Posted: Thursday May 17, 2012 5:07PM ; Updated: Thursday May 17, 2012 6:10PM

MLB fantasy mailbag: Closer security a rare, valuable commodity

Story Highlights

In his last 136 innings Jason Motte has a 2.25 ERA, and an 8.93 K/9 mark

Ubaldo Jimenez has seen velocity fall this season while walk rate has risen

Shouldder injury will likely reset Chris Young as power hitter with poor average

By Ray Flowers, BaseballGuys.com, Special to SI.com

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Jason Motte has blown two of his nine save chances but his job as the unquestioned closer for the Cardinals is a rare commodity.
Jason Motte has blown two of his nine save chances but his job as the unquestioned closer for the Cardinals is a rare commodity.
David Welker/Getty Images

I'm Ray Flowers, co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Each week I'll be here answering questions that have been sent to me at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.

My Jason Motte for Bryce Harper. Too much?
-- ErikJKatz

The attrition rate of closers this season is better than 50 percent, and that's stupefying. If you can find a guy who appears to be locked into the ninth inning you better move him only if you are getting a killer deal. Motte has blown two of nine save chances, but he's locked in for the Cardinals. Motte has pushed his K/9 rate to elite levels at 10.34, and he's continued to be stingy with the free pass (2.30 per nine), leading to an uber-impressive 4.50 K/BB mark. That's rare territory and a great indicator that some serious success is heading your way. You could claim small sample size -- we're only taking 15.2 innings for 2012 -- so let's go back to the start of the '10 season for a broader perspective. In 136 innings Motte has a 2.25 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP, 8.93 K/9 mark and a 3.55 K/BB ratio. Those are elite numbers, no?

Harper, the Golden Boy of baseball, has had moments of success and failure intermixed. Given his age, Harper's start has been a success, but at the same time he's hitting .238 and has a mere .319 OBP. The .460 SLG is solid, but people are expecting more than a homer every 32 at-bats with Harper (he has two in 63 this season). At this point he really doesn't profile as more than a fourth or fifth outfielder in mixed leagues.

If it's a redraft league, give me Mr. Motte.

My David Ortiz for his Jonathan Papelbon in a H2H league? My closers are David Robertson, Henry Rodriguez, Joe Nathan and Dale Thayer.
-- @lilpuppy99

The reliever carousel continues ...

Robertson thinks he can return in two weeks from his oblique issue, but how often do we see that happen when that part of the body is injured? Plus, if Rafael Soriano takes off and is hot working the ninth, will Robertson just return to his familiar eighth inning role?

Rodriguez is dealing with three factors:(1) He's recently had some tightness in his forearm. (2) His performance of late has been spotty. In his last six appearances he's walked five batters an allowed six runs over 4.2 innings. And (3) Brad Lidge appears to be nearing a return to health, and Drew Storen as well (Storen could be more than a month away, though).

Nathan looks to be regaining his elite form. He's starting to hit 95-96 mph on the radar gun. He's converted eight of nine save chances. His ERA is 2.87, his WHIP is 1.15, his K/9 10.91 and his K/BB 9.50.

Thayer has locked down the ninth for the Padres, going 4-for-4 in saves and pushing his career mark to one walk in 34 innings. However, as soon as Huston Street is ready to return, Thayer will lose his job with the Padres.

Papelbon is dominating hitters as he always does: 2.40 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 10.80 K/9, 4.50 K/BB, 10-for-10 in saves. Nuff said.

Ortiz (.345-8-27-27) has been spectacular so far. At the same time, there are concerns: (1) He only qualifies at DH/Utility, limiting his value a bit. (2) After a blazing start that included a .405 average, six homers and 20 RBI in his first 22 games, Ortiz has slowed greatly, hitting .259-2-7 over his last 15 contests.

Hot starts often blind people to the facts. Such as the fact that Ortiz is not a .345 hitter. In fact, three of the past four years he's failed to hit even .275. He won't keep up his current pace. Do you really think he's going to have his best line drive rate since '05 this year? Do you also think that a guy with a career .304 BABIP is going to post a career-best .357 mark this season? Despite the success, Ortiz is actually taking walks at a 10-year low, and while I'd like to believe he's capable of offsetting that by posting a career-low K-rate, I find that unlikely to be the case in his 16th big league season.

So do you trade for Papelbon given the fact that three of your four closers may not hold their spots in a month? Ortiz is a high price to pay given that he will be a strong producer all season, but I'd get the Phillies' closer.

Should I pick up and stash Ubaldo Jimenez? Will he turn it around?
-- @Rangerjayfilm

Since I'm such a glass half full type, let's start with the positive.

Ubaldo is still alive.

So ends the positive talk.

Facetiousness aside, there's not much to hang one's hat on here.

Jimenez, who has struck out better than eight batters per nine over his career, is sitting at 5.48 per nine in '12. Part of the blame there is the fact that his 96.1 mph fastball is now resting at 92 mph. You can also blame a slider that has slid from 86 mph to 82 mph. His changeup is also down from 87 mph to 83. Equally disturbing is that the downward movement that made him such a special pitcher has apparently deserted him along with the speed. A one time 50-plus percent groundball arm, that number has dipped from 54.4, to 52.5, to 48.8 to 47.2 percent the past four years. This year, he's taken another significant step back with that number dropping down to 41 percent.

To make matters worse, he's walking 6.26 hitters per nine innings, about three more than he has over his past three years. You cannot have success walking that many batters. Ask Francisco Liriano and Jonathan Sanchez.

Given his stuff, Ubaldo can still get batters out and have success as a big league starter, but with his inability to throw quality strikes and to avoid walks, there's little chance he turns things around to previous levels unless he somehow magically rediscovers his lost heat. Where's Rumpelstiltskin when you need to make a wish?

Can David Freese keep this up? I've offered Freese for Chris Young.
-- @FranksYanks23

Recall above when I wrote about perception becoming reality for some people? Take the case of Freese and look at his numbers the first two months.

April: .333-5-20 with a .935 OPS
May: .222-3-8 with a .786 OPS

In April he was George Brett. In May he's been Melvin Mora. Who is he? The truth lies in the middle since he's neither Brett nor Mora. Overall, he's appeared in 35 of 37 Cardinals games, and given his history it's hard to believe he will be able to keep up that pace. I also feel comfortable in stating he isn't a 35 home run, 120 RBI-bat he's on pace to be right now. In truth, I'd be a bit surprised if he's even a 25-95 bat given the health concerns and the lack of elite power.

Young should be back by the end of this week or the start of next week. Before injuring his shoulder he was off to a great start, hitting .410 with five homers, 13 RBI and two steals through 11 games. An option to go 20/20 every season, Young has long struggled to lift his batting average to the realm of respectability (he's never hit .260 in a season). Given that he's coming back from an injured shoulder he'll essentially have too start over, so reset expectations for Young back to where they were eight weeks ago. Forget the hot start and look at him as a fella who could be a batting average drain while being a potentially significant source of counting category numbers in the outfield.

Do you need outfield help? Are you looking for a speed boost? If so, the easy answer is obviously Young. If you're looking for some corner infield help and batting average security, the answer is square in the Freese camp. Without knowing the answer to those two questions I'd go with the more dynamic talents of Young who can give me 20 steals if pushed, but there are certainly plenty of scenarios in which it would make more sense to hold on to Freese.

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 from 5-8 PM EDT, Monday through Friday. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com</a> and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.

 
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