Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Matt Lindstrom guts Nate Jones' fantasy value

by Nicholas Minnix on March 31, 2014 @ 15:53:54 PDT

 


KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat reviews performances, injuries and managerial decisions in MLB bullpens. Get your arm loose: Let's find saves in your rotisserie and head-to-head baseball leagues.

Team
JS
HO
Closer
Understudy/Fill-in
Lurker(s)
Chicago White Sox
2
5
Matt Lindstrom Nate Jones Daniel Webb
Ronald Belisario

Robin Ventura had yet to give much of a hint about whom he'd choose to close, let alone name the player, prior to MLB opening day. The Chicago White Sox's skipper announced on Monday that Lindstrom would do the job to open 2014, though. In essence, Ventura cited his confidence in Lindstrom's experience and performance in spring training.

Fantasy owners know better than to put much stock in either of those qualities. Most of us (fantasy owners, pundits and beat writers) projected it to be Jones -- at least eventually. There are few reasons to change that forecast, even though Ventura has already dashed the hopes of those of us who pegged Jones to close right away.

But it'll probably take time. Lindstrom's mid-90s velocity has long belied the expectation of a high K/9. In the past couple of seasons, the RHP has resorted primarily to a sinking fastball instead of the traditional four-seamer, however, and the benefits have been evident in his batted-ball data. That sub-30 percent fly-ball rate will come in handy at U.S. Cellular Field.

What's the outcome? Lindstrom has a history of mild injuries. Jones, with his K/9 of 9.0-plus, is by most accounts the closer of the future. But Lindstrom will likely have to fail pretty frequently in order for the South Side's skipper to change the station. Lindstrom bent often in 2013, but his 3.12 ERA demonstrates that he didn't break often, and HR prevention aids his cause.

In shallow leagues, it's probably OK to drop Jones immediately. Most will be hesitant. It's understandable. Performance dictates most everything in the long term, but Jones owners may need considerable patience. Force Lindstrom to stake his claim through April if you can afford it.

Team
JS
HO
Closer
Understudy/Fill-in
Lurker(s)
Milwaukee Brewers
1
5
Francisco Rodriguez Jim Henderson Brandon Kintzler
Wei-Chung Wang

And the Milwaukee Brewers' closer is ... not Henderson. With a 2-0 advantage against the Atlanta Braves on opening day, Ron Roenicke called on Rodriguez to close. K-Rod allowed a base runner but fanned two to seal the deal. The manager said after the contest that Rodriguez is the closer for now.

Let's not freak out. Roenicke stated that he wants to give Henderson time to get his stuff back. This manager made a similar decision at least twice in 2012 when John Axford struggled. Rodriguez and Henderson were fill-ins here and there, and eventually Axford regained the job title. Of course, he lost it for good shortly after the 2013 season began, but that's a different tale.

Henderson wasn't sharp in the spring. But it can certainly be argued that Rodriguez was unimpressive in ST, too, based purely on the results. Neither inspires the utmost confidence, but each has the skills to handle the job consistently. Roenicke's declaration indicates that Henderson, who presumably is dealing with a temporary mechanical issue, is still the man he expects to use as closer this season.

If you own Henderson, then you'd be wise to acquire K-Rod ASAP. If you don't own Henderson, then it's somewhat dependent upon your needs, wants and confidence that Rodriguez will retain the job. Unexpected things happen on opening day. Assume nothing, especially when it comes to closers. But Henderson should have at least one opportunity to prove his mettle again.

Mound meetings

The Toronto Blue Jays don't expect to be without Casey Janssen (strain in left side and lower back) for long. He's eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list on April 13.

It's conceivable that Janssen will need more down time. He had a much abbreviated spring because of shoulder soreness. He had surgery on that joint prior to last season and has a considerable history of problems in the area. It's probably pretty safe to presume that this soft-tissue injury is completely unrelated to anything with his shoulder, however. Even if Janssen misses more than the minimum, it shouldn't be much more than that.

Fantasy owners are aware that Sergio Santos has the skills to do the job just as well as Janssen. This absence is unlikely to offer enough time for Santos to convince John Gibbons that he should remain the ninth-inning man, though. Janssen's past health concerns should be enough for fantasy owners in deep leagues to retain Santos, however.

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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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