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NL FAAB Factor: Opportunity Knocks for New Closers

Jan Levine

Levine covers baseball, basketball and hockey for RotoWire. In addition to his column writing, he's the master of the MLB and NHL cheatsheets. In his spare time, he roots for the Mets.

National League – FAAB – 7/22/12

Starting Pitching:

Jhoulys Chacin – Chacin, on the DL with a pectoral injury, threw “very well” in his two-inning simulated game Tuesday afternoon. His next simulated game could be moved up from Sunday to Saturday, in order to simulate the four-man rotation the Rockies are currently using. Chacin should tack another inning to that outing, which would up his pitch total to approximately 45, as he inches closer to making rehab starts and re-joining Colorado. The Rockies discovered that Chacin was struggling with his velocity due to a pectoral injury rather than shoulder inflammation as was previously believed. Once that was discovered, the treatment he received was changed, prompting the recent progress. Though there was initially some optimism that Chacin would return right around the All-Star break, which obviously did not happen, if he continues to progress, he could be ready in early August. Mixed: $3; NL: $9 (early speculative bid).

Josh Collmenter – Collmenter, who made four starts and then was demoted with a 9.82 ERA, only to be recalled and used in relief -- then moved to starting and back to relieving -- will now return to the rotation following the demotion of Trevor Bauer. Collmenter has a 1.30 ERA over his last 41.2 innings and should get a chance to remain in the rotation, with both Bauer and Patrick Corbin needing more seasoning in the minors. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.

Justin Germano – Germano was traded to the Cubs for a cash considerations Thursday. He was DFA'd by the Red Sox last Friday, despite going 9-4 with a 2.40 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 17 appearances (16 starts) for Triple-A Pawtucket this season. Germano also threw 5.2 innings for the Red Sox, striking out seven while allowing no runs. With the strong rumors that Ryan Dempster is on the verge of being traded, Germano, who has started 36 games in the majors in his career, could slot into the potential open spot in the Cubs’ rotation. In addition, if Matt Garza, who left Saturday’s start with a wrist/forearm issue is sidelined or traded, Germano, who gave up one run in three innings in his place Saturday, could move into that rotation slot. Mixed: $0; NL: $2.

Roy Halladay – Halladay, profiled the past three weeks, gets another mention as he rejoined the Phillies this past week. He allowed two runs on five hits in five innings of work in his return from the disabled list Tuesday. Halladay struck out six and walked none in his 80-pitch effort, topping out at 93 mph with his fastball. Prior to being sidelined, Halladay, who hasn't posted an overall ERA above 3.00 since the 2007 season, was 4-5 with a 3.98 ERA in 70.3 innings. His velocity is down about one mile per hour from last season, and his K/9 has dipped from 8.47 last season to 6.97 this season, which may indicate that he had hidden his injury (as was rumored to be the case since the spring) for a while before it sidelined him. If healthy, he should be jumped on in all leagues.

Matt Harvey – Harvey, profiled last week, did not call get the call to fill the injured Dillon Gee's rotation slot. The Mets like the way Harvey is progressing, but GM Sandy Alderson is determined not to rush any of his young pitching prospects. Harvey was solid Monday, but hit hard Saturday at Triple-A Buffalo, allowing six runs on seven hits, while walking two and striking out six in five innings. Despite the rough start, with Johan Santana landing on the DL and Miguel Batista (who started Saturday over Harvey) ineffective, Harvey could get the nod to start Thursday against Arizona. Buffalo manager Wally Backman said last week that Harvey has made significant strides with his fastball command in the last month to go with his major-league-ready curveball. Harvey still has work to do, including keeping his fastball down in the zone and further use and development of his changeup, so that big league hitters cannot sit on the fastball, but he may get the chance to work on that in the majors. Mixed: $2; NL: $7 (early speculative bid).

Jeremy Hefner – Hefner was called up after Saturday’s game to give the Mets another bullpen arm with Johan Santana landing on the DL due to his sprained ankle. With Santana out and Miguel Batista ineffective Saturday, there may be two open slots in the team’s rotation, one of which might be filled by Hefner. Hefner threw 47 pitches in two innings Saturday, but might start Wednesday in place of Santana. Mixed: $0; NL: $2.

