This week in (fantasy) baseball 3/19-3/25

It’s hard enough following one’s own fantasy team without having to keep track of an entire sport’s daily transactions. To assist you, here’s a column dedicated to recapping the most notable trades, signings, promotions, demotions and role changes across the majors over the past week as they relate to fantasy. We’ll do this on a regular basis. If you feel I’ve missed anything important, please don’t hesitate to keep the conversation going in the comments below.

Sean Marshall likely to assume closer role in Cincinnati

Remember all the praise heaped upon the Reds front-office this offseason for not rushing to hand a closer a multi-year deal? In a macabre sort of way, the Reds’ prudence could not have been more validated than it was this weekend when Ryan Madson learned he’ll need Tommy John surgery, thus nuking his 2012 season.

Obviously, fantasy owners with plans to draft the Reds’ late-inning man should slam the brakes on Madson immediately and begin looking for replacements. Dusty Baker’s reputation suggests he’ll tap a veteran over a younger pitcher for the job, which in this case would favor lefty setup man Sean Marshall. One of baseball’s best setup men over the past few years, Marshall, 29, compiled a 2.45 ERA, 1.104 WHIP and 10.1 K/9 over the past two years with the Cubs, and should slot in as a nice No. 2 closer with some upside.

Madson’s bad news also helps ensure Aroldis Chapman will stay in the bullpen this year. With lefty Bill Bray recovering from a strained left groin, Chapman’s services as a situational pitcher will be more necessary than ever, though his strikeout potential means he could make a run at the closer’s job if he can find a way to cut down on the 7.4 BB/9 he posted last year. Rounding out the closer candidates is Nick Masset, a guy who posted strong numbers in 2010 as a middle reliever but regressed last year, and has dealt with a sore shoulder this spring.

Tommy John surgery ruins Joakim Soria‘s season

Speaking of closers with elbow issues, Soria did, in fact, choose Tommy John surgery this past week, throwing the Royals’ bullpen into disarray. For his part, manager Ned Yost is still tantalizing fantasy owners as he dances around the decision to name either Jonathan Broxton or Greg Holland as Soria’s replacement, so for the time being, try grabbing both of them in deeper leagues as we await the news.

Both men are intriguing fantasy options; Broxton, of course, has posted some terrific seasons as LA’s closer, but elbow problems over the past season and a half have raised serious questions about his durability, even if his velocity has hovered around the mid-90s this spring. Holland, meanwhile, had an outstanding 2011 (1.80 ERA, 0.933 WHIP, 11.1 K/9), but the 26-year-old has no major league closing experience and has enjoyed only one full season at this level so far.

Drew Storen at risk to miss Opening Day

Wait, the bad news on closers isn’t over yet. Nationals fireman Drew Storen is still dealing with elbow inflammation, and there’s a chance he won’t be ready for Opening Day. Manager Davey Johnson has already ruled out bumping up Tyler Clippard to the job, since he wants to make sure his number-one setup man keeps doing what he did so well last year, leaving offseason acquisition Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez to fight for the job.

Obviously, a healthy Lidge would be an ideal candidate, given his 223 career saves. But Lidge, now 35, threw fewer than 20 innings last season, the third straight year in which his innings count has declined, and signed with Washington after realizing no team was prepared to hand him the keys to a closer’s job this year.

Rodriguez, whose fastball averaged 98 mph over more than 65 innings last year, brings an ideal closer’s makeup to the table, though he’s coming off a 6.2 BB/9 and 1.508 WHIP, number that are unacceptable for a team looking to make a postseason run this year. But he picked up two saves toward the end of last year, has been dominant so far this spring and Johnson is well-known for supporting younger players in their bids to establish themselves as major-league ready.

If I had to guess, I’d say Rodriguez is the front-runner to spot Storen at season’s outset, and could be an interesting sleeper depending on how long the Nationals’ star reliever is sidelined.

More injury news for Chris Carpenter

Here are two words fantasy owners never want to hear about one of their players: “out indefinitely.” Especially when the news centers on a soon-to-be 37-year-old pitcher with a history of injury problems.

