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April 28, 2011
Value Picks in the Bullpen
Perhaps it’s just me, but the first month of the season feels like it’s had more moves and news than at any point last year. I remember at times last season wondering who exactly to write about for this piece, and that hasn’t been an issue at all so far. While that is just anecdotal with nothing to really back it up, it does provide opportunity for the enterprising player: more movement means more value out there on the waiver wire for those willing to play with the last spots on their roster.
Mitchell Boggs, Cardinals (83.6 percent ESPN / 60 percent Yahoo)
David Aardsma, Mariners (44.7 percent ESPN / 59 percent Yahoo)
Matt Lindstrom, Rockies (4.2 percent ESPN / 11 percent Yahoo)
Chris Sale, White Sox (18.2 percent ESPN / 35 percent Yahoo)
If you can get Santos, then by all means do so, but I’m not ready to give up on Sale just yet. For one thing, Santos’ save on Tuesday night could have just as easily been the latest in a long line of White Sox bullpen failures had not Brent Lillibridge, an infielder playing in right field, made two of the greatest catches of his life on back-to-back plays. Santos ended up with the save and the clean inning, but it doesn’t change that he gave up some solidly-struck hits, either–not to mention the fact that he is less than 100 games into his pro pitching career.
Sale’s line still doesn’t look great, largely because of the three earned runs he allowed without getting an out in Oakland back on April 13. He still has an 11/2 K/BB ratio, however, and the situation in Chicago is far from clear.
Koji Uehara, Orioles (6.0 percent ESPN / 26 percent Yahoo)
Joining the party:
Darren Oliver, Rangers (19.6 percent ESPN / 19 percent Yahoo)
But any panic has been premature, as the Rangers have seamlessly transitioned from one of the youngest closers in the game to the oldest, 40-year-old Darren Oliver. Oliver successfully converted his first save opportunity, and should provide adequate coverage in the role. It’s true that 41-year-old Arthur Rhodes also picked up a save this week, but Oliver pitched in each of the two preceding nights, and it’s Oliver who looks likely to get the majority of the changes. (With the back-to-back saves, the Rangers became the first team since the 1995 Athletics and 1996 Cardinals to have two 40-plus relievers pick up saves, with Dennis Eckersley and Rick Honeycutt featured for both squads.)
All indications are that Feliz should miss only the minimum or slightly more, so Oliver may only have the position until the second week of May. Still, Oliver has been an effective reliever for a long time, and should have little trouble picking up saves for a quality team until Feliz returns.
Vicente Padilla, Dodgers (1.2 percent ESPN / 5 percent Yahoo)
However, there is still reason to keep him on your radar, not the least of which being that the Dodger bullpen situation is far from settled. Broxton hasn’t lost his job yet, but even the most optimistic observer (of which I usually count myself regarding him) can’t deny that the day is likely coming soon. Broxton didn’t deserve all of the heat he got for blowing Monday’s game in Florida–you can thank Jamey Carroll for booting an easy game-ending grounder for that–but in the same breath, he converted his first five save situations by the slimmest of margins. Whatever it was that was plaguing Broxton last year (is that… Joe Torre’s music?) hasn’t abated, but making matters worse for Los Angeles was the Wednesday news that Kuo’s rehab has hit a snag, and he may not be ready to be activated on Friday as expected.
That is all a long way of saying that with Broxton is faltering (and reportedly feeling elbow soreness) and Kuo is not available, Padilla is still in line for ninth inning chances, and he nailed down his first chance Wednesday afternoon in Florida. That is not the only reason he is here, however. It has long been a fun trick of mine to optimize the most wasteful spots on any fantasy baseball roster, starting pitchers. Unlike position players and relievers who could potentially play every day, you’re almost always blowing two or three starting pitcher spots every day on guys who won’t contribute. Thanks to his rotation experience last year, Padilla is eligible as a starting pitcher in many leagues, allowing you to put one of those wasted spots to use without losing a relief pitcher spot. Last year, we saw that strategy be effective with Jose Contreras, David Hernandez, Hisanori Takahashi, among others, and Padilla could be the first of this year’s crop.
Antonio Bastardo, Phillies (4.4 percent ESPN / 8 percent Yahoo)
But things are never so simple in Philadelphia, where Madson’s own general manager openly questioned his ability to close earlier this year, an issue which many have brought up previously. Madson is also dealing with what some minor arm soreness, allowing Bastardo to grab his first career save when Madson was unavailable earlier this week. Bastardo is also off to a great start, striking out fourteen in 9 1/3 innings, and has a career whiff rate of 12.4 per nine innings as a reliever.
This is not to say that Bastardo is going to be the closer by this time next week, because Madson is a talented pitcher who ought to do just fine. However, the perception in Philly of Madson as a pitcher who can’t close, in addition to the arm soreness, just might lead to a short leash if he struggles. Bastardo would likely be next in line if that happens, and could vulture a save here and there even if it doesn’t.
In a tradition dating all the way back to last week, we’re picking one player from each league with minuscule ownership figures for you deep divers out there. Each of my choices are owned in less than one percent of ESPN leagues, so while they may not exactly be in line for saves tonight, but they’ll still have some interesting features still worth mentioning.
AL Value Pick
David Robertson, Yankees (0.1 percent ESPN / 2 percent Yahoo)
NL Value Pick
Kenley Jansen, Dodgers (0.3 percent ESPN / 6 percent Yahoo)
It hasn’t totally worked out that way, as Jansen’s 8.03 ERA is just a bit higher than the 0.67 he finished last year with. That is largely the result of two disastrous outings, in which he allowed nine of his eleven earned runs. Jansen still needs to work on finding the strike zone, but his strikeout rate of 14.6 per nine innings is excellent and actually slightly higher than last year. Jansen is intriguing if only for the strikeouts–but the possible opportunity in Los Angeles makes him worth of being a deep Value Pick.