Dallas Keuchel – Keuchel was recalled to join the Astros’ rotation after J.A. Happ was traded to Toronto on Friday. Keuchel, who was called up in June to replace the injured Bud Norris, made four starts before he was sent back down. He didn’t strike out many batters -- just 10 in 25.2 innings -- but gave up just one run in each of his first three starts before allowing four in his last start prior to getting demoted. Keuchel had a 4.03 ERA and 1.257 WHIP with 49 strikeouts over 89.1 innings at Triple-A Oklahoma City this season prior to this promotion. With minimal alternatives in Houston, as Jarred Cosart has struggled, Keuchel could remain in the rotation, though outings like Saturday’s, in which he surrendered seven runs in just 3.1 innings, won’t help his cause. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.

John Lannan – Lannan, who had spent the entire season in the minors, started for the Nationals on Saturday, allowing two runs in seven innings. He is currently 6-8 with a 4.60 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 101.2 innings over 17 starts for Triple-A Syracuse. This was just a spot start for Lannan as Ross Detwiler is fairly ensconced as the fifth starter. That said, Lannan could be a part of the Nats' rotation later this season if Stephen Strasburg is kept to an innings limit, as general manager Mike Rizzo has previously suggested. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Clayton Richard – Richard continues to pitch well of late. He has at least gotten into the seventh inning in seven of his last eight starts and is 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA, while averaging 7.1 innings per start over that span. While he is not a big strikeout pitcher, his ability to go deep into games with a solid ERA and WHIP, gives him good value even in 5x5 leagues. Mixed: $8; NL: already owned.

Jonathan Sanchez – Sanchez was traded to the Rockies for Jeremy Guthrie on Friday. The Royals designated Sanchez for assignment Tuesday, after he went 1-6 with a 7.76 ERA over 12 starts for the club this season. Sanchez's stint with the Royals was forgettable, to say the least, and the 29-year-old lefty will now play home games in the thin air of Coors Field. Mixed: $1; NL: $4

Relief Pitchers:

Brad Bergesen/Edward Mujica/Elvin Ramirez – This week’s batch of middle relief promotions/activations/trade acquisitions took place in Arizona, Miami and New York. The only one with some possible value is Mujica, who was profiled last week and could be in the closer mix in Miami. All except for Mujica - Mixed: No; NL: $0; Mujica - Mixed: $1; NL: $4

Francisco Cordero – Cordero, who has posted a 5.77 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 34.1 innings this season, will close for Houston as Brett Myers was dealt to the White Sox on Saturday. Cordero went from setting up in Toronto to likely setting up for the Astros to closing a day later. Cordero was awful with the Blue Jays, and won't get too many save opportunities with the Astros, but a closer is a closer, though Wilton Lopez could see some save opportunities, when they arise, as well. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.

Frank Francisco – Francisco, sidelined with a strained oblique since June 22, long-tossed Friday without incident and is scheduled to start throwing bullpen sessions again Sunday. If everything goes well, it looks like he'll begin his rehab assignment sometime late next week. Manager Terry Collins said when Francisco was first sidelined that he would will replace Bobby Parnell as the closer if he's throwing as well as he did pre-injury, and with Parnell and the bullpen struggling again lately, expect that to be the case. (just an FYI as he still should be owned in all formats. If not, Mixed: $8; NL: $22).

