Bullpen's in transition, and some numbers from the first week of the season, highlight this entry. CLOSER MELTDOWN... And it goes on an on. Continuing a trend we saw far too often last season, closers are having a damn tough time locking things down in the 9th inning, and the result is that some teams are changing roles while others are considering making a move. Already changed: REDS: Don't forget that some people held their draft well before the Reds switched course and moved Aroldis Chapman back into the bullpen killing the value of Jonathan Broxton. CUBS: Carlos Marmol has been a hit or miss disaster. What a shock. Still, it's a bit surprising the Cubs removed him from the 9th so quickly (if they were going to do this why even bother starting him as the 9th inning man?). "We want him to be our closer," pitching coach Chris Bosio said. "He'll work in games where we are behind in the middle of the game," manager Dale Sveum said. "We want to see him build some confidence back up.” For now the club will turn to import Kyuji Fujikawa who was, ostensibly, brought in to work the 9th inning anyway (everyone assumes the Cubs will deal Marmol at some point). Problem is, he hasn't exactly been lights out in his young careeras he's allowed five base runners and three runs while recording only seven outs. Thinking of changing: BREWERS: John Axford is still officially the closer, but there are plenty of rumblings that Axford could be demoted from the role even though he is a top-5 saves arm from the last two seasons. "I need to have a discussion with 'Ax' on what we plan to do. So, I really can't give you an answer until I talk to him," manager Ron Roenicke said. Axford has allowed a run in all three of his outings this season, an amazingly he's permitted four bombs in just 2.2 innings. Come on folks, there is no way batters continue to hit .500 off him as they are right now. Still, he's stunk enough that the power arm of Jim Henderson might find itself getting some chances in the 9th inning starting, well, right now. In 33.2 innings as a big leaguer Henderson has a 13.10 K/9 mark, a strong 3.77 K/BB ratio, and he also saved 15 games in a half season in Triple-A last season. CARDINALS: Jason Motte's situation is still up in the air, and Mitchel Boggs just isn't a dominating arm (career: 6.69 K/9, 1.77 K/BB, 3.78 ERA, 1.41 WHIP). The only thing Boggs does really well is generate those grounders – he has a 52 percent ground ball rate for his career. Meanwhile, Trevor Rosenthal and his 97 mph heater are bidding their time. His performance, during his young career, has been elite – 13.50 K/9, 6.00 K/BB ratio, 1.79 GB/FB. Boggs is 1-for-2 in converting save chances and still has the job, but Rosenthal is lurking. ROYALS: Greg Holland has a huge arm. Period. However, he also has issues throwing strikes at times. Last year he struck out more than 12 batters per nine innings, but he also walked more than 4.50 per nine. He's been better, and worse, this season. It's only three appearances covering two innings, so don't hit the panic button just yet. Holland has a K/9 mark of 13.50 but unfortunately he's also walked four batters leading to an 18.00 BB/9 mark. Holland has also picked up a blown save an a loss. Is he going to lose his job? One would think not. "He's just been kind of a slow starter -- he was last year, too," manager Ned Yost said. "Once he gets his feet underneath him, he's lights out. We'll adjust it out." Kelvin Herrera is the hot pickup this week. The hardest thrower in baseball based on average fastball velocity last year (98.5), he's only thrown 89.2 innings as a big leaguer. Despite the heat he's had a bit fewer than a K per inning with 84 punchouts, but he's thrown a lot of strikes (2.21 BB/9), something Holland has trouble doing, and he's also an elite ground ball arm (54 percent). There's no changing of the guard, at least not yet, but Herrera is a nice speculative add if you have an available roster spot. Oh, and watch out for Aaron Crow... Unsolicited advice/plug – Angry Orchard Hard Cider (Crisp Apple) is tasty. NUMBERS TO KNOW (Entering play on April 8th) 0: The number of victories that Kevin Slowey has in his last nine starts. During those nine starts he's received an average of 2.16 runs of support per game. .500: The OBP of Eric Hosmer through six games. Hosmer has walked four times against three strikeouts leading to a 1.33 BB/K ratio. He's following up his blazing spring with a strong start to the year. Put behind you the struggles he faced last season – they are in the past and Hosmer should be a very effective weapon at the dish this year. 1.134: The OPS of Vernon Wells through five games with the Yankees (.294/.429/.706). Currently Wells has a SLG of .706 which is better than the OPS marks he posted with the Angels the last two seasons (.660 and .682). Wells has also taken four walks in five games this season after taking a mere 16 last season in 77 contests. He's shaping up as a strong AL-only option. Don't forget if you've added him in a mixed league that Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are all working their way back from injury so it's no lock that Wells will be a full-time player in a couple of months. 2.42: The ERA of Wandy Rodriguez over his last eight starts. He's gone at least six innings in seven of those outings. He's also been sharp in April for the duration of his career. In 34 starts in the month he has a 2.86 ERA. 5: The number of homers Justin Upton hit in his first week as a Brave. He set a franchise record with five homers in the first five games of a season. He is also the only player in league history to hit five homers in his first five games with an organization. This is why I noted that Upton was worth a top-20 selection this season in the fantasy game – his power, which when combined with his speed, leaves him as an elite talent. I know he's hit 17 homers in two of the past three seasons, but he also hit 31 big flies in 2011. He's on his way to reaching a career best in homers this season. 8: The number of times that Matt Carpenter reached base in the series against the Giants. Carpenter also had four RBIs and five hits in his last two games. With David Freese returning from the DL Carpenter will now move from the hot corner to second base. If you drafted Matt to be your second sacker this year you hated to see Freese spending time at third forcing Carpenter to play third since Matt C. only appeared in five games last season at second thereby leaving him uneligible at second base in virtually every league. It shouldn't be long before he appears in 10 games this season at second, so that in-season eligibility in many leagues is getting close. 8: The number of strikeouts that Jose Fernandez had in his first outing, the most by a pitcher his age or younger in a big league debut since David Clyde struck out eight batters as an 18 year old back on June 27, 1973. Fernandez has an elite arm that was on full display in that first start. He has precious little experience, but the wing is dynamic. 27: The amount of homers that Mark Reynolds has hit in his last 140 games after hitting four in his first five games this season. People always down him for his batting average, easily understood given his career .236 mark, but that often causes people to miss the fact that he's a heck of a run producer from a corner infield spot. 13.2: The number of scoreless innings, over 16 outings, that Koji Uehara is currently working on. He's allowed a total of two hits and one walk while striking out 21 batters in that time. You really can't pitch any better than that. He's an elite middle reliever in AL-only leagues who only needs to remain healthy to be a big time weapon. 100: The percent of six games this season that Justin Morneau has reached base. Justin has two doubles, three RBIs, eight hits and four walks tigs season. He really couldn't have started out much better for the Twins. 349: The longest games played streak in baseball which belongs to Prince Fielder. Consistent production combined with an ability to always be on the field is why Fielder was a strong choice as a top-10 addition in mixed leagues this season. The NL leader in games played in a row is Starlin Castro with 202. THIS DATE IN BASEBALL HISTORY... April 8th, 1985 Tom Seaver made his major league record 15th Opening Day start. Walter Johnson had previously held the record with 14 Opening Day calls. Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday at 5 PM EDT. For more of Ray's analysis you can check out BaseballGuys.com or the BaseballGuys' Twitter account where he tirelessly answer everyone's questions.


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About Ray Flowers

The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Thurs 7 PM, Fri. 9 PM EDT), Ray also hosts a show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.

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