In our daily fantasy baseball news and notes column, we'll be discussing hot topics in the fantasy baseball world, as well as offering up tidbits of information to help you set your lineup. Comments are welcome below.
Much has been written about the decline of Jonathan Papelbon's velocity, and sure enough, he isn't particularly popular in Philadelphia, where better results are expected from the guy who's earning $13 million a year. And when Papelbon blew a save in the second game of the year, the drumbeats for his demotion from the closer's role grew louder and louder.
Monday night against the Braves, Papelbon was unavailable after pitching in three straight games, so Ryne Sandburg turned to lefty Jake Diekman to try and close things out. Diekman has the artillery of someone who, on paper, could do okay in save situations (his velocity approaches triple-digits), and it's hard to think this wasn't also a trial run to see if Diekman actually could do well in the closer's role.
Diekman came into the ninth with a one-run lead, and the best thing possible happened for Papelbon owners. Diekman was an unholy disaster, allowing a grand slam to Dan Uggla to blow the save in epic fashion. And by the end, Philly fans were probably wishing that Papelbon had been used in his stead.
Is Papelbon's career on the downswing? Absolutely. His velocity is down and too many of his ninth-inning appearances are nail-biters these days. But when the next guy challenging your position is Jake Diekman, there's not much to worry about. This is why some of the fantasy analysis hyping Papelbon's devolution are overblown. Sometimes, sticking around in a closer's role isn't so much a privilege, awarded to the man most capable of the job. Sometimes it's an obligation, and given Papelbon's absurd $13 million salary, it'd be preposterous for the Phillies to use him in any role but the closer position. Now couple that with the fact that the rest of the Phillies bullpen is horrendous, and it becomes clear that Papelbon has one of the most secure closing jobs in baseball. Plus, he pretty much never gets hurt.
It's possible that the Phillies could trade him in the middle of the season, as has been rumored. But a mediocre reliever that has a $13 million salary is going to be next to impossible to move, and Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr., who's on the hottest of hot seats, is doing everything he can to keep the Phillies mildly competitive. Ditching Papelbon isn't something he's inclined to do, and besides, the Phillies have a decent enough offense this year that they shouldn't be horrible when the trade deadline comes around.
In the ever-changing carousel of closers, Papelbon has somehow remained in the role since 2006. Once upon a time, Daniel Bard was being groomed specifically to be Papelbon's replacement with the Red Sox, but that change never happened, and it's highly unlikely to happen here. Criticize his pitching all you want. Take offense to his current 5.06 ERA. But the fact of the matter is that there's almost no chance he leaves the closer role, and that has to be worth something.
For your consideration
• With Craig Kimbrel dealing with a sore shoulder, David Carpenter pitched a clean inning for the Braves to record a save against the aforementioned Phillies. Despite the scary-sounding nature of Kimbrel's injury, the best closer in the game is only day-to-day at this point, so Carpenter shouldn't be on your radar unless you absolutely need the extra help in saves for this week.
• Neil Walker went two-for-three last night with a pair of home runs. Walker isn't the most exciting option ever at second base, and his career numbers are stagnant to the extent that he has almost no upside. But he's good for 10-15 home runs and about 70 RBI. If you need a fill-in at second (perhaps if you're a Pedroia owner), Walker could be up your alley.
• Lucas Duda was terrific in the desert, going four-for-five with a pair of RBI. His average now stands out .306, and there's a real chance that he could be batting in the cleanup spot soon, since Curtis Granderson is currently dealing with a host of injuries. Duda has a ton of power, but he hasn't been able to capitalize on it thanks to a lifetime .248 average. Even though he hit only .223 last year, his plate discipline isn't atrocious, and if he can actually put together a solid average (just something in the .270's at least), he has a chance to be a 30-home run hitter. Duda is available in a staggering 97 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and he's worth a flier if you want someone who could help you in the power departments.
• Mike Zunino hit a homer last night, and now has a .282 average early in the season. An enormous prospect, Zunino looks like he's really piecing it together at the plate. There's a lot of parity at the catcher spot these days, but guys like Zunino -- first-round draft picks who play this well early in the season -- are a rarity, and should be scooped up immediately. He's available in 87 percent of Yahoo! leagues and is looking increasingly like a must-own player.