Bullpen Report: April 27, 2014

• Well, it wasn’t quite a save situation, but Bullpen Report favorite Hector Rondon looked good in Chicago today. The Cubs right-hander put the finishing touches on a 4-0 win, doing so in fine fashion by striking out the side. Rondon doesn’t quite have eye-popping numbers, but his mid-90’s fastball is enough to keep his swinging strike rate in the double digits and complement his slider (which gets whiffs one of every five times he throws it). His primary knock historically was health, he’s dealt with a fractured arm and has already undergone Tommy John surgery once. However, he managed to make it through 2013 relatively unscathed and continues to look fairly healthy in 2014. While Pedro Strop also tossed a scoreless inning today, Rondon’s outing (both usage and the subsequent punchouts) seems to make him the odds on favorite for the next save at Wrigley. The Cubs don’t project to be a save-heavy team, but Rondon is one of the few nice speculative adds among guys with sub-10% ownership percentages.

• Some enterprising intern at the MLB Network can probably make some late night soap opera entitled “As the Houston Astros Bullpen Turns.” Next up? Raul Valdes. Raul Valdes!? Is that some super hotshot international free agent signing who boasts a triple-digits fastball? Not quite. No, we’re talking about the 36-year-old journeyman with 140 innings under his belt. Oh, and his fastball comes in at 86 mph. The elder statesman of the Houston bullpen notched a save yesterday and was also called on in a “close-but-not-quite” save situation this afternoon. Interestingly, the soft-tossing lefty’s career peripherals aren’t quite as terrible as you’d think. He’s posted 10+% SwStr% the last four years and he’s relatively platoon independent (.331/.329 wOBA against versus LHB/RHB). And last year his ugly 7.46 ERA was tempered by a much nicer 3.02 SIERA. Could he quickly turn into a pumpkin and sink your rates like Josh Fields did this week? Sure. And I still don’t like playing with this ‘pen if you don’t have to. But if you have to, Valdes seemed to have Bo Porter’s ear this weekend and acquitted himself well — he’s at least in the mix.

On Wednesday, I conjectured that Ernesto Frieri might be given a “breather” in Anaheim. In related news, Mike Scioscia is nothing if not predictable. Frieri is (temporarily, at least) out, Joe Smith is in. I covered Frieri’s struggles in the aforementioned link so I won’t expound on them here. Smith’s career 3.75 xFIP seems like it’s nothing to write home about but he does own a career .272 BABIP in almost 400 innings, which is why his career 2.99 ERA is so much lower. Is that tremendously sustainable? He does tend to give up relatively fewer line drives than the average reliever, although not immensely so. Perhaps that arm slot is inducing some weak contact? Well, anyway, Smith and his uninspiring, but solid rates will hold down the ninth for now. He needs to be picked up in all leagues. Frieri has had previous hiccups that have been treated with temporarily removals from the ninth innings. If he can right the ship in relief, he’ll get the saves back soon enough. There was a lot of chatter about Michael Kohn being a dark horse to jump past Smith on the totem pole. He may have the best raw stuff of any non-Frieri reliever on the Angels, but after tonight’s outing he has walked nine of the 55 batters he has faced. Not sustainable.

• Quick notes: Since we last saw you, Jason Grilli hit the disabled list with an oblique injury. Bummer, because he was a nice buy-low target before the injury. You don’t need me to tell you that Mark Melancon is a good pickup, although he’s likely gone by now if you didn’t scoop him up. Aroldis Chapman threw a live simulated game (somewhat oxymoronic) this weekend. It sounds like the plan is for another sim game or two, then out on a rehab assignment. If all goes well, mid-May seems doable for those who have him stashed. Jose Veras is on the disabled list. Aside from the fact he’s been terrible this year, he’s droppable in all leagues.

• More quick hits: Rafael Betancourt is back, signing a minor league deal with the Rockies. That was actually somewhat of a formality since he has been working out with the team. Don’t get too excited, the most we may see of him this year is a cup of coffee in September as his Tommy John was last August. Brandon Kintzler is back from the land of disabled as of a few days ago. Reactivate him if you need him in holds leagues, although he’s probably 4th in line behind the white-hot Francisco Rodriguez for ninth-inning duties, so save mongers need not apply.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
Arizona Addison Reed J.J. Putz Brad Ziegler
Atlanta Craig Kimbrel Jordan Walden David Carpenter
Baltimore Tommy Hunter Darren O’Day Brian Matusz
Boston Koji Uehara Edward Mujica Junichi Tazawa
CHI (NL) Hector Rondon Pedro Strop Justin Grimm Kyuji Fujikawa
CHI (AL) Matt Lindstrom Daniel Webb Ronald Belisario Nate Jones
Cincy Jonathan Broxton Sam LeCure J.J. Hoover Aroldis Chapman
Cleveland John Axford Cody Allen Bryan Shaw
Colorado LaTroy Hawkins Adam Ottavino Rex Brothers
Detroit Joe Nathan Al Alburquerque Joba Chamberlain
Houston Raul Valdes Chad Qualls Josh Fields Jesse Crain
KC Greg Holland Wade Davis Aaron Crow
LAA Joe Smith Ernesto Frieri Kevin Jepsen Dane de la Rosa
LAD Kenley Jansen Chris Perez Brian Wilson
Miami Steve Cishek A.J. Ramos Mike Dunn
Milwaukee Francisco Rodriguez Jim Henderson Will Smith
Minnesota Glen Perkins Jared Burton Casey Fien
NY (NL) Kyle Farnsworth Daisuke Matsuzaka Jose Valverde Bobby Parnell
NY (AL) David Robertson Shawn Kelley Adam Warren
Oakland Luke Gregerson Sean Doolittle Jim Johnson
Philly Jonathan Papelbon Antonio Bastardo Mike Adams
Pittsburgh Mark Melancon Tony Watson Justin Wilson Jason Grilli
St. Louis Trevor Rosenthal Carlos Martinez Kevin Siegrist Jason Motte
SD Huston Street Joaquin Benoit Alex Torres
SF Sergio Romo Santiago Casilla Jeremy Affeldt
Seattle Fernando Rodney Danny Farquhar Tom Wilhelmsen
TB Grant Balfour Heath Bell Joel Peralta
Texas Joakim Soria Alexi Ogando Jason Frasor Neftali Feliz
Toronto Sergio Santos Steve Delabar Brett Cecil Casey Janssen
Wash. Rafael Soriano Tyler Clippard Drew Storen

[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]

There are few things Colin loves more in life than a pitcher with a single-digit BB%. Find him on Twitter @soxczar.

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Hey Colin Z. you may need to get together with Jeff Z for this question — Grilli’s fastball never gained back the 1 MPH it lost after his DL stint last year. Could this injury be more than “just” the oblique that is reported? Assume Melancon does as well as he did the during the last Grilli DL stint…what are the chance he keeps it all year?

On another note…do you think I ought to drop Santos for Johnson?