MLB - Fantasy Baseball - Long Relief
The Times They Are A-Changin
FFToolbox takes a look at which teams have made closing changes or are on the verge of making a change.
Kevin Gregg - Chicago Cubs - Owned in 40% of Yahoo! Leagues
It's hard to overlook the 4.95 ERA that Kevin Gregg posted in 40 relief appearances with the Baltimore Orioles last season, but the veteran has virtually come out of nowhere to step into the closing role with the Chicago Cubs largely due in part to the ineffectiveness of Carlos Marmol and injury to Kyuji Fujikawa. The Cubs newly minted closer has been lights-out this season, giving up just three hits over 5.1 scoreless innings while racking up six strikeouts and four saves. The key for Gregg so far has been cutting down the walks (just two in 5.1 innings so far) and eliminating home runs (zero). If Gregg can continue to pitch like this, he has a chance to hold onto the job for the remainder of the season, even when Fujikawa returns. Gregg needs to be owned in all fantasy leagues going forward.
Joel Hanrahan - Boston Red Sox - Owned in 71% of Yahoo! Leagues
The first fantasy zombie of the 2013 season, Joel Hanrahan was left for dead by most fantasy owners two weeks ago when he blew a save against Baltimore and was placed on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. With Hanrahan shelved, Andrew Bailey was spectacular, converting five-of-five save chances before suffering a biceps injury. Bailey's injury opened the door for the just-activated Hanrahan to step back into the picture and convert a save against Toronto earlier this week. It looks like the job now belongs to Hanrahan again, which is a shock considering how bleak things looked for him two weeks ago. For Bailey, this injury derails his chances to take over the closing role for good.
Jose Valverde - Detroit Tigers - Owned in 69% of Yahoo! Leagues
Valverde's unlikely return to Detroit has gone well (2-for-2 in save chances) but its hard to ignore his diminished velocity and the fact that at his age, he may not be able to go back to back days. Joaquin Benoit will step in for Valverde when he can't go, but every save counts and the veteran will get plenty of chances for the rest of the season, giving him considerable value on one of the best teams in baseball.
Closer Stock Watch
FFToolbox takes a look at which closers stock is on the rise and which closers stock is falling.
On The Rise
Grant Balfour - Oakland Athletics - Owned in 77% of Yahoo! Leagues
One of the most underrated closers in the game, Grant Balfour has converted 20 straight regular season save chances dating back to August 11th of last season. Balfour hasn't racked up a ton of saves for the red-hot Oakland Athletics this season, but has been outstanding (2.25 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 12 innings) this season. Balfour began the season as a middle of the road closer with a tenuous hold on the job thanks to the presence of Ryan Cook, but has cearly established himself as one of the games premier closers when given the chance to slam the door.
Jason Grilli - Pittsburgh Pirates - Owned in 91% of Yahoo! Leagues
The Major League leader in saves this season is Jason Grilli? Grilli is the latest example of why fantasy owners shouldn't pay for saves on draft day. Grilli, who was by no means an established highly regarded closer, went in the late rounds on draft day, but has converted 11 saves this season.
Casey Janssen - Toronto Blue Jays - Owned in 83% of Yahoo! Leagues
Another late round middle of the road option on draft day, Janssen has surrendered just one run over nine innings of work while striking out 11 and racking up seven saves this season. The Blue Jays firmly entrenched closer, Janssen has the potential to end the season as one of the best draft day values in all of fantasy baseball.
J.J. Putz - Arizona Diamondbacks - Owned in 91% of Yahoo! Leagues
Putz has blown four saves this season, but Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson has no plans to make a swith to David Hernandez or any other reliever, but anytime a closer receives the dreaded vote of confidence, the end could be near. Putz has been an outstanding closer for a long time, but he is getting up there and Hernandez is ready to handle the ninth inning right now.
Steve Cishek - Miami Marlins - Owned in 53% of Yahoo! Leagues
Three losses, a blown save and a 5.25 ERA have done little to enhance Cishek's fantasy appeal this season. Cishek's value was already dimished due to the fact that he is pitching for one of the worst offenses in baseball, but his early season struggles haven't helped.
Jose Veras - Houston Astros - Owned in 37% of Yahoo! Leagues
This isn't a knock on Veras, but more a result of Houston's lack of victories. While Veras appears to have a firm hold on the closing role, he has just two saves a month into the season and there is no guarantee he will get enough save chances to have any real fantasy value. The likelihood that he will traded away at some point this season also hurts his overall value.
Middle Reliever to Target
Every week, FFToolbox targets one middle reliever with the potential to close.
Carter Capps - Seattle Mariners - Owned in 1% of Yahoo! Leagues
Capps has surged up the Seattle depth chart and settled into a setup role behind entrenched closer Tom Wilhelmsen. The right-hander has racked up the strikeouts (21 in 16.0 innings) and would get a chance to close if Wilhelmsen were to suffer and injury or gets traded at some point. Capps is an interesting name for fantasy owners to at the very least track going forward.