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August 1, 2012

Value Picks

Relievers for 8/1/12

by Dan Mennella

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Arrivals
Of the 18 earned runs Orioles closer Jim Johnson has allowed this season, 13 of them have come in the past 16 days. Sprinkled into this hellacious stretch was a five-run clunker on July 16 and a six-run disaster on Friday. It has not been pretty for this Jim-John (yes, Jim-John) owner. So what’s to blame for the slump? Whenever there’s a stark downturn like this, injury is a concern, but I’ve read nothing to this effect. Correction is possible, too; Johnson misses far too few bats to think he was going to sustain a sub-2.00 ERA all season. But the fact that he absorbed all of this correction (and then some) in such a small window is worrisome nonetheless.

So, with Johnson something of an enigma right now, setup man Pedro Strop (Yahoo! 20%, ESPN 4.5%, CBS 13%) becomes a nice add for saves speculators in this post-trade deadline world. Strop, a strong-armed reclamation project who has panned out so far in Baltimore, has already gained traction in holds leagues (17 holds) thanks to his very tidy ratios (1.34 ERA, 1.11 WHIP). The 3.40 FIP suggests there’s been some favorable luck at play for Strop, so keep that in mind, but otherwise he’s a savvy play if you think something’s up with Johnson.

Predicting a Giants bullpen shakeup could very well be something of an exercise in futility at this point. Closer Santiago Casilla has been in a slump for a while now, posting a 6.89 ERA and converting just two-thirds (10-of-15) of his save chances since June 1. Frail-armed setup man Sergio Romo has usage restrictions and has been torched in his past two outings, so Jeremy Affeldt (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%) is a sneaky add for those desperate for saves. This is a long shot, but with Casilla mired in mediocrity and even Romo looking mortal lately, maybe the Giants will give Affeldt a shot.

Incumbents
Finally, after months weeks of shoehorning Greg Holland (Yahoo! 17%, ESPN 3%, CBS 16%) into this column, I’ve been vindicated by the Royals, whose trade of Jonathan Broxton to the Reds allowed Holland to earn a promotion. Holland is now, officially, a must-add. I’m just going to let that one marinate for a second before I get back to the analysis. Okay. So, there were some whispers when Brox was first traded that the Royals would look at Kelvin Herrera and Aaron Crow, which leads me to think that Holland is promised first crack but nothing more. Keep an eye on this one, but Holland has the stuff to not only run with the job but produce significant fantasy value.

Astros manager Brad Mills confirmed before Tuesday night’s game that right-hander Wilton Lopez (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 4%, CBS 9%) will be in the mix for saves, though he will continue to be used strategically in other situations as well. The less-than-firm plan dampens Lopez’s long-term outlook somewhat, especially since he’s dealing with arm issues, but if you need saves, Lopez is a guy who is perfectly capable of getting the job done when healthy. I’d advise Francisco Cordero owners to cut bait just for the sake of their sanity, but they might want to hold on just a while longer to make sure Lopez is okay.

I get it: No one really wants to own a piece (or both pieces) of a last place team’s closer platoon. This, of course, may account for Glen Perkins(Yahoo! 17%, ESPN 18%, CBS 16%) and Jared Burton’s (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 11%, CBS 11%) low ownership rates. But if you’re still in contention in a yearly league, every save can make a difference—for you and your opponents. The Twins don’t seem to be seeing many save chances lately, but that doesn’t mean they won’t. Last place teams still generate plenty of saves opportunities.

This blurb is totally canned, but you know the drill by now with Mariano Rivera (Yahoo! 20%, ESPN 15%, CBS 19%). The player expressed an interest in returning this season, but his GM said it’s not going to happen. You’ve got to play in an insanely deep or keeper league to hold onto or add Mo, but as long as it’s out there ...

Departures
There was some chatter leading up to the trade deadline about the Rockies flipping Rafael Betancourt, but that obviously did not happen. Rex Brothers (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 0%, CBS 5%) is a name to keep in mind for down the road, as he’s been groomed as a late-inning reliever, but now he seems unlikely to pitch the ninth at any point this season, barring injury.

Marlins closer Steve Cishek (Yahoo! 29%, ESPN 41%, CBS 27%) has finally hit the tipping point for exposure; he has now been snatched up in enough leagues to no longer be considered a “value pick.” Cishek is a solid reliever and could hold the job for the season’s balance, though I suspect the Marlins may intercede on Heath Bell’s behalf at some point with an eye toward restoring his crumbled stock to some degree for a potential offseason trade.

NL-only VP
The Brewers’ bullpen remains a mess. It’s worth noting that Kameron Loe (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%) got first crack at a save chance Monday night before struggling and being pulled in favor John Axford … who also did not look sharp. The hook can’t bode especially well for Loe’s chances of seeing any more save chances, but that’s a long shot you NL-only types may find is worth taking. Axford and Francisco Rodriguez have been terrible, after all.

AL-only VP
The Ernesto Frieri-Scott Downs saves share in Anaheim was suspended this week with Downs hitting the DL. Does this mean Frieri is all by his lonesome in the ninth inning now that his left-handed counterpart is out of the picture? Probably so, but I’m not entirely convinced, so you AL-only types might want to look at LaTroy Hawkins (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 0%).

Related Content:  Greg Holland,  John Axford,  Pedro Strop,  Espn

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