Closing Time: Juan Minaya inherits the ninth, Byron Buxton heats up

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/10384/" data-ylk="slk:Juan Minaya">Juan Minaya</a> has a ninth-inning heater (AP Photo/Mike Stone)
Juan Minaya has a ninth-inning heater (AP Photo/Mike Stone)

The White Sox are the worst team in the American League, but their handshakes still have value in most leagues. And it looks like Juan Minaya has settled into the ninth-inning gig.

Minaya recorded his third save in four days Monday, a clean inning against Minnesota. His 4.50 ERA might scare off some prospective owners, but he also has a reasonable 1.22 WHIP — and when ERA and WHIP don’t tell the same story, I tend to trust the WHIP. His strikeout rate (40 whiffs in 32 innings) is befitting of this role, though his control (15 walks) needs some work. He’s also allowed six home runs, which is too many for his workload.

Minaya probably won’t be the long-term closer in future seasons — when the White Sox are ready to contend again (and the farm system is loaded), the staff will probably be significantly different. But anyone with a ninth-inning role generally has fantasy value unless he completely blows up. With Minaya’s emerging security, a 94-mph fastball, and recent form, I’m open-minded to trying him in deep and medium leagues. He’s still unowned in 85 percent of Yahoo.

• While Minaya has run with the closing spot, Nicky Delmonico is making noise at third base. The 25-year-old non prospect was recalled three weeks ago, and all he’s done is hit: .343/.443/.642, with six homers. Oddly, this run bears little resemblance to his ordinary minor-league numbers: .262/.347/.421 at Triple-A, with 12 homers in 99 games.

The most encouraging thing about Delmonico’s MLB debut is the patience — he’s walked 11 times against a modest 13 strikeouts. He’s giving us quality at-bats. But with a .354 BABIP and a HR/FB rate that’s out of whack, it’s hard to see this story lasting for any length of time. Obviously ride out the hot streak, but Delmonico is a short-leash fantasy candidate.

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• Has a new city perked up Curtis Granderson? He moved to the Dodgers last week, and he’s already clouted a couple of home runs for his new club. Grandy’s grand slam Monday sparked a comeback win over Pittsburgh. The Dodgers are moving him all over the lineup, slotting him fifth, first, and fourth in three games.

You know what Granderson is at this point of his career — reasonable power, some patience, not much for average or steals. The Dodgers ranked sixth in runs, the Mets 18th, so obviously there’s an upgrade there. If you need some outfield pop, Granderson is unclaimed in about two-thirds of Yahoo leagues.

• Byron Buxton has been on our fantasy minds for so long, it’s easy to forget he’s still just 23. He’s gone on hot streaks in the past, making us wonder if the light is finally clicking on for good. Alas, that’s often been met with interminable slumps afterwards. But the way he’s playing right now, he needs to be in all fantasy lineups.

Buxton had three hits, including a homer, in Monday’s doubleheader against Chicago. He’s been a fantasy delight over the last month, with a .333 average, four homers, six steals. He’s the No. 14 fantasy outfielder over that span, a no-doubt starter.

There’s nothing fluky about his second-half rebound; he’s jumped his line-drive rate to 30.2 percent in the second half. Perhaps it’s been a case of using the whole ballpark; Buxton was pulling the ball 54.7 percent of the time in the first three months, but it’s down to 38.6 percent in the second half. Buxton slotted at the bottom of the order for most of the year, but he’s been in the No. 3 position in two of his past three games. All arrows are pointing upward.

Keep in mind, Buxton wasn’t just a so-so prospect, he was the No. 1 or No. 2 prospect in all of baseball for the 2014-2016 period. All we’re looking for is plausible upside, and it’s certainly here. He could be a difference-maker — heck, a league-winner — for the final six weeks.

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