OK, this is getting pretty ridiculous. Since spring training, 14 closers have either landed on the disabled list or lost their jobs. This group includes Mariano Rivera, Ryan Madson, Joakim Soria, Brian Wilson, Drew Storen, Sergio Santos, Huston Street, Kyle Farnsworth, Carlos Marmol, Javy Guerra, Heath Bell and Hector Santiago. And we're only in the second week of May.
It's often said that you shouldn't "pay for saves," but I'm not sure I completely agree with that. Some of these changes are just the result of bad luck. Rock-solid closers like Jonathan Papelbon or John Axford could have easily suffered a freak injury like Rivera did. It's baseball. Weird things happen. Pitchers get hurt. However, there are times when paying for saves doesn't make sense. For example, going all in on Guerra when the more talented Kenley Jansen lingered as an obvious threat to his job. Or targeting Carlos Marmol after he blew 10 saves last year and saw a sharp decline in velocity. The warning signs were there all along.
We've had plenty of twists and turns in the chase for saves this week, as you'll see below. Given the unusual amount of volatility that we've seen recently, most of these recommendations will probably be rendered meaningless a couple of weeks from now. Enjoy.
Rafael Dolis RP, Cubs (Yahoo: 31 percent owned, ESPN: 34.1 percent)
Cubs' manager Dale Sveum is breathing a bit easier these days, as Dolis has two saves and a win since taking the closer role from the struggling Carlos Marmol last week. I'm not a big believer in Dolis, as he has struck out just five batters in 19 1/3 innings this year and he averaged 4.5 BB/9 in the minors, but his recent success has likely bought him a little bit of rope. Marmol has struggled for just about a year now, so he'll need an extended period of success to get his job back. Not holding my breath on that.
Jeff Samardzija SP/RP, Cubs (Yahoo: 48 percent owned, ESPN: 46.8 percent)
Samardzija's move to the rotation appeared to hit a pretty severe road bump last month when he was knocked around for five runs in consecutive starts, but he has responded by allowing just two runs over his past three starts while posting a dominant 23/6 K/BB ratio over 21 1/3 innings. "The Shark" has a swinging strike rate of 12.7 percent (only three starting pitchers are higher) over his first six starts and a ground ball rate of 49.5 percent, so there's an awful lot to like here. Don't let him sit on the waiver wire any longer.
Bud Norris SP, Astros (Yahoo: 42 percent owned, ESPN: 47.5 percent)
Norris owns a mediocre 4.58 ERA through six starts this season, but aside from one really bad start against the Brewers last month, he's been actually pretty solid. The 27-year-old right-hander has an impressive 33/13 K/BB ratio over 37 1/3 innings and continues to make encouraging strides with this command. He lines up for a start against the Pirates on Friday night, so this is a pretty good time to take him for a spin in all formats.
Ryan Doumit C/OF, Twins (Yahoo: 14 percent owned, ESPN: 3 percent)
Look at who is finally showing some signs of life. After struggling through most of April, Doumit is hitting .289 (13-for-45) with seven extra-base hits (three homers), 11 RBI and a .946 OPS over his last 15 games. This includes a two-homer day against the Mariners on Sunday. Doumit's injury history is a concern and playing in the field regularly probably won't help, but he has been serving as the Twins' designated hitter recently while Justin Morneau is on the disabled list. Those in shallow mixed leagues likely have better options, but Doumit should be owned and started in deeper leagues and two-catcher formats.
Rafael Soriano RP, Yankees (Yahoo: 33 percent owned, ESPN: 22.9 percent)
David Robertson isn't off to the best start as Mariano Rivera's replacement. After walking the tight rope Tuesday night, Robertson imploded Wednesday by giving up four runs in the ninth as part of a 4-1 loss to the Rays. Blown saves will happen and Yankees manager Joe Girardi is saying all the right things in support of Robertson, but it would be smart to keep Soriano stashed away in all formats for now. Ultimately I think Robertson will take to the job quite nicely, but Soriano did save 45 games with the Rays back in 2010. Sometimes that "proven closer" tag wins out.
