May 16, 2013
Diamondbacks Settle on Bell
Welcome to Baseball Prospectus’ Reliever Report: Fantasy Edition. This is a fairly standard article in the fantasy community, so a long, drawn-out introduction is unnecessary. The focus every week will be on:
You could have written this story back in late October when the Dodgers re-upped Brandon League to a three-year, $22.5 million contract extension. The Dodgers already had a terrific reliever in Kenley Jansen to anchor the pen but decided to bring League back to be their ninth-inning guy. Every fantasy analyst seemingly warned against League and cautioned that he was going to lose the ninth-inning gig, and it simply a matter of when.
After a decent start to 2013, League has allowed at least one earned run in six of his last seven outings, pushing his ERA from 2.57 to 6.28. He has only blown one save, but his underwhelming strikeout rate combined with his poor HR/IP clip was giving manager Don Mattingly ulcers. Tuesday night, League wasn’t even warming when Mattingly needed a closer. Jansen came in and got the final out and the save.
There hasn’t been any announcement, but many are assuming that Jansen is the closer going forward. It’s probably too early to cut League even in a mixed format, but stash Jansen if you can. Even if Jansen doesn’t close or only splits the job, his rate stats and high strikeout rates make him the rare reliever worth pursuing in any format.
If you sunk a big chunk of your FAAB dollars or a high waiver claim on Junichi Tazawa, your investment might go pretty badly. Andrew Bailey is reportedly close to returning from injury and will be reinserted back into the ninth-inning role immediately, probably on Monday. Meanwhile, Joel Hanrahan will undergo season-ending elbow surgery and is done for 2013. Feel free to drop him in non-keeper leagues.
If you were stashing David Hernandez in a standard mixed league, you can probably drop him now. Heath Bell has been solid for the most part, converting four saves since May 7, with only one blown save (on May 12 versus the Phillies). Hernandez might be in line for save chances at some point, but the Diamondbacks aren’t going to try to fix something that isn’t broken. If you are in a deeper league, hang on to J.J. Putz. He will not need elbow surgery and the team is hoping that Putz can rehab his injury.
Kyuji Fujikawa is off of the disabled list and back in the Cubs bullpen, but Kevin Gregg now has a stranglehold on the ninth inning. Some are saying that Fujikawa will eventually take over in the ninth, but as long as Gregg is pitching well, there is no real imperative to make a move. Manager Dale Sveum seems to take comfort in having a veteran in the role, and Gregg has earned his trust—an important consideration when trying to figure out whether or not to invest.
If you own Ernesto Frieri, you can breathe easy. Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Ryan Madson is headed out on a rehab assignment that might take “several weeks.” At one point, it seemed like Madson might be back quickly, but this clearly is not the case. If you have Madson in a shallow mixed league, feel free to cut him loose.
On May 6, Fernando Rodney had a disastrous 37-pitch outing against the Blue Jays, lowlighted when he surrendered a one-out, two-run homer to J.P. Arencibia. The organization made the usual noises about trying to fix what was wrong with Rodney but also with keeping an open mind to finding a replacement if necessary. Since then, Rodney has looked like his old self (meaning his “old” 2012 self). It is only four outings, so all of the usual small-sample caveats apply, but Rodney has only walked two in his last four innings and his command seems to have returned. If Rodney is “fixed,” he should be fine going forward. Even if he isn’t the ridiculous stopper he was in 2012, I’d expect a top-10 closer the rest of the way.
Joe Nathan struggled through a rough save on Tuesday, needing 31 pitches to lock down the save. Nathan’s fastball velocity is down quite a bit in 2013, from 94 mph in 2012 to 91.4 mph this year. He has compensated by mixing in more sliders. For the most part, this has worked, but he has struggled a little bit. In his prime, Nathan would reach back and fire a 94-97 mph fastball when he needed an out pitch. That luxury is gone now. Nathan should be fine, but this is something to monitor.
Closer Earnings to Date (through games of Tuesday, May 14, 2013)
Top Reliever Earnings, Non-Closers