Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Ernesto Frieri, Jonathan Papelbon, Mariners

by Nicholas Minnix on August 2, 2013 @ 11:50:00 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.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Ernesto Frieri Dane De La Rosa
Kevin Jepsen +
Michael Kohn +
Ryan Madson DL

As it turns out, Frieri's job security was worse than CHS thought on Tuesday, following his blown save on Monday, his second in three appearances. It didn't help that the righty blew another on Tuesday night. Mike Scioscia told his team's official site that he wants to reduce the burden on his closer.

Philadelphia Phillies RP Jonathan Papelbon
Papelbon: afoul of mouth, arm

Frieri's response? That he won't give up, per MLB Network. Fantasy owners will take some comfort in that, most assuredly. They'd take more if they saw evidence of, or even reports alluding to, considerable improvement from any pitch in the righty reliever's arsenal besides his four-seam heater.

Alden Gonzalez highlighted Scioscia's options going forward: De La Rosa, Jepsen, Kohn and the only lefty remaining in the Big A, Nick Maronde. Each of them has displayed the stuff to close at one time or another, but not on a consistent basis, at least in the majors. Only those in AL-only leagues should consider pursuit of one of them. None has done enough to separate from the pack; De La Rosa gets the slightest of nods.

Scioscia seems to be reluctant to remove Frieri from the role completely, so Frieri has a fine opportunity to rebuild his job security. He'll still get chances here and there, and his manager will probably be very careful with how he deploys him. It will all come down to results, because that's on what Scioscia seems to base decisions like this. It's 50-50 as to whether this becomes a full-blown committee soon. From there, perhaps a new closer would emerge, but none of the candidates inspires.

Mound meetings

Jonathan Papelbon again made headlines by opening his mouth, this time prior to the final game of the Philadelphia Phillies' series at Comerica Park, on Sunday. "I definitely didn't come here for this," he said, in reference to the club's losing ways since the All-Star break.

On Thursday night, the right-hander allowed four consecutive singles, resulting in two runs, to open the top of the ninth. He escaped after that, but the damage was done: The closer erased Cole Hamels' eight shutout frames, and Philly faced a 2-1 deficit in the bottom of the ninth. They lost.

A 7.8 K/9 and six blown saves in his last 13 opportunities? The Phils didn't bring him there, at $50 million for four years, for that. His pitch speeds across the board have lost a couple of miles per hour in the past two years. He's no longer an intimidating pitcher, no matter how nasty his scowl.

GM Ruben Amaro Jr. should have learned enough on the job by now to realize that it's better to get rid of a player too early than too late. He hasn't.

Hopefully, fantasy owners haven't made the same mistake. Papelbon's 2.59 ERA is sparkling, but advanced metrics don't support such a rosy mark in the long term. He has a 4.24 ERA in the 17 games bookended by his first and last blown save chances. Fortunately for him and his roto managers, Philly pays him well and has no alternative.

It remains to be seen whether Papelbon has the capacity and willingness to become a smarter pitcher in the wake of his declined ability. In 2014, fantasy drafters should allow for that possibility but recognize that, without such evolution, he's ordinary, at best.


Tom Wilhelmsen failed to retire a Boston Red Sox batter on Thursday night, allowing four runs (all earned) on two hits and two walks. It seems that Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge was a bit hasty to return this righty to the closer's role. Wilhelmsen has walked nine in his last 9 2/3 innings, all since he regained the job. He has a 7.45 ERA in that span.

Seattle was ahead by five runs when the reliever entered in the bottom of the ninth. Perhaps the situation didn't have Wilhelmsen amped up enough. That's a poor excuse, though, especially when poor performances have been the norm no matter the situation.

The M's are likely to make a change again soon, perhaps going back to the committee arrangement they used while Wilhelmsen wasn't the guy. Oliver Perez and Yoervis Medina figure to be the lead horses, then. An interesting dark horse: 5-foot-9, 180-pound right-hander Danny Farquhar, who has been a revelation following a chat with catcher Henry Blanco. Check out his K/9.

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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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