Kyle Seager 3B/SS, Mariners (Yahoo: 38 percent owned, ESPN: 23.6 percent)
Chone Figgins better get pretty comfortable on the bench, because Seager isn't giving up his spot in the starting lineup anytime soon. The 24-year-old is hitting .298 over his first 28 games this season, including a .344/.382/.719 triple-slash to go along with three homers and 13 RBI in May. While Seager has primarily played third base for the Mariners, he's eligible at shortstop in most fantasy leagues, where his potential for double-digits in homers and steals gives him quite a bit of value. I wouldn't hesitate picking him up in most formats right now.
Addison Reed RP, White Sox (Yahoo: 25 percent owned, ESPN: 10.6 percent)
Let me preface this by saying I have no idea what the White Sox are doing right now. Chris Sale appeared set to serve as the closer for the rest of the season after he was abruptly pulled from the starting rotation last week, but he's now being sent for an MRI on his tender left elbow and the team is already waffling on whether they think he'll be a starter or a reliever. Amid all the uncertainty, Reed remains a worthy alternative for the ninth inning. The 23-year-old right-hander has yet to allow a run in 10 innings this season and has a solid 14/3 K/BB ratio. He should be owned until there's some clarity with the situation.
Casey Janssen RP, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 16 percent owned, ESPN: 0.1 percent)
Francisco Cordero melted down Tuesday night against the Athletics, blowing his third save and bringing his ERA to 9.53 on the year, so Blue Jays manager John Farrell has decided to remove him from the closer role and use Janssen until Sergio Santos is ready to return from the disabled list. Janssen owns a very solid 3.18 ERA since the start of the 2010 season and has a career ground ball rate right around 50 percent, so he should do just fine as a temporary fill-in. Just know that Santos could be back by the end of the month if all goes well, so you may only get a handful of saves.
Ike Davis 1B, Mets (Yahoo: 50 percent owned, ESPN: 40.2 percent)
Expectations for Davis were admittedly out of whack coming into the season, but nobody saw anything like this coming. Through his first 114 plate appearances, the 25-year-old first baseman is hitting just .179/.237/.311 with six extra-base hits and 32 strikeouts. I'm a bit concerned that Davis has so many moving parts in his swing, so we may have to live with extreme ups and downs production-wise, but he has shown an ability to adjust in the past. He went 2-for-3 with a double and a three-run homer on Wednesday night, so this is the ideal time to see if he's on the verge of turning things around.
Dale Thayer RP, Padres (Yahoo: 12 percent owned, ESPN: 4 percent)
Here's one recommendation I never thought I would make. Like many fantasy owners, I was under the assumption that young fireballer Andrew Cashner was the one to own with Huston Street on the disabled list. However, Padres manager Bud Black surprisingly went with Thayer for back-to-back saves earlier this week. The mustachioed journeyman hasn't been given many opportunities in the big leagues, despite amassing 173 saves over 10 seasons in the minors. He could easily get the boot with a couple poor outings, but his command and ground ball tilt gives him a chance to serve as a decent bridge until Street is ready.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in less than 10 percent of Y! and ESPN.com leagues)
Andres Torres OF, Mets (Yahoo: 2 percent owned, ESPN: 1.8 percent)
Torres has played well since returning from a strained left calf at the end of April, hitting .353 (12-for-34) while collecting hits in eight of nine games. This includes his first home run of the season on Wednesday night. The 34-year-old isn't known for his power and he's unlikely to sustain such a high batting average, but he should be able to steal 15-20 bases and score plenty of runs while hitting atop of the Mets' lineup. He's well worth considering in five-outfielder mixed formats.
Nyjer Morgan OF, Brewers (Yahoo: 4 percent owned, ESPN: 2.1 percent)
Carlos Gomez is currently on the disabled list with a left strained hamstring, so Morgan has a chance to get his starting center field job back. T-Plush has hit an unusual number of ground balls so far this season, so it's not a big surprise that his batting average has taken a pretty severe nosedive, but we're talking about a .284 career hitter who has speed and should hit near the top of the Brewers' lineup on most nights. Norichika Aoki figures to get a start here and there, but Morgan should be owned in five-outfield mixed formats, at least until Gomez returns.
Kyle Drabek SP, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 25 percent owned, ESPN: 14.7 percent)
Drabek had his worst start of the season Saturday against the Angels and has walked 20 batters over just 35 innings this season, so I recognize I'm playing with fire here. However, I'm pretty confident about his chances for a bounce back performance with a start against the light-hitting Twins on Friday night. Easy target, I know. Drabek's next projected opponents are the Yankees, Rays, Rangers and Red Sox, so enjoy it while you can.