Grey covered the Andrew Bailey and Frank Francisco situations nicely on Tuesday. However, I had already started putting information together, so I’ll leave you with a few lines from my Francisco write-up:
While Francisco is not expected to miss anytime, we’re talking about a relatively fragile relief pitcher here and a Mets organization that has a hard enough time keeping healthy players off the disabled list. Jon Rauch is next in line and is a good speculative add. He’s also a member of the fragile Freddy all-stars so take a look at Bobby Parnell in most dynasty/deep league and in super deep ones Ramon Ramirez deserves a look.
As for the Red Sox, Bailey, when healthy, will be the closer. Of course, it could be four months before he’s fully healthy and how often he remains healthy is really up in the air. Alfredo Aceves is an intriguing arm in the pen; Grey just went over his Aceves fantasy this morning.
The other option, Mark Melancon, needs to prove he can hang. Some suggest he doesn’t have the raw stuff to be anything other than an average set-up guy in the American League East. Melancon deserves an add and should get at least 10 saves, but I wouldn’t count on more and wouldn’t mind trading him quickly. In reality, Bard could likely end up with the most saves for the Red Sox this season.
Tampa Bay Rays: With Grey around, do you even need me? He clearly was on top of the Kyle Farnsworth situation yesterday. As he noted, the elbow pain is no joke and the timetable for Farnsworth’s recovery is a great unknown. The Rays have built a dynamic and cheap bullpen recently and Manager Joe Maddon has shown the willingness to mix and match with interim closers and committee.
That said, Joel Peralta is clearly at the top of the heap and the “reliever to own.” Peralta throws a fastball-splitter-curve at hitters and has had considerable success lately. He will likely post an ERA around 3.35 a solid 1.17 WHIP and 57 K’s. Fernando Rodney is also lurking, but he’s barely a league average reliever. I’m willing to bet he hurts your ratios en route to 6 saves, i.e., it’s not worth it.
One of the more intriguing arms in the pen is J.P. Howell who disappeared from baseball consciousness after missing all of 2010 and most of 2011. However, a healthy Howell is a dynamo on the mound, capable of a 3.10 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 65 K’s. While he’s a lefty, Jake McGee (another devilish southpaw) is also in the pen, solving the “you can’t use your one lefty as a closer” conundrum. Speaking of McGee, last year’s under-the-radar saves option, he has dominated the minors putting up K:BB rates worth salivating over. Look for him to post similar numbers to Howell (3.25 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 63 K’s), but is probably behind Howell in the saves line.
Lastly, there is recently rotation banished Wade Davis. Davis has the stuff and repertoire that should play as a high leverage reliever. In most leagues, I’d just avoid this situation altogether as the likelihood of any one reliever posting 15+ saves seems small. However, for deeper leagues where every save matters, I’d rank them (in terms of most 2012 saves): Peralta, Farnsworth, Howell, McGee, Davis, Rodney. Keep an eye on Davis in keeper/dynasty leagues as he could very well end up the closer of the immediate future.
Jim Johnson: Johnson has a 6.75 spring ERA in just eight innings. He has allowed seven hits, seven runs and six earned runs, while walking six and striking out five. For the last week, it’s been speculated that Johnson has lost velocity. Over the weekend, MASN Sports reported that Johnson wasn’t concerned about any dip in velocity. Then, according to Rotowire, Johnson topped out at 95 MPH on Saturday (which just happened to be his first back-to-back appearance of the Spring). Johnson took Sunday off and pitched again Monday, sitting at 90-92 MPHs. While velocity is always important, movement is vital to Johnson and his need to get ground balls. It’ll be important to watch his first few outings to see if he is getting the dip on his fastball. If he doesn’t net a ton of GBs out of the gate, he could be in trouble. In addition, it might not matter, as the Orioles have a relatively poor infield defense which hampers Johnson’s upside. At the moment, there isn’t an overwhelming need to go out and add Matt Lindstrom or Kevin Gregg, but if Johnson struggles to keep the ball on the ground, feel free to kick the tires on those relievers in deeper leagues.
Chicago White Sox: For shizzles and giggles or to get back at everyone who snickered at him when he got beat down by Nolan Ryan, Robin Ventura refuses to name his closer to start the year. Clearly how Ventura uses his pen early in the season will determine the roles, so pay careful attention to who slots in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. While that’s obvious, it is important to note what situations Ventura faces in high leverage relief roles, i.e. if lefties are coming up in a tight game in the 8th and Venture doesn’t go to Matt Thornton, he’s the likely closer. If he does go to Thornton, Addison Reed is likely the closer. I do believe Thornton will start the year as closer, but he didn’t thrive in the role last year (albeit in limited opportunities) and he could also be trade bait for the potentially rebuilding club. Thornton and Reed should end up with similar amounts of saves, maybe in the high teens. In super deep leagues, Jesse Crain is a person of interest because Thornton failed last year and Reed is unproven. At the moment, though, Crain is an unspectacular middle relief guy who is a couple of steps from closing. The dark horse in the pen is rookie Hector Santiago. While Santiago pitched well in Spring Training and there’s “buzz” surrounding him, he has just 83 innings above A+ and he wasn’t exactly dominant (7.99 K/9 and 4.21 BB/9 rate). His stuff in the low minors played particularly well, but the 24-year-old might be a season away from being an impact major league reliever.
Kansas City Royals: No doubt trying to outdo young upstart Ventura, Ned Yost is similarly throwing a tantrum and refusing to name his closer. At the start of the season, Yost is likely to go with a more committee approach as he finds the right lever to pull in high leverage situations. In addition, Jonathan Broxton is likely unable to pitch in back-to-back games. If he could be used like this, I’d bet on him being the closer already. As it stands, Greg Holland will get options at the beginning of the year and, with his skill set, could lock the role down. I do believe Broxton will end up with more saves and be the closer the minute he’s able to go back-to-back, however I’d like to own both to hedge my bets. Certainly I’d rather either of these guys than Melancon, Aceves and any of the Rays pen options.
Oakland Athletics: While Grant Balfour is(was) the closer on Opening Day, keep tabs on Fautino de los Santos. Balfour could easily be trade bait and de los Santos can really strike guys out. Of course, he’s got a lot of Carlos Marmol in him and has always walked a ton of guys. If de los Santos can get off to a good start in the seventh/eighth innings and limits his walks, he’s a great guy to stash in deep leagues.
Cleveland Indians: Filed in the obvious department: keep tabs on the health of Chris Perez. In addition, look at early velocity and swinging strike reports and, more broadly, his K:BB rate, which was abysmal last year. If he continues 2011’s trends, set your sights on flamethrower Vinnie Pestano.
Washington Nationals: Another elbow issue to a reliever has put the Nationals bullpen in disarray. While it appeared Brad Lidge or Tyler Clippard had the stuff and inside track to saves, flame throwing Henry Rodriguez has emerged as a leading candidate. Rodriguez, who had a phenomenal Spring, has long posted dominant K/9 rates but has also walked the farm and then some. It’s impossible to know if Rodriguez has the “closer mentality” and, with his inability to find the plate at times, he’ll walk a tightrope, so he’s likely not worth a major investment. He could strike out 80 guys this year with a 3.50 ERA, but his WHIP (1.37) will be untenable at times. Storen is expected back in April; don’t waste a ton of FAAB or moves on this situation. At the end of the day, Storen will have the most saves, followed by Lidge and then Rodriguez.
Mariano Rivera: No need to be worried here. On Sunday, Rivera allowed a run and two hits, the first time he allowed an earned run in Spring Training since 2008. Good lord, for all of the above upheaval, marvel at Rivera.