Welcome to the first Bullpen Report of 2013! Starting Opening Day, we’ll be back on a nightly basis, discussing near real-time bullpen happenings and what those Heath Bell meltdowns mean for your fantasy squad (hint: not too much this year). To stay sharp, we figured we needed to get a couple side sessions in to make sure we’re ready so we’ll be popping in every few days for the next couple weeks to hopefully provide some assistance (at least do no harm) for your drafts and pre-season waiver moves.
• It’s a perfect day for the BR to return as this spring’s most important bullpen saga appears to be close to a resolution. It was only a few days ago that Aroldis Chapman himself was quoted as having a preference for closing. Ninth inning blood, you might say. It appears the Reds may have listened, as Paul Daugherty reported Cincinnati has made the internal decision to move the flamethrower back to the bullpen. Of course, general manager Walt Jocketty quickly came out and categorically denied any decision had been made, but all signs appear to point towards the Cuban hurler moving back to the end of games.
The move would have massive fantasy implications as Chapman would easily slide in as the second best closer in baseball, just behind Craig Kimbrel and ahead of names like Jason Motte and Jonathan Papelbon. Roto owners who have already drafted would likely welcome the development as Chapman’s ADP should now slide up from around pick 90 (per FantasyPros) to somewhere in the late 50’s or early 60’s. Assuming Chapman throws about 70 innings and sustains a ~40% K%, owners should expect to add another 110-120 strikeouts to the ledger. Not too shabby coming from a RP slot. Some will lament the fact that his 100 mph heater won’t get a shot in the rotation, but there was plenty of question as to whether or not he could be effective as primarily a fastball/sider starter. While Chapman’s outside shot at becoming the next Randy Johnson might be stifled, there’s no denying his fantasy floor would be tremendously higher as a reliever.
• Admittedly, this immediately makes the $21 million (three years) the Reds threw at Jonathan Broxton look rather foolish. Broxton has been going around 183rd in most drafts as of this evening, so owners aren’t more than a double-digit round pick, but many owners may still be scrambling for saves to open the season. He halted his 2010 and 2011 decline last season, and actually went so far as to put up a 3.02 xFIP in 25 games after being traded to the Reds (part of the reason they… threw $21 million at him). Steamer and Oliver project his K% to be around 20% this year– a slight bump from last year’s 18.9% figure– so as a setup man he’d be probably less desirable than Sean Marshall from a fantasy perspective and doesn’t hold tremendous value as a Chapman handcuff. If the Reds do come out and officially shake up the bullpen, Broxton is droppable in most standard leagues.
• Below is the first iteration of the 2013 closer grid. It’s still in need of some fine-tuning since we’re still in our spring training, but a couple quick comments. The Reds situation is tagged as red, but would immediately flip to green if Chapman is confirmed in the ninth inning. Ernesto Frieri seems destined to open the season as the Angels closer and should get at least a few weeks in the role before Ryan Madson is healthy and tries to steal the job back. He doesn’t have long-term stability, but will get you some saves early. It’s going to be a race for Frank Francisco and Grant Balfour to be ready for Opening Day. Balfour has more job security when healthy, but Francisco’s peripherals were shaky enough he might still lose the job to Bobby Parnell even if healthy. Toronto’s situation is still up in the air, with Casey Janssen making his Grapefruit League debut tomorrow. This situation will be covered in more depth in this space next week, but those drafting in the next few days should try and snag both Janssen and Sergio Santos if they are dead set on owning the Blue Jays closer.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]