Bullpen Messes and the Long Play
There have been a ton of closer situations which have been closely monitored in fantasy leagues over the past week or so. From Jim Johnson and Fernando Rodney blowing save after save in the AL East to Chris Perez and Rafael Betancourt coming up lame (to various degrees), it has highlighted the long-term uncertainty of these back-end bullpen situations. As we know in dynasty formats, closers are fickle beasts–which is why I always recommend trading your closers first when you’re entering a rebuilding phase, or even just staring down the barrel of a lost season. The turnover is just too great and the uncertainty is massive.
However, within the explosion radii, you can sneak in and grab players with long-term skills to hold onto with the hope that they will emerge unscathed from the rubble. So for the purposes of today’s post, I’m going to take a look at three closer scenarios which are up in the air, and instead of talking about who will get the next opportunity, speak to who the best long-term play in the bullpen is. And we’re going to skip over the Marlins because, frankly, unless they’re going to move Jacob Turner to the bullpen and let him air it out, I have no freaking idea. Let’s get rocking.
Short-term: Vinnie Pestano
Long-term: Cody Allen
It’s been long assumed that Pestano would be the guy when Chris Perez eventually moved on. Well, now that Perez’ shoulder has apparently moved on without him, it’s Pestano who’s the inconsistent fireballer in the pen, and the younger Allen who is the steady influence. Terry Francona has already come out and said that Pestano is his guy for now, and Allen may not even be next in line, but the Indians organization is particularly taken with Allen, and he has certainly looked the part so far this year. Through 23 1/3 innings this year, the 24-year old has a 2.31 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 31.6% K-rate. He’s doing it with two plus pitches — a fastball which averages 95.7 MPH and a true out pitch in his curveball, that generates a whiff rate of nearly 42%. Between the chances of Perez returning in 2014 with a functioning shoulder and Pestano reclaiming the consistency that made him the “closer of the future” last year, I’d put the over/under on 2014 saves for Cody Allen at 9.5.
Tampa Bay Rays
Short-term: Fernando Rodney, still
Long-term: Chris Archer
Joe Maddon seems to have a never-ending amount of rope for Fernando Rodney, but eventually he’s going to have to figure out how to stop hanging himself with it. The likely short-term fix if Rodney finally does reach his maximum capacity for awfulness is Joel Peralta, but he’s more of a stopgap option. The real long-term sexiness here is still starting games in Durham. After getting passed over for a call-up in the wake of David Price’s injury, Chris Archer has been stepping up his game, but there’s just no place in the rotation for him right now. A Price trade could clear this up, but there has always been a contingent who believes that Archer was meant to just dominate in the bullpen. Admittedly, I’m not one of them, as I believe he can succeed in a starting role, but Archer could find himself in a Trevor Rosenthal situation. If he does come up to be a part of the major league bullpen, it’s going to be very tough to take a toy like that away from Joe Maddon. Archer has two plus-plus pitches in short bursts that can make grown men cry.
Short-term: Jim Johnson
Long-term: Jake Arrieta
There really hasn’t been much of a difference between Fernando Rodney and Jim Johnson this year, as far as on-field performance goes. Unfortunately for the Orioles, they don’t have a Joel Peralta type to plug in for the ninth inning if they want to move Johnson out. Darren O’Day has his warts, and they’re pretty much the same as Johnson’s. Pedro Strop was inconsistent and is now hurt. Brian Matusz has pigeonholed himself as a lefty-specialist. Their options are limited. However, in the long-term, the guy to watch in the back end of the bullpen is Jake Arrieta. Right now, he is likely to continue starting in Triple-A (he’s only thrown one inning in the last three weeks), but he has the potential to be a strong late inning arm for the Orioles if they made the transition–and they are not shy as an organization about doing that with unsuccessful starters. It’s an extremely small sample, but Arrieta has thrown 13 1/3 career relief innings in the majors and amassed 20 strikeouts to only four walks in that span. It’s not particularly close to happening, but it’s something for deep dynasty leaguers to keep an eye on.
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