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2020 Fantasy Baseball: NL Hitters (DHs) Who Will Gain At Bats

Host Anthony Aniano of RotoBaller Radio discuss the 2020 fantasy baseball season and keeps you updated with all the latest news and analysis. In this episode he breaks down some of his must-have players for 2020 fantasy baseball drafts focused on National League hitters who should benefit from the universal DH.

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2020 NL Hitters (DHs) Who Will Gain At Bats

 Players discussed in this video include


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Mariano's Saves+Holds Rankings - Fantasy Baseball Relief Pitchers

To any reader who thinks they don't have a voice here at RotoBaller, let it be known that this article came from a simple Reddit comment about how those seeking Saves+Holds reliever ranks were often overlooked. Poof, and here we are. Allow me, Nick Mariano, 2018's most accurate draft expert and sharer of names with the best reliever of all-time, to supercharge your bullpen.

While the closer's role is important, some managers are moving their best arm into a flexible role while shuffling who gets the ninth. Saves+Holds leagues help fantasy leagues reward the best arms regardless of the inning, though it still favors closers in a vacuum. Alongside the short-season craziness with expanded rosters (mostly for bullpen arms), all pitchers must face a minimum of three batters per appearance or pitch to the end of the half-inning. While Rob Manfred has ID'd short RP appearances as a scourge, one-batter relief appearances reached a 13-year low in 2019 per SI's Tom Verducci. That same article says, "The proposed rule would eliminate one mid-inning pitching change every three or four games." Don't overreact.

Reminder: A hold is recorded when a relief pitcher enters with a lead of three runs or less, or with the tying run on-deck, at the plate, or on base, and maintains that lead while recording at least one out. Read on and you'll see where I rank each player, what tier they're in, and their "Team Rank" (spot in their team's bullpen hierarchy via me, but committees can muddy those).

 

Updated Saves+Holds Relief Pitcher Ranks - Mixed Leagues

In case you missed it, our very own "Big Pick Nick" Mariano was named the #1 overall most accurate industry expert ranker for the 2018 season.

Rank Tier Player Team Team Rank
1 1 Josh Hader MIL 1
2 1 Kirby Yates SD 1
3 1 Nick Anderson TB 1
4 1 Roberto Osuna HOU 1
5 1 Ryan Pressly HOU 2
6 1 Taylor Rogers MIN 1
7 2 Liam Hendriks OAK 1
8 2 Brad Hand CLE 1
9 2 Ken Giles TOR 1
10 2 Kenley Jansen LAD 1
11 2 Emilio Pagan SD 2
12 2 Seth Lugo NYM 2
13 2 Aroldis Chapman NYY 1
14 3 Edwin Diaz NYM 1
15 3 Craig Kimbrel CHC 1
16 3 Raisel Iglesias CIN 1
17 3 Hector Neris PHI 1
18 3 Adam Ottavino NYY 3
19 3 Brandon Workman BOS 1
20 3 Hansel Robles LAA 1
21 3 Tommy Kahnle NYY 4
22 3 Giovanny Gallegos STL 2
23 3 Jose Leclerc TEX 1
24 3 Matt Barnes BOS 2
25 3 Tyler Duffey MIN 4
26 3 Dellin Betances NYM 3
27 3 Zach Britton NYY 2
28 3 Sean Doolittle WAS 1
29 4 Will Harris WAS 3
30 4 Sergio Romo MIN 2
31 4 Archie Bradley ARI 1
32 4 Drew Pomeranz SD 4
33 4 Aaron Bummer CWS 2
34 4 Alex Colome CWS 1
35 4 Pedro Baez LAD 2
36 4 Ryan Helsley STL 1
37 4 Yusmeiro Petit OAK 2
38 4 Ty Buttrey LAA 2
39 4 Will Smith ATL 2
40 4 Keone Kela PIT 1
41 5 Austin Adams SEA 1
42 5 Mark Melancon ATL 1
43 5 James Karinchak CLE 3
44 5 Ian Kennedy KC 1
45 5 Diego Castillo TB 3
46 5 Michael Lorenzen CIN 2
47 5 Joe Jimenez DET 1
48 5 Rafael Montero TEX 2
49 5 Jose Alvarado TB 2
50 5 Andrew Miller STL 3
51 5 Scott Oberg COL 1
52 5 Trevor May MIN 3
53 5 Daniel Hudson WAS 2
54 6 Corey Knebel MIL 4
55 6 Colin Poche TB 5
56 6 Kevin Ginkel ARI 2
57 6 Amir Garrett CIN 3
58 6 Scott Barlow KC 3
59 6 Rowan Wick CHC 2
60 6 Nick Wittgren CLE 2
61 6 Bryan Abreu HOU 3
62 7 Robert Stephenson CIN 4
63 7 Luke Jackson ATL 4
64 7 Keynan Middleton LAA 3
65 7 Blake Treinen LAD 3
66 7 Mychal Givens BAL 1
67 7 Wade Davis COL 2
68 7 Joakim Soria OAK 3
69 7 John Gant STL 4
70 7 Adam Morgan PHI 3
71 7 Yoshihisa Hirano SEA 3
72 8 Chris Martin ATL 5
73 8 Oliver Drake TB 6
74 8 Nick Pivetta PHI 2
75 8 Craig Stammen SD 3
76 8 Andrew Chafin ARI 3
77 8 Chaz Roe TB 4
78 8 Hunter Harvey BAL 2
79 8 Tony Watson SF 1
80 8 Matt Magill SEA 2
81 8 Trevor Rosenthal KC 2
82 8 Brandon Kintzler MIA 1
83 8 Shane Greene ATL 3
84 8 Joe Kelly LAD 4
85 9 Tyler Rogers SF 2
86 9 Chad Green NYY 5
87 9 Tyler Clippard MIN 5
88 9 Oliver Perez CLE 5
89 9 Cam Bedrosian LAA 4
90 9 Marcus Walden BOS 4
91 9 Adam Kolarek LAD 5
92 10 Nick Burdi PIT 5
93 10 Tanner Rainey WAS 4
94 10 Trevor Gott SF 3
95 10 Freddy Peralta MIL 3
96 10 Richard Rodriguez PIT 2
97 10 Justin Wilson NYM 5
98 10 Darwinzon Hernandez BOS 5
99 10 Corbin Burnes MIL 5
100 10 Brett Martin TEX 3
101 10 Anthony Bass TOR 2
102 10 Trey Wingenter SD 5
103 10 Yimi Garcia MIA 2
104 10 Kyle Crick PIT 3
105 10 Brent Suter MIL 2
106 11 Ryne Stanek MIA 3
107 11 Wander Suero WAS 5
108 11 Jake Diekman OAK 4
109 11 Josh Taylor BOS 3
110 11 Jairo Diaz COL 3
111 11 Carlos Estevez COL 4
112 11 Matt Strahm SD 6
113 11 Pedro Strop CIN 5
114 12 Steve Cishek CWS 3
115 12 Justin Anderson LAA 5
116 12 Lou Trivino OAK 5
117 12 Buck Farmer DET 2
118 12 Heath Hembree BOS 6
119 12 Cody Allen TEX 6
120 12 Junior Guerra ARI 6
121 12 Junior Fernandez STL 5
122 12 Jeremy Jeffress CHC 4
123 12 Jesse Chavez TEX 4
124 12 Shawn Armstrong BAL 4
125 13 Richard Bleier BAL 3
126 13 Kyle Ryan CHC 3
127 13 Roenis Elias WAS 6
128 13 Jordan Hicks STL 6
129 13 Joe Smith HOU 4
130 13 Peter Fairbanks TB 8
131 13 Hector Rondon ARI 4
132 13 Clarke Schmidt NYY 6
133 13 Rafael Dolis TOR 4
134 13 Michael King NYY 7
135 13 Ryan Brasier BOS 7
136 13 Nick Goody TEX 5
137 13 Shun Yamaguchi TOR 3
138 13 Tim Hill KC 5
139 13 Jordan Romano TOR 6
140 14 Greg Holland KC 4
141 14 Erik Swanson SEA 4
142 14 Adam Cimber CLE 4
143 14 Jose Alvarez PHI 4
144 14 Evan Marshall CWS 4
145 14 Yoan Lopez ARI 5
146 14 Sam Gaviglio TOR 5
147 14 Chris Devenski HOU 5
148 14 Brad Brach NYM 4
149 14 Tommy Hunter PHI 5
150 14 Darren O'Day ATL 6
151 14 Miguel Castro BAL 5
152 14 Carl Edwards Jr. SEA 5
153 15 Jimmy Cordero CWS 7
154 15 Jake McGee COL 5
155 15 David Phelps MIL 6
156 15 Brad Boxberger MIA 4
157 15 Michael Feliz PIT 4
158 15 Andrew Kittredge TB 7
159 15 Jace Fry CWS 5
160 15 Jeurys Familia NYM 4
161 15 Kelvin Herrera CWS 6
162 15 Jose Cisnero DET 3
163 15 Sam Conrood SF 5
164 15 Gregory Soto DET 5
165 15 Bryan Garcia DET 4

