Fantasy Relief: Janssen no longer just a stopgap option
The shifting closer landscape continues to evolve and Michael Hurcomb is here to make some sense out of it in his latest Fantasy Relief.
I've got a question for you -- Do you think doctors give discounts for bulk appointments? You know, like businesses reward repeat customers by providing free services after so many visits.
I only ask because I think the Toronto Blue Jays could qualify for a group discount at the rate they have been losing pitchers to injuries in 2012. Most of their misfortunes have come in the rotation, but the team dropped a bomb Sunday by announcing closer Sergio Santos, who has been out since late April, will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery.
It's a disappointing end to Santos' first season as the Blue Jays closer, which featured as many saves (two) as blown saves. Santos is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for spring training. But if he is ever in need of advice of how to bounce back from shoulder surgery, then he can turn to his successor, Casey Janssen, who missed the 2008 season because of a torn labrum.
Janssen's Fantasy appeal (owned in 55 percent of leagues entering Week 16) has remained lukewarm because he was viewed as a stopgap Fantasy option since Santos was expected to return in 2012. But now that Santos is done for the season, it's time to buy stock in Janssen's future.
The 30-year-old reliever hasn't blown a save chance since becoming the team's full-time closer in early May. He has converted 13 consecutive save chances since recording his only blown save of the season in a setup situation April 14. Since he recorded his first save of the season May 9, Janssen has a 1.03 ERA and has held opponents to a .185 batting average.
|1.||Chris Sale, RP, White Sox||25|
|2.||Carlos Villanueva, RP, Blue Jays||24|
|3.||Franklin Morales, RP, Red Sox||19.5|
|4.||Greg Holland, RP, Royals||14|
|5.||Francisco Rodriguez, RP, Brewers||14|
|6.||Darren Oliver, RP, Rangers||13|
|7.||Marco Estrada, RP, Brewers||12.5|
|8.||Steve Cishek, RP, Marlins||12.5|
|9.||Anthony Varvaro, RP, Braves||12.5|
|10.||Luis Mendoza, RP, Royals||12|
In the last 10 scoring periods, Janssen has totaled less than 13 Fantasy points just twice. In the last 28 days, he is the sixth-highest scoring Fantasy reliever in Head-to-Head formats and a top 30 Fantasy pitcher in Rotisserie leagues.
Can Janssen keep it going? I think so.
He owns a .247 BABIP, which is below his career .298 average, and an 88 percent strand rate, which is well above his career 74.7 average. But outside of those anomalies, Janssen's other numbers aren't out of line, especially his batted ball and plate discipline numbers, which have been on line with what he has done the previous two seasons when he went 11-2 with a 3.04 ERA and 1.26 WHIP.
Janssen has even increased his strikeout rate (9.1 K/9) and decreased his walk rate (1.2 BB/9) this season. His FIP (3.03) suggests his ERA could rise, but at least it's not an astronomical jump from where his ERA (2.21) stood through Monday's games.
I think the only obstacle in Janssen's way the remainder of the season is his health. And you can bet your bottom dollar, too, the Blue Jays' front office is crossing its fingers hoping it doesn't have to send another pitcher to the doctor's waiting room.
Each week we'll break down closer situations worthy of further examination ...
Milwaukee: Manager Ron Roenicke's patience with struggling closer John Axford finally ran out. He put the 29-year-old reliever on notice after he took his sixth blown save and sixth loss Monday against the Cardinals. Roenicke then removed Axford from the closer's role Tuesday and replaced him with Francisco Rodriguez. Axford continues to get burned by walks and home runs. Roenicke has always backed Axford amid his struggles, which is why I think it might be worth holding onto the struggling reliever in deep mixed leagues. Don't forget Rodriguez has been mentioned heavily in trade rumors and is likely to be moved in what is shaping up to be a lost season for the Brewers. Unless the Brewers quickly climb back in the playoff race, replacing Axford could only last a few weeks in the event K-Rod is traded. I wrote a few weeks ago I expected a second-half bounce back from Axford and I still believe that's a strong possibility. Maybe a temporary demotion is the motivation Axford needs.
Miami: Ozzie Guillen finally did it. He could no longer watch Heath Bell crumble in save situations, so he removed the hefty reliever from the closer's role over the All-Star break. Guillen saw help on the way in former Marlins closer Juan Oviedo, who was weeks away from returning from a suspension. Sadly, Oviedo suffered an elbow injury stretching out his arm in the minors and now the Marlins aren't counting on him returning this season. Guillen has gone to the committee approach, which still could involve save chances for Bell. However, the first two opportunities have gone to Steve Cishek and Mike Dunn. The Marlins closer situation is a mess and one Fantasy owners in shallow formats should avoid.
