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May 02, 2006

ESPN Fantasy Column

A Change At The End
Not since 2002 have the Rangers demoted their closer. Back then I held the grim task of advising whether fantasy owners should acquire John Rocker or Hideki Irabu. Today, the issues are the firmness of Akinori Otsuka’s grip on the closer role and whether Francisco Cordero can or will reacquire it.

Is Cordero injured? Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus thinks so. I honestly don’t know. I see a guy still lighting up the radar gun and regularly throwing breaking pitches (too regularly, in fact). Of course, if an injury is eliminating some slider-bite or a quarter-inch of late movement on his fastball, that’s just as damaging as any loss in velocity. To my untrained eyes, Cordero’s problems seem more of pitch location and confidence.

In theory, Otsuka has the job only temporarily while Cordero regains his confidence or whatever else he’s lost. On the other hand, it’s hard to envision Buck Showalter reinstating Cordero before Otsuka blows a save or two. I do expect Cordero to regain closer status during the season, but not in the immediate future.

Owners in AL-only leagues clearly must retain Cordero. Though it’s depressing for his owners to contemplate, Cordero can still provide value as a middle reliever. Owners in mixed leagues should also hold firm. Cordero has a reasonable chance to recover his dominance and status. Keeping him on the bench or as a plain vanilla reliever won’t hurt in the short run unless a there’s 24-carat gold on the waiver wire.

Robinson Tejeda will make his AL debut Tuesday night. As I mentioned a month ago when Texas acquired him, Tejeda did not pitch nearly as well as his 2005 ERA of 3.57 would indicate. He walked 5.3 per nine innings and permitted only five homers despite a worrisome ground-fly ratio of 0.81. Not to say that he absolutely won’t offer support to AL-only owners, but pretend he posted a 4.57 ERA and set expectations from there. Worse still, after the Rays he’ll face the Yankees in Arlington followed by Boston and the Yankees again on the road.

At Second
Mark Derosa returned from the DL and will get the majority of starts at second base while Ian Kinsler heals his bum thumb. Derosa has modest, short-term value in AL-only leagues. Former fill-in D’Angelo Jimenez has minimal value even in large AL-only leagues, while recent call-up Drew Meyer has none. Kinsler won’t return before the middle of the month. Keep him DL’ed in AL-only leagues. In mixed leagues, if he’s occupying your DL spot and your bench is healthy, there’s no harm in keeping him. If, however, you also have a worthwhile but injured player clogging a bench spot, you certainly should drop Kinsler. Even the healthiest of rookies rarely make for quality fantasy players, much less those coming off severe hand injuries.

Posted by Lucas at May 2, 2006 05:47 PM