While Carpenter’s latest setback likely comes as little surprise, fantasy owners should look upon him as nothing less than radioactive as the season gets underway. Dealing with nerve irritation, Carpenter’s well-traveled shoulder has left the team with “no timetable” (another scary word coupling) for his return, and this news follows the disclosure of a cervical disc injury that had already cut down on his innings this spring.

I’m no doctor, so I’m not going to speculate on how long these injuries will keep Carpenter out of action. (It’s worth noting that general manager John Mozeliak has compared this injury to the one that ruined Carpenter’s 2004 season and obstructed his return from elbow surgery in 2008.)

Since there are plenty of other starting pitchers available to draft, there’s little incentive to gamble on a guy with such question marks. As far as St. Louis is concerned, Lance Lynn, 24, is probably the guy who stands to benefit the most from Carpenter’s absence. Although he’s made only two major league starts in his young career, he posted a 3.69 ERA, 1.330 WHIP and 7.8 K/9 over a minor league career, during which he started almost exclusively. Lynn’s enjoyed a strong spring so far, so he could make for an interesting sleeper in deeper NL-only leagues.

No timetable for Chase Utley‘s return

Okay, so Chase Utley didn’t announce his retirement Sunday, but there’s no real timetable for his return due to his ailing left knee, and talk of microfracture surgery is never a good sign. When will he return? At this point, it’s anyone’s guess, so you might as well avoid him altogether in most leagues.

Meanwhile, Freddy Galvis, a shortstop by trade, is the guy most likely to see at-bats at second the early going. Problem is, he’s an all-glove, no-hit player, and might not be worth drafting even on a competitive Phillies team.

A comparative study on an unwritten rule of baseball.

Skip Schumaker injures right oblique

The Cardinals lost another key player early last week when a MRI revealed a tear in Schumaker’s right oblique, sidelining him indefinitely and surely zapping his odds of making the Opening Day roster. In his place at the keystone position, keep an eye on Tyler Greene and especially Daniel Descalso, who’s posted a .961 OPS so far this spring (through Saturday). Descalso doesn’t hit for power or steal bases, but he did hit .264 in 326 at-bats last year, so the 25-year-old might be worth a look in deeper NL-only leagues.

Other news and notes from around the majors

Arodys Vizcaino, one of the Braves’ best pitching prospects, will miss the 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery. His absence certainly helps the major-league cases of Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado as they look to secure starts.

Mike Trout returned last week after battling the flu all spring. But his lack of spring training service could give the Angels an excuse to have him start the year at Triple-A, which was foreseeable anyway given the team’s currently crowded outfield.

Chipper Jones may be on his way to the Hall of Fame, but the start of his final season will be delayed due to arthroscopic surgery to repair torn meniscus in his left knee. He’s not expected to miss significant time, and is currently projected to make the Braves’ April 13 home opener.

Ryan Vogelsong (strained back) and Freddy Sanchez (shoulder) will both likely start the season on the DL, though indications suggest they’ll be back by mid-April.

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Karl, a journalist living in Washington, D.C., learned about life's disappointments by following the Mets beginning at a young age. His work has appeared in numerous publications, and he has contributed to the 2014 and 2015 editions of The Hardball Times Annual. Follow/harass him on Twitter @Karl_de_Vries.
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I wouldn’t say Greg Holland has “no” major league closing experience.  More like “very limited.”  When Soria was down with a sore hamstring at the end of last season, Holland served as closer.

Randall Nash
Randall Nash

Heard Broxton was going to start the season as the closer in KC.

Karl de Vries
Karl de Vries
Ecp, you’re definitely right to point out Holland’s closing resume, however limited, so perhaps I went a bit overboard in my choice of words. I still think a healthy Broxton maintains a minor edge, due to his contract and experience as someone who’s been able to hold down a full-time job over the course of an entire season. That said, I’m pulling for Holland to get the job. And Randall, I haven’t yet seen anything definitive on Brox being named the closer, but perhaps I’ve missed something. If there’s a report floating out there, please let me know — I… Read more »