Tier One

Josh Hader was electric in 2018, and many metrics improved in 2019 but were overshadowed by an issue with homers. His swinging-strike rate soared, from 19% to 22.7%, which yielded a 47.8% strikeout rate -- over six percentage points higher than the next-best qualified RP, Nick Anderson. His 43 Saves + Holds tally led the Majors and this format means you can get away from his being left-handed or used in “fireman” late-inning situations outside of the ninth. It sounds like Milwaukee wants to avoid lots of back-to-back nights of work, but we’ll see what that looks like when the season begins and wins are on the line. Especially if Corey Knebel isn’t available on Opening Day.

He did this while trimming his walk rate to 6.9% from 9.8% and his .232 BABIP was close to the career .228 mark, but homers don’t factor into that. His 21.4% HR/FB rate and 1.78 HR/9 did all it could to inflate his 2.62 ERA. Strikeouts and homers, the 2019 way. Still, his 1.78 SIERA made him the only qualified RP with a mark south of 2.00 and I’m here for his being the first off the board.

I won’t begrudge anyone for going with Yates over Hader, as his 41 SV+HLD barely trailed Hader while his 1.19 ERA was far cleaner. Still, we know the surface stats for a reliever are highly volatile. Yates’ 2.05 SIERA was second to Hader’s rate, while his 41.6% strikeout rate was third-best, just behind Nick Anderson. Speaking of...

I cannot dance around Anderson anymore. He was simply lights out after joining the Rays. 2019 was his first MLB season, and Anderson was inconsistent in Miami, throwing more breaking balls instead of ripping into hitters with his elite heat. Then he was traded to Tampa Bay at the deadline and proceeded to log a whopping 41/2 K/BB rate and 2.11 ERA (1.03 SIERA!) across 21 ⅓ IP. Tampa may get “cute” with when they deploy their relievers, but they’re still an above-average team in the top-heavy East for this short season and should have many leads to protect.

Hendriks’ stock gets more comfortable with Treinen going to LAD. His average fastball velocity went from 94-95 MPH to 96.5 MPH, his curveball rose from 82 MPH to 84 MPH and the rate at which he threw it soared, from 1.8% in ‘18 to 7.8%. The added heat helped, as hitters pulled a career-low 26.5% of batted balls off of him, which eased the damage done by the 49.5% fly-ball rate.

The other non-closer worthy of the elite Tier One label is Ryan Pressly, who put up stats nearly identical to teammate Roberto Osuna. His 72 strikeouts in 54 ⅓ IP offer a better K/9 than Osuna’s 73 K’s in 65 frames, while also putting up a top-10 SV+HLD total for 2019 (34) with a beautiful 2.32 ERA/0.91 WHIP. Houston may be mired in scandal, but the Pressly-Osuna bridge at their endgame should remain steady. Honestly, if someone wanted Pressly over Osuna here then I wouldn’t fight it.

Rogers’ argument for Tier One comes via the incredible 2.61 ERA/1.03 WHIP, 90 K’s, and 40 SV+HLD in 69 IP last season. The Twins are in a fantastic spot in the top-heavy AL Central and Minnesota’s defense only got better with the addition of Josh Donaldson. That’s only if hitters are fortunate enough to put bat on ball, as Rogers’ 2018 28.9% strikeout rate jumped to 32.4% as he posted a 50.6% groundball rate and 4% walk rate. Getting to first base is tough sledding there.

 

Tier Two

There are some huge beneficiaries from the SV+HLD format, with less value tied up in needing to retain permanent closer status. Emilio Pagan stepped up for the Rays after Jose Alvarado and Diego Castillo were injured or inconsistent down the stretch, but now he retains that value in San Diego as their setup man. This also clears some work for TB arms, but Pagan is a fine first bullpen arm to tap.

Meanwhile, Jansen had to miss a few games at altitude due to a heart condition, but his overall 3.71 ERA/1.06 WHIP and 80 K’s in 63 frames remained strong. He’s always been a fly-ball pitcher and as such, 2018’s and 2019’s “higher” (for him) ERAs with a low WHIP add up with homers and fly outs. The last two seasons have also seen him post mortal 6% walk rates after that incredible 2.7% clip in ‘17 -- just small things worth noting. He remains a top-10 option, but he’s no longer in the upper echelon. There's enhanced risk as he just reported to camp on July 12 after testing positive for the virus, but early reports indicate he'll be ready by July 23.

Seth Lugo is far more stable than Edwin Diaz, but could see earlier work as a multi-inning horse. Last season, Lugo turned in 80 innings with 27 SV+HLDs, 104 strikeouts, and pristine ratios. When the Mets had six starters, I felt better about Lugo working late. With Noah Syndergaard out and Michael Wacha needed in the rotation, it’s possible the Mets need Lugo and Robert Gsellman to step up earlier if Walker Lockett, Paul Sewald, Corey Oswalt, and other “longer” arms with lesser abilities aren’t working. And then news broke on the other side of the city...

No Chapman to open the season, and that ominous "foreseeable future" bit, obviously knocks the flamethrower's stock. While Britton steps up in the hierarchy, his SV+HLD prospects aren't altered much. This is about weighing risk and upside with the pinstriped southpaw, and my assessment has him ahead of other (different) risks that kick off the third tier. His ceiling is still that of the game's best reliever, but everyone's recovery is unique and news must be monitored closely.

 

Tier Three

The Mets will have to decide on how to best use Edwin Diaz given his loss of command in ‘19 and Dellin Betances coming off a lost season. Diaz has the raw ability to be the game’s best reliever, which floats his rank, but the floor is low. I had more concerns about Betances coming off a lost 2019 when a full season was on the table, but a shortened campaign sees his stock rise as a premier strikeout arm.

Giovanny Gallegos is dealing with COVID early on and may not be game-ready by season’s start, but until we receive clarity on those effects we can simply analyze his performance heading into 2020. That is, how he posted a 2.31 ERA and 0.84 WHIP over 74 IP in 2019, but didn’t see consistent late-game work early on. The SV+HLD format shields you from the shadow that is Jordan Hicks’ recovery and Andrew Miller’s role as a late-game lefty with closing experience, as well as recent comments from GM John Mozeliak giving Ryan Helsley a vote of confidence for the ninth innng.

