March 10, 2013 posted by Chuck Anderson

Closer Report – Four Teams to Watch

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Casey Janssen, RP, Toronto Blue Jays

Fantasy owners drafting in the next week have some unsettled closer situations to make sense of.  Injuries and trade rumors have muddied the waters in Toronto, Cleveland, Anaheim, and Chicago.  Going in depth on each team will guide those who need to make a decision soon.




Casey Janssen built on 2011’s momentum with an outstanding 2012.  Last year he had a 2.99 xFIP and 6.09 K/BB.  He stabilized the ninth inning and his skills look solid going forward.  The problem is he is recovering from off season shoulder surgery and has yet to face live batters.  Reporters close to the team believe there is a competition at hand.


The challenge comes from Sergio Santos.  He is also recovering from a shoulder cleanup.  He pitched in three exhibition games before missing a turn with triceps soreness.  This is a very fluid situation, currently Janssen’s value is down and Santos is worth an endgame pick in standard mixed leagues.  For prospect hounds thinking this is Marcus Stroman’s chance, remember he has most of a 50-game PED suspension to serve.




Chris Perez strained his shoulder and pulled out of the WBC, but is ready to resume light throwing.  He is not a lock for Opening Day, but assuming no further setbacks will be on the active roster before many games are played.  Many expected him to lose his job last season, instead he responded with a career year.


While his ERA rose slightly, his strikeout rate improved from under 6.00 to over 9.00.  All of his indicators dropped over a run.  All his contact rates support the increase in strikeouts.  The slider was his key pitch, he threw it more often and it nearly doubled in whiff rate.  None were taken over the fence, and it had more horizontal movement.  If he can retain the sharp break on the slider he will continue to have success.  Owners should be worried if he rushes back from this injury, however.


Vinnie Pestano is worth drafting for his skills alone, although they were not quite as good as they were in 2011.  He lost one mph off his fastball and his swinging strike rate declined significantly.  Provided this is not the start of a trend he is still among baseball’s top ten setup relievers.


Ernesto Frieri, RP, Anaheim Angels



Ryan Madson was ostensibly brought in to close games but he is not fully healed from Tommy John Surgery.  His first bullpen session since February is scheduled for Monday.  The current timetable estimates a mid-April return to live action.  It is hard to invest much when he has not pitched since 2011, but worth noting that his xFIP was under 3.00 each of the two years before he was hurt.


Ernesto Frieri is healthy and was one of the league’s most effective closers last season.  He found some good luck, his .208 BABIP against was second lowest among 136 relievers.  Although he lowered his walk rate, it was still over 4.00/9, likely worrying the organization.  In mixed leagues larger than twelve teams both pitchers should be drafted in the latter rounds.  In shallower groups draft Frieri for strikeouts and ignore Madson until he sees game action.


Chicago Cubs


Carlos Marmol is always risky because of his poor control.  He already has four walks in 3.2 IP this Spring.  The SunTimes recently reported that he should “expect” a trade, but not necessarily in the immediate future.  Although it seems he will begin the year earning saves, he is still a shaky investment.


2012 displayed the lack of in-house competition for Marmol so Kyuji Fujikawa was imported.  His career K/BB in the NPB was 4.42.  His fastball reportedly sits in the low-90s, so he will rely more on control than power.  He is unscored on in 4.0 IP with five strikeouts and no walks for the Cubs.  Still, with Marmol in the fold there is no need for standard mixed league players to bite on Fujikawa until he succeeds when the games count.


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