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Roto Riteup: March 29th, 2012

Given that the true regular season hasn’t started yet, The Game still isn’t quite in full swing either. Instead, today’s Roto Riteup will highlight a couple players that may see action in the MLB opener. The Miami Marlins play host to the reigning World Champion St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, April 4th to open up baseball here in the Eastern Standard Time Zone.

Rather than focus on the obvious fantasy candidates, I’ll highlight some useful bullpen arms for each squad.

Heath Bell is the obvious closer in Miami. No doubt. This of course presents the next biggest bullpen question: who will be the setup man? As of today, manager Ozzie Guillen is yet to announce it to be any single person, but some are inclined to believe it will be Edward Mujica. Given that Mujica already has two holds and a K/9 above 10.0 and hasn’t surrendered a single walk in Spring Training, it would be hard to argue against him. If you play in a holds league, setup men are worth almost as much as closers. A deeper glance at Bell would also suggest that he is on a three year downward trend. In 2011, Mujica had a higher strikeout rate and a lower strikeout rate than Bell. If Bell struggles repeatedly, expect Mujica to be amongst the first to be tried at closer. Mujica is owned in only 3% of Yahoo! leagues. He deserves to be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues.

– Another strong possibility to setup (and be the first in line to close if Bell is injured or ineffective) would be Steve Cishek. He recorded saves in back to back games last year when Leo Nunez/Juan Carlos Oviedo was ineffective. Cishek has done nothing to dissuade himself from the closing conversation either, as so far this spring opponents have a .292 OBP against him. He has walked more batters than one would really like to see, so expect Cishek to be a mid-leverage reliever, not a shut-down closer or high-leverage reliever. I’d expect to see him start the seventh inning in close games, rather than finish an inning for a starter with runners on. Given that his pLI in 2011 was only 0.87 (116th amongst qualified relievers), the 7th inning is where I envision Cishek. He should still rack up the holds for you, so don’t be quick to dismiss him. Cishek’s Yahoo! ownership is currently 1%, and assuming he’s available, a bench spot for a reliever who struck out over a batter per inning last year is a useful piece.

Marc Rzepczynski, affectionately known as “Scrabble” for obvious reasons, has emerged as one of the best LOOGY’s in baseball. Don’t let the LOOGY moniker completely fool you, as Scrabble threw 62 2/3 innings for the Jays and the Cardinals. Even though TLR won’t be making moves in the late innings like a mad scientist, it is hard to not envision Rzepczynski getting matched up early late and often against opposing left-handed hitters. For his career, Scrabble has a fantastic 2.71 FIP against fellow southpaws, and a brutal 4.56 FIP against right-handers. Despite his platoon short comings, Rzepczynski can be a useful fantasy piece. He represents 50% of the lefties in the Cardinals bullpen, so expect a 4th year in a row of 60+ innings. I fully expect him to break the 20 holds mark in 2012. Only 21 pitchers had 20 or more holds, so Rzepczynski would be in rare territory. Rzepczynski is also owned in 1% of all Yahoo! leagues. If your league counts holds, don’t let your opposing managers hit the triple word score with Scrabble. Get him first.