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September 19, 2012

Value Picks

Relievers for 9/19/12

by Dan Mennella

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Arrivals
The Rangers’ top three relievers—Joe Nathan, Mike Adams and Alexi Ogando—have all gotten some rest over the past week or so. Whether that’s because they’re dinged or because the team is looking to rest its primary assets with an eye toward the postseason (or both), the net effect of stirring some uncertainty from a fantasy perspective is all the same. Nathan was reportedly set to be back for full deployment by Tuesday night, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rangers look to limit his usage over the final couple weeks, and the same goes for Adams and Ogando. Koji Uehara (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%) picked up a save in their absences over the weekend, and while that may have been the result of a flukey confluence of circumstances, those conditions could very well remain in place over the next two weeks. It’s a long shot but one worth taking if you’re scrambling for that last point or so in saves.

With his team in the thick of the playoff chase, White Sox closer Addison Reed is slumping badly at the wrong time. Chicago manager Robin Ventura saw a Reed meltdown unfolding on Saturday and yanked the rookie in favor of veteran lefty Matt Thornton (Yahoo! 23%, ESPN 9%, CBS 8%), who rewarded his skipper’s faith by bailing out Reed and notching the save. Reed returned to the bump on Monday and converted a relatively low-pressure one-out save, but I’m not convinced he’s back on the right track. Like Uehara, some things will have to break right for Thornton to earn another save or two before the season’s out, but the possibility is there.

Incumbents
It’s likely that Reds closer Aroldis Chapman will return at some point before the regular season concludes, but exactly when that will be remains uncertain. Chapmania continues to rest his fatigued shoulder, and interim replacement Jonathan Broxton, who missed time last month due to his own shoulder ailment, is restricted to pitching on no more than two consecutive days. The same goes for lefty Sean Marshall (Yahoo! 30%, ESPN 22%, CBS 21%), who lost a save chance to J.J. Hoover last week because Marshall had pitched in the Reds’ two preceding games. It’s a wise policy for the Reds to follow, but it doesn’t make things at all convenient for fantasy types. Sigh.

Although Javier Lopez (Yahoo! 17%, ESPN 24%, CBS 11%) is no longer seeing save chances at the same feverish pace he was during the second half of August, the lefty specialist still has two on the month to go along with plenty of high-leverage work. While it’s getting increasingly frustrating to hold onto Lopez (or difficult to justify adding him), he could easily fall into three or four more saves before the season is out. He is a solid option if you’re in need.

Well, what do ya’ know? Just when I was running short on excuses for including Wilton Lopez (Yahoo! 14%, ESPN 19%, CBS 15%) in this column on a weekly basis, the Astros’ closer tears off three saves in the past week. ESPN leaguers in particular took note, as Wil-Lo’s ownership rates spiked 9 percent in those leagues. I hate to get ahead of myself here, but with another well-timed save or two over the next few days, Lopez could break the 20 percent barrier across the board. Kidding aside, if he’s still in Houston (and closing) in 2013 (no sure thing, considering the roster turnover), Lopez could be an excellent late-round value in next spring’s draft. Enjoy what he brings to the table for now, and keep him in mind moving ahead.

Departures
Last week, I predicted we’d be bidding farewell to Padres’ interim closer Luke Gregerson (Yahoo! 33%, ESPN 56%, CBS 21%), and indeed we are. Contrary to what I predicted, however, LG moves on because of his soaring ownership rates—not because of the impending return of closer Huston Street. Street, sidelined since early August because of a calf injury. Street has apparently been fit to return for a short while now, but the Friars aren’t pushing it, and while that may be frustrating to his owners, it makes sense considering he’s under contract and the team is out of contention. Recent word is that Street could return as soon as today, but Gregerson graduates this week regardless. Of course, Gregerson owners should hold on until we find out for sure that Street is back.

It appears that the very slim hopes of Mariano Rivera (Yahoo! 19%, ESPN 14%, CBS 19%) returning this season have all but expired. Hopefully, no one held onto him or added him as anything other than a luxury in leagues with extremely deep benches and DLs. As for 2013, well, I expect him to be among the first handful of closers off draft boards next spring.

AL-only VP
Angels manager Mike Scioscia threw us all for a loop over the weekend when he called upon Kevin Jepsen (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%) rather than Scott Downs or Jordan Walden for a save chance in Ernesto Frieri’s absence. Interestingly, Frieri was unavailable after pitching just two days in a row (including a miserably blown save), so perhaps he is tiring. Jepsen is a Hail Mary for you AL-only types, but saves are that much scarcer in those leagues.

NL-only VP
Between his appearances in the main section and here in NL-only, Diamondbacks right-hander David Hernandez (Yahoo! 14%, ESPN 11%, CBS 13%) is a VP veteran. The setup man earned a save last week while J.J. Putz was nursing a sore back, and although Putz has returned, I wouldn’t be surprised if D-Hern got another chance or two, what Putz’s age and injury history and with the Snakes facing very long odds of a postseason berth.

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