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August 29, 2012

Value Picks

Relievers for 8/29/12

by Dan Mennella

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Arrivals
If there’s a pattern to the Padres’ closer situation, I can’t discern it. Bud Black’s Dale Thayer fetish seems to have subsided, and the Tom Layne era lasted all of one successfully converted save chance. Most recently, the Friars have (finally) circled back to ace setup man Luke Gregerson (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 5%, CBS 10%), who was handed two save opps over the weekend and nailed down both. I don’t know why Gregerson is suddenly a viable closing candidate—nor why he was deemed something other than that in the first place. I also don’t know if Black will settle on Gregerson, but the right-hander’s high upside makes him a good short-term target for saves speculators. Huston Street could be back from his DL stint within a week or so, but I’d like to see it before I walk away from the closer of the moment in San Diego, because Gregerson is good.

Oftentimes, when a team says it’s going with a closer committee, it changes course before long. The Giants have proven in consecutive years, however, that they’re not shy about going forth with flexible roles. Since Santiago Casilla relinquished his dead-fish grip on the gig, Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo, Clay Hensley, and now Javier Lopez (Yahoo! 13%, ESPN 19%, CBS 7%) have all gotten a piece of the action. In a mild surprise, Lopez has collected three of the Giants’ past four saves entering Tuesday night’s action. The final man on the mound is usually dictated by matchups, but that means the lefty specialist Lopez could be there just as often as Romo, the righty killer. This is an extreme measure, but if you’re still digging for saves at this juncture of the season, that means you’re probably still in contention and thus willing to shake the heavens for whatever help you can find.

Incumbents
Scott Downs (Yahoo! 16%, ESPN 11%, CBS 14%) has been pretty unexceptional since his mid-month return from the disabled list. And on Monday, he was placed on the bereavement list and was expected to miss three days. All of this points toward Downs being a sensible drop. Still, although Down isn’t a must-keep, owners might want to hold on for a few days and see what Ernesto Frieri looks like in his next outing or two. The right-hander was rested the entire weekend (plus Monday’s off-day) after throwing 43 pitches in a two-inning outing against the Red Sox on Thursday. There’s no reason to think that anything’s wrong with Frieri, but a skeptical approach isn’t a bad one.

Wilton Lopez (Yahoo! 13%, ESPN 14%, CBS 16%) finally earned another save last week, his first in nearly three weeks. Owners took note, as Wil-Lo’s ownership rates subsequently saw modest increases (they must not have noticed his non-save-situation loss two days later). If only the Astros could play the Mets more often! It’s been shown that there’s little disparity between the number of save chances encountered by good and bad teams, but if any squad could be an outlier on the wrong side of that, it’d have to be these Astros, right? Lopez needs to be the lowest-ranked entrenched closer for that reason, but on the plus side, he’s good enough that he’s not going to burn your ratios every other outing.

Jeremy Affeldt (Yahoo! 10%, ESPN 7%, CBS 6%) looks to be the odd man out of the Giants’ closer committee; the lefty-righty pairing of Lopez and Romo theoretically leaves little room for a solid but unspectacular lefty who’s capable of throwing multiple innings at a clip. That said, Bochy maintains that Affeldt is in the mix, so ... yeah, it’s frustrating. Still, I’d prioritize Affeldt behind both of them if you have a choice.

Since Matt Capps bowed ungracefully out of the closing picture, neither Glen Perkins (Yahoo! 22%, ESPN 28%, CBS 23%) nor Jared Burton (Yahoo! 11%, ESPN 10%, CBS 8%) has converted more than two consecutive saves for the Twins. That nugget could mean absolutely nothing, but my guess is Burton will save at least a couple more before the season’s out. So while I understand why Perkins is more widely owned, don’t completely write off J-Burt.

With Mariano Rivera (Yahoo! 19%, ESPN 15%, CBS 19%) refusing to concede that his season is fully over, I’d expect to hear one way or the other whether he’ll attempt to comeback this month. As always, I caution that it’s highly unlikely, so consider Mo a luxury DL stash.

Departures
With plenty of closer updates to hash over this week, last week’s setup-centric newcomers Sean Marshall (Yahoo! 32%, ESPN 21%, CBS 23%) and Edward Mujica (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 0%, CBS 3%) are gently shown the door. I would still advise keeping an eye on Marshall over the season’s final month; he might manage to resurface in this space depending on how the Reds handle closer Aroldis Chapman. Mujica, meanwhile, continues to impress since being dealt to the Cardinals, racking up two more holds in three scoreless appearances over the past week. The right-hander now has 21 holds on the season, nine of which have come since joining the Redbirds.

It wouldn’t be Value Picks without a Brewers closer update, and so it goes for stopgap stopper Jim Henderson (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 6%, CBS 15%), whose emergence from career-long obscurity in the minor leagues ended with an unexpected, albeit brief, promotion to top dog. The Crew is intent on forcing John Axford back into that role, though, and Henderson’s early success has yielded to some struggles. It was great while it lasted.

AL-only VP
We’ve made it too far into the season to really push the panic button on Addison Reed, but he’s never really settled into a dominant groove and has allowed runs in three of his past six outings. If you AL-only types are a little bit nervous about that, I don’t blame you. So if you can find the roster space, stashing Matt Thornton (Yahoo! 23%, ESPN 6%, CBS 7%) on your bench might make you sleep a little easier.

NL-only VP
Kameron Loe (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 1%, CBS 15%) was called upon last week to bail out Axford, vulturing a save in the process. With the Brewers out of the race and having little to play for, I think they will continue to run out Axford in the hopes of getting him straightened out heading into 2013. But if he continues to flail, Loe might be the Brewers’ safety valve, similar to how the Mets used Jon Rauch a couple weeks ago behind Frank Francisco.

Related Content:  Jeremy Affeldt,  Espn

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