Iglesias inspires many as a steady name, as you will recall his 37 SV+HLDs were seventh-best in the game last year. So, why isn’t he higher? Well, the 12 losses hurt, but underneath the surface you’ll see how the 3.22 SIERA is consistent with his 3.31 career mark and the 31.9% strikeout rate was a career-best alongside a slight drop in walks (8.6% to 7.5%.) His HR/9 has been 1.50 and 1.61 in the past two seasons, but it was ramped up by allowing more fly balls in ‘19. After surrendering an average 35.2% fly-ball rate in ‘18, he was crushed by a 43.9% mark in ‘19. Soft contact went up, but so did hard contact. Welcome to modern-day baseball, land of the extremes.

The SV+HLD format really helps most of the Red Sox relievers retain a high floor as well, with Workman boasting the greatest skill set on the surface. Most are aware of him after a brilliant 2019 where he recorded 10 wins, 16 saves and 15 holds with a 1.88 ERA/1.10 WHIP. Critical to that was his leading the league with just one barrel allowed across the whole season, which means we need to prepare for regression. Matt Barnes is also in this group, as his 110 strikeouts in 64 ⅓ IP was outstanding but the walks and subsequent 1.42 WHIP were tough to absorb.

I’ll cheat and talk about Tiers 3-5 for a second, as Washington is another bullpen with several reliable arms on a team likely to deliver Ws. With Sean Doolittle’s left-handed and eased usage giving way to plenty of late work for the righties in Daniel Hudson and Will Harris. Whether it’s a matchup decision or Davey Martinez is trying not to overwork Doolittle, Hudson is almost guaranteed to work those late frames on defending World Series champs that should vie for another division title while Harris likely sets them both up.

Now, Doolittle has sounded unsure of playing and has the aforementioned workload ceiling. His 5.8% walk rate was his worst in four years, same with his 66.9% first-strike rate and 12.1% swinging-strike rate. But the workload management could solve that. Meanwhile, Hudson posted one of his best years with a 2.47 ERA/1.14 WHIP, though his 4.21 SIERA and 5.08 xFIP were his worst marks since being a rookie in ‘09. Harris enjoyed some lucky peripherals (.245 BABIP vs. career .288) but a 3.18 SIERA and 3.04 xFIP for Houston gives him a leg up over Hudson to me.

 

Tier Four

While one could argue that Zack Britton belongs higher, the poor strikeout rate stands out more in today’s world. While that sinker yielded amazing ratios for the Yankees and fantasy owners alike, a reliever that isn’t getting dedicated late work better give you plus whiffs to make it worth your while. You can’t rely on the holds racking up here this early in drafts, and I’m wary of ratios being the main reason to draft a reliever this early. At least his repertoire is good at mitigating dangerous fly balls. He may earn a few more SV+HLD opportunities than Tommy Kahnle, but the southpaw’s lower K% suppresses the value when banking on “ratio relief” is more volatile.

Yusmeiro Petit has been a beast over the past three seasons, posting ERA’s of 3.00 or less while tossing 83-93 innings with a collective WHIP below 1.00. His 19.8% K-BB% blends with Oakland’s pitcher-friendly park to yield BABIPs around .230 as an Athletic. You’ll find lesser K’s (71 in 83 IP last year) but in this case, his ratios appear safer on a year-to-year basis and Oakland is a great spot for churning Hold opportunities.

You’ll find both Alex Colome and Aaron Bummer here too, as I expect the White Sox to improve their lot. The issue here is both are finesse rather than flamethrower, like Petit, offering less than a strikeout per inning in exchange for plus ratios. The flipside of these guys are the Jose Leclerc and Matt Barnes types with stronger K’s, but higher ratio risk. The increased reliability of K’s keeps those names in the third tier rather than here, but you get the point.

If I knew Drew Pomeranz was going to stay in the late innings all year long and not be drafted into opener duties then I’d have him higher, especially after he turned in a 1.88 ERA/0.85 WHIP with 50 K’s in just 28 ⅔ IP of relief for Milwaukee last season. I wish he was still throwing to Yasmani Grandal, but Buster Posey and spacious San Francisco will do just fine.

Will Smith is out with COVID and we’re unsure about his game shape to open the season, but he’d be in my second tier if the southpaw was healthy. Plus ratios, big K’s, and the lefty component to the late frames for a strong Atlanta team that works with a shakier arm in Mark Melancon. Many other arms in that ‘pen will appear here, as they’ll help bridge the starters to Smith in pursuit of wins.

Another premier setup man pops here, with Ty Buttrey bringing in around 30 SV+HLD over the year with plus strikeouts and average ratios. The raw SV+HLD volume is what buoys his value behind Hansel Robles in a subpar bullpen.

 

Tier Five

Here is where you start to find players with some greater fleas, but presumed late roles and/or big upside. You’ll find higher WHIPs on the whole, younger players with less certain roles, and a couple injury risks.

Melancon, Ian Kennedy, and Joe Jimenez are a mixed bag, posting WHIPs of 1.30 or higher last season, but not banking on low-ratio guys to replicate their efforts swings both ways. Jimenez has the highest ceiling as Detroit’s “arm of the future” but the Tigers may not have many leads to close.

I want to believe in Joe Jimenez over the long term, but the 3.14 SIERA in 2018 was tied to a 4.31 ERA and his 3.41 SIERA last season hid behind a 4.37 ERA. At some point, the results have to be there. After a rough July 17 outing, Jimenez posted a 2.55 ERA with 31 strikeouts to seven walks over 24 ⅔ IP. Of the seven runs allowed, five of them came on solo homers. He didn’t issue a walk over his final eight appearances of the season, so there are hints of greatness, but we must keep our heads on straight.

Andrew Miller had a 4.45 ERA/1.32 WHIP. Miller had poor ratios in 2018 as well (4.24 ERA/1.38 WHIP) but maintained hope in the 3.51 FIP/3.29 SIERA. With similar surface stats in ‘19, his FIP ballooned to 5.19 while the 3.87 SIERA wasn’t as dramatic. Be careful, but the opportunities for SV+HLDs will be there as long as he’s healthy, and he’s been cleared as of early July.

I'd have Rafael Montero higher in Texas if he was ready to start the season, but a family emergency kept him from camp early on and so he's likely unavailable for a little at the starting gun. Still, his 34/5 K/BB ratio makes him the second-best arm in that 'pen, and one that's a little more consistent than Leclerc. The new pitcher-friendly park may have big returns here too, as he pitched to a 1.62 ERA in 16 2/3 IP on the road, posting an elite 21/2 K/BB ratio. It's a smaller sample size and might just be noise, but there's hope for more here.

Here comes the upside speculation, as I can’t get away from the Nick Anderson potential that lives in James Karinchak. Perhaps the Indians don’t use him in enough Hold opportunities to excite you, but he could top 35 strikeouts in just 20 innings. 

He’s fetching several headlines, but you may get Seattle’s Austin Adams for cheaper with better results. He hurt his knee last season and is only now reported as 100%, but people haven’t reassessed him on this new timeline. The Mariners don’t have a closer, Matt Magill and Yoshihisa Hirano aren’t huge threats, but the SV+HLD format largely protects you from Scott Servais’ role decisions regardless. Adams had a whopping 51 strikeouts in just 31 innings last season, posting a 2.78 SIERA and 2.50 xFIP with a 41.1% strikeout rate that ranked fourth in the Majors (min. 30 IP). That mark trailed only Hader, Nick Anderson, and Kirby Yates. Yeah.

