Early struggles open door for many new faces at back of bullpens
Heath Bell and his $27 million contract to be the Marlins closer has been an unmitigated disaster this April. But he has one thing going for him in a month when everything has gone wrong, mostly his control: No suitable replacement.
The same cannot be said for the likes of hot-starting, yet cold of late, Javy Guerra with the Dodgers. Manager Don Mattingly says he is sticking with Guerra as long as he is healthy, but the Kenley Jansen owners have to be loving the recent struggles of the Dodgers' closer. Boy, do those 20 Jansen strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings really look tantalizing.
The life of the closer is a fickle one, and potentially a short one. Just look at Guerra, who was the star of fantasy closers for two weeks and now he is fantasy enemy No. 1.
With yet another tough April for the stoppers, we use this week's pitching report to break down the struggling closers we should be backing up in fantasy, along with three newly tapped closers who might be available in smaller leagues.
Mattingly might not be ready to jump to Jansen's power arm just yet, but fantasy owners should prepare for that eventuality. Jansen has the stuff to be one of the elite relievers in all of baseball. There was a good reason it was Jansen, and not last year's 20-plus save closer Guerra, who appeared in the NL Rookie of the Year vote. Jansen's power arm is a headliner. It could make him this year's Craig Kimbrel.
Guerra started hot, but he is just 1-3 with 5.59 ERA and 1.45 WHIP overall. After blowing his second save this week, it might be time to see if there is an injury causing this funk. If Jansen gets the closer's role, for injury or otherwise, it will be hard to get it back from him.
We don't even need to see Marshall's 0-2 record with a 6.14 ERA and 1.64 WHIP to know we need to be stashing power-throwing Cuban lefty Aroldis Chapman in all rotisserie leagues. All Chapman has done has allowed no earned runs in 11 1/3 innings and struck out 20, tied with Jansen for tops among all relievers.
Marshall, who blew his first save of the season Thursday, should have been viewed as just a temporary closer fill-in until Chapman proves healthy, in command and capable of handling the late-inning pressure in a pennant race. Chapman is ready, and Marshall is better suited for the lefty setup role he has held for years anyway.
Aceves has managed to pick up four saves for the Red Sox, but his 14.40 ERA looks more like an inning total and his 2.60 WHIP looks more like an ERA. The Red Sox skipped Bard in the rotation after a rainout -- he then picked up a victory in one brief relief outing -- and they have Aaron Cook scorching in Triple-A before potentially losing him to a May 1 opt-out clause. Bard belongs back in the relief role he has come to know as a pro, even if the Red Sox don't realize it yet. Bobby Valentine says there is no great temptation to move Bard back to the closer's role, but there should be.
Aceves has never been anyone's choice as a stopper, but more of a decent rubber-armed reliever who can get you through the middle innings. The Red Sox's closer's job is still a high-profile one that should be tracked closely in fantasy until Andrew Bailey (thumb) settles any debate after the All-Star break.
Few should be surprised H-Rod has taken over for Brad Lidge in Drew Storen's extended absence. Rodriguez has always had closer stuff and now he has some impressive numbers to make him a must-start in fantasy: five saves, zero earned runs and a 0.84 WHIP. The Storen owners who have jumped on Rodriguez have little to worry about right now.
This writer, if you have been following closely, thought Cordero should have been the Jays' pick to close all along -- or at least should have been given a chance to compete for the role in spring with fellow offseason acquisition Sergio Santos. Cordero has a track record of closing consistency, something that cannot be undervalued -- particularly amid all these shaky starts at the position. Cordero's ERA (4.50) and WHIP (1.63) might be high right now, but he has always been a reliable source of saves in fantasy with high numbers in those categories.
Casilla has done well replacing Brian Wilson (Tommy John surgery, out for the season). Sergio Romo has been limited to five innings with his own sore elbow, so there is no good reason to expect Casilla to give up the closer's job at this point. The Giants haven't gotten hot, namely Tim Lincecum, but when they do, Casilla is going to be a must-start even in mixed fantasy formats.