Fantasy baseball closer report: Will HRs endanger Jansen's role?


Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Julio Urias earned his first career save as he closed out the 5-3 win Monday over the Atlanta Braves, but it hardly signals major change in the team's bullpen. Right-hander Kenley Jansen remains the closer, but he had pitched in all three weekend games at San Diego -- to differing results -- so it seems only sensible to give him a day off, especially after offseason heart surgery. Perhaps it is a bit surprising that Urias, coming off consecutive outings in which he had permitted a run, vaulted to next in line for saves, but ultimately this is Jansen's role, and barring health woes, it sure seems like there is nothing he can do to lose it.

That's right, the closing role is his, and it almost doesn't matter what his performance is. It seems odd to read that and odder still that I typed it, but Jansen, Sunday's outing notwithstanding, remains one of the top closers in the sport even as his skills erode right before our eyes. Perhaps he is still recognized as the No. 1 closer for past results. That is fine. He boasts five consecutive seasons with 38 or more saves and elite strikeout numbers, after all, and unless more heart issues intervene, he will probably do it again. The problem is velocity keeps falling for the one pitch he throws (the cutter) and home runs keep flying over fences. At some point, this disturbing confluence of events must become an actual problem.

Hunter Renfroe parked a walk-off grand slam to win Sunday's game, and it was the fourth home run Jansen has permitted in 17 1/3 innings. OK, everyone hits homers these days, and others have more troublesome rates of home runs per inning, but not among closers. I was concerned last year when Jansen allowed 13 home runs in 71 2/3 innings, yet he saved 38 games. That had to be rare, right? It is. Francisco Rodriguez saved 44 games for the 2014 Milwaukee Brewers, overcoming 14 home runs. These are the lone seasons in big league history when a pitcher saved 38 or more games while permitting 13 or more home runs. K-Rod saved another 89 games in his career. Do home runs even matter anymore for pitchers?

It is a fair question, but all fantasy managers really care to know is whether Jansen is going to lose the closer role, and despite the myriad home runs, my answer is he probably will not. One reason is because there remains a mess of hurlers setting him up, with Urias and Joe Kelly and perhaps several others yet to be acquired by the organization, but this is Jansen, a Dodgers icon with 280 career saves. He can still fake his way to another 38 saves with an ERA around 3.00 (which is fine and just like last season) and allow double-digit home runs.

I use the word "fake" to illustrate that he needs not be at his best to save games. Nobody needs to be! Detroit's Shane Greene saved 32 games last season with a 5.12 ERA. Colorado's Wade Davis was second in saves with 43, but that 4.13 ERA was not fun. It is one of the faults of the save rule; enter in the ninth inning with a three-run lead, allow a pair of solo home runs, and voila, you still earn a save. Jansen does not need to be the 2017 version to aid fantasy managers. For those concerned about his overall numbers, yeah, I expect another ERA on the wrong side of 3.00. Maybe not by much, but over. However, the Dodgers should furnish him many save chances. If you are playing for this season, there is something to worry about, I guess, but it barely affects fantasy value.

Anyway, here are other random thoughts about relievers:

San Diego's Kirby Yates had a rough weekend against those Dodgers, but I doubt his role security is in jeopardy, even as Craig Stammen saved Monday's win. Yates was due to allow some runs. He still leads everyone with 14 saves, and Josh Hader is the lone closer with more strikeouts. It seems silly to believe the Padres will trade Yates at some point, because they look like wild-card contenders.

Speaking of those Brewers, Junior Guerra saved Monday's win with Jeremy Jeffress setting him up and the electric Hader unavailable. Hader is not allowing much hard contact, but when he does, baseballs are flying. Hader has permitted the same four home runs that Jansen has over 17 2/3 innings. There is more danger in limited save potential because his role could be moved to early in games, but performance is not dictating that. Jeffress could close. Why not Guerra? Well, I would say this doesn't last because Guerra isn't that good. Three home runs and eight walks over 20 1/3 innings? He's 34, and he didn't really deserve the "breakout" numbers from 2016 anyway. Add him at your own peril. I still think Jeffress earns double-digit saves.

Chicago Cubs right-hander Pedro Strop threw only six of 18 pitches for strikes Monday, and even the lowly Marlins converted his wildness into three runs. Carl Edwards Jr. is back from the minors, and he hurled the seventh inning, but it figures to be Steve Cishek next in line, perhaps Brad Brach, if Strop continues to struggle. For those stashing Brandon Morrow away, I think it is fruitless. I doubt he pitches in 2019.

I cannot believe Braves right-hander Luke Jackson, with marginal stuff, continues to save games, but I suppose anything is possible in that bullpen. Lefty A.J. Minter figures to see save chances this week. If you want to stash away Craig Kimbrel in advance of his mid-June season debut somewhere -- it could be back in Atlanta -- go ahead. No team signs him until after the amateur draft in early June or they lose a draft pick. It is simple. Argue with the rules, but there are rules.

Cincinnati Reds closer Raisel Iglesias complained to reporters about his role, which has included pitching in tie games, so one would presume the team will punish him by ... giving him precisely what he wants. I mock, but it is true. Teams cave in all the time. Iglesias would be more valuable to the team pitching key innings, but many pitchers do not care about this. For our purposes, I still see between 25 and 30 saves for Iglesias this season, with perhaps five or so wins as well. It is also possible the Reds are tired of this and seeing how the playoffs appear unlikely, perhaps they should entertain and act on trade offers.

Oakland Athletics star Blake Treinen has sputtered of late, and it is because his elbow is barking, to use a popular phrase among baseball execs. I have never actually heard an elbow bark, however. Perhaps I have heard one whine, though. Not to be negative, but I still see an imminent injured list stint for Treinen at some point and would preemptively add Lou Trivino for when that occurs.