 

Tier Six

The risk profile grows here, but you can find a lot of K’s in Scott Barlow, Colin Poche and Amir Garrett, who had an unwieldy 1.43 WHIP last season, but the 3.21 ERA had him mitigating the potential damage while logging 22 holds. Poche offers a similar profile with lesser strikeout upside and perhaps greater bullpen volume, but throwing his fastball around 85% of the time makes him prone to the longball as a result. Hence the gorgeous 1.04 WHIP but 4.70 ERA. Barlow may turn in the most innings with the most strikeouts, but the Royals won’t win many games and his 11.9% walk rate from last season (1.44 WHIP) is tough to stomach.

While everyone’s looking at Karinchak, folks may let Nick Wittgren and his 2.81 ERA/1.10 WHIP with a strikeout per inning slide. And then Bryan Abreu could be a starter or reliever for Houston, but 13 K’s with one earned run in 8 ⅔ IP during his age-22 cup of coffee offers upside either way. His spot on the Astros means he’ll have a good shot at either wins or SV+HLDs.

 

Tier Seven

Keynan Middleton is another forgotten arm who missed time due to injuries, but should step into the late innings unless his command is ruined. Speaking of ruined command, Blake Treinen has a lot to prove but his upside on the Dodgers in this format is easily top-50. Ditto, Wade Davis.

Luke Jackson had a roller-coaster season, but 106 K’s in 72 ⅔ IP with a 2.80 SIERA and 2.52 xFIP is incredible. With 10 strikeouts and three walks over five scoreless innings in the Grapefruit League before play was suspended in March, the promise remains. Whether he, Shane Greene, and Chris Martin can get consistent Holds work is another story, but his upside is easily the highest of that trio. 

I’d rather not rely on Joe Kelly rebounding when you can just buy into Pedro Baez or Blake Treinen instead, with Treinen’s rebound ceiling higher than Kelly’s. But the Dodgers bullpen use is typically structured and Kelly shouldn’t fall far down the totem pole. Kyle Crick’s control left him entirely through 2019, but he’s still at least a top-three arm in that rebuilding ‘pen with plus strikeout ability. The same goes for Lou Trivino.

Crick could emerge should the rebuilding Pirates deal Keone Kela. Crick has reported no setbacks in recovery from tendon repair surgery on his right index finger, an injury suffered during a fight with Felipe Vazquez. Shocking that someone would fight Vazquez, I know. Crick’s command left him in ‘19, with an awful 15.5% walk rate and 1.84 HR/9 mark, but he’d posted a 2.39 ERA/1.13 WHIP in ‘18. Just keep an eye out on his spring command.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Tyler Clippard returns the most value here after the 2.38 ERA/0.87 WHIP from last year, but life may be difficult beyond Rogers, Romo, and May in the ‘pen. I’d rather have Tyler Duffey, who had 23 more strikeouts in just one additional inning last season and won’t grab anyone’s attention by name.

 

Tier Eight

Here’s where you have to start making roster-dependent decisions and truly split between taking skills and roles. Several players are the closer or setup men on lesser teams here, such as Tony Watson and Brandon Kintzler. While the entire risk profile must be weighed, the two arms I’ll likely have rostered the most are Trevor Rosenthal and Hunter Harvey.

Dayton Moore, the Royals GM, said Rosenthal was one of the team’s best relievers in camp and the competition is minimal. His 2019 was atrocious, but 2018 saw him rack up 76 whiffs in 47 ⅔ IP thanks to an incredible 15.9% swinging-strike rate. He's reunited with Mike Matheny, who knows just how good an "on" Rosenthal can be.

Another bullpen in flux saw Orioles manager Brandon Hyde talk up Harvey as a high-leverage arm, an option to close, who anchored the bullpen. The 25-year-old only yielded one run while striking out 11 across 6 ⅓ IP, though a .200 BABIP helps anyone. Don’t expect the world, but don’t be shocked at all if he outperforms Mychal Givens with double-digit SV+HLDs.

 

Tier Nine

Now the arms whose skills outweigh their opportunity are more frequent, with Chad Green embodying this as the Yankees’ usual opener. Perhaps he piggyback-starts his way to an Aaron Small-like campaign and a handful of wins. Kolarek and Perez are both lefties on teams expected to win a lot, but we’ll see how they and their managers handle the new reliever rules.

Poor Tyler Rogers is stuck in San Francisco while his twin brother, Taylor, thrives in Minnesota, but the righty has seemingly earned a share of the ninth for Gabe Kapler alongside Tony Watson. A 1.02 ERA/0.85 WHIP with a mere 4.3% walk rate and huge 69.4% groundball rate can do that, but he’s lucky to log a K per inning. Hope for double-digit SV+HLDs with plus ratios on a bad Giants squad.

 

Tier 10

A trio of Brew Crew arms reside here, and while Brent Suter may offer some reliable holds and low ratios, it’s Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes who are magnets for fantasy owners. They may both operate out of the ‘pen to start if Eric Lauer takes the fifth rotation slot, with gigantic strikeout potential. Peralta (30.1% K rate in ‘19) and Burnes (29.8%) can bring the heat if you can stomach a likely negative in the WHIP department. Once again, Peralta had a 1.14 WHIP and Burnes carried a 1.00 WHIP in limited MLB work two years ago, so don’t be too skittish of floors. But their work as pseudo-starters may not yield many hold opportunities.

Another high-strikeout target lies in Darwinzon Hernandez, where you have to hope his command improves enough to be trusted with hold-worthy innings. Tanner Rainey offers incredible K upside (74 in 48 ⅓ IP last season) but you know you’re soaking in a 1.50 WHIP and lower-leverage innings with recent signings on the team.  And keep an eye on Nick Burdi, who could become Pittsburgh’s closer if Keone Kela starts hot and the Pirates can get some future pieces for him. Burdi’s biceps injury tanked most of 2019, but 17 K’s in 8 ⅔ IP tells you how his stuff can play in today’s swing-happy game.

 

Tiers 11-15

Here are those project relievers who have multiple things to work on and/or don’t offer much upside for SV+HLD seekers. I think Matt Strahm is mighty talented but figure he’s not a late-game arm, instead serving as either an opener or a piggyback. Perhaps Jairo Diaz and Carlos Estevez can carve out enough late work in Colorado to be relevant, but you need the Rockies to win as well as dance around Coors.

The Cody Allen reclamation project in Texas may yield a star, but he didn’t have the same rebound show in camp that Trevor Rosenthal displayed. Youngsters such as Boston’s Josh Taylor or St. Louis’ Junior Fernandez have some intrigue in deep leagues, with Taylor likely closer to the holds conversation.

If your league has several IL slots this season then I’m okay stashing Jordan Hicks a little earlier, but I don’t love waiting on any pitcher that isn’t available due to an arm/shoulder injury at the jump. Roster spots are precious, and missing out on the early bullpen shuffle is tougher to come back from without a marathon to run.

I know recent buzz has surfaced around the Yankees with Clarke Schmidt (and Michael King, to an extent) but while they may see some work in this sprint season, the odds they significantly help in the SV+HLD category are slim. The Yanks have so many veteran arms that getting to the valuable frames is a steep climb. The ceiling is likely the Chad Green role, but if you must speculate this far down then targeting Yankees is a solid first step.

Some of the better names that I think could quickly rise are Houston’s Joe Smith, Seattle’s Erik Swanson (if he stays in the ‘pen) and Carl Edwards Jr. (if he can regain his pre-injury form), and Philadelphia’s Tommy Hunter (should no complications from Covid arise). Darren O’Day is within a loaded Atlanta bullpen, but may earn some holds if they don’t swiftly stretch out starters.



