A look around baseball for the best fantasy options.
Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.
Forget about the curve ball, Ricky. Give him the heater!
The closing situation around baseball seems to be even more chaotic this season than its usual level of high volatility, especially with the awful news that future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera will miss the rest of 2012. The Yankees stopper has been a model of consistency for years, and that is a quality that can be pretty tough to find in the ninth inning this year. Injuries (Mo Rivera, Brian Wilson, Ryan Madson, Drew Storen, Joakim Soria, Kyle Farnsworth, Sergio Santos, Andrew Bailey) and ineffectiveness (Jose Valverde, J.J. Putz, John Axford, Alfredo Aceves, Heath Bell and Javy Guerra have ERAs over five) have made saves a tough category, but the game of musical chairs also gives you an opportunity to find a solution. Here are some interesting closing situations currently in flux:
New York Yankees – With Mo out, David Robertson has received the opportunity to close. He got a save against the Rays on Tuesday night, despite giving up two walks and a hit. On Wednesday night, Robertson was awful in allowing four earned runs in 0.2 IP. You have to think Joe Girardi will give the more experienced Rafael Soriano (90 career MLB saves) a chance to be Rivera’s successor. Robertson had a phenomenal 2011 campaign, but Soriano may have the better ninth-inning temperament.
Miami Marlins – Ozzie Guillen’s club has been hot lately, so saves will be available for the replacement to Heath Bell (10.24 ERA, 2.69 WHIP!). Edward Mujica (two saves in the last week) has been solid in May, while Steve Cishek has better numbers (4-0, 1.17 ERA) but blew a save opportunity on Wednesday night. Both pitchers should get ninth-inning work, and Mujica has much more experience. However, Cishek may be the correct pickup with his better strikeout rate and the fact that he has only given up one home run in over 74 career innings.
Chicago White Sox – If you wanted to argue that Pale Hose decision makers are all over the map with their pitching choices, I would have no argument. But with Hector Santiago’s struggles (5.73 ERA, 2.00 WHIP) and Chris Sale’s elbow MRI, there should be an opportunity here for Addison Reed to take finally over the job. Before the season, Reed seemed to be known as San Diego State’s closer when Stephen Strasburg was there. He’s carving out his own identity now, with a 0.00 ERA and 14 Ks in 10 innings pitched this season. Reed is the short- and long-term answer on the South Side.
Cincinnati Reds – Sean Marshall is still the closer for now, but Cuban phenom Aroldis Chapman has been almost unhittable this season. The Reds may want to leave Chapman (0.00 ERA, 27 Ks and five hits allowed in 15.2 IP) in his current role where he is dominating, but Marshall’s numbers (0-2, 4.91 ERA, 1.55 WHIP) are below average this season. If it gets worse, Dusty Baker may have to make the decision to test Chapman in the ninth inning.
Chicago Cubs – Rafael Dolis and maybe James Russell will get opportunities to close with Carlos Marmol off to such a terrible start (5.06 ERA, 2.16 WHIP). Dolis has two saves over the last week, but you have to wonder if he can keep it up with such low strikeout numbers (five Ks, eight BB in 19.1 IP). Russell has been excellent in 2012 (0.73 ERA), but he was pedestrian in 2010-11 and has no professional saves. The inconsistent Marmol may also get another chance. Ride Dolis for now, but don’t be surprised if this situation is all over the map throughout the summer.
Worth a Look
These hitters are owned in less than half of Yahoo! leagues, and they are definitely worth consideration for your team.
Chris Johnson – Houston
At a weak fantasy position like third base, the Astros may have an answer in Johnson. He’s batted .326 with a 1.032 OPS over the last 13 games, while belting four homeruns and 13 RBIs.
Kyle Seager – Seattle
There was more buzz about his UNC and Mariners teammate Dustin Ackley, but Seager has been solid this season. He’s hit .298 with an .827 OPS this year and has valuable 3B/SS eligibility.
Josh Reddick – Oakland
The A’s outfielder has four homers, 11 RBIs and 11 runs scored in his last 12 games. He’s hitting .306 with a 1.005 OPS during that span.
Jed Lowrie – Houston
The former Boston infielder also has 3B/SS eligibility, and he has been on fire lately. In his last 15 games, Lowrie has four homers and 11 RBIs while batting .345 with a 1.010 OPS.
Jon Jay – St. Louis
The Cardinals offense is stacked this year, and Jay has been important cog for the defending champs. Over the last 11 games, the centerfielder has batted .409 and scored 10 runs.
Scott Van Slyke – Los Angeles (NL)
Andy’s son crushed the ball in the minors in 2011 (.348, 20 HRs, 92 RBIs in AA) and this season (.336, 8 HRs, 25 RBIs in 32 AAA games) as well, and he had an RBI single in his MLB debut this week.
Weekend Series to Watch
Atlanta at St. Louis
Beware Braves pitchers. The Cards lead the National League in runs scored, batting average and home runs. Rafael Furcal, Carlos Beltran and Davis Freese have been excellent this season, while surprise producers like Jon Jay and recently Allen Craig just add to a loaded lineup. The Braves have hit well too, so expect to see some runs in Busch.
Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee
The Brewers are not scoring many runs in May, and they will face both Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija over the weekend. With the exception of Ryan Braun, the Brewers have been a severe fantasy disappointment this year. The Cubs starters have been solid, but the lineup (outside of Bryan LaHair and Starlin Castro) is still struggling.
Seattle at New York Yankees
The Bronx Bombers face the stellar Felix Hernandez on Friday, but then Hector Noesi (6.30 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) and Blake Beaven (1-3, 4.32 ERA) are scheduled to take the hill over the weekend. Look out. While the Yanks lineup should produce big numbers, the big story will be the return of Andy Pettitte on Sunday.
--Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman on Twitter)