A tour of the league beginning with updates on some injured relievers:
Casey Janssen is ramping up his activities. He pitched in minor league action Sunday and will do so again Wednesday. If he feels good he could appear in a major league exhibition game by the end of the week. Not long ago it seemed unlikely that he would make the Opening Day roster, but in light of recent events that probability has increased. Toronto may monitor his innings initially.
Sergio Santos rested his sore arm for a week but is back on the Grapefruit League schedule. Before April he should throw on back-to-back days. That will be an important hurdle to clear. Consider it a tossup for saves between these two.
Frank Francisco is still far away from game action. He is throwing bullpen sessions and gradually integrating his secondary pitches, but is not throwing anything at 100% effort. In reference to Bobby Parnell, Francisco recently stated, “He’s the closer.”
Chris Perez threw a full bullpen session on March 18 and pronounced that he will be ready for Opening Day. There has not been any negative news since the initial injury, so for now take him at his word and do not expect any save chances for Vinnie Pestano in the early going.
Ryan Madson cut his most recent bullpen short and has scaled back to long tossing. Seeing him in uniform before May would be a mild surprise. Draft Ernesto Frieri as Anaheim’s closer and leave Madson alone in standard leagues.
Mariano Rivera made a late exhibition debut but has three hitless innings under his belt featuring four times as many ground outs as fly outs. There is no reason to doubt he will have another dominant campaign.
Three teams with closer competitions underway:
Bruce Rondon has not allowed a run in his last five innings. He punched out fifteen in 8.2 IP total. He appears to be finding a groove and is the favorite to win the closer’s job once again.
Aroldis Chapman seems to have caught a case of Papelbon-itis. The Red Sox experimented with Papelbon as a starter one Spring, then abandoned the idea before the season. Chapman went on the record this week expressing his preference to pitch in relief. Scouts observing him agree that he is not as sharp when starting.
Late Update: Multiple sources are reporting that Cincinnati is set to announce that Chapman will move to the bullpen
Brandon League has a 12.46 ERA so far. He has walked three against four strikeouts. Meanwhile Kenley Jansen has yet to allow a run. The Dodgers are not backing off their support of League, but typically the outside chorus becomes too loud to ignore in these situations. Jansen is the more valuable fantasy asset.
Finally … Houston’s Jose Veras is typically available well past pick 200 in drafts. His career walk rate is not ideal for a closer, but that late he is by far the best target for saves. He is not necessarily a closer to target, but one players can live with if other plans go awry.
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