NY Times Blog – Setup Targets

Just published this on the New York Times site.

Fantasy Focus: Setup Men to Pursue

By Dave Regan

The July nonwaiver trade deadline brought little movement on the closer front, as rumored-to-be-available guys like Leo Nunez, Andrew Bailey, Drew Storen and, most surprisingly, Heath Bell all stayed put. Owners who had stashed their probable replacements were left disappointed, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see current setup men become closers this season. Some almost certainly will.

Let’s take a look at a few of the more likely current setup men/future closers (all statistics through Sunday):

Frank Francisco, Toronto Blue Jays – With five runs in his last five and a third innings and a 4.53 earned run average overall, Jon Rauch appears to be hanging on by a thread. Francisco, meanwhile, has allowed just one run in his last 10 1/3 innings, with an impressive 10 strikeouts and no walks. I’m not sure what Manager John Farrell is waiting for, but we could see a switch anytime.

Mike Adams, Texas Rangers – N.L.-only leaguers obviously aren’t pleased, but holders of Adams in mixed leagues could still reap a few saves from Adams over the next eight weeks. Adams was spectacular for the Padres (1.13 E.R.A., 0.79 WHIP, 49 strikeouts and 9 walks in 48 innings) before moving to the Rangers for a pair of pitching prospects. With Neftali Feliz struggling (blown save Saturday, 6.75 E.R.A. since June 21), and having pitched in three consecutive games, Adams picked up the save over Koji Uehara on Sunday and is clearly the preferred option should a change be made.

Tony Sipp/Vinnie Pestano, Cleveland Indians – “Tony and Vinnie” sounds like a cop show on TBS, but it could soon be the new closer tandem in Cleveland. Chris Perez has an 8.64 E.R.A. in his last nine appearances and an ugly 26-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 40. 2/3 innings over all, so he’s vulnerable. Sipp (2.89 E.R.A., 0.99 WHIP, 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings) probably has the edge over Pestano, though Pestano has also been impressive himself, with a 2.95 E.R.A and 12.9 K/9.

Bobby Parnell, New York Mets – It could be a case of a lesser of two evils here, as while Jason Isringhausen has allowed five runs in his last two innings (and six in four innings), Parnell hasn’t been great himself, with a 6.75 E.R.A. in his last nine and a third innings. Parnell, though, does have 11 strikeouts in that span, and he represents the closest thing the organization has to a closer of the future, so perhaps he gets a long look soon. Option No. 3 would be Pedro Beato if you want to throw $1 in F.A.A.B. his way, but Beato’s upside is limited.

Brad Lidge, Philadelphia Phillies – Lidge is averaging just 88.4 miles per hour with his fastball, so he’s far from the flamethrower he used to be, but procuring saves is all about opportunity, and Lidge could potentially have that opportunity here and there, if not permanently. Since returning from a shoulder injury, Lidge has allowed just one run on one hit over four and two-thirds innings, though he has walked four. Lidge even picked up a save this past week with Ryan Madson on the paternity leave list. Both Madson and Antonio Bastardo are ahead of Lidge on the closer depth chart, but if Lidge can keep this up and add a little velocity, perhaps Manager Charlie Manuel’s loyalty to “his guys” will give Lidge more opportunities.

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Wilton Lopez, Houston Astros – A switch from Mark Melancon to Lopez is far from imminent, but Melancon appears incapable of stringing together more than two or three scoreless outings. Melancon hasn’t blown a save since June 26, but Lopez has a 1.26 E.R.A. since July 1 and would probably be just as good a closer option should the Astros need a change.

Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds – With a 2.45 E.R.A. and an 0.99 WHIP, Francisco Cordero is secure in the closer’s job, but I just wanted to point out the absurdity of what Chapman is doing. After striking out the side Sunday while hitting between 98 and 101 m.p.h. with his fastball, and with the Reds all but out of the N.L. Central race, might they look toward 2012 and see what Chapman can do as a closer? Since returning from Class AAA on June 25, Chapman has a 1.33 E.R.A. in 20 1/3 innings with a whopping 37 strikeouts and just six walks.