Fantasy baseball closer report
There are few constants in the fantasy game, but one adage always rings true: The gods never close a door without opening a window.
In Toronto, Frank Francisco (eight saves, 4.50 ERA) has closed the door on the closer controversy. Francisco has allowed one earned run in 7.1 innings in June, and he's logged a save in three consecutive games. His arsenal has been sharp all season (10.64 K/9) but an extreme home run-to-fly ball ratio (19 percent) has obscured his dominance. Despite his newfound security, the Blue Jays' closer is owned in only 73.9 percent of leagues. If he's available in yours, add him now.
The door may be closed in Toronto, but an injury to Phillies closer Ryan Madson has created a window of opportunity for a young lefty. The Phillies placed Madson (2.03 ERA, 15 saves) on the DL Tuesday with a bruised hand. Madson had been struggling with numbness in his pitching hand since mid-June, but the injury was not expected to require a stint on the disabled list. Now, it's unclear how long Madson will be out.
With Madson out, converted starter Antonio Bastardo (0.96 ERA, two saves) is expected to get the call in the ninth inning. Bastardo has a devastating arsenal (10.61 K/9) and has performed well in high-leverage situations thus far. He's been very lucky this season (.153 BABIP, 99.1 percent strand-rate), but even if he regresses, he's a must-add in all leagues.
In the Twin Cities, a recently-activated reliever could force the window open. Current closer Matt Capps (11 saves, 4.06 ERA) has been a picture of mediocrity in 2011. He's demonstrated pinpoint control (0.58 BB/9) but his stuff (5.81 K/9) is better suited for middle relief.
No one in the Minnesota bullpen is currently breathing down Capps' neck, but a former All-Star might be on the verge. Joe Nathan, who the Twinkies activated him from the disabled list late last week, has 250 career saves to his name. His injury -- a flexor strain near his right elbow -- was worrisome, but he looked good during his rehab assignment (3.0 innings, five strikeouts, one unearned run). If he can carry that momentum to Minneapolis, he might be adding to that career saves total soon.
How did the rest of the major league bullpens fare this week? Let's take a look around the league:
We aren't shy about singing Bell's praises here, but the Padres' closer has given up four earned runs in his last five innings. Those numbers aren't going to cost him the job in San Diego, but a trade to a contender might. If you're a Bell owner, you're praying for a trade to St. Louis.
Has anyone flown further under the radar than Axford? The Brewers' closer has only given up four earned runs since May and his stuff is downright nasty (11.72 K/9). The walks are worrisome (4.08 BB/9), but he isn't losing his job anytime soon. ... Storen has had his fair share of struggles in June (he has a 4.61 ERA in 13.2 innings), but you can't argue with the results: a league-leading 10 saves.
What's wrong with K-Rod? The Mets' closer has an 8.18 ERA in June and has blown two saves in his last four appearances. The worst part? He's on pace to vest his $17.5 million option for 2012. ... Owners who drafted Feliz with an early pick aren't happy with the returns. His control has been catastrophic (4.76 BB/9), and his latest meltdown came against the Astros, a middling offense at best. Don't be surprised if Feliz ends up in the minors at some point.
Gregg has been great in June (six saves, 2.70 ERA) and with one year remaining on his contract in Baltimore, he should hold off Koji Uehara (2.25 ERA, 11.50 K/9) in 2011. ... Salas has given up five earned runs in his last 4.2 innings, and if you weren't concerned already, you should be. With Eduardo Sanchez on the DL, the Red Birds don't have a better option on the roster. They are no doubt combing the trade market though.
Broxton underwent an MRI on Monday after feeling pain in his elbow. When/if he gets healthy, he's probably the favorite for saves in Los Angeles.
Backups who will ensure you're banking saves even if your closer goes down: