Jared Burton (ESPN: 1 percent owned; Yahoo!: 6 percent owned)
On Monday alone, Glen Perkins was added in nearly 9000 Yahoo! fantasy leagues as the Twins’ usual closer, Matt Capps, hit the DL with shoulder inflammation. It was a reasonable move to make, Perkins was the Twins’ set-up man both this season and last season, so it would make good sense for him to get the bulk of the save chances… except for the fact that the Twins just do not seem to trust Perkins at the end of games. There isn’t a good statistical reason for it, but when closers are involved, the numbers seldom add up. Perkins has been solid as a set-up man, striking out just shy of a third of the hitters he has faced this season and while, at 1.34, his WHIP isn’t what one might hope out of their closer, there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t do the job an inning later than he has been.
For savvy fantasy players, this is good news. Jared Burton has emerged as the player who will, at the very worst, platoon with Perkins and could be in line for the lion’s share of the saves while Capps is out. He wasn’t added in nearly as many leagues as Perkins was when the news of Capps’ absence broke, so there’s a good chance he’s still available for those who need quick saves. He’s fine on his merits, but when Capps comes back, he’ll go back to being a good option for those in Holds leagues and for no one else.
There’s a lot to like about Burton: He’s striking out almost a batter per inning, he isn’t walking many hitters, and he isn’t too extreme on the fly balls. Like Capps, he’s giving up too many home runs, but that’s largely a vestige of his early season issues since he hasn’t allowed one since May 24. The fact that Burton has already thrown more innings in the majors than he threw in 2010 and 2011 combined does give me some pause with respect to his ability to stay effective as the season wears on, but not to the extent that I wouldn’t grab him if he fits a need. Hoping against hope, there’s a chance that the Twins trade Capps before the trade deadline, leaving a hole for Burton to fill for at least the rest of the season; there’s also a chance we’re all caught in a Matrix-like simulation of real life. Suffice to say, grab Burton for a couple saves over the next 2-3 weeks if that solves a problem, but don’t expect him to provide a lot of value past Capps’ return.
Franklin Gutierrez (ESPN: 2 percent owned; Yahoo!: 2 percent owned)
News of Marlon Byrd’s 50-game suspension left owners absolutely scrambling for a replacement Monday…ok maybe that’s not exactly how it went down. Byrd was owned in 1 percent of Yahoo! leagues and about 0.5 percent of ESPN leagues, so there are some owners who are looking for a new solution, but probably not too many. Gutierrez began his season on the DL with a partial tear of his right pectoral muscle, which sounds exceedingly painful, but he was able to make his season debut on June 14.
It would be irresponsible of me to quote any number regarding Gutierrez’s performance over the last 10 games with any sort of weight. He’s still in the portion of his season where his stats are all over the place; home runs in back-to-back games raised his OPS about 500 points, which ought to illustrate just how wildly he’s fluctuating right now. Incidentally, those home runs mean that he has already surpassed his 2010 home run total, so he’s got that going for him, which is nice. His defense will always keep his bat in the Mariners’ lineup, but just what that bat will bring is a big question mark.
I’ll be frank, there’s nothing about Gutierrez I’m particularly wild about. His power was never particularly great; his speed was aces in 2010, but virtually nonexistent in most of his other seasons; and his career OPS is under .700, it just isn’t a pretty picture. So why even mention him? Upside. If your leagues are anything like mine, the wire is getting pretty picked over, with little in the way of fresh blood appearing with any sort of frequency. Gutierrez has — in his career — been a fantasy asset if he’s healthy, which he appears to be now. There’s absolutely a chance that he puts up production in the area of his 2011 numbers, which would make him a tough sell fantasy-wise, but there’s also a chance that he hits a little bit, steals 15-20 bases, and provides overall decent production, we just don’t know right now.
If Gutierrez flops, he’s not going to flop any worse than Jerry Hairston Jr. over the last couple weeks and if he really is healthy, he’s one of the few players available in almost all leagues that could actually be a difference-maker at the end of the season.
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