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August 8, 2012

Value Picks

Relievers for 8/8/12

by Dan Mennella

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Arrivals
It’s not altogether surprising that Rangers closer Joe Nathan needed a blow this weekend. After all, he’s nearly 38 years old and two years removed from Tommy John surgery. Plus, he relies on an arm-taxing swing-and-miss repertoire consisting of a hard fastball, a slider, and a curve. 

What is surprising, though, is that Texas’ two save chances in Nathan’s absence went to right-hander Alexi Ogando (Yahoo! 33%, ESPN 7%, CBS 24%) rather than setup man Mike Adams, who has 19 holds this season and literally has not appeared in any innings other than the eighth or ninth. Not to mention, Adams had established himself as a lethal late-innings reliever with the Padres before arriving in Texas at last season’s trade deadline.

In any event, the Rangers’ decision to defer to Ogando worked out; he converted both saves, the first one easily and the second with a bit of trouble. Nathan, meanwhile, said he received a cortisone shot in his right shoulder, which is fairly alarming. I’m not saying he won’t return soon, but until we see him back on the mound and pitching effectively, Ogando is definitely worth an add in all formats.

Are you familiar with Al Alburquerque (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 0%)? If not, no worries; even some of the most successful sports pundits arent. The Tigers’ right-hander came out of nowhere last season to post a strikeout rate as cartoonish as his name: 13.92 K/9. But just as quickly as he burst onto the scene, he rescinded into obscurity, undergoing major surgery in the offseason and missing the entire season to date as a result.

Now, Al-Al is on minor league rehab assignment and nearing a return to Detroit’s bullpen; he could be a strong value play if you’re looking for a one-trick pony to fill your final roster spot. Alburquerque walks a lot of batters, and his arm could explode again at any minute because of how hard he throws and how much he leans on his slider, but the strikeouts should be there (and he could stumble into some holds too). Between his ability to miss bats and induce weak contact—.250 BABIP and 57 percent groundball rate in 2011—the guy was basically unhittable last season.

Incumbents
The irony of Wilton Lopez (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 11%, CBS 18%) finally seizing the Astros’ closing job by attrition—after the trade of Brett Myers and failure of Francisco Cordero—is that he could easily have earned it sooner on merit. In any event, the job is Lopez’s now, and if you need saves, he’s well worth the add. He’s a good pitcher, and if you’re passing because of the terrible team for which he pitches, remember that there’s little correlation between team record and save chances.

After what seems like well over a month of tolerating underperformance by closer Santiago Casilla, the Giants have finally declared that they’ll deploy the always awesome/annoying closer-by-committee. It’s awesome because it actually makes great baseball sense if done correctly, but it’s annoying for fantasy purposes. Anyway, with the acquisition of Jose Mijares, the Giants now have an additional left-handed reliever, meaning the versatile Jeremy Affeldt (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 2%, CBS 4%) will enter into the saves discussion. Don’t expect him to tear off 20 saves between now and season’s end, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he approaches double-digits. Between Casilla’s struggles, injuries, and usage restrictions and the Giants’ pampering of Sergio Romo, Affeldt could be a nice darkhorse add.

They aren’t the sexiest names out there, but Glen Perkins (Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 22%, CBS 18%) and Jared Burton (Yahoo! 13%, ESPN 13%, CBS 11%) continue to split the Twins’ save chances. They combined for three over the past week, and if you own one but not the other, I’d imagine it wouldn’t take much to acquire his complement via trade. Saves are saves, right?

No updates on this front, and his return remains unlikely at best, but if you can stash Mariano Rivera (Yahoo! 20%, ESPN 15%, CBS 19%), why not?

Departures
With all apologies for ringing the alarm on Jim Johnson last week, it appears Pedro Strop (Yahoo! 20%, ESPN 5%, CBS 13%) can safely be cut in non-holds leagues. While Johnson’s miserable July slump still looks odds to me, he seems to have recovered from it, posting four consecutive scoreless outings and going 3-for-3 in save chances since then. Was it a matter of an overdue correction hitting at once? Perhaps. If you’re still skeptical, feel free to hold Strop another week, but there’s little reason for me to recommend it anymore.

The Greg Holland (Yahoo! 40%, ESPN 53%, CBS 47%) adding frenzy has pushed him beyond what we consider a “value pick” for the purposes of this space, but he remains unowned in roughly half of all fantasy leagues, which is still a surprisingly high rate to me. He cobbled together a six-outing scoreless stretch entering Tuesday night’s action, which certainly can’t hurt his chances of holding onto the job for the final month-plus of the season, so add away if you can.

NL-only VP
With Diamondbacks setup man David Hernandez nursing a bruise after being drilled by a comebacker, old friend Takashi Saito (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 0%) could be worth a look for holds leaguers. The veteran right-hander returned from a season-long DL stint a couple weeks back and has already logged a couple of holds.

AL-only VP
Speaking of correction, A’s closer Ryan Cook has seen plenty of it lately after outperforming his peripherals throughout the first half, leading to speculation that Oakland will look to shake things up. If so, it stands to reason that Grant Balfour might be the first option, but perhaps the A’s will realize they’ve been there and done that. Therefore, you AL-only types might want to take a look at Jerry Blevins (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 1%, CBS 1%). The lefty more closely resembles a long-man than a closer, but the A’s have another lefty long-man in Jordan Norberto. It’s a long shot, but not impossible.

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