Jim Henderson (ESPN: 3 percent owned; Yahoo!: 41 percent owned)
The closer carousel is a fickle ride at the best of times, but it’s seldom worse than it is during the first few weeks of the season. Some closers are obviously safe, but even established closers can find themselves vulnerable with a single bad week…if the cries of “throw the bum out!” from the fans are to be believed.
Normally, closers don’t find themselves back in the general reliever pool this early in the season if they’ve had the job for more than a few months, even if a replacement is available. The Twins ran with Matt Capps until late June last season, even though Glen Perkins was a logical successor, and while Addison Reed recorded 29 saves last year, he didn’t get his first until May. Clubs generally have more patience than fans this time of year and with good reason.
This year, however, the triggers have been quick. Carlos Marmol is already out as the Cubs closer after giving up five runs in his first three outings and blowing his most recent save opportunity. Unfortunately for fantasy players, the line of succession is a little murky at this point. On the other hand, the Brewers have an identifiable closer-in-waiting, but don’t yet seem settled on moving away from John Axford.
Jim Henderson has a similar pedigree to Axford in the sense that both took a circuitous route to the majors via independent baseball before ending up in high-leverage situations for the Brewers. If Henderson does end up closing games for the Brewers, both will have entered the season behind a presumptive closer before taking over.
Grabbing one save over the Cubs certainly isn’t a sure sign that Henderson is going to take over, but he has the stuff to be a solid closer if the Brewers do decide to make a switch. He works primarily off a mid-90s fastball and complements it with a low- to mid-80s slider that breaks down and away from righties. If he has a weakness, it’s that his slider isn’t quite as nasty to lefties and it leaves him a more vulnerable against them. It’s probably not enough to warrant a platoon situation at the end of games – as if a manager would agree to such a set up anyway – but a lefty-heavy lineup could give him trouble, which would lead to rumblings if Axford is throwing well in the 7th or 8th inning role.
There’s enough uncertainty here that I wouldn’t drop someone like Perkins or Reed for Henderson, but he is an upgrade over prospective closers like Sergio Santos and those whose days are numbered like Mitchell Boggs.
Lorenzo Cain (ESPN: 13 percent owned; Yahoo!: 34 percent owned)
It’s no shock when someone gets added en masse after a really good first week of the season, but I’m always a little surprised when a player gets mass dropped for reasons other than season-ending injury or demotion. Sure, Jonathan Lucroy and Cameron Maybin had rough weeks, but are they really fundamentally different players than they were a few weeks ago in the heat of draft season? I’m not so sure. Both of them are still owned in well over half of all ESPN leagues, so they’re not quite in my realm yet, but Lorenzo Cain – another whose ownership is dropping at a rather drastic rate – didn’t have as high an initial ownership and has become widely available.
Cain missed the majority of last season due to a groin strain and subsequent hip flexor issue at the beginning of the year, and then reaggravated the hamstring strain to end his season in mid-September. Even with the missed time and lower body maladies, he managed to steal 10 bases in just 10 tries while contributing a few home runs to prove he isn’t solely dependent on steals for his value.
There’s no disputing that Cain is off to a slow start, but it’s been a week, and nothing that has happened this week changes the fact that a healthy Cain can contribute 10-15 home runs and 15-20 steals. He’s certainly nothing resembling a set-and-forget player at this point, but he has solid upside and could even be used as a platoon option to diminish the likelihood that he’ll go 0-for-4 and hurt a team’s batting average, as he hit .306/.358/.486 against lefties last year compared to just .247/.294/.387 against righties. Somewhat unfortunately, Cain steals more bases against righties – a trait that’s hardly unique to him – so if stolen bases are what you need, you may have to put up with a few lackluster games at the plate to capitalize on his speed.
If nothing else, Cain is worth rostering as an injury replacement or a hedge, since unlike whoever is left on a depleted waiver wire in mid-June, he’s almost certain to provide value in at least one area even if he doesn’t quiet develop into the multi-tool star many of us had hoped he would become.
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