Cody Allen returns for the Los Angeles Angels any day now, and perhaps saves are in his imminent future as well. It is not like Hansel Robles has experience in the role. I would go with Ty Buttrey and enjoy 30 saves, but manager Brad Ausmus does not appear to concur. Nevertheless, I am ignoring Allen in standard mixed leagues. I cannot see him pitching effectively enough to make the saves worth it. I'd rather invest in Buttrey.

I still can't believe Jose Leclerc has been so wild that he forced himself out of the Texas Rangers' closing role. Leclerc was so great last year. That said, now is the time to invest. More saves this year between Leclerc, Allen and Minter -- I go with Leclerc. See if someone cut him in your league.

Monday recap

Box scores


Nick Senzel, 2B, Cincinnati Reds: 2-for-6, 2 HR, 2 RBI
Avisail Garcia, OF, Tampa Bay Rays: 3-for-4, HR, 3 R
Jorge Polanco, SS, Minnesota Twins: 3-for-4, HR, 2 R
Chris Paddack, SP, San Diego Padres: 7 2/3 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 K
Blake Snell, SP, Tampa Bay Rays: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K


Pete Alonso, 1B, New York Mets: 0-for-4, 3 K
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Atlanta Braves: 0-for-4, 3 K
Trevor Bauer, SP, Cleveland Indians: 5 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
Drew Pomeranz, SP, San Francisco Giants: 1 2/3 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Mariners: 5 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

Monday takeaways
Won't back down.#FriarFaithful
- San Diego Padres (@Padres) May 7, 2019

We know Chris Paddack is legit. The numbers tell us that, and it was fun watching him mow down the Mets. What might not be so much fun for Padres fans and fantasy managers is an August shutdown. Paddack, 23, did not throw a pitch in 2017. Last season, he fell short of 100 innings, although they were awesome innings. The Padres are currently going with a six-man rotation with Cal Quantrill the extra arm, and they are doing this to ease the workload on fellows like Paddack. Still, those who relied on the 2012 version of Washington Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg know the drill: The Padres could be NL West contenders in mid-August and still Paddack could be shut down prematurely with his future, the saying goes, intact. Who knows? It doesn't mean you trade Paddack today. Enjoy three more months of excellence but prepare for September. By the way, the Padres acquired this guy from the Marlins for Fernando Rodney. Sure, Marlins, you're in this predicament because of lack of money, not the myriad foolish moves.

Kansas City Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi clubbed his fifth home run, which goes nicely with his 10 stolen bases and .280 batting average. He shouldn't be able to hit .280 for six months with a paltry walk rate, but hey, he is doing it so far. Perhaps he is simply different. Regardless, he was a top-100 player for me on draft day, and I probably needed to make him a top-50 option, even as we attentively watch whether his home run total tops his walk total.

Reds phenom Nick Senzel homered twice on Monday and now has three of them in four big leagues games. He hit leadoff Monday. The guy hitting second was Joey Votto. He has three home runs in 33 games. Yeah, worry. I whiffed there. The power is simply gone. Votto should lead off or hit seventh.

Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant homered again, a moonshot off Miami Marlins right-hander Sergio Romo, and this one had the legit exit velocity we so crave. Bryant still hits the ball to the opposite field, and like Votto, he draws myriad walks. Will we get 20 home runs this season? I remain skeptical.

Blake Snell when he faces the Royals this season: 12.79 ERA. In the five other starts: 1.74 ERA. Some things cannot be explained, but if the Snell investor in your league is willing to part with him, go get him.

Chicago White Sox outfielder Charlie Tilson got the call-up and a pair of hits Monday. Perhaps you are tired of thinking of Tilson after a few years of injuries, but he remains a speedster and capable of stealing many a base. Or perhaps he is the NL version of Roman Quinn and it doesn't really matter.

Health report

Boston Red Sox lefty David Price hit the injured list just before the Monday deadline with elbow tendinitis, forcing the team initially to scramble a bit, but this sure seems like nothing major to me. The team has several off days in the next fortnight, and Price might miss only one start. He sure implied this is nothing to worry about. Price is not a surefire top-20 fantasy starter anymore, but he is solid. This news does not make me concerned for fantasy purposes. Nothing really changes.


A pair of undervalued lefties meet at Wrigley Field. Marlins lefty Caleb Smithis 10th in baseball in strikeouts per nine innings, and since he showed these skills a season ago as well, it sure looks legit. Jon Lester is believed to be in the final stretches of his career, and perhaps he is, but he boasts more strikeouts per inning as well and remains effective. His current ERA might double by the end of September, but that is OK if it comes with a strong K rate and 12 or more wins, which it should. Lester is 35, but he is not Felix Hernandez. Catch this game on ESPN+.

Angels right-hander Griffin Canning, on the most-added list for pitchers but still out there in 90 percent of ESPN standard formats, makes start No. 2 in Detroit. Canning might not be a top-40 fantasy starter right now, but why not stash him away in case he becomes one? Not everyone is Paddack, and the Tigers do not impress offensively. Only Miami has scored fewer runs. In addition, we probably do not see Shohei Ohtani in the Angels' lineup because Detroit is starting lefty Daniel Norris, but perhaps he makes his season debut pinch-hitting in the eighth inning against right-hander Joe Jimenez and ... fireworks result!

Most recent KaraBlogs

Monday, May 6: Weekend wrap, Ohtani return, Padres outfield, Taillon injury
Thursday, May 2: Soroka, Senzel among sensible free agent adds
Wednesday, May 1: Mallex Smith, steals, Griffin Canning
Tuesday, April 30: Closer report: Will Smith, Hector Neris, others
Monday, April 29: Weekend wrap, young Nationals hitters, prospects