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Starting Pitchers Who Will Benefit From a Delayed Start to the 2020 MLB Season

Host Anthony Aniano of RotoBaller Radio discuss the 2020 fantasy baseball season and keeps you updated with all the latest news and analysis. In this episode he breaks down some of his must-have players for 2020 fantasy baseball drafts focused on starting pitchers who should benefit from the delay to the 2020 season.

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Players Benefiting From 2020 Delayed Start

 Players discussed in this video include:


Thanks for listening to today's episode! Be sure to tune in throughout the week, and to also follow RotoBaller on Twitter, YouTube and iTunes for the latest fantasy news and analysis.

Win big with RotoBaller in 2020!

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Relief Pitcher ADP Debates: Fantasy Baseball 2020 ADP Analysis

Host Anthony Aniano of RotoBaller Radio discuss the 2020 fantasy baseball season and keeps you updated with all the latest news and analysis.

Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well!

Be sure to tune into RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM (channel Sirius 210, XM 87) - every weekday morning between 6-7 AM ET, Saturday nights from 9-11 PM ET and Sunday nights from 7-9 PM ET. You can also find new weekly shows on the site under RotoBaller Radio podcasts.

 

Relief Pitcher ADPs - Fantasy Baseball Debates

Players discussed in this video include:

Thanks for listening to today's episode! Be sure to tune in throughout the week, and to also follow RotoBaller on Twitter, YouTube and iTunes for the latest fantasy news and analysis.

Win big with RotoBaller in 2020!

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Questionable Closers: An Early Look at Some Unsettled Bullpens

As anyone who has played fantasy baseball for even five minutes knows, bullpens around the league are always in flux. There are fewer and fewer closers who are no doubt, always in for the ninth inning, always healthy, never slumping, and always celebrating wins for their team. We're seeing more and more teams go with some form of committees, with a lot of teams finally realizing that the best way to use your team's best reliever is to not pigeonhole him into one inning, but instead to put him in when he's most needed. Still, while the closer position seems to be losing some value in real baseball, it remains a critical one in fantasy baseball (although even in that world, holds and saves+holds are becoming more popular stats, devaluing the closer even more).

It's still early and there's plenty of Grapefruit and Cactus League to go before Opening Day, but we do seem to have more solidly established closers than usual at this time of year. The only thing about bullpens that we can guarantee is that if you took a screenshot of our Closers and Saves Depth Charts right now, it would be very, very different come October. But again, for now? Some pretty firmly established roles and only a few bullpens that are truly questionable.

Let's take a look at some of those questionable bullpens and see just why there are questions and maybe try to answer a few of them.

 

Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays and a settled, predictable bullpen are just not things that go together. Emilio Pagan was the closest thing the Rays had to a traditional closer last season, finishing with 20 saves, but he was traded to the San Diego Padres over the winter. Diego Castillo had eight saves and 17 holds in 2019, but also served as the opener six times. Jose Alvarado was third on the team in saves with seven. Chaz Roe ended up leading the team with 23 holds and Colin Poche picked up 16 of his own.

So which of those guys will close for the Rays in 2020? Castillo and Alvarado will probably be part of the committee, but that committee looks like it will be led by Nick Anderson. Anderson was acquired from the Miami Marlins at the trade deadline last season, and he put up a 2.11 ERA/1.19 xFIP, 0.66 WHIP, and 52.6 K% in his 21 1/3 innings as a Rays pitcher. If he had the role to himself, we could be looking at a potentially elite fantasy closer, but the way Rays manager Kevin Cash uses his relief pitchers makes any Rays reliever a risky fantasy prospect in standard leagues. In leagues where holds count, however, Anderson is a must own, and Castillo and Alvarado make for solid depth pieces as well.

Prediction: Anderson should lead the team in saves, but the closer carousel in Tampa Bay will limit him to about 25 if he stays healthy.

 

Seattle Mariners

The Seattle Mariners bullpen was a bit of a mess last season, and there's not much reason to think it won't be at least a bit messy again in 2020. Roenis Elias led the team in 2019 with 14 saves, followed by Anthony Bass and Matt Magill with five each. Then came Anthony Swarzak with three and Hunter Strickland with two. Only one of those pitchers remains with the Mariners for 2020. Elias and Strickland are on the Nationals, Swarzak is with the Phillies. Matt Magill is the only pitcher who had more than one save for the Seattle Mariners in 2019 to remain with the team for 2020. That gave him the early lead for the 2020 closer's role. He was good with the Mariners last season after a mediocre start to the season as a member of the Minnesota Twins. As a Mariner, Magill tossed 22 1/3 innings, posted a 3.63 ERA/3.34 xFIP, and put up a strong 29.2 K% with a 5.2 BB%. Now, Magill is a journeyman 30-year-old with a career 4.52 ERA and 2018 was his first real big league season (after six starts in 2013 and five relief appearances in 2016), so expectation, while already mild, need to be tempered.

While Seattle does have some exciting young arms in the bullpen, Magill's only real competition at this point is veteran free agent signing Yoshihisa Hirano. Hirano had closing experience in Japan before joining the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2018, so while he's only earned four big league saves, he's shown the ability to close things out in the past. Hirano was pretty good (4.01 xFIP) and very lucky (2.44 ERA) in 2018, then similarly good (4.24 xFIP) but much less lucky (4.75 ERA) in 2019. He has a career 24.2 K% to go with a 9.1 BB%. He isn't going to blow guys away or strike out the side too often, but he's a solid veteran reliever in a bullpen full of upside kids. He's the early front-runner in Seattle, but Magill could jump back into the conversation if he recovers well from his early spring shoulder issues.

Prediction: Magill would be the more intriguing fantasy prospect, but Hirano seems more likely to get the nod and should be solid enough to keep the role for most of the season (unless he's dealt at the deadline). 

 

Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves have a ton of guys with closing experience in their bullpen. The "Questionable" tag for this bullpen is more about an embarrassment of riches than a lack of options. Mark Melancon, Will Smith, Shane Green, and Luke Jackson all had at least a dozen saves in 2019. Add Chris Martin's 18 holds from 2019, Darren O'Day's 155 career holds, and even A.J. Minter's still-there-somewhere upside, and you have the makings of a seriously elite bullpen. Mark Melancon wrapped up 2019 as closer for the Braves, going a perfect 11-for-11 in save opportunities with a 3.86 ERA/2.16 xFIP. Melancon had a small 21-inning sample size with Atlanta, but he put up the best strikeout numbers (27.0 K%) and showed the best control (2.3 BB%) of his career. So it would make sense to assume that Melancon would be the closer in 2020, right?

Well, maybe. Besides having plenty of qualified internal candidates already, the Braves went out and signed the best relief pitcher on the free agent market, former San Francisco Giants closer Will Smith. Smith was excellent last season, saving 34 games in 38 chances. He put up a 2.76 ERA/2.73 xFIP and a 37.4 K% with just an 8.2 BB%. For now, the Braves are saying they'll use Melancon in the ninth inning and their best reliever, Smith, in the eighth and in earlier, high leverage situations. They seem ready to use Smith in the "fireman" role that's becoming more and more popular over the last few seasons.

Prediction: Melancon will be solid and should keep the ninth inning mostly to himself, but Smith will get in there when there are tough lefties due up. Melancon could get close to 30 saves and Smith should get about a dozen of his own. Smith will be the better option in holds leagues because of better rate stats.

 

New York Mets

The New York Mets bullpen was supposed to have been fixed heading into last season. They had Edwin Diaz. They had Jeurys Familia. They had the eighth and ninth innings locked down, right? Then Diaz posted a 5.59 ERA. Then Familia posted a 5.70 ERA. Seth Lugo more or less took over the bullpen and was one of the few bright spots in Queens. So what did the Mets do to address their relief corps? They signed one of the best relievers in baseball...from 2018. Dellin Betances pitched just 2/3 of an inning in 2019, but he still got a one-year deal for over $10 million from the Mets in 2020. His upside is undeniable, as he's been a ~3 fWAR pitcher twice and is an absolute strikeout machine when healthy. But to a bullpen full of question marks, the Mets added one more.

