Mike looks at the struggling closers in Colorado, Texas, and LA, and the guys in line to replace them.
It’s Thursday morning, it’s blazingly hot here in the Northeast, and I’ve got the only cure: 1,800 words on the fantasy prospects of below-the-radar relief pitchers. This week, the focus is on three additions to the list who we’ve seen before and who just might be finding their way into more valuable playing time in the days ahead.
Obvious Good Move: Slipping Aroldis Chapman onto the active roster. Think K-Rod 2002 without the roster chicanery. Think Livan Hernandez in '97 or David Price in 2008, since he's good enough to shut the door or get something started. If anything goes wrong with any component of the staff, the hard-slinging Cubano has the potential to dominate.
Good news for the long-absent Brian Roberts and Carlos Beltran, plus other news on the injury beat.
If there's one thing besides sports medicine that fascinates me, it's technology. When that meshes with writing, it definitely has my attention. While Shawn Hoffman and I are accused—rightly—of being Apple fanboys with our iPhones and iPads, it's a small, almost unnoticed feature in the latest release of Safari that interests me. The "Reader" feature is something of an offshoot of the popular Instapaper service that allows for simplified, offline reading. It mirrors and uses code from the bookmarklet Readability, which can be used on Firefox and Chrome. Both make for a more book-like reading experience. It's a simple but powerful change. BPro rocks the 1999 look-and-feel, but even when we brought ads to the site, it's been about simplicity and readability. Seeing how Reader makes my articles look makes me wish you didn't have to push a button to see them that way. Now if I can just figure out how FaceTime can be used to get my information to you faster, I'll be on to something. Then again, Microsoft and ESPN are looking to make sure that if you ever get off your couch, it's only to wave around in front of a new control scheme. The promise of on-demand highlights, essentially letting you produce your own personal SportsCenter, is pretty amazing. It's more amazing when you consider what goes in to the average highlight package—from rights issues to editing to voicing and broadcast. ESPN knows how to handle all that better than anyone, and we'll see how the average person deals with it. Right now, let's get on to the injuries:
It's time to look backwards in order to get value going forward.
Weird week here at the relievers outpost of Value Picks. As you can tell from the comments in last week's article, I'd expected that we'd be talking about possible closer changes in Houston and Washington, with Matt Lindstrom and Matt Capps having each blown three saves in four outings. Yet since then, Lindstrom's been perfect in converting three saves, and Capps has converted his chances as well, holding off the wolves at least for this week. Plus, two of the other teams we've been talking about - Toronto and Baltimore - haven't even been able to get far enough in games to have save opportunities. So as far as save-chasing goes this week, it's kind of a lean group, and with that in mind we're looking back at past values which could pay off in the near future.
We're welcoming back two previous Value Picks this week in Alfredo Simon and Fernando Rodney. Simon was one of the more successful value picks of the season, as he went from being a minor-league afterthought in April to converting six of seven save opportunities in May before being injured - a nice treat for savvy fantasy owners who were able to wring easy value out of him. Since he's been gone, the Orioles have been even more of a disaster than they were before, and though Will Ohman's been the nominal closer for over two weeks now, he hasn't notched a single save. Much of that is his fault, but not in the way you think. Yes, he blew the only save opportunity he was presented with (though he allowed just one run while doing so), but since he was forced into the 9th inning, the replacements the Orioles have tried in Ohman's old spot have failed miserably, leading to Ohman getting just one chance to actually close a game.
A number of young hurlers are making strong comebacks in 2010.
Last week in this space, I took a look at hitters who had already exceeded their 2009 VORP in the early stages of 2010 and tried to determine whether those players were likely to build on their exceptional starts. This week, I’ll be doing the same for pitchers. I’ve selected the five starters and five relievers who have achieved the greatest VORP bouncebacks so far this year, compared to last year’s VORP tally or, for players that put up negative VORP performances last year, a replacement-level zero VORP. To make the starter list, a pitcher must have thrown at least 90 innings last season, while the cutoff for relievers is 40 innings. Those performance benchmarks are designed to ensure the players selected pitched significantly, if poorly, last season, and are off to a good start, rather than off to a mediocre start that’s much better than their disastrous 2009 numbers.
Mike Petriello looks at hidden gems in San Diego and Colorado, and who to avoid in Houston.
You don’t need me to tell you that Heath Bell is an elite closer, since he’s currently owned in 100% of ESPN.com fantasy leagues. But what makes this situation different is that unlike other top closers, Bell’s not likely to end the season with his current team, the dreadful Padres. So not only is San Diego a prime place to see an open closer’s role this season, his potential replacements are valuable enough that they may be able to help you right now - if you can spare the roster spot - rather than waiting for Bell to be moved and for your fellow owners to join you in trying to feast on a new closer.
If and when Bell moves on, Padre relievers Luke Gregerson and Mike Adams would be in line to get the save opportunities, according to Heater expert David Golebiewski. Each of them actually beat Bell in K/9 rate last season and had slightly lower HR/9 rates as well. PECOTA looks for more of the same in 2010, suggesting that they could easily step in for Bell should the need arise.
With Opening Day a little more than a week away, here is a look at the projected rosters for each of the 16 National League clubs following conversations with club executives and media members. Keep in mind these are projected rosters and subject to change. American League lineups are here. You can also look at the fantasy depth charts at any time to see our latest updated projections.
Lee Panas covers the bullpen situations in Baltimore, Houston, and Washington.
The Orioles signed Mike Gonzalez during the off-season to be their stopper and his job is safe. However, with his history of elbow problems and his recent back stiffness, it is prudent to keep an eye on potential replacements. Possible alternatives include Jim Johnson, Kam Mickolio, and Koji Uehara.
Johnson has accumulated 33 saves as a closer over the past two seasons but does not have the stuff to dominate in that role. He’s been a worm killer with a 60% ground-ball rate in the last two seasons but has had a K/9 rate of only 5.6. The physically imposing and hard throwing Mickolio could have a future as a closer but his control is still a concern and PECOTA projects a 4.6 BB/9 rate.