Rage against the Pitching Machine
Today, I'm going to take a trip around the MLB to discuss closer carousels and potential implosions that could result in changes at the backend of some bullpens. But first, I want to mention what Australian national Grant "Rage" Balfour is doing for the A’s. On Monday, Balfour converted his 11th save (29th consecutive) to put himself in the Oakland A’s record books. One of the coolest parts about what Balfour is doing is how the crazy Oakland fans have responded to him. They call what happens when he enters the game the Balfour Rage. Balfour’s entrance song is Metallica's "One," and the A’s fans go absolutely berserk, making the place kind of look like a huge mosh pit during his entry from the bullpen. Good times.
Now onto the other berserk bullpens across the majors. I am going to start off with the Cleveland Indians, who placed Chris Perez on the DL on May 27th with an injury to his pitching shoulder. Terry Francona immediately stated that Vinnie Pestano would replace Perez while he is sidelined. Other possibilities should Pestano falter include: Joe Smith, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen. The issue with simply anointing Pestano the closer is that he himself is not fully healthy. Shaw could get the first crack at saves if Pestano struggles, but I believe the sleeper here is Cody Allen. Allen is considered to be their “closer of the future,” and, well, now could be the future. Cody has been lights-out for the Indians' pen with a 2.31 ERA, 30 K through 23.3 IP, and a minuscule whip of 0.986.
The Casey Janssen situation with the Toronto Blue Jays really worries me, because reports have it that he is experiencing renewed shoulder soreness. This is the same shoulder that he had offseason surgery to repair. Here are a few quotes from Janssen that have me worried: “I don’t think it’s any better;” “Hopefully, this layoff helped;" "It’s definitely not worse. It’s just that the progress isn't gaining.” None of this sounds good, and if you own Janssen, you've got to start looking at alternatives. The Blue Jays bullpen is battered with injuries, so there is no really obvious replacement, but the player speculate on right away is Steve Delabar. The only other two options would be Brett Cecil or Aaron Loup, both of whom are left handed pitchers which is usually a hurdle to full time ninth-inning duty. As of today this week, the Blue Jays have purchased the contracts of Juan Perez, Todd Redmond and Neil Wagner. Wagner was pitching excellently for the Buffalo Bisons as their closer, but he has not pitched in the majors since 2011 and it is doubtful that he would be trusted in late inning situations right away. I really do not see any sleepers in this pen so I would run and snag Delabar before it’s too late.
Perhaps the worst bullpen in the MLB belongs to the Houston Astros. Are you ready for this name drop? Jose Veras is the Astros closer. Yup. And it only gets worse from there. Let’s take a look into Veras’s numbers, shall we? He had a grand total of 65 career saves as a professional before 2013, and fully 60 of those came as a minor leaguer. And as for this year, Veras sports a hefty 4.50 ERA with a 0-4 record and 3 blown saves. He has job security for now, but if his season trajectory continues like the first two months have, then a switch will likely take place... but a switch to whom? The replacement names that you will read in most places are Wesley Wright and Hector Ambriz but I'm inclined to look a little further outside the box. The first name of interest is Josh Fields but he is currently on a rehab assignment, and it could be a month or so before his name becomes relevant. The most intriguing name is Brad “I’m a Peacock, you gotta let me fly!” Brad Peacock has some really filthy stuff but has never been able to get through a lineups more than once, so maybe he becomes the next failed-starter-now-closer. I don't see any reason why he could not take this closer’s job and run with it. Now, I am not telling you to run out and pick up Mr. Peacock; I am simply pointing out that this is a situation worth monitoring, as Peacock could be the sleeper for saves in this pen.
Here are a few middle relievers worth owning for deeper fantasy leagues. These are guys who could help out your ratios, vulture a few wins, and contribute Holds in leagues that count them, but unfortunately they will likely not get your team any saves. Some names to consider: Justin Wilson (ranked 148th overall), Sean Doolittle (could potentially get saves if Balfour falters), Tanner Scheppers, Mark Melancon and Tommy Hunter (next in line in Baltimore?).
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