MLB - Fantasy Baseball - Long Relief
New Closers on the Block
This past week, we saw a number of teams (St. Louis, Boston and Chicago) change closers due to injury or ineffectiveness. These newly minted closers need to be owned in all leagues going forward. When it comes to saves, you can't be picky. It is still early this season, but there has been plenty of turnover already with more to come. This week's Long Relief article takes a look at some of the closing situations in flux and examines three middle relievers worth picking up off the wavier wire or targeting in a trade.
Edward Mujica - RHP - St. Louis Cardinals
With Jason Motte still ailing, Mitchell Boggs floundering and Trevor Rosenthal not quite ready to close, veteran Edward Mujica has ascended to the closers role in St. Louis. The stuff is there with Rosenthal, who has been throwing over 100-mph consistently out of the pen, and the odds are that one day, he will be closing in St. Louis, but he clearly isn't ready yet. Mujica, a veteran acquired from the Miami Marlins last season, had four career Major League saves (57 in the minor leagues) coming into the year, but took over for Boggs last weekend and went a perfect two-for-two in saves chances. As long as Mujica continues to pitch well, he will hold onto the job until Motte comes back sometime in June.
Andrew Bailey - RHP - Boston Red Sox
In case you didn't know, I live in New England, I am a die-hard Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics fan. I never let being a fan of those teams cloud my judgement or fantasy analysis, but I know these teams very well and have watched almost all of their games for over a decade now. I can tell you for certain that Andrew Bailey is not losing this job. Frankly I was surprised that the team made the move to acquire Joel Hanrahan this past offseason, but since they didn't give up a whole lot, it made sense. Hanrahan's struggles, subsequent injury and Bailey's a former All-Star closer in Oakland's effectiveness in the role lead me to believe that he isn't giving the job up anytime soon. The Red Sox appear to have found their first permanent closer since Jonathan Papelbon departed. On an unrelated note, I own Kelvin Herrera in nearly every league this season and was watching live, talking to one of my friends about how great Herrera is when Daniel Nava did this. Lets just say I didn't handle it well.
Shawn Camp - RHP - & James Russell - LHP - Chicago Cubs
It may be best to avoid this entire quagmire altogether, but for the moment, it looks like both Shawn Camp and James Russell will split the closing duties for the Cubs with Kyuji Fujikawa on the diasbled list and Carlos Marmol rather ineffective. It is looking like the save chances will depend on the matchups entering the ninth inning with the right-hander Camp being used against a righty-heavy slate, while the left-hander Russell will face southpaws exclusively. This entire situation is a mess, but both Camp and Russell are worth owning because every save does count.
FFToolbox Middle Relievers to Target
Al Alburquerque - RHP - Detroit Tigers
I will continue to write about Al-Al in this space until I get enough complaints and am forced to stop. The strikeouts are legit. He may not be getting save chances yet, but you have to believe that Alburquerque is the heir apparent in Detroit, his time will come. Until then, enjoy the strikeouts. This past week, Alburquerque tossed five scoreless innings, giving up just one hit, did not issue a walk and struck out 10. At the very least, Alburquerque provides a nice boost for fantasy owners ERA and WHIP while tacking on a few strikeouts.
Santiago Casilla - RHP - San Francisco Giants
There is some concern that closer Sergio Romo, who has already made 10 appearances, will not be able to handle this type of workload over the course of an entire season. Romo, who throws more sliders than fastballs, has never had a huge workload, even when he was a setup man, he was limited to around 60 innings per season. Santiago Casilla was effective for awhile as the Giants closer (25 saves) last season and could get the nod if Romo needs a day off or gets hurt. Casilla is out there in a ton of leagues and might be worth stashing.
Ryan Cook - RHP - Oakland Athletics
I have zero concern about Grant Balfour, I think he is one of the most underrated closers in the game today, but feel compelled to write about Ryan Cook after watching him pitch a few times in the last week. Cook has allowed just one run all season and has not been scored upon in his last eight appearances. Cook has allowed just five baserunners (four hits, one walk) in his last 10 innings of work while striking out 11. The stuff is incredible, I think there is a chance the A's move Balfour at some point and hand the job over to Cook, but until then, Cook is an excellent reliever that I want on my fantasy staff.