Buck’s Bullpen Briefs Aug. 3, 2015

By on August 4, 2015

Aaron Sanchez is back in action for the Blue Jays. EDDIE MICHELS PHOTO

Aaron Sanchez is back in action for the Blue Jays. EDDIE MICHELS PHOTO

Note: All stats current as of close of play on August 2, 2015.

Well, the 2015 Major League Baseball Non-Waiver Trade Deadline is behind us, and what a week it was. Several major stars, including a few closers, changed teams in the final days before the deadline. In case you missed it, let’s take a quick run through the major bullpen-relevant moves of the past week.

Philadelphia finally traded closer Jonathan Papelbon, and he has taken over the ninth inning in the nation’s capital – which didn’t exactly gladden the hearts of Drew Storen’s fantasy owners. If you own former set-up man Ken Giles, though, your day probably got a little brighter when the news of this trade broke.

The Oakland A’s dealt their closer Tyler Clippard to the New York Mets, where he’ll set up for Jeurys Familia. Clippard’s departure leaves a big hole in the Oakland bullpen, and there’s no clear heir apparent to the closer’s chair.

The Atlanta Braves continued one of the more curious rebuilding projects in recent memory by dealing closer Jim Johnson to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he’ll be a set-up man for closer Kenley Jansen. If you own Storen, Clippard and Johnson, this was not one of your better fantasy baseball weeks.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs continue their shell game disguised as a bullpen by apparently changing closers yet again, while the Toronto Blue Jays activated a pitcher who looked like a closer-in-waiting not that long ago. There was plenty of news to be had this week, and what to make of it all is the topic of this week’s edition of Bullpen Briefs.

Who’s Out?

Jonathan Papelbon’s arrival in Washington spells a demotion for former ninth-inning man Drew Storen, who has forged a 1.64 ERA and converted 29 of 31 save chances in his brilliant 2015 season. Storen’s strikeout rate and help with ratios gives him some relevance in deeper mixed leagues, but his Fantasy value has obviously been dealt an enormous blow.

Another Fantasy victim of a deadline deal was Tyler Clippard, who went from being the ninth-inning man in Oakland to a set-up man in New York. Given the recent struggles of Jeurys Familia, though, Clippard might find himself back in the mix for saves before long, so hang on to him for now.

Jim Johnson had been enjoying a renaissance season in Atlanta, and had taken over as the Braves’ closer about three weeks ago after Jason Grilli went down with an injury. Unfortunately for Johnson’s Fantasy owners, their man is now plying his trade as a set-up man for Kenley Jansen in Los Angeles after he was sent west in a mega-deal that involved three teams and 13 players. Johnson may see an occasional save chance, but his Fantasy value going forward figures to be limited to leagues that reward holds.

We gave you the heads-up last week regarding Colorado closer John Axford’s recent struggles, and he was indeed removed from the ninth-inning role July 31. Axford is probably worth keeping around in deeper leagues if you have the roster space, as there is no clear successor in the Rockies’ bullpen. The team will employ a closer-by-committee for now, with Tommy Kahnle, Rafael Betancourt and Justin Miller all in the ninth-inning mix.

New York Mets’ set-up man Jenrry Mejia failed a second PED test last week, and he has been suspended for 162 games.

Who’s In?

The long-anticipated trade of Papelbon opened the door for his hard-throwing understudy Ken Giles, who has logged saves in each of his first two appearances as Philly’s closer. Giles can be wild at times, but his swing-and-miss stuff still makes him an attractive Fantasy option.

While Giles was the obvious choice to close following Papelbon’s departure, there was no clear successor to Clippard in Oakland. Veteran Edward Mujica was named the team’s closer following Clippard’s departure, but he promptly surrendered the go-ahead run in his first outing July 31. Drew Pomeranz and Fernando Rodriguez are also in the mix, and right now this bullpen has “closer by committee” written all over it.

Like Clippard, Johnson’s replacement was not clear-cut. The Braves removed some of the speculation by announcing in short order that Arodys Vizcaino would serve as the team’s new closer. Vizcaino owns a 0.82 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in 12 appearances since returning from a suspension for PEDs, and he has the raw stuff to handle the ninth-inning role. If Vizcaino falters, veterans David Aardsma and Jason Frasor stand ready for their turn in the spotlight.

Relievers on the Rocks

Seattle’s Carson Smith has allowed runs in three of his last four appearances, while suffering three losses and a blown save. If Smith cannot turn things around, the Mariners may go back to Fernando Rodney in the ninth inning.

Miami’s A.J. Ramos has coughed up six earned runs in his last two outings; Carter Capps would be the likely replacement if Ramos’ struggles continue. Capps left the game August 2 with elbow stiffness, but the injury is not thought to be srious.

Relievers on the Rise

The Chicago Cubs’ Hector Rondon has allowed only two earned runs since May 22, and he appears to have pitched his way into at least a share of the Cubs’ closer’s job. Rondon notched saves on July 29, 30, 31 and on August 2, and he again looks to be the top option in what has at times been a rather bewildering bullpen. One never knows which way manager Joe Maddon will play things on any given night, but Rondon’s recent run of success has returned him to must-own status in all fantasy leagues.

Detroit’s Alex Wilson looks like the frontrunner to take over the departed Joakim Soria’s old job; he registered a four-out save July 31, and then pitched the ninth inning of a five-run victory August 2. Wilson is not a big strikeout guy, but he has held opposing hitters to a .225 average this season while logging a 1.76 ERA and 0.94 WHIP.

Keep an eye on…

Toronto activated Aaron Sanchez from the disabled list July 25, and immediately deployed their young flamethrower in a high-leverage situation – namely the eighth inning of a tie game. Sanchez has allowed one earned run and only one hit in his first five appearances since returning, and it’s important to remember that he was in the closer’s conversation this spring. If he can find the strike zone on a regular basis, Sanchez could become a fallback option if closer Roberto Ozuna runs into trouble.

That’s all for this week; good luck in your fantasy leagues and we’ll talk again soon.

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