Saving steals: Bailey likely to close

Two months of Major League Baseball action have come and gone, and fantasy owners stand as the proverbial crossroads.

• Do they wait for those struggling or injured stars to get right?

• Do they shake up the roster through a barrage of trades or waiver-wire activity?

Even with one-third of the season in the rearview, there are many miles to be traveled before a fantasy champion is crowned.

This season has been anything but predictable, so you have to keep chugging along.

Yes, the Yankees sit atop the AL East standings. Did you anticipate that Bartolo Colon’s performance would be paramount to their early returns?

St. Louis is in first place in the NL Central. Were you excited about Kyle McClellan, Kyle Lohse or the rejuvenated Lance Berkman entering the season?

New heroes are emerging to boost production in multiple categories every day. We’re seeing new players brought up from the minor league to inject life into struggling teams and managers continue to tinker with their bullpens. Find the diamonds in the rough.

Let’s put the microscope on the bullpens and basepaths for this early June edition.

Changing bullpens

Aaron Crow, Kansas City

Joakim Soria produced one of the worst weeks from a closer in recent memory. As a result, the formerly untouchable reliever has been stripped of the closer tag for Crow. The 24-year-old righty has been impressive overall, pitching to a fantastic 1.33 ERA with nearly three strikeouts per walk.

Crow did get touched up in his last appearance by the Rangers and was tagged with a blown save. He allowed two earned runs on two hits, including a home run, in his 1 1/3 innings pitched. In fact, it was only the second appearance this season in which Crow allowed an earned run (two against the A’s on May 7). He’s logged 20 scoreless appearances.

I anticipate that Soria works back into the role as the season progresses. Take the save opportunities from Crow as they’re presented in the interim.

 

Andrew Bailey, Oakland

Since the public spat between Brian Fuentes and Bob Geren, Fuentes has pitched very well. He’s saved two games and has pitched three scoreless innings in three appearances. Still, Bailey’s return from the disabled list does muddy the waters a little. The former Oakland closer (had 51 saves between 2009 and 2010) has pitched two scoreless innings since returning to action. Fuentes remains the closer for the short-term, but Bailey likely works his way back into save opportunities soon.

Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch, Toronto

Frank Francisco returned from the disabled list and quickly reclaimed his closer role. He then absorbed two losses and failed in two save opportunities during a four-game stretch. Francisco allowed six earned runs on eight hits in 2 2/3 innings pitched.

Veterans Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch, neither of which has been overwhelming, will be in line for save opportunities following Francisco’s struggles. John Farrell mentioned that Jason Frasor and Francisco will still be in the mix, so fantasy owners are gambling by buying into this situation. Rauch saved six games prior to Francisco’s return from the disabled list, so it’s likely that his name is called first.

Minnesota bullpen

Matt Capps assumed the closer role following Joe Nathan’s early struggles (Nathan is now on the disabled list). Capps is now dealing with a forearm issue and has pitched inconsistently in his recent appearances. He’s blown three of his past five save opportunities and has been hit hard.

The Twins have been beset by injuries at every turn, and the bullpen houses no obvious replacement for Capps. Glen Perkins has pitched effectively (1.59 ERA) and owns a high-strikeout rate (22 in 22 2/3 IP), but he’s on the disabled list. Jose Mijares possesses a low strikeout rate and has generated a bloated 5.84 ERA.

Ron Gardenhire stays the course with Capps in the short-term, but he’s got to be wondering when the hits will stop.

Washington bullpen

The carousel was about to be activated in Washington, but Storen pushed management away from the button by pitching a scoreless inning on Wednesday against the Phillies to earn his 10th save of the season. Storen had allowed five earned runs on five hits in his previous three appearances.

Henry Rodriguez and Sean Burnett have both received save opportunities this past week, and both failed. Storen may be in a funk, but the job remains his.

Get the green light

Eric Young, 2B, Colorado

Young tore up the minor league prior to getting recalled for the weekend series against the Cardinals. He’s hit safely in five consecutive games (.304, 7-for-23) with three stolen bases since his recall.

The potential for a huge boost in the stolen-base department is in the offing. Young stole 17 bases in 23 attempts in his 51 games for the Rockies last season.

Erick Aybar, SS, Los Angeles Angels

Aybar represents a fantastic option off the wire for fantasy owners. He’s not going to offer a boost to the power categories, but he’s generating three-category production for the Angels. Aybar entered Thursday’s play with a .315 batting average (.333 in his past 10 games) and has stolen 14 bases in 16 attempts.

Aybar stole a career-high 22 bases in 30 attempts last season.

Tony Campana, OF, Chicago Cubs

There isn’t much to cheer about on the North side of Chicago right now. First-year manager Mike Quade is already showing wear and tear after one-third of this losing season, and Carlos Zambrano is breaking bats over his knee as part of a comedy act for reporters. Perhaps a speedy outfielder will at least keep fantasy owners intrigued.

Campana registered a fantastic introduction to the fantasy realm with his four stolen bases against the Astros on Memorial Day. He’s produced five stolen bases overall since his callup, and has rapped out five hits in 21 at-bats as a starter.

He’s worth a look-see for speed-starved owners. Campana stole 48 bases at Double-A Tennessee last season and 66 across two leagues in 2009.

Emmanuel Burriss, SS, San Francisco

Burriss has been receiving regular at-bats of late, thereby making him a decent speed option in deeper leagues. He’s logged 17 at-bats (with seven appearances) since May 24. Burriss produced four singles and stole three bases in this period.

Burriss was a double-digit base thief in years past (had 13 and 11 steals in his partial 2008 and 2009 seasons), so there’s potential value here.

Angel Pagan, OF, New York Mets

Pagan struggled markedly before sustaining a rib injury that sent him to the disabled list. He’s hit safely in six consecutive games since his return, batting .400 (10-for-25) with two RBI and two stolen bases in four attempts.

Keep an eye on his health. If Pagan proves sound, he’ll at least give fantasy owners a reason to keep an eye on things in New York. Pagan hit 11 home runs and stole 37 bases in 46 attempts last season.

Rajai Davis, OF, Toronto

He’s the poster boy for the “one-category wonders” in Major League Baseball, although Davis did launch his first home run of the season on Wednesday night. Davis has hit better of late, producing a .333 batting average (14-of-42) in his past 10 games, including five multi-hit efforts. He’s swiped three bases in six attempts during this period. Davis has recorded 15 stolen bases in 22 attempts this season.

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