Francisco RodriguezJohn Axford blew his sixth save of the season this past week, prompting manager Ron Roenicke to replace him with Rodriguez as the Brewers’ closer. K-Rod notched a pair of shaky saves in back-to-back games, but in fairness, he was working for the third and fourth day in a row and did close out both contests. Axford is being used in low-leverage situations until he gets his confidence back, so Rodriguez should have a run at closer, at a minimum. That said, Rodriguez, whose fastball is up a tick this season, is rumored to be on the block, but with Milwaukee just six games out of the Wild Card race, they may elect to hold on to him, which could enable K-Rod to remain as the team’s closer. Mixed: $7; NL: $19

Josh Roenicke – Roenicke pitched 3.1 innings of shutout ball, striking out five batters in a 9-5 loss to the Padres on Friday. Serving as a “caddy” for the shorter outings brought upon by the Rockies' four-man rotation, Roenicke has been steadily receiving the equivalent of one start a week, as he also threw three shutout innings on Monday. His high innings count makes him more valuable in fantasy leagues than most middle relievers, though be wary of his high walk rate. Mixed: $0; NL: $3,

Sergio Romo – Manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti will “review” the Giants’ closer situation. The word “awful” doesn't even begin to describe how bad Santiago Casilla has been lately. He's blown five of his last nine save opportunities and has an ERA close to 10 over his last 11 appearances. If the Giants in fact decide to make a change at closer, Romo is the clear favorite to take over for Casilla. He's in the midst of a dominant season (0.64 ERA. 0.72 WHIP, 34:8 K:BB ratio and five saves in 28 innings) and has served as the ninth-inning guy when Casilla isn't available. Romo relies on a nearly unhittable slider and 89-mph fastball, but his injury history sometimes precludes him from being used several days in a row. That said, even if the Giants don't make the change right away, it is likely that Romo will be the team's closer before the season ends. Mixed: $5; NL: $14 (uptick in value in NL-only leagues).

Trevor Rosenthal – Rosenthal was promoted to the Cardinals from Double-A Springfield this week. The 22-year-old righty, who can bring it in the 95 MPH range, is slated to work in the Cards’ bullpen initially, but as one of team’s top pitching prospects he could eventually be deployed as a starter, which is how he was used at the Double-A level. Rosenthal, who was 8-6 with a 2.78 ERA with Double-A Springfield overall, had been sharp just prior to his call up, going 6-2 over his last 10 starts, with and ERA of 2.14 and a 48:16 K:BB ratio in that span over 59 innings. He tossed a scoreless innings with two strikeouts in his major league debut. Mixed: $1; NL: $4 (up it if he starts).

Drew Storen – Storen, who had minor surgery to remove a bone fragment from his elbow in early-April, was activated Thursday following four rehab appearances in the minors. While in the minors, Storen improved his sinker to give a third quality option to go with his slider and low-90s fastball. For now, Storen will set up Tyler Clippard. However, Clippard struggled in his two outings against the Mets this past week, and if he continues to falter, Storen, who saved 43 games a year ago, could re-assume his closer role. Mixed: $5; NL: $14 (slightly higher bid that usual for a set-up man and bump substantially if think he closes).

Jonny Venters – Venters, who missed almost the minimum with a left elbow impingement, was activated from the 15-day DL. Matt Diaz was placed on the disabled list to clear space on the roster, as a result. Perhaps the time off for Venters will enable him to regain his effectiveness, as he had struggled throughout the season prior to the DL stint. (just an FYI as he is likely still owned despite his struggles).


Carlos Corporan – Corporan went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer against the Diamondbacks on Friday. The home run was the first of his fledgling career and the young Astros backstop is now batting .300 over the four games in which he's played. With Jason Castro out with a right knee injury, Corporan could see a nice increase in playing time, splitting catching duties with Chris Snyder. Mixed: $0; NL: $2.

Sandy LeonJhonatan Solano (oblique) was forced to the DL, opening the door for Leon to jump back to the big leagues. He'll serve as the backup to Jesus Flores. Leon has been fairly productive for Double-A Harrisburg, hitting .311 with a homer, 19 RBI and a .780 OPS in 40 games. He suffered a high-ankle sprain in his major-league debut in May, but was able to make it through a full game Thursday and gives manager Davey Johnson a switch-hitter off the bench. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Jonathan Lucroy – Lucroy, sidelined since May 27 with a fractured fifth metacarpal in his right hand, has escalated his activity over the past week, taking batting practice last Saturday and blocking pitches in the dirt. He progressed enough to begin a rehab assignment Thursday at Low-A Wisconsin, where he went 2-for-3 at the plate. Following the weekend, he is slated proceed to Triple-A Nashville. Lucroy did not get back in action by his July 20 target date, but he shouldn’t miss it by much. (just a heads up as he should be owned in all leagues, if not, Mixed: $13; NL: $35).

