We're just one week into the season, and a host of teams already have ninth-inning concerns.
Reliever volatility is not a new concept. We’re all used to the closer carousel that sustains itself on poor performance and injury as it turns throughout the season. What happened this week, however, bordered on a league-wide implosion of closers. Let’s take a look at who is left standing after the week that was.
A rundown of the ninth-inning candidates in Houston, Cincinnati, and Cleveland.
Closers are the most fungible commodity in fantasy baseball. Predicting saves is a quixotic quest that frequently ends in heartbreak and confusion.
You don’t need to search long to find examples of how volatile the saves market can be. Kevin Gregg was a discarded reliever when the Cubs reached out for his services in the ultimate act of desperation. Carlos Marmol had imploded and their in house options were either hurt or ineffective. Gregg, who was unable to survive spring training with the Dodgers, ended up accruing 33 saves before being released in a much-publicized spat with management.
So if you have Chapman on the DL or you were just caught off guard ahead of a massive closer run and are in need of saves don’t fret. I’m here for you, friends.
Let’s take a look at three situations in which a closer could emerge from the shadows
R.J. goes back over his free agent rankings to see what teams knew that he didn't.
Before the winter Ben Lindbergh asked me to create a list of the top-50 free agents. Today let's revisit that list with an eye toward improvement.
In dissecting the list we have to begin with the two unemployed players that were ranked: Kyle Lohse (ninth) and Jose Valverde (43rd). Two missteps on the list's part, or unfortunate victims of the marketplace? How about one apiece. Lohse has not signed because of the draft-pick compensation requirement rather than his talent (he's fine as a middle-of-the-rotation starter). Were I redoing the list, Lohse would remain at nine. The same is not true of Valverde. He would lose his spot to a more-deserving player. Perhaps Lance Berkman, who went unranked because of the trepidation surrounding his future.
Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Broxton, and J.J. Putz are examined by the Reaper this week.
Aroldis Chapman| Reds Shallow (30 Keepers): No Medium (60 Keepers): Fringe Deep (90 Keepers): Yes NL-only (60 Keepers): Yes Super Deep (200 Keepers): Yes
Sure, the Reds are saying Chapman will transition from the bullpen (where he was a dominant closer last season) to the starting rotation in 2013. For fantasy purposes, however, it’s hardly that simple. As my colleague Paul Sporerexplains, the jump from the ‘pen to the rotation can be a sticky wicket. In Chapman’s case, one has to wonder how his stuff will translate—diminished velocity is likely, as is a loss of some of the all-important control he discovered last season. Not to mention, we don’t know whether his golden left arm can handle the spike in workload; remember that he missed a couple weeks late in 2012 due to a tired pitching shoulder.
If a couple saves could tilt the category, you should look under every rock this month.
As the season has progressed, I’ve discussed what I believe tobeproperstrategy when it comes to active roster construction, whether it be via trade, free agency, or your bench. At this point in the season—that is to say, with a mere 19 days left—it shouldn’t be going out on too much of a limb to say that categorical stratification trumps all. If you haven’t yet, take raw “value” and Old Yeller it (or White Fang it, depending on your preferred fictional canine reference). Whether you chase it away or pull out all the stops and take it out back and shoot it, just get rid of the notion of “value in a vacuum” so you’re not tempted to play with it and catch rabies (or whatever threat White Fang posed—I never claimed to be an expert).
At this juncture, it doesn’t matter that Michael Bourn is one of the top-ranked players in the PFM if you have no room to move up or down in steals. There’s precious little time left, and guys that are still left on the waiver wire aren’t likely to be especially valuable overall. But if you can uncover a couple of one-category gems, that could be all you need to propel your team a few points in the standings. It doesn’t matter if Anthony Gose strikes out nearly as much as Adam Dunn; if you need steals, he might as well be Albert Pujols to your team. Because of this dynamic, I’ll be spending today and Monday discussing some players who surely have flaws but who can provide a serious jolt if you need what they provide.
Losing Joakim Soria isn't a death blow to the Royals' ninth-inning hopes.
When is losing your closer—not long ago considered one of the best closers in the league—not a big deal? What if you have a possible replacement on your roster whose rookie season was historically good?
Bob Dutton, the Royals beat writer for The Kansas City Star, reported on Friday that Joakim Soria had decided to undergo Tommy John surgery and would miss the entire 2012 season. Soria previously needed a UCL replacement procedure in 2003 while in the low minors with the Dodgers, three years before the Royals plucked him out of the Padres’ farm system in the Rule 5 draft.
The Cubs kick off the Epstein/Hoyer era by finding DeJesus, the Royals hope for a Broxton bounceback, the Rockies sign Ramon Hernandez, and Jeff Mathis gets some new catching competition in Anaheim at the cost of Tyler Chatwood.
Two Padres and Dodgers top PECOTA's projections for the National League's best relief corps.
Twice during the first four days of the season, ESPN televised matchups between the defending world champion Giants and the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Opening night featured a taut pitchers' duel in which Clayton Kershaw got the upper hand on Tim Lincecum, while on Sunday night, the Dodgers outlasted the Giants thanks largely to Aubrey Huff's sloppy outfield play. Even as the Dodgers were winning, both nights gave their fans cause for anxiety when rookie manager Don Mattingly summoned Jonathan Broxton to protect multi-run leads in the ninth. Broxton shut the door both times, but only after yielding solo homers in each instance, to Pat Burrell and Aaron Rowand, lowering his margin for error. (To be fair, he sandwiched those two appearances around a spotless save in the season's second game, out of the national TV spotlight.)
A look at the closer situations in Los Angeles and Atlanta, as well as some news from Baltimore.
Welcome back to another week of Value Picks: Extreme Bullpen Edition, where in light of recent events I contemplate trying to determine Ferris Bueller's ADP in a 5x5 money league. As always, I'm happy to look into any particular situations or teams that you bring up in the comments, and replying to such a question from last week is what will kick us off today.