratic. He often looks like he's pitching off his back foot, which could be a result of him trying to aim his pitches.

Valverde acknowledged last offseason that he moves his hands too much before he pitches. He's held them noticeably higher on his chest than he did last year, which to some degree may be preventing him from consistently getting on top of the release point for the pitch -- maybe the extra work he needs to move his arm back is throwing him off. He probably isn't comfortable using a windup, either.

Of course, as Jim Leyland said in a presser, "Who the (expletive) should (he) be closing with?" The committee didn't show much success, and Benoit would merely serve as a bridge to Rondon. Since he was returned to Class AAA Toledo following May 1 action, the youngster has a 1.08 ERA with 23 K's in 16 2/3 IP. He has 10 walks in that time, but he's correcting his overall game to the point where he'd be the best long-term option to chase in mixed leagues. Unfortunately, without him holding an MLB roster spot, any stashing of him at this point would require patience.

Maybe if you're desperate for closures, you can buy super low on Valverde while his perceived value is low. Not to say that attitude isn't deserved, but this recent rash of malfeasance has corrupted some of the positive aspects he's shown.

On the other hand, the payoff for those that place a small bet on Rondon before the rush starts could loom large if Valverde doesn't correct things.

Mound meetings

Tom Wilhelmsen's two latest blow-ups, which have bookended his June game logs, have corrupted an otherwise fine season. On Wednesday, his blown save came in this sequence: two singles, a sac bunt, an intentional walk, a two-run double and another intentional walk, which came around to score after he was removed.

These struggles could be painted as regression. After all, he held a 0.75 ERA when May ended while working with a soft-tosser's K/9 and an incredibly fortunate BABIP. He's not in immediate jeopardy, but such slip-ups can't happen as frequently as they have been.

Because Eric Wedge hasn't shown much urgency in considering a change, Carter Capps isn't a must-grab RP in most leagues, but he's earning more cred for a plan-ahead tuckaway in deep mixed setups. Yoervis Medina may chime in if Wilhelmsen is removed, as well. Will top setup guy Stephen Pryor (lat) return anytime soon?

More mound meetings: Putz, Reed and plenty more

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

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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