When we last left our heroes, Kyuji Fujikawa was serving as caddy to Carlos Marmol, Jim Henderson was in John Axford’s shadow and Tyson Ross was nothing more than the man keeping Andrew Cashner out of the Padres’ starting rotation. One week later, Fujikawa is (for the moment) taking care of ninth-inning leads for the Cubs, my waiver wire wingman Jack Weiland’s prescient observation that Henderson could be The Man in Milwaukee was spot on, and Ross uncorked two wild pitches in a loss to the Rockies.
But just as we’ve kept tabs on those two closer situations through their upheaval, we now turn our attention to the Midwest, where two more bullpens might be headed toward crises of their own.
Trevor Rosenthal | St. Louis Cardinals | RP | 12 percent Yahoo ownership; 4.6 percent ESPN ownership; 21 percent CBS ownership
YTD: 5 IP / 1.43 FIP / 12.60 K/9 / 1.80 BB/9
Oliver: 102 IP / 3.72 FIP / 7.17 K/9 / 3.72 BB/9
This is not what we call a quality outing for a relief pitcher:
0.1 IP, 2 H, 6 ER, 4 BB, 0 K
It almost hurts to look at. So imagine how Mitchell Boggs must feel after his meltdown Monday against the Reds. Okay, so Boggs was hurt by a couple of infield rollers during that nightmarish frame, but along with a blown save last week, it’s been an inauspicious start for Jason Motte’s interim replacement. Regardless of how his MRI scheduled for Tuesday turns out (the results were not immediately available when I submitted this column), Motte is still at least a few weeks away from facing major league hitters, and unless St. Louis is hosting a Maalox night at the ballpark this month, some security in the ninth inning would be a nice thing to have.
Is Rosenthal the man? A bona fide flame-thrower whose average fastball velocity sat at 97 mph last year, Rosenthal in 27 career innings has boasted a 10.41 K/9, a nice groundball rate and a solid (2.6) walk rate. Problem is, Rosenthal was used exclusively as a starter during his minor league career, and he’s already blown two leads in his five appearances so far in 2013, making me question whether he has the guile for late-inning fire duty.
Bullpen counterpart Edward Mujica, meanwhile, has a wealth of relief experience, but just four career saves and not nearly the strikeout capability that Rosenthal does. Beyond that, 24-year-old Eduardo Sanchez is starting out the season in Triple-A but has strikeout stuff.
So far, manager Mike Matheny hasn’t indicated whether a change is on the way, so if you were needy enough to grab Boggs in the first place for the saves, you might as well hold onto him. But owners are clearly starting to move on to Rosenthal, which is fine if one has the bench space, though I’d say it’s less than guaranteed whether he’ll pick up saves as Motte continues to rehab.
Recommendation: Not worth the bench space until he earns the role.
Kelvin Herrera | Kansas City Royals | RP | 45 percent Yahoo ownership; 23 percent ESPN ownership; 32 percent CBS ownership
YTD: 3.1 IP / -0.27 FIP / 18.90 K/9 / 2.7 BB/9
Oliver: 68 IP / 3.38 FIP / 7.29 K/9 / 2.65 BB/9
It’s no revelation that Herrera has a live arm. According to FanGraphs’ PITCHfx charts, Herrera, 23, boasted the fastball with the second-highest average velocity among qualified relievers in 2012. We know he’s talented; the question is whether he’ll have fantasy value.
But it didn’t take long for opportunity to knock. Greg Holland gave up a crushing blown save/loss on Saturday, and had to be bailed out by Herrera against the Phillies on Sunday. Aaron Crow picked up the save on Monday’s 3-1 win over the Twins, but that can be chalked up to manager Ned Yost’s preference for not wanting to use either Holland or Herrera for the third straight day.
There’s a lot to like about the 23-year-old. I’m a big fan of his 2.24 walk rate, which suggests he can do more besides throw really, really hard. Yeah, an 81 percent strand rate feels due to come down a bit, but when it’s balanced by a 55.5 percent groundball rate, I’m willing to give it a pass.
Predictably, Yost has stood by his closer, and Holland, after an injury-affected start in 2012, pitched very well as KC’s closer last year. But his velocity seems to be off from 2012, and despite a nice track record, a high-quality, high-upside reliever waits to replace him. Herrera is already starting to be picked up in leagues; if there’s a whiff of injury news from Holland he’s a must-add.
Recommendation: Put your fantasy forces on DEFCON 3. Holland’s departure might not be imminent, but his upcoming outings will be worth monitoring.
Justin Maxwell | Houston Astros | OF | 12 percent Yahoo ownership; 22 percent ESPN ownership; 23 CBS ownership
YTD: 27 PA / 360 / .407 / .560 with 0 HR / 0 SB
Oliver: 393 PA / .231 / .316 / .409 with 14 HR / 10 SB
Forget the milestone that marked the Astros’ inaugural American League game on March 31. The real story was center fielder Justin Maxwell, who belted two triples and made a great play on a David Murphy drive to lead the team to victory over the Rangers. Since then, Maxwell, 29, has hit in all but one of the games in which he’s appeared (entering Tuesday’s action), and has seen his CBS ownership jump by 11 percentage points since the season began.
Drafted by the Nationals in 2005, traded to the Yankees and claimed off waivers by the Astros at the beginning of last year, Maxwell posted a .229/.304/.460 line in 352 plate appearances. His .292 BABIP might suggest his batting average was the victim of some bad luck, but his 67 percent contact rate was the third-lowest among major league players with at least 350 plate appearances last year, and was accompanied by a dreadful 32.4 percent whiff rate.
Maxwell certainly possesses some pop, evidenced by his career .209 ISO, and with the tempting Crawford boxes overlooking
Enron’s Minute Maid Park’s left field, it’s not hard to imagine a guy who bashed 18 home runs last year putting up at least 20 in this season. Add 15 to 20 steals and you have a cheap player who can help your squad—as long as you’re ready to stomach a hit to your team’s batting average.
Recommendation: He’s cheap offense for AL-only leagues.
Garrett Richards | Los Angeles Angels | SP | 1 percent Yahoo ownership; 0 percent ESPN ownership; 6 percent CBS ownership
YTD: 4.1 IP / 4.42 FIP / 10.38 K/9 / 2.08 BB/9
Oliver ROS: 148 IP / 4.08 FIP / 5.98 K/9 / 3.54 BB/9
For those who were predicting a down year in fantasy value for Jered Weaver in 2013 (of whom there were many), good news: The fractured left elbow he suffered the other day will fulfill that prophecy. With Weaver facing at least a month away from major league action, the Angels are likely to tap Richards, 24, to pick up a few starts in the rotation while he’s away.
What is there to say about Richards? He offers a pedestrian 6.15 K/9 and 4.97 FIP during his career 89.1 innings, and isn’t likely to set the fantasy world ablaze in 2013. But even a mediocre Angels hurler, backed by a strong offense and a bullpen that will eventually add Ryan Madson to its ranks, could be useful in some leagues.
Recommendation: Strictly AL-only right now.