Diaz was extremely unlucky in 2019, and despite a step back from his elite 2018, he certainly deserved better results. His 5.59 ERA does not match his 3.07 xFIP or his 2.63 SIERA. He was still excellent and making batters swing and miss (39.0 K%) and showed acceptable control (8.7 BB%). The main issue with Diaz's 2019 was letting batters get under the ball, as he allowed the worst home run rate of his career by far (2.33 HR/9 compared to a previous high of 1.36 and a career number of 1.27) and induced the fewest ground balls (36.7 GB% compared to a career number of 41.5% and a 2018 rate of 44.4%). There's less hope for Familia, who just couldn't throw strikes and has a 5.05 SIERA to match. Diaz should have every chance to close and is a prime bounce back candidate in 2020. Betances will be waiting in the wings, if healthy, to jump into the ninth if Diaz struggles again though. Lugo should remain in more of a fireman role, but he could mix in for saves too if things go Extremely Mets again this season.

Prediction: Diaz bounces back and returns as an elite fantasy option. He'll save 35 games or more, with Betances (if healthy) reprising his role as a good-even-without-saves fantasy reliever.

 

San Francisco Giants

The San Francisco Giants lost their closer, Will Smith, to the Atlanta Braves through free agency. They're left with a very shallow bullpen where the most experienced relief pitcher has 30 career saves, and none since 2017. That's Tony Watson, who worked in a short relief role last year and pitched 54 innings of 4.17 ERA/4.89 xFIP ball. He showed good control, with a 5.2 BB%, but didn't miss many bats with just a 17.8 K%. He's generally been good at limiting home runs, but struggled a bit in that regard in 2019, allowing a 1.50 HR/9 rate, the highest of his career. He's penciled in as the closer for now, solely based on his experience and that lack thereof in the rest of the bullpen. Shaun Anderson showed some flashes of competency in a late-inning role last season, but he's being stretched out as a starter this spring in hopes of being a member of the rotation once games start to count.

Other arms in the Giants bullpen are Trevor Gott, Jandel Gustave, and Tyler Rogers. Gott had mostly solid rate stats out of the bullpen last season and picked up the first save of his career, but had a bloated 4.44 ERA. He'll likely work the eighth inning but could get a chance to close as well. Gustave posted a strong 2.96 ERA but it wasn't backed up by a 4.89 xFIP and 5.23 SIERA. He put up a meager 14.1 K% and a bloated 9.1 BB%, neither of which are stats you want from a late-inning reliever. Tyler Rogers only pitched 17 2/3 innings at the big league level last season, but they were strong innings. He ended up with a 1.02 ERA/2.87 xFIP. He had solid rates as well, with a 22.9 K% and a 4.3 BB%. His lack of experience could keep him out of the ninth to start the season, but he could work his way there if he continues pitching well. Reyes Moronta is due back sometime around the All-Star Break, and he could take over as closer if nothing else has worked out until then.

Prediction: This could be one of the worst bullpens in the National League, fantasy-wise. None of the arms are worth owning in most formats unless one of them gets named closer. Rogers is worth keeping an eye on, and Moronta could provide some late season value, though.

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Relief Pitchers to Target for Holds

Hold on... there are fantasy leagues that reward middle relievers, not just starters and closers? Yes, there are, and leagues that reward holds are one of the fastest-growing segments of fantasy baseball as real baseball continues to diminish the role of the starter in favor of building deep bullpens with multiple relievers that throw 95+ MPH.

For context, the Mets lead the Majors last season with 941.1 innings thrown by their starters. That number would have placed them 26th in 2010. In fact, no team has had their starters throw a combined 1,000 innings since 2015 as teams seem to be all in on the idea of building their roster with flame-throwing relievers.

So how should you build your fantasy roster if you play in a league that counts holds? First of all, it's important to know the format. Nick Anderson dominated last season and would've been in line for a ton of holds. However, the Rays trade of Emilio Pagan to San Diego likely means Anderson will get saves and holds giving him a ton of value in a SV+HLD league. Here, we'll focus on the guys getting the lead to the ninth inning.

 

Ryan Pressly (RHP, Houston Astros)

Where better to begin with one of the three players who tied for the MLB holds lead in 2019. Pressly was in the perfect situation for holds last season and racked up 31 of them pitching for a first-place team with a well-established closer. Houston figures to be good again this season and Roberto Osuna has a firm grasp on the ninth inning so expect Pressly to be among the league-leaders again. Pressly will also contribute to your fantasy team in other ways. He put up a 0.90 WHIP last season and struck out 72 batters in 54.2 innings thanks to a 34.7% strikeout rate.

 

Adam Ottavino (RHP, New York Yankees)

The former Colorado Rockie had a great first year in the Bronx pitching to a 1.90 ERA while racking up 28 holds. Like Pressly, Ottavino should also rack up a ton of K's as his strikeout rate has been above 30 percent two straight seasons.

Ottavino does walk too many batters, never a good thing in relief, but made up for it by keeping the ball in the yard only allowing 0.68 HR/9, which was 17th among all qualified relievers. His 83 holds since 2017 leads all relievers in that span and the Yankees will have plenty of late leads to protect.

 

Will Smith (LHP, Braves)

Smith had another productive season with the Giants last year saving 34 games with a 2.76 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. He signed with Atlanta in November and the Braves, despite targeting Smith in free agency, said Mark Melancon will get the first chance to close meaning Smith should be the primary eighth-inning man for a projected playoff team.

The left-hander has been one of the most consistent relievers in the game putting up at least 10.71 K/9 every year since his rookie year in 2012. Smith's 88.7 percent strand-rate is likely unsustainable, his career mark is 74.1, but he should still rack up a ton of holds while putting up a sub-3.00 ERA and a WHIP near one.

 

Giovanny Gallegos (RHP, St. Louis Cardinals)

Gallegos came out of nowhere last season for the Cardinals, racking up 19 holds while establishing himself as one of their go-to relievers down the stretch. Gallegos pitched to a 2.31 ERA and a pristine 0.81 WHIP, which tied for the MLB lead with Josh Hader and Yusmeiro Petit.

Gallegos doesn't lack in the strikeout department either, he posted a 33 percent strikeout rate last season thanks to a 16.4 percent swinging-strike rate that ranked 16th in the Majors. A 47.3 percent fly-ball rate is a bit of a red flag as some bad home run luck can ruin a reliever's numbers in a small sample size. But the more likely outcome for Gallegos not putting up a healthy holds total would be him taking over the closer's role and getting saves.

 

Craig Stammen (RHP, San Diego Padres)

Stammen tied for the MLB holds lead last year with 31 and is a good pick for more holds again this year setting up Kirby Yates. Stammen won't match other top relievers in other categories, however. He averaged less than a strikeout per inning in two of the last three years and has never put up a full season with a strikeout rate over 30 percent.

A 31.7 percent hard contact rate helps keep his ratios down, as does an elite 50.8 percent ground ball rate thanks to a sinker that batters hit just .226 against last year. Lack of strikeout upside limits his fantasy ceiling, but if it's holds you want, Stammen is as safe a bet as there is.

 

Luke Jackson (RHP, Atlanta Braves)

Jackson saved 18 games for Atlanta last season but will likely be behind Smith and Melancon in the closer pecking order this year. He pitched better than his numbers as his 2.52 xFIP was much better than his 3.84 ERA which tends to happen to relievers given their season is inherently a small sample size. Jackson was cursed with a 25.6% HR/FB rate in that small sample making his numbers look worse than he pitched.

