The Ax Man leaveth. John Axford has (at least for now) been removed from Cleveland’s ninth inning role. So everyone rush to the wire to pick up… wait, is “committee” owned in my league? Axford and his 5.45 xFIP have been touched on a couple times over the past week and little has changed in the peripherals department.
So who do you want to own? Cody Allen is likely gone in most leagues where saves are a precious commodity. He was already one of the pre-season’s top sleeper setup men and has seen his ownership tick up over the last couple of weeks as Axford has struggled. Bryan Shaw has also gained some traction over the last week or so as he wrapped up a save earlier in the week. While his raw stuff isn’t quite as good as Allen’s, both pitchers possess solid ERA indicators.
Francona also hinted that Scott Atchison and Marc Rzepczynski may figure into the ninth inning. Atchison has pitched extraordinarily well this season, as the former gym teacher owns a 12/3 K/BB in 14.1 innings this season. While “Atch” has been a tremendously undervalued reliever over his career, he does not have the pitch repetoire of Allen or Shaw. One minor point in his favor? He is a favorite of Francona, going back to their time in Boston in 2010. “Scrabble” (Rzepczynski) has also pitched OK this season, although his 2.08 ERA is well below his 3.74 xFIP. Unfortunately (for him) he has pretty bad platoon splits, pitching well against lefties but getting raked versus righties. He could be an option if lefty-lefty-lefty is due up, but I’m not burning any FAAB or waiver position on him. My handicapping in this pen would be Allen, Shaw, (gap), Atchison, (gap), Rzepczynski.
Those owners who decided “screw it, I’ll hold onto Joe Smith” (or who were too lazy to cut him) were rewarded with somewhat of a surprise save this afternoon. Coming into the game, it sounded like Ernesto Frieri‘s reclamation of the closer’s role wasn’t quite complete and it was Smith who was tabbed to bail Tyler Skaggs out and polish off his win. Smith did allow a pair of Skaggs’ runners to score, but he induced a game-ending double play to add another SV to the ledger. Frieri had only thrown 12 pitches the last 3 days so it wasn’t a usage issue, but Smith didn’t blow anyone away either. Both guys should be rostered, although Frieri seems like the better bet to one-up the role (until his next mini-slump, that is).
All hail the 101 mph fastball. Aroldis Chapman is back off the disabled list. While the Reds got blown out, there was still some thought that he might squeeze his way into a low-pressure situation. That did not happen, but it appears he is worth activating in all leagues as manager Bryan Price was quoted as saying “I’m not hesitant. He doesn’t need a soft landing” when the question of whether or not the flamethrowing Cuban would immediately return to the ninth inning was posed. Jonathan Broxton‘s run of relevance is over for now — his 1.00 ERA was good, but his 4.25 xFIP was far less appealing. The Reds did well to extract some solid performances from him, but expect less enticing rates going forward as the big righty slides into a setup role.
Quick hits: Casey Janssen
started a rehab assignment made his third rehab appearance today, tossing a scoreless inning. While that’s good news, his owners haven’t forgotten his last rehab stint that ended in a setback. He might still be a bit away from returning, but he should be a fairly good bet to take over the ninth when he gets to Toronto. Francisco Rodriguez notched save number 15 on the season. If you were able to rush to your wire and grab him the first week of the season, kudos — he now has only one less save than Koji Uehara and Greg Holland combined. Jordan Walden and Ryan Cook to the disabled list. You’re going to need to look elsewhere, holds leaguers, at least for the next few weeks.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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