Bullpen Report: May 8, 2013

J.J. Putz hit the disabled list and the news isn’t good. The notoriously injury-prone reliever is said to be likely in need of surgery and, regardless, “he’ll be out a long time.” It seems that Putz’s 2013 BB% (14%) is double that of his career average could be a manifestation of a partially torn ligament and, reading the tea leaves, season-ending surgery is a real possibility for the 36-year-old. You might as well wait a couple days if you don’t need the spot, but feel free to drop him in shallow leagues or if you have an eye on another guy on the wire.

In fact, others guys on the wire might consist of Heath Bell or David Hernandez. The former all-star and (more recently) formerly maligned Bell will get the first crack as replacing Putz at the back end of the Diamondbacks bullpen. Taco‘s 4.73 ERA may lead many to grumble “didn’t everyone learn last year that Bell isn’t a closer anymore?” but a look at the underlying peripherals show a much improved pitcher. After surpassing 10% in 2012, Bell’s walk rate is back in the single digits (5.3%). He’s also struck out a third of the batters he’s faced thanks to a SwStr% that has reverted to his career average. He should be rostered in all leagues; Miami Heath could always reappear, but if he keeps pitching like he has so far, he should be successful enough to hold the job.

He’ll have to be successful since Hernandez will be right behind him. Hernando emerged as one of the elite setup men in baseball last year, posting a 2.85 xFIP in 68.1 innings. However, this year, his strikeouts are down and walks are up and both have conspired to raise his ERA predictors into the 4′s. His fastball velocity is off a tick but his biggest problem is that his curveball (historically his best pitch) has been abysmal by linear weights (-0.68 wCB/100 this year compared to 2.00+ the past two seasons). There’s really no reason to believe that he won’t be able to fix his offspeed offerings and after doing so he should return to putting up an ERA in the high 2.00′s or low 3.00′s. If he’s not gone, I’d also grab him in deeper leagues as a speculative play.

• With Kyuji Fujikawa‘s return seemingly imminent, Cubs manager Dale Sveum squashed any potential controversy by naming Kevin Gregg his closer. We’ve covered “Kevin Gregg: Proven Closer” in this space a few times, so I’ll defer to those. Given Gregg’s career mediocrity, I still would be holding Fujikawa in leagues where saves aren’t generally available on the wire — at the very least he should put up passable rates and add a few whiffs to the ledger. Gregg tossed another scoreless inning tonight (non-save situation) and lowered his xFIP to 3.26. For context, he hasn’t had an xFIP below 4.00 in almost a decade (2004).

Brandon League continues to not miss bats, giving up a home run to Paul Goldschmidt last night and sending the Dodgers to another loss. League’s 12.3% K% continues to be a big concern for his fantasy owners, although manager Don Mattingly claims he has decided not to “mess up the pen.” Kenley Jansen and his career 40% K% need to be owned across the board. Hell, you should roster him even if you don’t need the saves, since he’ll likely end up with more strikeouts than a multitude of 150+ inning starters this year (Rick Porcello, anyone?)

Ryan Madson is apparently on track for a return next week. Yes, I’m totally serious. It would be nice to see Madson put his elbow discomfort behind him as the 32-year-old was a lights out reliever with a sub-3.00 xFIP in 2010 and 2011 before Tommy John surgery ended his 2012 before it started. It’s almost a foregone conclusion that Madson will be handled with kid gloves for a few weeks as he continues to rebuild strength in his arm. Correspondingly, I would certainly have him well below guys like Bell, Gregg, or Junichi Tazawa on the “must grab if available” list, but if you have deep rosters and a spot to burn, Ernesto Frieri‘s 18.6% BB% (5.17 xFIP) could allow some doors to swing open for Madson in a month or two.

• Oh, Joel Hanrahan is apparently suffering from “flexor mass issue” and had film send to James Andrews this afternoon. The Red Sox haven’t let on that they think it’s anything immediately ominous, but it’s worth noting that Jason Motte was diagnosed with the same injury in spring training. I wouldn’t criticize anyone who wanted to jump ship for something more interesting on the wire. Andrew Bailey will try throwing on Thursday. Unless you hear something negative, feel free to scoop him up if someone dropped him just in case he makes a triumphant return the day he’s eligible from the DL (next Monday).