Jackson is a classic fastball/slider reliever who racks up a ton of strikeouts, 106 in 72.2 innings last year, but has the elite ground ball rate of a sinkerballer. The only downside was his 1.40 WHIP, which is actually lower than his career mark, despite cutting his walk rate three percent from 2018.

 

Seth Lugo (RHP, New York Mets)

Lugo has the exact make up you'd want from a late-inning reliever boasting a 33.1 percent strikeout rate with a low 5.1 percent walk rate. He was one of just seven true relievers (i.e. not starters who pitch behind an opener) to hit the century mark in K's with 104 to go with a sub-one WHIP.

Statcast loves him as well as he finished in the top five percent of the league in expected batting average, expected slugging percentage, and xWOBA on contact. Newly signed Dellin Betances shouldn't pry the eighth inning role away from Lugo who should get plenty of holds setting up Edwin Diaz.

 

Tommy Kahnle (RHP, New York Yankees)

Of all the players on this list, Kahnle is the least likely to wind up in a closer's role making him a solid bet to match or exceed last season's 27 holds. Kahnle sports a 35.5 percent strikeout rate and allowed just a .199 batting average against that was backed up by a .201 xBA according to Statcast.

He is an elite bat misser with a 17.9 percent swinging-strike rate and when batters do make contact the ball is on the ground over 50 percent of the time. Don't judge him based on his 3.67 ERA, his xFIP and SIERA were both under 2.80.

 

James Karinchak (RHP, Cleveland Indians)

Karinchak only has 5.1 innings of MLB experience as a September call up last year, but the big right-hander put up video game numbers throughout his rapid ascent through the Indians' farm system. Last season, Karinchak struck out 24 batters in 10 innings of Double-A ball before whiffing 42 out of 78 total batters faced in Triple-A.

Karinchak has an 80-grade fastball according to the scouts and should find himself pitching in high-leverage situations in Cleveland for most of the season. Karinchak is a sleeper to know this season, read more about the hard-throwing Cleveland prospect here.

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How to Attack RP in SV+HLD Leagues

No position has seen as much evolution in recent seasons as the relief pitcher. Gone are the days where starters were expected to go seven innings as most teams have embraced the idea of "super-bullpening" and try to fit as many pitchers that can throw 95+ MPH into their bullpen as they can.

Many fantasy leagues have begun to embrace this trend as well with leagues opting to include saves-plus-holds as a category instead of the traditional saves category. So how should you go about attacking the RP spots on your roster if playing in a league that gives credit to the unheralded middle reliever?

Keep reading below for my tips on how to gain an edge over your competition in leagues that reward the relievers that get the ball to the ninth inning men we all know and love.

 

Target Good Pitchers

It sounds too simple to be true, but playing in a saves-plus-holds league puts more of an onus on talent rather than opportunity. Anyone who's played in a categories-based fantasy league knows the running of the bulls-type scramble that ensues to pick up the next-in-line when a closer gets injured or traded. It doesn't matter if that player is on the worst team in the Majors; if a pitcher is in line to get saves, he will get scooped up instantly in fantasy baseball.

Adding holds to fantasy changes that completely. While there are only 20-something players at a given time that will help in saves, adding holds to the mix waters down the player pool to the point every team in a fantasy league can find players who contribute in SV+HLD. This means the true difference makers are the ones who contribute something else useful to your fantasy squad.

Elite pitchers, like Nick Anderson of the Rays, gain significant value in this format. A forward-thinking organization like Tampa Bay likely won't settle on a permanent closer. Anderson will be used in any high-leverage situation, regardless of the inning, so he'll likely rack up a ton of both saves and holds making him a top-10 option in this format. The tall right-hander struck out 110 batters in just 65 innings last season which made him a startable reliever in traditional roto leagues where holds don't matter. Give him credit for 16 holds to go along with his Ks and ratios and you've got a must-start reliever who is a top-flight option in this format.

 

Don't Overcorrect

As different as it is to play in a league that rewards holds, saves are still king. Last season, eight relievers had more saves than the three-way-tie atop the holds leaderboard. Looking back three seasons, 10 relievers have more saves than the holds leader (Adam Ottavino) has in that span. Saves plus holds leagues reward both stats equally so don't completely forget about saves just because you can fill the category with holds as well.

Playing in a league with holds changes how most fantasy managers approach the relief pitcher position. If too many managers start waiting on reliever under the assumption that they can fill the SV+HLD category late in the draft, then it could create value on the elite closers. Josh Hader, Aroldis Chapman, and Roberto Osuna are all still better fantasy options in this format than any middle reliever available, so if they start to fall in the draft don't be afraid to pull the trigger on an elite closer just because the demand for them is lessened.

 

Pick Pitchers On Good Teams

This is another tip that sounds overly simple, but it's one of the easiest ways to accumulate saves and holds. Last season, 11 of the top 12 teams in the holds rankings had a winning record. You don't need a statistics degree to know that winning teams have more leads and more leads mean more save and hold opportunities.

The Yankees alone produced three of the top-nine holds leaders last season in Zach Britton, Adam Ottavino, and Tommy Kahnle. All three had at least 27 holds with Ottavino and Kahnle both adding strikeout rates above 31 percent.  They are all back this season with the same manager on a team many are projecting to win 100+ games, so it's reasonable to expect at least 25 saves plus holds from each again this season. Other good teams, like Houston, had more established bullpen roles with Ryan Pressly setting up Osuna. Pressly tied for the league lead with 31 holds and produced a sub-one WHIP. He will be back in the same role and should have plenty of late leads to protect for the Astros.

 

Embrace the Change

Playing in a saves-plus-holds league is different than most fantasy managers are used to and fantasy baseball purists (such as myself) can find it intimidating to learn how to optimize their roster without having years of experience to draw on. That being said, new rules create new opportunities for your team to gain an edge over the competition. Many casual fans don't know non-closers on teams other than their own, so having a knowledge of the bullpens around the majors gives you a leg up. Half of competing in saves in fantasy baseball is simply being on top of bullpen roles. RotoBaller provides frequent updates of closer situations so keep it here for analysis on who is getting saves, and holds, in each team's bullpen all season long.

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James Karinchak Is A Relief Pitcher To Know in 2020

One of the lesser-known players that intrigues me for the 2020 MLB season is Indians relief pitcher James Karinchak. The former Bryant Bulldog was drafted by Cleveland in the ninth round in the 2017 draft and went on to have one of the most outrageous statistical seasons in minor league baseball history.

As someone who spends way too much time going through baseball stats, I just want to point out that there are few players with Baseball Reference pages as wild as Karinchak's.

After a mediocre stint in Low-A ball as a 21-year-old in 2017 (5.79 ERA, 30.1% K-rate in 23.1 IP), the right-hander posted a 1.29 ERA and 39.9% K-rate in his first full minor league season in 2018 across A, High-A, and Double-A. He allowed only 29 hits in 48.2 IP but walked 36 for a WHIP of 1.336. His 15 strikeouts per nine innings pitched was very impressive, but control seemed to be the area Karinchak needed to improve the most.

 

Karinchak's Minor League History

In 2019, Karinchak improved nearly every area of his game, most notably in his strikeout numbers. In 30.1 innings across Rookie ball, Double-A, and Triple-A (mostly the latter two), Karinchak struck out a staggering 74 opposing hitters while only walking 17. Of the 125 hitters he faced in the minors, 59% took a sad stroll to the dugout after their plate appearance.

