It’s not even April yet and the closer carousel is in full swing. Here. We. Go.
• Before the game started, White Sox manager Robin Ventura named Matt Lindstrom the team’s closer over Nate Jones and Daniel Webb. I apologize in leading anyone to draft Nate Jones but Ventura hadn’t named a closer and Jones was the most compelling option on the team. He likely still is the best option, but the ninth inning belongs to Lindstrom now and he succeeded today, converting his first save of the year against the Twins. Lindstrom isn’t a particularly exciting reliever with high K-rates but he throws hard, kills worms and is generally pretty good. He’s also closing now and should be owned by all teams. I can’t imagine Nate Jones will be setting up games all season but whether he’s closing games in August or May I can’t really tell you, and it might largely rely on the bullpen health and effectiveness of other teams. Regardless, Nate Jones profiles to give teams value outside of receiving save opportunities. If you need saves and missed out on Lindstrom on the waiver wire, a sneaky play might be acquiring Jones via trade or waivers as he will likely finish the year with a handful of opportunities.
• Jim Henderson had a quietly awesome 2013 (2.70 ERA/11.25 K/9) but after a shaky spring, the Brewers are going back to Francisco Rodriguez. He even received the opportunity today, finishing the win for Yovani Gallardo, striking out two batters for save number one. K-Rod didn’t have a particularly strong spring himself so one has to wonder if there are some health issues at play here with Henderson. Henderson struggled with his velocity in the spring, and if that’s not returning to form the Brewers can’t wait for it to come back while trying to win games at the major league level. I hate speculating on a player’s health but there might be a DL stint in Henderson’s near future. Meanwhile, K-Rod will return to the role he had briefly on Milwaukee last year. K-Rod was certainly lucky with a 91.1 LOB% and a K-rate(28% K%) not necessarily supported with his swinging strike rate (10.2% SwStr%) in 2013, but he’s above average at getting whiffs either way. Keep a tab on Henderson’s progress as the Brewers are more committed to him than K-Rod but so long as he’s closing games, K-Rod (like any closer) is a must own on all fantasy teams.
• If you’re a relief pitcher in your thirties, there is a decent chance you were anointed as closer today. Following in Matt Lindstrom and Francisco Rodriguez’s path, Jose Valverde inched one step closer to the closer role today as he threw 1.1 perfect innings with three strikeouts only to watch Bobby Parnell blow the save in the ninth against Washington. Parnell, if healthy, is the Mets closer but Mets fans and scouts are certainly worried. Parnell was averaging 95+ mph on his fastball last year as he was proving himself as a consistent closer in Queens but during the spring and today’s outing he mostly sat in the low 90’s. Parnell is still on the road to recovery from neck surgery in the fall and his velocity could start to return to form, but if he doesn’t right the ship soon it will be Papa Grande time. Again. There isn’t much good to be said about Valverde as he has basically been ~ replacement level for the last two years. However, he has two things in his favor – health and the still valued closer experience. Similar to Henderson, if Parnell isn’t right the Mets won’t have him pitching at the major league level. I’m changing the Mets to red on the grid below, keep an eye on this situation and go grab Papa Grande in the meantime.
• Quick Hits: Wade Davis entered a tie game in the eighth inning, but also gave a run, receiving the loss in the process. Nationals reliever Aaron Barrett made his debut throwing a scoreless inning with two strike outs and picking up the win. I mentioned Barrett making the opening day roster last week and he remains a good option for those in deep or NL only leagues in need of relief. He is well behind others for saves in Washington, but he might end up being the best of the bunch in that bullpen before it’s all said and done. Tommy Hunter didn’t have a pretty spring but his role as closer isn’t in question (yet), picking up the save against Boston this afternoon. The Cubs went to Pedro Strop in the eighth inning of a tie game today and it looks like he will be next in line if/when Jose Veras is traded.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]