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September 5, 2012

Value Picks

Relievers for 9/5/12

by Dan Mennella

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Arrivals
It seemed pretty improbable only a couple months ago that someone other than Kenley Jansen or Javy Guerra would be closing for the Dodgers at this juncture, but here we are: Guerra all but forgotten after spending a chunk of his season in the minors and Jansen out for the third time in the past year due to an irregular heartbeat. In their places are Brandon League, whom the Dodgers acquired from the Mariners in a deadline deal, and a resurrected Ronald Belisario (Yahoo! 16%, ESPN 15%, CBS 10%), whose career was on the ropes after missing all of 2011 due to visa issues and sitting out 25 games this season for a drug suspension.

Belisario earned the first save for the post-Jansen Dodgers, making him the trendy pick for the hair-trigger types. Manager Don Mattingly said he’d be relying on a trusty closer platoon, however, and sure enough, the recent patterns point toward the more widely owned League getting the bulk of the save chances. The one-week sample is small enough that I’m not ready to write off Belisario entirely, so if you’re trolling for every last save you can get, he’s an option. He generates lots of ground balls and misses enough bats to compensate for a pedestrian walk rate, so he shouldn’t hurt you while you wait to see what shakes out with the platoon. In the meantime, Jansen’s owners should hang on.

Incumbents
We’ve seen ownership rates climb steadily for Luke Gregerson (Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 23%, CBS 14%) over the past couple weeks since he took over for deposed interim closer Dale Thayer. That trend should continue now that Huston Street has suffered a setback in his rehab from a calf strain. Gregerson blew a save chance on Monday and has allowed runs in back-to-back outings, and the Padres have quick-hooked interim closers twice this season already (including Gregerson once), but I’m thinking LG will get a second chance here.

Javier Lopez (Yahoo! 19%, ESPN 32%, CBS 12%) continues to make the most of the chances the Giants give him, converting all five saves since the Lads shifted over to a closer committee. In fact, since Clay Hensley nabbed a save on August 18, no Giant other than Lopez (five) and Sergio Romo (four) has earned one. Lopez is a lefty specialist, so don’t expect a ton of innings out of him, but the saves should be there for the rest of the season.

Since taking over as Houston’s closer, Wilton Lopez (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 10%, CBS 14%) has seen only four save chances through Monday night. Compounding that problem, Wil-Lo has converted just two of them (at least he’s earned three wins, though, which is a small silver lining for his owners). Very few owners are moving on this guy, presumably because he’s just not racking up saves, but that presents a heck of a value opportunity for those who think he’s due a few. Anyone who owns Greg Holland can tell you that a closer doesn’t have to be on a good team to earn a bunch of saves in a short period of time.

This is your weekly reminder that while Mariano Rivera (Yahoo! 19%, ESPN 15%, CBS 19%) hasn’t officially been ruled out for the season, his return remains highly unlikely. He’s a Hail-Mary stash only.

Last Chance
Glen Perkins (Yahoo! 26%, ESPN 36%, CBS 25%) seems to have pulled away from Jared Burton to claim sole ownership of closing duties for the Twins. Perkins earned both saves in a double-header sweep of the Royals over the weekend, which, if you think about it, is a pretty strong indication that a platoon is no longer in play, not to mention Burton has been save-less for a month now (his last came on August 4).

Departures
That brings us to Burton (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 8%, CBS 5%), who has quietly ceded his share of the ninth over the past four weeks. Because the Twins were hesitant to name either Perkins or Burton sole closer for so long, it wouldn’t shock me if Burton were to see another stray save chance or two down the stretch, but it looks like the job is now Perkins’ to lose.

After performing brilliantly in the first half, Scott Downs (Yahoo! 14%, ESPN 10%, CBS 13%) has endured a second half marred by a slump and a couple stretches away from the team, all of which has conspired to see him lose his share of ninth-inning chores. Like Burton, Downs is still seeing high-leverage, late-inning work, so it’s feasible he could stumble into another save chance or two, but that seems like more of a contingency plan than a regular strategy (as it once was) for the Angels at this point.

It’s time to bid farewell to Giants left-hander Jeremy Affeldt (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 4%, CBS 5%), who is the odd man out of San Francisco’s aforementioned platoon, handled by the righty Sergio Romo and the lefty Javier Lopez. Affeldt is a good, useful pitcher, but ironically, that may have worked against him in his bid to claim the ninth inning; Romo and Lopez are best used in the confines of their very specific roles. There may be more to it than that—Affeldt was the first to get a save chance after Santiago Casilla’s demotion, after all—but we might never know for sure. In any event, Affeldt can be safely cut in mixed leagues.

NL-only VP
Owners in single-league formats know that aggressive handcuffing is often a necessary and profitable strategy, so I’m looking at D’Backs right-hander David Hernandez (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 8%, CBS 5%) for all you NL-only types. Arizona closer J.J. Putz has had another strong season, but as always, I’m watching his health closely, so when he blows back-to-back saves (as he did over the weekend) alarms go off. It’s very likely nothing to be concerned over, but again: single-leaguers sometimes must roll the dice.

AL-only VP
After whiffing the first time first two times I touted the Tigers’ Al Alburquerque (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%) in this space, I finally get my crack at redemption. The right-hander has officially been activated from the disabled list and recalled to the majors after striking out 27 batters in 14 innings while on minor league rehab assignment. The guy is a beast.

Related Content:  Espn,  Jared Burton

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