Eli Whiteside – The Giants placed Hector Sanchez (knee sprain) on the 15-day DL, so Whiteside was summoned from Triple-A Fresno, where he's batting .241 with one homer and 15 RBI in 162 at-bats this season. Whiteside will back up Buster Posey behind the plate in San Francisco. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

First Basemen:

Brandon Belt – Belt will probably play more than he has recently, with Hector Sanchez on the DL with a sprained knee. Sanchez is a better hitter than his replacement, Eli Whiteside. Occasionally he would catch and Buster Posey would play first, something that is less likely with Whiteside, giving Belt, who has struggled in July, more at-bats. (just an FYI as despite his struggles, he should be owned in all leagues) .

Todd Helton – Helton, 38, hit the DL last Friday after being bothered by lingering right hip soreness. Helton is batting just .235 this season (a year after hitting .302), but it looks like he’s set to begin working himself into playing shape, starting a rehab stint with rookie affiliate Grand Junction this weekend. If the rehab goes well, he could return to the Rockies as early as Tuesday. Whether there will be a spot for him in the lineup or not is the bigger question, as Helton's main competition, Tyler Colvin and Michael Cuddyer, have both outplayed him. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.

Brett Wallace – Wallace, who was profiled last week when it was announced that the Astros had conversations about bringing him up, gets another mention, as GM Jeff Luhnow said that Wallace will play most of the rest of the season in Houston. Wallace, who performed well in 11 games, batting .333 with two homers with the Astros earlier this year, is hitting .301/.375/.500 with 14 homers and 48 RBI as the first baseman at Triple-A Oklahoma City. For now, the Astros are using a Scott Moore/Matt Downs platoon at first base. It’s been a good year for Wallace, who struggled to hit for average or power during his previous stints in the majors. It was believed that Wallace would replace Carlos Lee at first when he was traded, but after dealing Lee to the Marlins, the Astros moved Chris Johnson to first base and called up Matt Dominguez -- one of two players acquired from the Marlins -- to start at third. Dominguez has been sent down, and even though Moore has hit well, it still makes sense for Houston to get a prolonged look at Wallace against big league pitching to see if he has any long-term value, which could happen in the near term. Mixed: $3; NL: $9 (speculative bid).

Second Base:

DJ LeMahieu – The Rockies recalled LeMahieu from Triple-A Colorado Springs this week. LeMahieu had appeared in 19 games with the Rockies this season, hitting .205 (8-for-39). He'll give the team some added infield depth, with Jonathan Herrera and Chris Nelson both on the disabled list. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Steve LombardozziIan Desmond’s strained oblique has afforded Lombardozzi more playing time and he has made the most of it, hitting in five straight games. Lombardozzi now qualifies at second and third base as well as the outfield. He came into June batting .348, but went 10-for-64 in the month, to lower his average to.257, but his recent hot stretch has bumped it back up .267. Manager Davey Johnson will use Lombardozzi all over, so even when he is not a full-time regular, he should see enough action to contribute in most formats. Mixed: $3; NL: $9 (uptick in value in NL-only leagues).


Angel Sanchez – With the news this past week that Jed Lowrie will be out 4-6 weeks with leg injuries, the Astros’ front office reaffirmed that they do not feel Marwin Gonzalez is the long-term answer at short. Sanchez is pretty much the only viable option the Astros have in the minor leagues at this point, so when GM Jeff Luhnow talks about calling someone up, he means Sanchez. Still, the fact that Lowrie hit the DL three days ago and Sanchez has not received the call, leads one to believe that he is the Plan B, and that perhaps the Astros have a trade brewing. Sanchez has decent plate discipline and a good glove, but doesn't have much raw power and posted one of the lowest ISO marks in baseball last year at .045, so don’t expect much even if he does get the call. Mixed: No; NL: $2.

