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August 15, 2012

Value Picks

Relievers for 8/15/12

by Dan Mennella

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Dale Thayer (Yahoo! 14%, ESPN 18%, CBS 15%) will someday be the answer to a fantasy trivia question that no one, anywhere, will ask: Who was Huston Street’s backup during his brilliant but injury-riddled 2012 season? (The guy with the silly name and great/awful mustache; that’s who.) Thayer once again leapfrogged the superior Luke Gregerson for the Friars’ closing job in Street’s absence, perhaps lending credence to the suspicion that San Diego doesn’t think Cool Hand Luke can handle the gig, whether it be physically or mentally. In any event, Street is out with a strained calf, which sounds benign enough, but considering the Padres just locked him into a long-term deal and the team is going nowhere this year, they won’t be in any hurry to have him back on the mound. It’s too soon to dump Street if you own him, but Thayer might warrant higher priority on wires where there are more than one saves option to be had.

Scott Downs (Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 10%, CBS 16%) undoubtedly burned some owners’ trust with an ugly stretch prior to hitting the disabled list in late July, but remember that he also converted three saves that month. For all of Ernesto’s Frieri’s dominance, his value has been tempered somewhat by Downs’ presence; they’ve split saves, 13 to 7, in favor of Frieri. I’m expecting a similar distribution of save chances upon Downs’ return this week, so add him if you can. If you’re leery of the injury/ineffectiveness lingering, you can always stash him on the bench for his first couple outings.

The Brewers’ bullpen has been in upheaval seemingly all season, and the carousel keeps spinning. One of the latest to get a chance is 29-year-old career minor leaguer Jim Henderson (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 17%, CBS 28%). Saves are saves, however, and from what little I can deduce about him based on his minor league and (limited) major league stats, he looks to be a competent enough pitcher. Henderson has allowed runs in three of his past five outings, which can’t bode well for his grip on a job that he was fortunate to stumble upon in the first place. (Kameron Loe received the last save chance, so Henderson’s 15 seconds may have already come and gone.) This is a situation, however, where the best bet is to play Whac-A-Mole with whichever closer pops up, because the relief corps is in such a state that you won’t be able to single one guy out as the likely next-up. So add Henderson (or Loe) and hope for the best.

Unlike most bottom-tier closers, Astros stopper Wilton Lopez (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 14%, CBS 18%) is a relatively low-risk option in terms of any threat he poses to blowing up your ERA and WHIP. He won’t see many more save chances if Houston continues to plod along at a historically bad pace, but let’s hope the 4-34 skid was just a rough patch. In the meanwhile, add Lopez if you need saves but have little margin for error with your ratios.

Jeremy Affeldt (Yahoo! 20%, ESPN 15%, CBS 10%) saw the Giants’ first (and only, entering Tuesday’s action) save chance after manager Bruce Bochy announced he’d be using a closer-by-committee. While we can’t necessarily infer that Affeldt will be the only or even primary option, the gesture nonetheless looks good for his chances to see a handful more save opportunities down the stretch. Add him and hope that things break in his favor with respect to the platoon.

While fantasy owners are getting hip to Twins co-closer Glen Perkins (Yahoo! 20%, ESPN 30%, CBS 23%), they’re a bit less smitten with Jared Burton (Yahoo! 13%, ESPN 16%, CBS 11%). Perhaps that’s because of Perkins’ stronger strikeout rate, but remember that they had evenly split each of Minnesota’s past four save chances entering Tuesday’s action. This one is pretty even.

Finally, a morsel of Mariano Rivera (Yahoo! 20%, ESPN 15%, CBS 19%) has surfaced. The legend threw on flat ground Monday, stirring up whispers about a possible return this season, which of course the Yankees said won’t happen. Mo is the lowest of low-priority owns in yearly leagues, but ...

Last Chance
Alexi Ogando (Yahoo! 35%, ESPN 12%, CBS 24%) was a very hot add a week ago after picking up a couple of saves the previous weekend in Joe Nathan’s stead. But Nathan returned to the hill last week and looked quite sharp in earning saves on consecutive nights, so it looks like Ogando’s rein as Rangers’ stopper was pretty short-lived. I do find it interesting that Nathan rebounded so quickly from whatever had caused him to implode in the outings leading up to his respite, but it’s hard to argue that Ogando is much more than a hail mary for his owners right now. Hold onto him for one more Nathan outing if you’d like, but after that he can be safely cut in non-holds mixed leagues.

NL-only VP
Mets manager Terry Collins showed a willingness to go away from closer Frank Francisco when he struggled this weekend, calling on Jon Rauch (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%, CBS 3%) to bail out the incumbent. Rauch did the job, and Collins’ apparent faith in Rauch indicates he’s at least receptive to ninth-inning alternatives, but Rauch is strictly an NL-only play because, well, he’s not that good.

AL-only VP
I was probably a bit aggressive touting Tigers setup man Al Alburquerque (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%) in last week’s “Arrivals” section considering he didn’t even come off the DL. But he could have a suitable home here in AL-only, especially because he could see high-leverage work sooner than later if he’s pitching well upon his return, what with Joaquin Benoit struggling through injury and ineffectiveness lately. I wouldn’t rule out a couple quick holds for Al-Al once he’s back.

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