• Joel Hanrahan had a night to forget in Boston. Coming on with a two run lead, he gave up a leadoff shot to the red-hot Chris Davis and things only went downhill after that. A few walks and a wild pitch later and the save was blown, and that was still before Manny Machado jacked a three-run moonshot over the Green Monster to put a five-spot on the Red Sox closer. Hanrahan was great in 2010 and 2011 but suffered major regression last season, seeing his velocity dip (97.1 mph to 95.9 mph) and his walk rate soar (5.8% BB% to 14.2%). He hasn’t been good this year, either, with an 11.69 FIP (6.63 xFIP) through 23 batters faced. Even though his velocity is back up over 97 mph, the control continues to trend downward with his F-Strike% down another few percentage points from 2012′s career low.
After seeing a wild Hanrahan during a spring training trip to Fort Myers, I implored people not to draft him in this space a few weeks ago. What’s exceptionally frustrating for Red Sox fans and fantasy owners alike is the Sox have three arms (Andrew Bailey, Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa) who appear to be significantly better high-leverage options than “The Hammer.” There’s just not a lot to like about him right now; and if I could sell him to an owner who needs another “closer,” I’d pull the trigger. If his rates don’t improve, there’s a very real shot he’s out of the ninth in Boston by June 1st, if not earlier. He’s not yellow yet, but one more bad outing and he’ll be there. For those who want to speculate, I’d rank the fallback options Bailey, Tazawa, Uehara. Uehara is arguably the best arm in the pen, but manager John Farrell has gone on record saying he is hesitant to overwork him.
• Another day, another quote from Jim Leyland implying Joaquin Benoit is the Tigers’ de facto closer. Benoit has been covered a lot in this space before, so I won’t bore with paragraphs of the same analysis. He remains the Tigers reliever to own right now if you had to choose between guys at the big league level. Since Benoit has the rates (3.29 xFIP the previous two years) to take the job and quasi-run with it, he’s also certainly worth an add if he’s still kicking around on the wire. That said, he’s stuff isn’t so electric that it would be surprising for either Jose Valverde or Bruce Rondon to appear next month.
• Speaking of Detroit, Casey Janssen racked up save number two in Motown this afternoon, tossing a scoreless ninth to cinch an 8-6 victory for the Jays. He has looked phenomenal so far this season, striking out half of the ten batters he has faced while only allowing a single baserunner. Kudos to you if you stayed the course and bought low on him in pre-season drafts. One thing to keep an eye on, though, Janssen’s fastball velocity has been down a bit early this season and was still below 90 mph today. Hopefully it’s just a bit of rust as he builds up strength after his offseason shoulder surgery, but it’s still something to keep an eye on. Trending upward would be good, flat or downward could foretell bumps in the road.
• Rafael Soriano had no trouble finishing off the White Sox tonight in Natstown, so he’s clearly over his “little tweak in his leg.” Last year’s waiver wire saviors Jim Johnson and Fernando Rodney each picked up saves tonight. While the potential both (mostly Johnson) to regress still concerns me, don’t be tricked into thinking they aren’t two of the more job-secure options in the league right now. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’d turn down a nice offer if I were to get one…
• On the injury front, Sean Marshall has ended up on the DL with shoulder problems, which are always concerning. He’s off the grid for now — if you are using him in holds leagues, you probably should look elsewhere for a while. Ryan Madson threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Tuesday and hopes to face live hitters in two weeks. He still has a lot of upside thanks to his pre-injury peripherals, but it appears he won’t be back until mid-late May (barring setbacks) and will have to work in middle relief initially. He’s safely droppable if you’ve been stashing him in shallower leagues and could use the roster spot.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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