Third Basemen:

Todd Frazier – With Joey Votto out 3-to-4 weeks following knee surgery, Frazier has received a spike in playing time at first base, though Miguel Cairo, who started there Thursday, is also part of the first base picture. When not used at first, Frazier will continue to see time at third and in left field, but the injury to Votto makes Frazier even more of a regular. Mixed: $9; NL: already owned but gets spike in value.

Jordan Pacheco – With Pacheco’s chief backups at third base (Chris Nelson and Jonathan Herrera) now on the DL, it wouldn't be surprising if he started every game at third until either returns, including Sundays, when he has typically received the day off. That increased playing time should result in a rise in his counting stats, which to date have been subpar, to go with his solid batting and on-base averages. Mixed: $5; NL: already owned.

Ryan Wheeler – Wheeler was called up by the D-Backs and started at third base Friday. He has taken full advantage of the hitter-friendly environment at Triple-A Reno this season, carrying a .351/.388/.572 line with 15 homers and 90 RBI over 93 games there. Wheeler has spent most of his time in the field playing third base at Reno (49 games), but has also seen time at first (32) and the outfield (10). With the hot corner in Arizona a revolving door this year, Wheeler could get a shot at holding down the position if he gets off to a good start, with Ryan Roberts and Willie Bloomquist seeing some starts as well. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.


Jason Bay – Bay, who was profiled the past few weeks, gets a nod again as he was activated Tuesday. Bay, sidelined since June 15 with a concussion, played two games at St. Lucie and three at Triple-A Buffalo before returning to the majors. Bay has had an injury-prone past two seasons with the Mets, suffering a concussion that last July that sidelined him for the year, a rib injury that kept him from April 23 to June 6 and now, this latest concussion. Despite the activation, Bay is not locked into the left field job and will have to produce to keep the spot. Mixed: $4; NL: $11.

Mike Baxter – Baxter's (shoulder) rehab assignment was moved to Double-A Binghamton on Friday. Baxter, who’s been out of action since June 1, when he made a no-hitter saving catch, played in four games for High-A St. Lucie to begin his rehab assignment. Mets manager Terry Collins estimated earlier in the week that the 22-year-old would need at least 25-30 minor league at-bats; Baxter has logged 22 so far. However, he has been limited to DH’ing, as he is not yet ready to throw and probably will get the full 20 days of his rehab stint in the minors. When he does return, if Jason Bay is still healthy and productive, Baxter may have a difficult time receiving playing time. Mixed: No; NL: $2.

Roger Bernadina – Bernadina got a start in center field on Thursday, going 2-for-5 with an RBI. Rick Ankiel being DFA’ed means that Bernadina is now the Nats’ primary backup outfielder, and while his .278/.358/.391 line on the season won’t excite anyone, he does have 10 steals in 11 attempts. Barring the club adding some veteran depth for the stretch run, he should provide a tidy bit of value over the next couple of months, especially in single leagues. Mixed: $0; NL: $4 (gets a bit of a bump with more PT).

Charlie Blackmon – Blackmon has put together a nine-game hitting streak at Triple-A Colorado Springs, including seven multi-hit games during that span. During the hot streak, Blackmon is batting .444 with six doubles, a home run and seven RBI. He was called up to the Rockies last season after hitting .337 in 58 games with Colorado Springs before a fractured foot in July sidelined him for the rest of the season. Blackmon could be poised to join the Rockies again if his hot hitting continues, though he might just be a reserve outfielder unless the team trades someone. Mixed: No; NL: $2.

Andrew Brown – The Rockies promoted Brown from Triple-A Colorado Springs on Tuesday. The 27-year-old Brown, who was batting .317 (106-for-334) with 20 home runs and 84 RBI at the Triple-A level, gives the Rockies some outfield depth with a little pop. He went 4-for-22 in 11 MLB games last season with the Cards, his only taste of big league action to date. Keep an eye on the usage patterns here to see if Brown, who started in right field and went 3-for-5 Wednesday, can crack the Rockies’ rotation in the outfield for at-bats, but his best chance to get a run in the lineup will likely require an injury to one of the corner-outfield options. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.

