In the latest episode of "Oh God, I Hate Saves and All They Stand For", another closer down goes down and another heretofore nondescript middle reliever suddenly becomes valuable. Tampa Bay Rays closer Kyle Farnsworth will begin the season on the Disabled List, a move that will kick off the usual waiver wire feeding frenzy in your fantasy league. You see, this is what I'm talking about when I continue to rant and rave about closers in baseball. If you finish a draft unsatisfied with your closer (or closers), there's just no reason to curl into the fetal position and cry yourself to sleep. Closers drop like flies, and new ones pop up like shark teeth, ready to be picked up to provide you with the saves you so desire.
Sadly, Joe Maddon may be the absolute worst manager for our fantasy purposes here. Maddon is a brilliant manager, but his progressive style of bullpen management is bound to screw any fantasy manager seeking to reap the benefits of Farnsworth's injury. Maddon is more than willing to utilize a closer-by-committee to protect ninth inning leads, and fantasy managers like closer-by-committees about as much as they enjoy being punched in the throat. Expect the saves in St. Petersburg to be spread out democratically to some combination of Joel Peralta, J.P. Howell, Fernando Rodney, and alleged sex fiend Josh Lueke.
However, if you're going to bank on one guy getting the lion's share of the ninth-inning opportunities, it should be Peralta. If Maddon bucks form and nominates a traditional closer, then Peralta is the most likely pitcher to fill Farnsworth's shoes. Peralta saved games when Farnsworth missed some time in September of last year and was solid down the stretch. With his reborn splitter, he can miss enough bats to close games effectively, and he's proven he can succeed in the role before, so if you're desperate for saves, Peralta is your guy for the next couple of weeks.
After the jump, more bullet point ranting about some fantasy-relevant moves from Opening week.
--Fantasy owners of Brandon Belt and fans of baby giraffes everywhere, throw your hands up! Belt has made the Opening Day Giants roster and it looks as though he may be the starting first baseman, with Aubrey Huff moving to the outfield. This is a huge deal for owners who picked up Belt as a late-draft sleeper, hoping he'd mash his way to some playing time this Spring. He did just that, tearing the cover off the ball for the past two weeks, virtually forcing the offense-starved Giants to slot him into the everyday lineup.
The bad news? Apparently, he's going to be platooning with rookie Brett Pill, which could cut into his playing time. No matter. The only way for Belt to break this platoon is to hit the way we know he's capable of. If he loses more at-bats to Pill, it means he isn't hitting and won't be worth your fantasy while. From what we've seen from his minor league numbers, though, he's likely to mash if simply left alone. He's a solid play this week as well, with the Giants opening their season playing in two bandboxes, plus his multi-position eligibility first base and outfield) give him added value.
--The Miami Marlins were shut down in embarrassing fashion in their garish new ballpark Wednesday afternoon, completely dominated by the Cardinals' Opening Day starter. When you read that sentence, you figure Chris Carpenter's pitching line will follow, but no, Carpenter was put on the DL the other day, and it was Kyle Lohse who did the dismantling of the Miami lineup yesterday. Lohse is coming off of a fantastic season in which he led the World Champs in wins and ERA. Even with his unimpressive repertoire, he's kept his walk rate low and continues to bewilder his doubters (people like me). He's worthwhile to own, but there's always the fear of a collapse due to his low strikeout rates.
With Carpenter out at least a month, Lance Lynn becomes a man worthy of a waiver claim. Known mostly for his comical "appearance" in Game Five of the World Series last year, Lynn was used as a setup man throughout the playoffs, but he saw some success as a starter in the minors. He had a decent Spring and he's a solid pickup for those in need of some quick and cheap innings over the next month or so.
--Perhaps the shocker move of the Spring was the Nationals demoting innings-munching soft tosser John Lannan to AAA in favor of oft-injured Ross Detwiler. Lannan immediately demanded a trade, sparking questions as to how much interest a junkballing lefty with a career 4.7 K/9 could possibly garner. The answer so far has been: not much. Lannan has retained value in deeper fantasy leagues by virtue of his ability to provide above-league average innings, though he's far from a star. Keeper leaguers who rely on him for mundane back end rotation help are probably pissed, but they should just pray he doesn't get traded to Colorado or something.
Detwiler is a servicable enough fifth starter, at least until he gets hurt again. The small uptick in his strikeout rate and velocity last year was promising and he has a lot more potential than Lannan for an up-and-coming Nationals team. He might be a more worthy pickup in keeper leagues as he moves farther and farther away from hip labrum surgery.
--Lastly, the Chris Perez Watch is on. I had mentioned the potential volatility of Cleveland's closer situation in this article a couple months back, predicting that Vinnie Pestano might overtake Perez as the Indians' closer by season's end. Sure enough, Perez coughed up a three-run ninth inning lead today to the Blue Jays, leading to a 16-inning marathon that the Indians eventually lost. Perez was no great shakes last season and he's probably skating on thin ice with Manny Acta. It's probably not a bad idea to pick up Pestano now to get a leg up on the seemingly inevitable Perez collapse.