Tier 4: Question marks (6) (AKA: The "Leftover Sandwich" Tier.)
Kevin Gregg, Chicago Cubs
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Jose Veras, Houston Astros
Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays
Huston Street, San Diego Padres
Heath Bell, Arizona Diamondbacks
I make these all the time. Take some leftovers, add mustard, and put it between two slices of bread. Sometimes -- think meatloaf sandwich -- it's awesome. Sometimes -- think Thai food leftovers -- it doesn't quite work. I'd say the likelihood of the sandwich working out is actually a little more favorable than some of these guys, but you never know. You're nervous, and you should be.
Kenley Jansen moves up, and people wanted him to debut higher. It's fine, I get that, I love Kenley Jansen. But the last time he got the closer's role, he never recorded a save before losing it again. This time, since being named closer, he has one save and has blown a save. He doesn't have leash like others have leash, not with his manager, not in that market with that team. But he does have a great cut fastball, and he's found the ability to command it now that the former catcher has been pitching a while, and with a great first-strike rate, everything looks like all systems go for Jansen. He could keep ascending all season. But I debut new closers at the bottom for a reason. They don't have great leash.
Fernando Rodney: still closing. And yet, in the last week, he's had one strikeout against one walk in two innings, and given up four hits and two runs. I own Jake McGree three times.
Huston Street is back, but I'm not going to debut him any higher despite being an established guy. His stats suggested that something -- something more than a strained calf -- was wrong with Street. His swinging strike, strikeout, walk, home run and velocity numbers were all at or near career worsts. His velocity hasn't returned since he came off the DL, and we'll have to wait to see what's going on with the other numbers. Street is only turning 30 this year, but his peripherals look terribly post-peak.
I got the J.J. Putz call wrong. I'm no doctor, and I put my doctor hat on, and it is looking like it didn't work out. My thinking was this: J.J. Putz has looked hurt all year, he's had elbow trouble in the past, and the last time his numbers looked like this, he lost the year to elbow surgery. The numbers tell us that past DL stints predict future DL stints, and that past elbow troubles predict future elbow problems. I was mostly going by what was known to the public. What was known to Putz' doctors, however, was that he was feeling better. And now he's almost back. This is what fantasy baseball does to normal people, is make them try to divine what is going on in a man's elbow thousands of miles away. And all I can say is, if you want to stay ahead of the RotoWorld ticker, you're sometimes going to need to make calls like this and try to decide how hurt you think a guy is. Sometimes the bear will eat you, though.
Tier 5: Rollercoaster rides (6) (AKA: The "Knuckle Sandwich" Tier.)
Tom Wilhelmsen (first chair), Carter Capps (second chair), Yoervis Medina (third chair), Seattle Mariners
Jim Henderson (first chair), John Axford (second chair), Milwaukee Brewers
Jose Valverde (first chair), Joaquin Benoit (second chair), Drew Smyly (third chair), Detroit Tigers
Rex Brothers (first chair), Wilton Lopez (second chair), Colorado Rockies
Vinnie Pestano (first chair), Joe Smith (second chair), Cody Allen (third chair), Cleveland Indians
Steve Cishek (first chair), Mike Dunn (second chair), Miami Marlins
You might say it's not a sandwich at all, but 1) it is, and 2) I could be talking about beef knuckles, you never know. And, either way, it's not enjoyable. Neither is owning these closers.
We're right in the middle of this thing in Seattle. Tom Wilhelmsen was to be given a couple days off of the closer's role, but then he found himself facing Albert Pujols with the game on the line in the eighth inning last night. That he gave up the game-tying homer was bad, but then he went on to retire four more guys, keeping the game tied. Charlie Furbush came on to get a lefty and send it to extras. Extra-inning games are strange, because you never know what the manager is thinking when it comes to keeping pitchers around for future innings. Carter Capps was looking like the guy who was going to come in for Wilhelmsen, but he had pitched in two straight games and given up six runs in less than two innings in those two outings. Has he completely removed himself from the closer's role? If so, Furbush is not the ideal guy, with less-than-closer velocity and the fact that he throws lefty. Capps himself has bad platoon splits, perhaps due to the fact that he doesn't have great command and his secondary pitch is a slider. To top it all off, it was Yoervis Medina that got the save last night, but he has terrible control and also features a slider as his secondary pitch. Maybe that doesn't matter. Maybe Capps was just sitting to rest his arm after two straight. Maybe Wilhelmsen will be fine. I'm betting that Wilhelmsen, who still owns some of the best gas in the pen, and also the best control, will recapture the role. He's lost his fastball command for now, but he's lost and regained that aspect of his game before. This situation is worth tracking, nightly.