Ben Francisco – Francisco was sent to Houston in a 10-player deal Friday. Like Francisco Cordero, who also was dealt to Houston, Francisco was in his first season in Toronto. He should get more regular playing time with the Astros than he did with the Blue Jays with most of that coming in right field. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.

Starling Marte – Marte’s name has been bandied about recently in a possible trade for Arizona’s Justin Upton. Marte spent all of 2011 at Double-A, and given his numbers this season, it would be a bit surprising to see the five-tool outfielder spend all of 2012 toiling in Triple-A. He should see his first big league action soon, whether it's for the Pirates or another major league team. Marte holds a .279/.344/.488, aided by a .339 BABIP, with 11 homers and 19 steals in 369 at-bats for Triple-A Indianapolis. He has made some strides with his plate discipline, an issue in the past, and is a stellar defensive outfielder. Mixed: $4; NL: $14 (early speculative bid).

Tyler Moore – Moore has a .302/.368/.523 line with five homers and 13 RBI in 86 at-bats this season. For now, he will see time in left field and first base, but could be squeezed when Jayson Werth returns to action, giving him much more value in keeper leagues. While the sample size is small, Moore is certainly doing what he can to make a case for the starting first base job in 2013 after Adam LaRoche's contract is up. Mixed: $2; NL: $7 (though likely owned).

Laynce Nix – Nix, out since early-May with a calf injury, could return to the Phillies on Sunday. Nix played five rehab games at High-A Clearwater before moving up to Triple-A Lehigh Valley for two games Friday. He will likely see time in left field when he rejoins the Phillies. Mixed: No; NL: $2.

Xavier Paul – Paul had his contract selected by the Reds on Wednesday, becoming the team’s lone lefty off the bench. Paul was released by the Nationals earlier this month, and signed with the Reds shortly after. In six games with Triple-A Louisville after his arrival, Paul hit .480 (12-for-25); this coming after he posted a .315/.376/.512 line with eight homers and 44 RBI in 213 at-bats for Triple-A Syracuse. The 27-year-old has a .246 career average, three homers, and 32 RBI at the major league level, but he'll likely get a chance to improve on those numbers soon. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Alex Presley – Presley, who was profiled last week, is mentioned again as was activated Tuesday off the 7-day DL (concussion) following a short rehab stint. Since coming back from his stint in the minors after his demotion, Presley has hit four of his six home runs, driven in six runs and upped his average from .220 to .234, though he has struggled since coming back from the concussion. Even though Drew Sutton had played fairly well in left field, Presley has regained his starting role. (given short absence, still should be owned in all formats. If not, Mixed: $5; NL: $14).

J.B. Shuck – Shuck is hitting .440/.548/.560 over his last 10 games at Triple-A Oklahoma City. While his overall line, particularly his slugging percentage, is not impressive for a corner outfielder (.293/.368/.354), his hot hitting may earn him a callup. The Astros are battling injuries and are sure to make a few trades in the next two weeks. Shuck plays hard in the field and exhibits good on-base skills, but with no power and not much speed, he may have already reached his ceiling as a fourth outfielder. Mixed: $0; NL: $2.

Jayson Werth – Werth, who underwent surgery to repair his broken left wrist on May 7, was expected to be out at least 12 weeks. He took batting practice Wednesday and Thursday without issue, and has finally been cleared to resume game action, starting a rehab assignment Saturday for High-A Potomac. Werth could spend the majority of his 20-day maximum rehab assignment in the minors, but barring any setbacks, he will be back with the Nationals around August 10. Werth had struggled in his first year in Washington, with all his key metrics going in the wrong direction, but was having a fairly solid year this season when he was sidelined. When Werth does return, look for him to man right field daily, bat in the middle of the order and be a solid power/speed producer. Mixed: $8; NL: $22 (early bid to rise as he gets closer to returning).