• I wasn’t able to write the Marlins Bullpen Depth Chart Discussion so I’ll use this space now to briefly discuss what’s going on in Miami’s bullpen. As you know, Heath Bell has been jettisoned to Arizona and Steve Cishek now has the closing gig on a full time basis without having to worry about the overpaid vet with “closer experience” lurking behind his shoulder. Cishek can get strikeouts (9.61 K/9 in 2012) but he struggles a bit with control (4.10 BB/9 in 2012) and has shown a pretty big platoon split with a career .240 wOBA against right-handed hitters but a .310 against left side. Still, he’s the Marlins man in the ninth and his job is secure to start the season.
Behind Cishek in the pen are a pair of right handers in Jon Rauch and Ryan Webb. Ryan Webb is younger and theoretically has more upside but he does most of his work killing worms (57.9% ground ball rate) and doesn’t miss bats at a rate high enough to make himself attractive to fantasy owners or work his way into any saves. As for Jon Rauch, well, we’ve seen this story before. He’s tall, has good control and he’s managed to save at least two games over the last seven years. If Cishek struggles, Rauch’s name will probably be the first name called. Behind Rauch and Webb is lefty specialist Mike Dunn who has difficulty finding the plate (career 5.63 BB/9) but can miss a few bats (career 10.10 K/9). Dunn won’t ever find himself as the sole closer on the Marlins or any team for that matter but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a few one or two out save chances when the opposing lineup is lefty heavy in the ninth. The deep sleeper is A.J. Ramos, who has had lights-out minor league numbers based on a four- or five-pitch mix.
• After 51 saves last year, Jim Johnson is at it again getting his first save of 2013 against the Rays earlier today. Darren O’Day closed the bridge to Johnson, pitching 1.2 innings out of relief. While I think Pedro Strop is still next in line for saves if anything were to happen to Johnson, it’s worth mentioning O’Day’s numbers last year. In 67 innings O’Day finished with a 2.28 ERA backed by a solid 2.75 SIERA with a strikeout rate of 26.2% and a minuscule walk rate of 5.3%. With Strop, O’Day and Tommy Hunter‘s increased fastball velocity out of the pen, one could make a decent case for Johnson being the worst reliever of anyone seeing high leverage innings in Baltimore. Nonetheless, Johnson is in no danger of losing his job and should have another solid year in 2013, although I wouldn’t bank on 50+ saves again.
• In non-closer news, Braves set up man Jonny Venters hit the Disabled List and will now be shut down for a month. Craig Kimbrel isn’t going anywhere but teams in need of holds can look to Jordan Walden, who will now take on a bigger role in the Atlanta bullpen. I wouldn’t necessarily want to teach my son how to pitch by watching Walden’s throwing motion but with 95+ mph heat and a strikeout rate over 28% in his career, he’s an interesting guy to eye, and a necessary own for leagues counting holds.
• Chris Perez didn’t pitch too often in spring training after missing most of March with a shoulder injury but he’s proven to be ready for the season and notched his first save of the year tonight against the Blue Jays. Entering last season everyone (myself included) seemed to think Perez would one of the first closers to lose their job. Instead Perez saved 39 games and finished with the best peripheral stats of his career, finishing with a 9.21 K/9 and a 2.50 BB/9. After a solid 2012, fantasy owners can no longer expect Vinnie Pestano to be taking the job anytime soon and if Perez can maintain his improved walk rate, he should finish with another great year for the Indians.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]