Until Francisco Rodriguez gets his two saves, we'll keep Jim Henderson down here. But there's no secondary metric that favors Rodriguez over Henderson, so once the marketing push is over, there's little reason to doubt the Canadian will get his role back. Call him co-first-chairs for now if you must, but K-Rod has little long-term value on this team. He's on a one-year contract, and they need to look to the future.
When your manager is asking the reporters who should close out games, it's not a good sign. We've been saying here that we don't believe Valverde's new-found control, that his home run rate is not a good sign, and that his career-worst velocity (and second-worst swinging strike rate) is a sign of worse to come. His manager says he's still the closer, but also says that they will use him until the team has somebody else better. Could Brian Wilson still resurrect his career? Could Francisco Rodriguez be shipped to Detroit (if so, why didn't they just sign him)? Or maybe these Papelbon rumors have legs. Until Joaquin Benoit is more comfortable pitching in back-to-backs, there's probably not a veteran that will satisfy Leyland on this team.
Rex Brothers is a temp, but he'll probably be the closer there next year. Vinnie Pestano is a temp, and his long-term future is less settled. But Chris Perez got rocked in his first rehab start, so don't drop Pestano yet. Three homers in one inning in Double-A (with a hit batter) is not a great sign that Perez is healthy. Steve Cishek? Still a mediocre pitcher on a bad team.
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Jason Motte (elbow), St. Louis Cardinals
Joel Hanrahan (forearm), Boston Red Sox
Kyuji Fujikawa (elbow), Chicago Cubs
Sergio Santos (elbow), Toronto Blue Jays
Ryan Madson (elbow), Los Angeles Angels
J.J. Putz (elbow), Arizona Diamondbacks
Chris Perez (shoulder), Cleveland Indians
Rafael Betancourt (groin), Colorado Rockies
J.J. Putz is going on rehab this Thursday. For more on that, look up. Chris Perez is on rehab, but he's looked bad doing it. Rafael Betancourt will probably go on his rehab assignment this weekend. Ryan Madson may start throwing this weekend. Or he may not.
Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs
John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers
Mitchell Boggs, St. Louis Cardinals
Brandon League, Los Angeles Dodgers
Tom Wilhelmsen's got a toe in this water.
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The Steals Department
With Troy Tulowitzki out, plenty of owners are looking for middle infield replacements. This could be a time to also try to get more speed out of the position. Josh Rutledge is probably the best replacement in terms of five-category upside -- with normal batted ball luck, Rut-Rut should hit .270 or so with power and speed, and he could have more than ten steals left in him. Nick Franklin has similar upside, really, so if Rutledge is gone, look north for a replacement. Andrelton Simmons is starting to attempt to swipe more bags (three in the past two weeks), but he doesn't quite have the stick of the names listed so far. Alexei Ramirez doesn't play in the two-hole every day, but when he does, he tries to steal bags. He'll hit a career high in that category this year.
There might be some short-term deep league adds in the middle infield, too. Everth Cabrera is hurt -- his hamstring, which sucks for his owners -- so the Padres need a shortstop. Alexi Amarista looked pretty terrible at shortstop on Tuesday night, so it could be Pedro Ciriaco getting the call there while E-Cab tends to his busted wheel. Ciriaco has 30-steal upside in a full season, which is a little more than a steal a week. Hey, it's something. Eric Sogard is also playing often enough to matter in Oakland, but his speed upside is not as exciting. He's good for just short of 15 steals a year, so you'd be lucky to squeeze double-digits out of him. At least he's a lefty, and so he's in there 2/3 of the time. DJ LeMahieu doesn't have many skills, and if Josh Rutledge plays well while Troy Tulowitzki is out, he probably won't have a job soon. But for now, he's playing most days in Denver's lineup, and he gets on base, and he can steal double-digit bags. This is the deep league paragraph!