Friday, August 23, 2013
Bullpen Report: Brothers 'the man' again
By Eric Karabell
Colorado Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt probably deserved a better fate this week in Philadelphia, but now it's reasonable to ask if Thursday night was the last time we'll see the Venezuelan right-hander pitch. Betancourt blew the save in Wednesday's game, then again Thursday before succumbing to elbow pain, which could be serious enough to warrant Tommy John surgery and end his career. Betancourt is, after all, 38 years old. It's not official yet, so deep leaguers should wait a bit longer before parting ways, but everyone should see if lefty Rex Brothers is available, for this is a dominant reliever whose opportunity appears to have returned.
Brothers leads all relief pitchers in Wins Above Replacement this season, and when Betancourt was out recently following an appendectomy, the former first-round pick filled in quite ably. He has 11 saves on the season, and while he's probably a bit fortunate to have a 1.51 ERA (his xFIP is 3.53), this is a potential top-10 fantasy closer with strikeout potential who is available in more than 40 percent of ESPN standard leagues. Act now, and take note in dynasty formats as well, because Brothers should be the guy for years to come.
[+]Enlarge Chris Humphreys/US PresswireBefore blown saves Wednesday and Thursday, Rafael Betancourt had 16 saves in 17 chances.
Give Betancourt credit for hanging around long enough to become a good closer. He's fifth on the Rockies' career list in saves and boasts a 3.02 ERA over 235 2/3 innings for the organization, with many coming at Coors Field. However, after losing Thursday's game he told reporters of how the pain in his throwing elbow was completely different than what he's faced before. Betancourt admitted he pitched through pain Wednesday as well; Betancourt's ERA was 2.93 a few days ago, and it's clear he was manager Walt Weiss' choice to close when healthy. Now injury has gotten in the way again, and Brothers is the one to own. Don't wait for official word on Betancourt before acting.
Prospect talk: I'm occasionally asked about prospects in the minors and their chances of closing after a September call-up. It rarely works that way. There are several young closers in the minors with saves in their eventual future -- Heath Hembree of the San Francisco Giants is an obvious one -- but so many of the save leaders are old, recycled arms, like Jairo Asencio and Chris Hatcher, the respective save leaders in the International and Pacific Coast Leagues, respectively. So for the most part, we have no prospects for you to track! Hembree, 24, should at least be called up, but Giants closer Sergio Romo's job is pretty safe, and he's signed for another season.
NL talk: The last time Atlanta Braves stud Craig Kimbrel allowed a run was July 4. Seriously? Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman was summoned for a six-out save Wednesday, and while that's how he should be used on occasion, it's probably a one-time thing. However, with Jonathan Broxton done for the season, it's interesting that right-hander Sam LeCure, who saved Thursday's game, is next in line. It was his first career save. I'm a bit surprised Tyler Clippard hasn't started getting save chances for the Washington Nationals with Rafael Soriano struggling. Soriano has allowed seven runs in nine August innings. Clippard hasn't exactly had a spotless August himself, and his strikeout rate is down, but still, Soriano's past six outings have not been clean, with 11 hits and seven runs in 5 1/3 innings. Still no word of New York Mets closer Bobby Parnell (neck) coming back this season, so yeah, LaTroy Hawkins is a guy to add. Jim Henderson has had a terrific August. Remember when he was setting up Francisco Rodriguez? Good times. I've been saying to add St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Trevor Rosenthal all season, and I've basically touted him as a future Hall of Famer (OK, perhaps not that much), but with incumbent closer Edward Mujica receiving acupuncture treatment for a shoulder injury, Rosenthal will likely have some save chances in September, and probably before that. J.J. Putz has definitely been better than Brad Ziegler this month, but Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson doesn't seem close to making a change. Jonathan Papelbon has as many saves as Nationals starter Dan Haren since the All-Star break, and only one more than you and me.
[+]Enlarge Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesDanny Farquhar ranks sixth among all pitchers on the ESPN Player Rater over the past 30 days.
AL talk: For those who claim you can't find saves on the waiver wire, check out what Seattle Mariners right-hander Danny Farquhar has done. Nobody has more saves in August than this guy, and his 15 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings are right there with the leaders. Tom Wilhelmsen, incidentally, has permitted seven runs in 7 2/3 innings at Triple-A Tacoma. Since blowing three consecutive save chances earlier in the month, New York Yankees right-hander Mariano Rivera has been back to normal. Even if the Yankees fall out of the race, don't look for Rivera to cede save chances regularly to David Robertson. One might think Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Fernando Rodney deserves to lose the closing role, but he has allowed a run in only one of his past 11 games, and he hasn't allowed a home run since May. Feel free to cut Joel Peralta in deep leagues. And then there's Jim Johnson of the Baltimore Orioles. I still don't think he has completely lost the closer role. Right-hander Tommy Hunter saved Wednesday's game. Johnson hasn't seen much work of late, but look for him to get a save chance soon. As for the Astros, they have four saves this month. Right-hander Josh Fields has two of them, Chia-Jen Lo has one and lefty Kevin Chapman the other. I think Lo is the one to own, but this is the Astros. The team might get only five saves the rest of the season.
Thanks as always for reading, and have a great weekend!