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June 20, 2012

Value Picks

Relievers for 6/20/12

by Dan Mennella

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Departures
I had such high hopes for Pirates swing man Brad Lincoln (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 2%, CBS 9%), but his past three outings have been starts, and the results have been ugly: 11 2/3 innings, 13 earned runs, 10 strikeouts, 23 hits (!), and four walks. It’s time for the Bucs to mercy-kill this experiment and return Lincoln to his rightful place as their long reliever. He’ll serve the team—and fantasy owners—far better in that role.

On a brighter note, we bid adieu to newly anointed A’s closer Ryan Cook (Yahoo! 45%, ESPN 50%, CBS 40%), who graduates by virtue of his skyrocketing ownership rates. I expressed my concerns about Cook in last week’s piece, and while I’m not changing my tune on that, it’s hard to argue with his performance this season. Perhaps consider him a trade chip if you’re comfortable in saves. If not, hope that the correction never arrives.

Though it pains me to do it, Braves lefty Jonny Venters (Yahoo! 34%, ESPN 10%, CBS 18%) leaves me no choice but to kick him to the curb. There’s no shame in serving up a grand slam to Alex Rodriguez… unless you’ve been touted as a good buy-low target for fantasy purposes. I still think Venters’ best is yet to come in 2012, and he shook off the four-run debacle versus the Yanks with a couple scoreless outings, but he’s not worth a handcuff in standard leagues while these flare-ups continue to occur.

Arrivals
Considering his poor 2011 and generally underwhelming stuff, it’s something of a surprise that Twins closer Matt Capps has enjoyed relative success (14-for-15 in save chances) and job security so far this season, all while a handful of arguably better stoppers have fallen by the wayside elsewhere. But after taking a loss Friday night and being unavailable Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday due to shoulder inflammation, Capps may soon yield to setup man Glen Perkins (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 1%, CBS 7%). Perkins, a lefty, was the Twins’ best reliever last season, his first as a full-time reliever after toiling as a ‘tweener prior to that. Perkins is doing it again in 2012, posting a strong 11.3 K/9 and respectable 3.07 FIP to Capps’ ugly 4.18. If Capps isn’t seriously hurt, he could still lose the job due to ineffectiveness or even be traded in July. And despite the presence of veteran righty Jared Burton—teams can be funny about lefty closers, remember—the guess here is that Minnesota defers to Perkins and his superior stuff. Stash Perkins now in case Capps is injured, and you can always re-address if he’s not.

If I’m Royals GM Dayton Moore, I’m on the phone with other teams yesterday in hopes of selling off Jonathan Broxton. Brox has been better than anyone could have hoped for after missing the better part of two seasons due to injury, but there’s a pretty substantial disconnect between his 1.69 ERA and 3.19 FIP. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee that a correction is in the cards, but is that a risk the Royals want to take on a pitcher with an injury history who’s signed to a one-year deal? Greg Holland (Yahoo! 11%, ESPN 1%, CBS 10%) was Brox’s primary competition to close once Joakim Soria went down in Spring Training, and after some early-season struggles and a DL stint, he’s rounded back into form. Holland piles up strikeouts (12.3 K/9), and his 2.02 FIP ain’t shabby either. He’s a good add if you have the roster space and patience.

Incumbents
I’m pleased that I chose to keep Joaquin Benoit (Yahoo! 16%, ESPN 3%, CBS 14%) in this space after a complete meltdown by Jose Valverde last week, but Papa Grande is annoyingly resilient, isn’t he? Despite the six-run disaster (five unearned because of an error by Valverde himself), Jo-Val still had the title entering Tuesday’s action. I don’t especially like rooting against players, but it’s high time Valverde stepped aside for another—and in this case clearly better—pitcher. I’m banking that Valverde’s ugly 4.57 FIP is the eventual death knell for his reign as Detroit’s closer, paving the way for Benoit to take the reins.

I noted last week that Nats righty Craig Stammen (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 1%, CBS 6%) was curiously inactive during the preceding week, but sure enough, he turned in five innings of shutout ball (with five strikeouts) since then heading into Tuesday night’s game. That’s exactly the kind of performance you’re looking for out of the rare roster-worthy long man in fantasy. Thanks for not making me look like a complete boob, Craig.

Not to be outdone, Rockies long man Matt Belisle (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%) turned in 4 1/3 shutout innings (four whiffs) at the start of Tuesday’s action. If you’re in a league with roomy enough rosters and had paired together Stammen and Belisle, you’d have enjoyed 9 1/3 shutout frames and nine strikeouts over the past week. Leagues like that are the exception, for sure, but they’re out there.

AL-only VP
If you miss out on Perkins in an AL-only league, Jared Burton (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 3%) isn’t a bad look either. While I suspect Perkins will win out, reports have surfaced that the two could split duties if Capps misses time. Burton won’t wow you with his numbers, but he can get the job done.

NL-only VP
Brewers closer John Axford labored through three consecutive poor outings last week, but he seemed to right the ship thereafter. He was iffy for Tuesday night’s game due to the birth of a child, however, which means a stay on the paternity list may be in the works. Snatch up Francisco Rodriguez (Yahoo! 15%, ESPN 2%, CBS 11%) and hope for the best.

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