Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Tom Wilhelmsen, Jim Johnson, more

by Nicholas Minnix on July 9, 2013 @ 13:03:31 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.

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


Seattle Mariners
Tom Wilhelmsen Oliver Perez
Yoervis Medina
Carter Capps
Stephen Pryor DL

Perez struck out the side to save one for the Seattle Mariners on Friday. The Cincinnati Reds were due to send two left-handed batters to the dish, although the final hitter Ollie faced was a switch-hitter. Let the record show that Wilhelmsen was warming up, according to observers.

Baltimore Orioles RP Jim Johnson
Johnson not flying as high

Wilhelmsen put Cincy to bed for a save on Sunday by pitching a perfect stanza. He faced a lefty batter sandwiched between two right-handed stick-wielders. Such details appear to be frivolity, at this point.

Eric Wedge had apparently seen enough, because the M's skipper confirmed with a formal announcement on Tuesday that Wilhelmsen has pitched his way back into the gig. Well-deserved, inasmuch as these things are. He posted a 7.59 BB/9 in June but hasn't issued a free pass in any of his last seven appearances, the last six of which have been virtually spotless.

Wilhelmsen has the stuff to hold a job like this for a long time, but he may not have built up the confidence yet to rebound from the bad times. This is certainly a step in the right direction.

Baltimore Orioles
Darren O'Day Brian Matusz
Tommy Hunter

On Friday, for the sixth time of 2013, Johnson failed to hold a lead in a save situation. The New York Yankees drew two free passes and registered two hits to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2, walk-off victory at the Baltimore Orioles closer's expense. One of the tallies was unearned because of a fielding error -- one he committed.

As The Baltimore Sun noted following that one, the righty had allowed runs in only three of his previous 18 appearances. Johnson appears to be past the worst of it, a stretch in mid-May that saw him blow three chances in a row as well as another a few games later and post a 9.75 ERA for the month. There's likely little reason to be worried, at least through Buck Showalter's eyes. Johnson acquitted himself with a 1-2-3 inning to notch a save on Sunday, after B'more had handed him a lead by getting to Yanks closer Mariano Rivera.

A combination of things suggests that Johnson is still not quite right, however. The occasional, snowballing bouts with walks; the reduced ground-ball rate; the declining average fastball velocity; and the increased HR/FB all hint at some mechanical issue. He's leaving the ball up and out over the plate more often than he did in the past few seasons. Johnson's dependence on ground-outs gives him less margin for error if he's mechanically unsound.

The O's have used Johnson a little more often than they did last season. Is that really enough to be at fault? Highly unlikely. Will he lose his job? Probably not. But fantasy owners will probably have to live with the fact that he's not an elite, ERA-chopping closer, something they should've known when they drafted him. He appears to be moving in a positive direction, slowly, thankfully.

Mound meetings....

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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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