Saves Never Sleep: Chasing the Shawn Armstrongs of the world is a roto conundrum

Scott Pianowski
Baltimore Orioles pitcher Shawn Armstrong could be a resource for saves, but it might be a bumpy ride. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Baltimore Orioles pitcher Shawn Armstrong could be a resource for saves, but it might be a bumpy ride. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

The film Wall Street is 32 years old now, but you should try to rewatch it every year or two. Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen at the top of their games. A morality play that fits as much today as it did in the 1980s.

And there are all sorts of pearls of wisdom to consider and apply. Here’s one such chestnut, wisdom an older stockbroker offers to the naive, over-his-head Bud Fox.

“The main thing about money, Bud, is that it makes you do things you don’t wanna do.”

That wisdom wasn’t written with roto in mind, but it’s how I feel about saves. And now we can have the Shawn Armstrong talk.

Armstrong, a 28-year-old journeyman, showed up on some sleeper boards this spring. He had a strong late-season run in Seattle last year (3.23/0.82 in 14 games) after closing in the minors most of the year. The Mariners had an unsettled bullpen, perhaps Armstrong could get in on the saves mix.

Everything went wrong when the bell rung. An oblique injury pushed Armstrong to the injured list, then he returned (perhaps too quickly) and was terrible in four appearances. The M’s designed him for assignment at the end of April.

Hello, Baltimore. And, perhaps, hello newfound fantasy relevance.

Armstrong has been steady in his first 11 Baltimore innings: 7 H, 3 R, 6 BB, 11 K. You’d like to see fewer walks, sure. But the strikeout rate is fine, and a 2.45 ERA and 1.18 WHIP will play. Most importantly, he’s starting to get some leverage work. He had a standard save in Monday’s 5-3 win over Detroit, a scoreless ninth (one walk, one strikeout). After Mychal Givens lost his way last week, Armstrong could be the new closer — or at least the new committee head — in Baltimore.

And to that, you might be saying, “So what?” Baltimore’s obviously a clown car of a baseball team, 20 games under .500 and with the worst record in baseball. Should we even bother to chase these saves? And if there’s even a whiff of a committee, how can any Baltimore closer accrue fantasy value?

This is where you have to season the idea to your personal context and needs. In shallow leagues, Armstrong is off your radar. If you’re loaded at saves, maybe you look past him. But I have a few pools where it’s blood for every possible handshake, and with that, I made the Armstrong add Monday. (Please don’t tell Lou Mannheim.)

Not every recommendation is going to be Anacott Steel. Sometimes you take a shot on a rinky-dink airline. Call Armstrong a dog with different fleas if you want, but he’s available, just three percent owned in Yahoo.

The Road to Florida

Sticking with potential gems in the junkyard, let’s appreciate what Jose Urena is doing of late in Miami. Urena couldn’t get anyone out through three starts, but seven of his last eight turns have been useful (in total, it hashes to a 2.77 ERA, 1.17 WHIP). He stopped Washington on Monday, allowing just two runs over seven crisp innings.

Urena’s something of a throwback, making hay with his sinker and a pitch-to-contact approach. While most of the league is doing all it can to miss bats, Urena says bring on the contact. He’s striking out just 15.5 percent of batters (league average is 23 percent), though his walk rate is slightly under the league mean. He’s also inducing ground balls a juicy 51.2 percent of the time.

Urena’s seasonal ERA is two runs higher at home, a stone fluke. We all know Miami is the biggest hitting graveyard around. For his career, his stats show a decided home shade; look for this year’s splits at the Fish Tank to eventually normalize.

No, it’s not easy to score wins with the Marlins. If the team context troubles you, take heart that Urena is likely to be in trade talks all summer. And if he happens to stick in Miami, that fluky home ERA should fix itself soon.

Urena is rostered in a mere seven percent of Yahoo leagues, which strikes me as low. His next assignment is reasonable, Saturday at San Diego.

Listen to the Yahoo Fantasy Baseball Podcast