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
Arizona Heath Bell David Hernandez Matt Reynolds J.J. Putz
Atlanta Craig Kimbrel Eric O’Flaherty Jordan Walden
Baltimore Jim Johnson Darren O’Day Pedro Strop
Boston Junichi Tazawa Koji Uehara Andrew Miller Andrew Bailey
CHI (NL) Kevin Gregg Carlos Marmol James Russell Kyuji Fujikawa
CHI (AL) Addison Reed Jesse Crain Matt Thornton
Cincy Aroldis Chapman Jonathan Broxton J.J. Hoover
Cleveland Chris Perez Joe Smith Bryan Shaw Vinnie Pestano
Colorado Rafael Betancourt Wilton Lopez Matt Belisle
Detroit Jose Valverde Joaquin Benoit Al Alburquerque
Houston Jose Veras Wesley Wright Hector Ambriz
KC Greg Holland Kelvin Herrera Tim Collins
LAA Ernesto Frieri Scott Downs Jerome Williams Ryan Madson
LAD Brandon League Kenley Jansen Ronald Belisario
Miami Steve Cishek A.J. Ramos Chad Qualls
Milwaukee Jim Henderson John Axford Michael Gonzalez
Minnesota Glen Perkins Jared Burton Casey Fien
NY (NL) Bobby Parnell Brandon Lyon LaTroy Hawkins Frank Francisco
NY (AL) Mariano Rivera David Robertson Joba Chamberlain
Oakland Grant Balfour Ryan Cook Sean Doolittle
Philly Jonathan Papelbon Mike Adams Antonio Bastardo
Pittsburgh Jason Grilli Mark Melancon Tony Watson
St. Louis Edward Mujica Trevor Rosenthal Fernando Salas Jason Motte
SD Huston Street Luke Gregerson Dale Thayer
SF Sergio Romo Santiago Casilla Jeremy Affeldt
Seattle Tom Wilhelmsen Carter Capps Charlie Furbush
TB Fernando Rodney Joel Peralta Jake McGee
Texas Joe Nathan Jason Frasor Tanner Scheppers
Toronto Casey Janssen Steve Delabar Darren Oliver Sergio Santos
Wash. Rafael Soriano Drew Storen Tyler Clippard

[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]

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There are few things Colin loves more in life than a pitcher with a single-digit BB%. Find him on Twitter @soxczar.

15 Responses to “Bullpen Report: May 8, 2013”

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  1. Fei says:

    what are Madson chances to take the CL position from Frieri and should I consider dropping Fukijiwa or keep DLing him?

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    • I think he’s got a shot but it’s a bit off given his situation. If you are speculating for saves, I’d rather have Fuji right now. Gregg will likely hit a bump in the road sooner rather than later.

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  2. deezy333 says:

    Which has a better change of taking the closer job the soonest: Fujikawa or Hernandez ?

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    • Ben says:

      Fuji. Bell is better than Gregg. Fuji received a closer-ish type deal as well.

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    • Fuji. Gregg is bound to string together a few “eh” performances eventually and DH has some issues to work through before he’s back to where he was last year.

      Although, TBH, I’m not going out of my way to make Cubs RP the lynchpins of my fantasy bullpen.

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  3. jon says:

    Hey Colin – What’s the smartest play with only two Roster spots available for Bailey, Tazawa and Hernandez? Bell is gone in this 10-team league, but next-in-line types are usually out there for a bit. I can’t decider whether to roster both Red Sox RPs and corner that market or hold on to Hernandez who, as you mention, is a better pitcher than he’s shown so far this year, with the idea that Putz is probably out long-term and Bell isn’t a lock. My other two closers are Chapman and Mujica. what do you think? thanks! we also count K/9 and IP in my league.

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    • Honestly, if it were me I’d hedge with Bailey/Tazawa until next week when we should have more info on Bailey.

      Hernandez probably won’t see the ninth unless Bell throws up 2-3 bad outings in a row. Hernandez has been the better pitcher the last few years, but change is not imminent, especially with Hernando’s issues with his offspeed stuff.

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  4. Zak Hendsch says:

    I think it Kenley Jansen who gave up the game winning homer to Goldschmidt last night. League didn’t miss any bats, but that’s because he didn’t pitch.

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    • Goldschmidt has actually been a Dodger bullpen killer since I was referring to a game two nights ago where he also hit a shot off League.

      Last night he did victimize Jansen, although it happened after our pre-midnight deadline.

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  5. Jim says:

    Putting heavy consideration into trading Kimbrel for Jason Grilli….what do you think

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  6. MoonUnitZalpha says:

    I have something of a roster crunch coming up. Fuji is coming off the DL and I had picked up Rosenthal as his replacement. Who should be the one to go since Gregg was named the closer?

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  7. Fei says:

    Colin whats your ETA on Jansen getting the closer’s gig?

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