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May 30, 2012
Relief Pitchers for 5/30/12
We’ve seen fewer closer shakeups the past couple weeks, which makes things easier on frustrated fantasy owners but forces me to work harder for the sake of this column. May my toil be to your benefit! In that spirit, among this week’s newcomers are a couple of relievers who can contribute to your pitching staff by means other than the vaunted save.
Casey Janssen (Yahoo! 37%, ESPN 47%, CBS 36%) is the least-owned of our departures, which is not entirely surprising considering his relative obscurity in Toronto and the fact that circumstances haven’t conspired for him to grab owners’ collective attention by ripping off four saves in a week or some such (he has four on the month). He’s a fine option, though, and since Sergio Santos’ rehab is progressing slowly, I’d strongly advise grabbing Janssen if he’s still kicking around your wire. The saves should come.
The last White Sox pitcher other than Addison Reed (Yahoo! 48%, ESPN 56%, CBS 60%) to record a save was Matt Thornton… on April 29. Reed is pretty secure in his standing as Chicago’s closer, and while his all-or-nothing outings are a little bit worrisome (he’s allowed all of his eight earned runs in just two appearances), there’s little reason to think he’s any more vulnerable to a demotion than any other closer.
If you bet the over on Dale Thayer (Yahoo! 43%, ESPN 63%, CBS 43%) collecting five or more saves this spring, congratulations; you’re a very rich person. But Thayer’s halcyon days may be coming to an end. First, his perfect ERA was blown up over the weekend, the result of a five-run meltdown versus the Mets. Now, reports are surfacing of Huston Street beginning a rehab stint soon. Hold onto Dale-lightful until he’s officially been replaced, but his best value is probably behind him.
May has been kind to Brian Fuentes (Yahoo! 47%, ESPN 56%, CBS 48%); he’s snagged the closer’s role and shaved over a run off his ERA. He’s also managed to convert each of his four save chances, but therein lies the rub: he’s only had four of them. The good news is, if he continues to pitch in the neighborhood of his 2.84 FIP, he’ll lock up some more when he sees the save opportunities.
After being named Nats’ co-closer last week, Tyler Clippard (Yahoo! 51%, ESPN 63%, CBS 44%) got snatched up in most leagues with rapidity; turns out fantasy owners have taken note of his stellar setup efforts the past couple years. I mentioned that Clipp is the co-closer (along with Sean Burnett), but Clippard has notched each of Washington’s past three saves, so he’s clearly the more desirable own. More on Burnett below.
We don’t typically think of setup men as “buy low” candidates, but Braves southpaw Jonny Venters (Yahoo! 41%, ESPN 12%, CBS 22%) is just that. Coming off a sterling 2011, the lefty’s surface numbers haven’t been nearly as sharp so far this season, resulting in his appearance on many a waiver wire. Baseball Prospectus’ Ben Lindbergh stole my thunder a bit on this, but, mostly, Venters has just been the victim of some bad luck (.458 BABIP!). Most top-shelf next-in-line relievers are worth handcuffing in 12-team leagues, and that holds true for Venters. He is one of the better setup guys out there, so if he has been kicked to the curb in your league, give him the change of scenery he so richly deserves. Chances are, better days are ahead for him, and you’ll be able to recoup that rich, creamy correction.
It probably doesn’t get any more nondescript for a major league player than manning the role of Pirates swing man, but Brad Lincoln (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 1%, CBS 3%) is doing his best to rectify that grave injustice. A number-four overall draft pick once upon a time, Lincoln has resurrected his career after a long road
Frequently deployed for multiple-inning stints, Lincoln could easily luck into some wins, and if the Bucs begin using him in higher-leverage situations, holds would follow too. With 24 1/3 innings under his belt through Pittsburgh’s first 48 games, Lincoln should conservatively finish with about 75 innings and room for quite a few more depending on how things break. There are plenty of leagues in which that can be valuable, especially ones with bloated (or non-existent) innings limits and underwhelming streaming-start candidates.