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May 6, 2014

Closer Report

Week Six

by Mauricio Rubio

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White Sox
Nate Jones is going to miss a chunk of time to recover from back surgery. By this point, you know the story with Jones; he was tabbed to assume closing duties for the White Sox but after a fuzzy spring Matt Lindstrom was named the closer on Opening Day and Jones never quite got on track. He has yet to record an out this season and has already allowed four earned runs. In his stead, Lindstrom has performed the closing duties fairly well, as he’s riding a streak of 11 innings over which he’s only given up two earned runs (all in one appearance, April 25 against the Rays), and he’s picked up three saves along the way.

The White Sox bullpen was a mess last time we discussed it. It’s done better of late as Ronald Belisario has righted the ship since the bullpen wide implosion on April 17 against the Red Sox. Zach Putnam has been a revelation of sorts since he was brought up from Charlotte on April 17, and we’ve already touched on the resurgence that Lindstrom has experienced of late.

For fantasy players, however, the warning signs are still present in a bullpen that is constantly flirting with disaster. Despite the recent success of some key arms the White Sox bullpen still ranks dead last in strike out rate (15.7 percent) and they’re issuing walks at a league worst rate (13.6 percent). The White Sox do lead the league in ground-ball rate at 57.8 percent but the margins for error in high-leverage situations is razor thin for this corps and there doesn’t appear to be any more help coming from the farm system. Couple that with the struggles the White Sox have had with their starting rotation and there are a ton of ingredients present for an extremely taxed bullpen.

I do not believe that Lindstrom can outpitch his peripheral numbers in his current role to still maintain decent roto numbers. If you’re desperate and/or in an AL Only league Ronald Belisario is boasting the best K:BB ratio in the bullpen, and he’s a darkhorse candidate to take over the closing job in case Lindstrom struggles, but on the whole, I have a hard time picking anyone from the bullpen as currently constructed to be my closer in mixed fantasy.

Marcus Stroman
Maybe you’re sitting there thinking to yourself that Marcus Stroman can rack up some saves since Toronto’s bullpen has been so erratic this year. I’m about to type something I will regret in the near future, but in this case, listen to Ben Carsley: Stroman will be a relevant player in most fantasy formats this year. On the other hand, I fully expect that his relevance in this column will dry up by the end of May—if not much, much sooner.

News And Notes
A personal favorite of mine, Hector Rondon looks like he’s going to be Rick Renteria’s guy in the ninth inning. Rondon has 18 strikeouts in 16 innings this year, and while the walks seem a bit high, two of them came in his third outing in a row against the Cardinals in a non-save situation. I believe.

Kyle Farnsworth blew a save, but he’ll remain the closer. It actually earned LaTroy Hawkins a vulture win, as he put the Rockies behind in that game in the top of the ninth. He is also still the closer.

We talked about Toronto up top. Sergio Santos lost the job, Aaron Loup got the job and then lost the job, and now Brett Cecil is getting save opportunities. Meanwhile, Casey Janssen is just waiting in the wings to come back from injury to take that whole thing over.

Jonathan Papelbon is riding a hot streak in spite of declining peripherals. I’m worried about that situation as there’s no real obvious candidate behind him.

Houston and Oakland are still fantasy reliever hell right now, but I think Oakland has a decent chance of clearing up as Jim Johnson has done much better over his last 10 innings.

Cody Allen Update
John Axford gave it up against Dayan Viciedo on Sunday in spectacular fashion as he showcased all the reasons I think he’s not going to stick; questionable command and a propensity to groove one that really hurts. He gave up another home run in the 10th inning to Eduardo Escobar to take a second straight loss. I think this is as close as we’ve ever been to the beginning of the Cody Allen Era.

Mauricio Rubio is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mauricio's other articles. You can contact Mauricio by clicking here

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Daily League Strategy:... (05/06)
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