N.Y. Mets: Frank Francisco suffered a setback with his oblique injury on a rehab assignment and has been shut down while he receives treatment. The Mets aren't sure if he will have to go back to square one once he is ready to throw again, but Francisco won't be back for at least a few more weeks, giving Bobby Parnell a little more time as a stopgap Fantasy option for saves. Although, Francisco's setback could make the Mets serious players to acquire a proven closer by the July 31 deadline. The Mets have been linked to trade rumors involving Padres closer Huston Street and Royals closer Jonathan Broxton.
|1.||Francisco Rodriguez, RP, Brewers||28|
|2.||Greg Holland, RP, Royals||29|
|3.||Dylan Axelrod, RP, White Sox||30|
|4.||Anthony Varvaro, RP, Braves||33|
|5.||Jeremy Affeldt, RP, Giants||36|
|6.||Kevin Gregg, RP, Orioles||37|
|7.||Sam LeCure, RP, Reds||38|
|8.||Alfredo Simon, RP, Reds||39|
|9.||Cristhian Martinez, RP, Braves||40|
|10.||Alex Hinshaw, RP, Padres||44|
Minnesota: Matt Capps is already back on the disabled list after suffering another setback with his shoulder. Manager Ron Gardenhire initially was easing the veteran reliever back into action and the Twins' skipper was right to proceed with caution. Now, you have to wonder if Capps' durability issues have soured his trade value and he might spend the rest of the year in Minnesota. The Twins will likely go back to a co-closer situation featuring Glen Perkins and Jared Burton while Capps is sidelined.
Baltimore: It's time to put a closer watch in effect for Baltimore. Jim Johnson has been very shaky lately. He has a 10.50 ERA and .414 opponents' batting average in his last seven outings (six innings). In his first 32 appearances this year, he posted a 1.10 ERA and .138 opponents' batting average. This could simply be a bit of a market correction since Johnson was outstanding in the first half of the season. His ERA (2.56) is now closer to where it was last year (2.67) and his career mark (3.21). Though, Johnson can't continue his slide for long, especially with Pedro Strop showing earlier this season he could handle the closer's role when Johnson was sidelined.
N.Y. Yankees: The rehab reports have been positive for Mariano Rivera, who was thought to be lost for the season following June knee surgery. However, Rivera's rehab has gone so well that there is a slight notion the veteran reliever could make a return later this year. Rivera said in a radio interview Monday he is focused on a September return, but general manager Brian Cashman continues to say the Yankees are looking toward 2013 for Rivera. My advice -- If you have ample DL spots and you can afford to stash Rivera, then do so. But don't break your back getting to waivers to add him. He's looking at a late-season return at best and how much use can you really get out of him? The Yankees have gotten quality work from Rafael Soriano, so it's not like the team is desperate to rush Rivera back into action. If anything, they would probably be focused on getting him back for the playoffs and not the regular season.
Call to the 'pen
Each week we'll break down pertinent Fantasy news with setup men and other relievers ...
Josh Roenicke has gone from journeyman reliever to one of the Rockies' top bullpen arms. In his last eight appearances, he has two wins and two holds. Although, Fantasy owners in leagues that use middle relievers shouldn't flock to waivers to add Roenicke. He is still more valuable to Colorado as a long reliever and isn't about to ascend to a setup role in front of closer Rafael Betancourt. Also, he has a 1.39 WHIP and is walking 4.8 batters per nine innings this season, so it's not like he is a shutdown reliever. According to FanGraphs.com, Roenicke's FIP (4.27) and xFIP (4.41) suggest he should be in a far worse situation than he currently is … Tigers reliever Octavio Dotel has snagged two relief wins in July. Although, he hasn't recorded a hold since May 26. Manager Jim Leyland has left the setup work to Joaquin Benoit and Phil Coke. Dotel has had a good strikeout rate lately, fanning 31 in his last 19 2/3 innings, but he is best left for Rotisserie formats since he is no longer seeing regular hold chances … Charlie Furbush has found his calling as a major-league reliever. In his last 22 outings, he has posted a 1.03 ERA and .124 opponents' batting average. He also is 2-1 with three holds and 35 strikeouts in that span (26 1/3 innings). Furbush is doing most of his work in long relief, but manager Eric Wedge has used him in setup situations since mid-June, so his Fantasy value is on the rise … Even with some uncertainty in the Braves' rotation, making Kris Medlen a starter seems like a dying idea. Medlen has regained his form as a reliever in July, posting a 1.08 ERA, .138 opponents' batting average and three holds. His versatility to pitch multiple innings and in multiple situations probably outweighs the potential positives of giving him a chance to start … Sticking with the Braves, if you are in need of strikeouts in Rotisserie formats, then perhaps it's time to put reliever Anthony Varvaro on your watch list. After some early-season struggles, Varvaro has a 1.00 ERA and .161 opponents' batting average in his last six appearances (nine innings). For the season, he is striking out 11.9 batters per nine innings and has two-plus strikeouts in seven of his nine appearances. Varvaro still could bounce between the majors and minors because he has options left, but if he continues at his current pace, then he's going to keep his spot in the Atlanta bullpen … Mark Melancon is another reliever that could help Rotisserie owners. Since returning from the minors in mid-June, Melancon has posted a 0.59 ERA in 13 outings and has struck out 13 batters in 15 1/3 innings. Unfortunately, he has just one hold in that timeframe and manager Bobby Valentine isn't using the former setup man and closer candidate in high-leverage situations. But you could certainly use the low WHIP and ERA in Roto formats … Luke Gregerson has settled back down after watching his ERA soar to 4.71 on May 28. Gregerson has a 1.93 ERA, 24 strikeouts and seven holds in his last 21 outings (18 2/3 innings). Unfortunately, Dale Thayer is still likely to get the closer's role in the event Huston Street is traded by July 31.
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