• Casey Janssen closed the door on the Angels in impressive fashion, including striking out Mike Trout swinging to end the game, to wrap up his ninth save of 2012. With news popping up in the last couple of days that Sergio Santos has shut down his rehab again with renewed shoulder discomfort, it’s looking more and more like Janssen might just hold the job for the next few months, if not the remainder of the year. The Jays new closer has been sterling this year, only walking 1.5 per nine while sporting a 2.86 xFIP. If that wasn’t enough, those numbers are actually still worse than his June tallies, where he owns a 1.80 xFIP thanks to the fact that he’s fanned 12 while walking none in 10 innings. The one potential drawback to owning Janssen is the sudden incapacitation of the Blue Jays rotation which seems likely to cut into their projected wins and doom them in the hyper-competitive AL East, but seeing as his ownership percentage is only 61% at ESPN and 48% on Yahoo, he’s a sneaky brilliant alternative to forking over big talent for top-tier save artists.
• Ryan Cook was tagged with another blown save tonight, although, it would probably be more apt to give it to Yoenis Cespedes. Cook was brought in after Grant Balfour loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning in Arlington and promptly gave up a rocket to left off the bat of Craig Gentry — a rocket that Cespedes probably would have had a play on had he not started in on the ball before turning around and racing backwards. It’ll go as a bases-clearing triple, but the Cuban rookie’s inexperience in left field won’t show up in papers tomorrow morning. Cook has slowly built up job security (and Balfour’s outing tonight certainly didn’t help his cause), but still is wildly outperforming his peripherals (1.59 ERA, 4.20 xFIP). In fact, his 5.6 BB/9 is the worst of all current closers in all of Major League Baseball. Since 2007, only Carlos Marmol, Mike MacDougal, and Kevin Gregg have earned more than 20 saves in a season while sporting a walk rate higher than Cook’s 2012 numbers. Illustrious company, indeed. Cook will get you saves for a below-average Oakland team (and O.co Coliseum helps), but he will probably hurt your ERA and WHIP more often than not going forward. I know I deviate from a lot of fantasy pundits here, but I’d be aggressively trying to sell Cook’s ERA and job security to a fellow owner dying for saves and see if I can extract some significant value for him.
• Jonathan Broxton was a bit shaky in the ninth inning tonight versus the Twins, allowing a walk and two consecutive hits before wriggling out of his self-made jam and escaping with a one-run (it was two when he first trotted in) win for the Royals. Broxton has actually been better than expected at the back end of the Royals bullpen in 2012, although his 6.8 K/9 and 2.1 K/BB aren’t exactly mindblowing when compared to some of the league’s other stoppers. More importantly for fantasy owners, Broxton seems like one of the more likely closers to be moved prior to the July 31st deadline as the Royals retool for what they hope will be a big run (anchored by the trio of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Wil Myers) over the next few years. Greg Holland (a trendy pre-season closer pick in his own right) has a 3.01 xFIP and is whiffing 13.1 K/9; an impressive number helping to offset the more mediocre 5.7 BB/9. Holland’s 4.4 July BB/9 and 2.61 xFIP tell the story of a pitcher who has been better as of late and savvy fantasy owners with an open bench slot might want to take a look at scooping him up in the next couple weeks as a speculative add.
• The Texas Rangers didn’t get a lot of great news on the injury front today. First came a report that Neftali Feliz has not begun throwing from a mound yet, implying he’s still at least a month (and likely more) away from appearing in a big league game. A few hours later, word came down that Mark Lowe was being placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained ribcage muscle — an injury that had apparently been nagging Lowe for a while, finally getting to the point where he needed to be shut down (the Rangers likely lining this up with the upcoming all-star break). Couple that with Koji Uehara sitting on the shelf with a lat issue and Alexi Ogando‘s sore groin, and you can make a reasonably compelling argument that the Rangers’ bullpen is missing four of the next five guys in line (Uehara: 3.11 xFIP, Ogando: 3.33, Lowe: 3.99, Feliz: 4.27 (2011)) behind closer Joe Nathan. Mike Adams and his 3.3 K/BB should take on an even bigger workload setting up Nathan, and the left-hander Robbie Ross (3.29 xFIP) should see a value bump in holds leagues for the next couple weeks as well.
For those of you who play daily fantasy games like FanGraphs: The Game, or just like to stream players, here is a matchup you may be able to exploit.
A Pitcher for Tomorrow: Vinnie Pestano (CLE) @ BAL
With the Indians burning Joe Smith and closer Chris Perez in a losing effort, Pestano should be the freshest arm at the back of the Cleveland pen during tomorrow’s tilt in Baltimore. Widely consider to be the closer-in-waiting at the beginning of the season, Pestano has held up his end of the bargain by whiffing 10.8 per nine in a setup role. Unfortunately for him, someone rediscovered the good Chris Perez, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of his solid peripherals when you get the chance.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]