I've never seen someone have a K/9 of 22.0 in more than a few innings pitched. Never. Karinchak surrendered a 1.088 WHIP, a major improvement from his previous season, but saw his ERA jump to 2.67. This can largely be explained by the crazy run environment in Triple-A last year, as he did not surrender a run in his 13 innings across Rookie and Double-A but allowed nine earned in 17.1 innings in AAA.

With Karinchak, however, his minor league ERA jump in a relatively small sample is the last thing that catches my eye. Strikeouts are a much more "consistent" statistic than ERA is; you can generally have a pretty good idea of whether or not a guy is a strikeout pitcher in a 30 inning sample, whereas ERA is much flukier and more influenced by luck. You don't strike out three-fifths of the hitters you face in the upper minors unless you are special.

 

2019 MLB Success

On September 14, the Indians called Karinchak's name for his MLB debut with Cleveland down 9-5 to Minnesota with two outs in the eighth inning. He got Jason Castro to fly out and then came back out for the ninth inning where he struck out Ian Miller, Max Kepler (who reached on a wild pitch), and Jorge Polanco before getting LaMonte Wade to pop out. In his first MLB appearance, Karinchak mimicked his minor league rate by striking out three out of five batters.

Karinchak made four more major league appearances before the end of the season, striking out five guys in four innings and allowing one run to finish the year with 8 K and 1 ER in 5.1 IP.

While his time with Cleveland didn't give us a huge idea of his true talent level, it did give us some awesome GIFs, like this one, this one, and this one courtesy of my friend Rob Friedman. Karinchak is wicked. He averaged 97 on his fastball and had a curveball that looks like what Clayton Kershaw would throw if he was a righty. Eno Sarris even Tweeted that according to a new Driveline that measures a pitcher's "stuff," Karinchak ranked best in baseball.

 

2020 Outlook

Is Karinchak a viable option for your fantasy bullpen in 2020? He will likely start the year with Cleveland, and some believe that a mid-season Brad Hand move could elevate him or Emmanuel Clase into the closer role. Until then, Karinchak is a solid late-round option for deep leagues, Ottoneu leagues, or Saves+Holds leagues.

Karinchak should get many hold opportunities and rack up a strikeout or two per inning. Walks could be his biggest issue, but as long as he prevents hits at the level, he's shown he can, it shouldn't be too big of a concern. Karinchak, in my opinion, has the ceiling of a top relief pitcher option just based on his incredible stuff, and he is worth spending a later pick on in the right type of league.

Projection systems have him sitting between 12-14 K/9. Still, it's very difficult to project a reliever, let alone one who has barely pitched in the majors, so you can reasonably expect something higher.

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2020 Relief Pitcher Rankings - H2H Points Leagues

Often regarded as an inferior fantasy baseball format, points leagues offer a different style of boasting over your friends or coworkers similar to that of fantasy football. These setups are typically head-to-head formats for a one-week stretch where the player with the most points gets a win. Easy right? While it's true that roster construction is more basic, the common mistake that people make is drafting straight from a top-300 list from a magazine or website. These rankings are generally directed towards rotisserie formats, so we need to determine the key differences between these styles.

The value of a relief pitcher in a points setup isn't as prominent since there are no categories to balance out when drafting your roster. Relievers will accumulate a certain amount of points per save or hold, but bullpen arms won't generate as many points as a starter or hitter in their respective tier. For example, Kirby Yates finished just outside the top-50 in 5x5 roto value but finished 147th in total points in Yahoo! leagues. Lack of innings pitched is the main cause for this differential since more innings equal more points. Just because relievers don't score as highly doesn't mean they should go undrafted in points formats, however. It's important to keep this in mind since their values are still relative to another, so a top-tier reliever is still worth much more than a bullpen arm in the late rounds.

Strikeout and walk rates are crucial when determining the value of a reliever and the best statistic to track this is K-BB%. The higher the number, the better since a strikeout is typically worth the same as a free pass in most setups. Another increasingly popular tactic to be aware of when filling your relief slots is using starters with RP eligibility since their IP will score more points. For the sake of simplicity, however, this article will solely analyze true bullpen options. Now that we understand these concepts a bit more, let's look at some relief arms you'll want to target or avoid in your points league.

 

Relief Pitcher H2H Points League Rankings

In case you missed it, our very own "Big Pick Nick" Mariano was named the #1 overall most accurate industry expert ranker for the 2018 season!

Rank Tier Player Name Position Nicklaus
Gaut
Pierre
Camus
Riley
Mrack
1 1 Josh Hader RP 57 84 75
2 1 Aroldis Chapman RP 86 126 104
3 1 Kirby Yates RP 106 157 95
4 1 Roberto Osuna RP 129 169 132
5 2 Kenley Jansen RP 143 181 167
6 2 Liam Hendriks RP 173 203 139
7 2 Brad Hand RP 171 188 157
8 2 Frankie Montas SP/RP 211 167 138
9 2 Taylor Rogers RP 187 200 151
10 2 Carlos Martinez SP/RP 170 210 164
11 3 Edwin Diaz RP 165 178 209
12 3 Julio Urias SP/RP 168 249 152
13 3 Ross Stripling SP/RP 175 304 221
14 3 Hector Neris RP 185 194 241
15 3 Kenta Maeda SP/RP 205 229 205
16 3 Daniel Hudson RP #N/A #N/A 213
17 3 Nick Anderson RP 289 221 149
18 3 Ken Giles RP 203 239 217
19 4 Brandon Workman RP 201 211 257
20 4 Raisel Iglesias RP 223 235 238
21 4 Hansel Robles RP 259 270 251
22 4 Archie Bradley RP 252 263 276
23 4 Jose Leclerc RP 236 287 270
24 4 Craig Kimbrel RP 260 304 237
25 4 Emilio Pagan RP 224 225 357
26 5 Giovanny Gallegos RP 269 343 282
27 5 Will Smith RP 247 282 318
28 5 Alex Colome RP 285 291 288
29 5 Keone Kela RP 253 311 307
30 5 Sean Doolittle RP 334 305 248
31 5 Mark Melancon RP #N/A #N/A 296
32 5 Nathan Eovaldi SP/RP 360 429 299
33 5 Ian Kennedy RP 299 294 313
34 5 Josh James RP #N/A 430 310
35 5 Scott Oberg RP 361 #N/A 311
36 5 Joe Jimenez RP 335 309 301
37 6 Brandon Kintzler RP 362 428 344
38 6 Mychal Givens RP 363 432 349
39 6 Collin McHugh SP/RP #N/A 380 #N/A
40 6 Ryne Stanek RP 367 354 #N/A
41 6 Matt Magill RP 365 435 358
42 6 Mike Montgomery SP/RP 370 366 #N/A
43 6 Dellin Betances RP 364 434 369
44 6 Adam Ottavino RP 368 433 373
45 6 Seth Lugo SP/RP 369 431 374
46 6 Zach Britton RP 380 429 375
47 7 Matt Strahm RP/SP #N/A #N/A 376
48 7 Pedro Strop RP #N/A #N/A 380
49 7 Randy Dobnak SP/RP 373 398 368
50 7 Andrew Miller RP 372 385 #N/A
51 7 Diego Castillo RP/SP #N/A #N/A 386
52 7 Ryan Pressly RP #N/A #N/A 387
53 7 Andrew Cashner RP/SP #N/A 396 #N/A
54 7 Brad Peacock RP/SP #N/A 399 #N/A
55 7 Amir Garrett RP 371 400 #N/A
56 7 John Gant RP #N/A 401 #N/A
57 7 Sergio Romo RP #N/A 403 #N/A
58 7 Wade Davis RP #N/A 402 406
59 7 Joakim Soria RP #N/A 407 #N/A

 

Tier One

Josh Hader paced all relievers in 2019 with a whopping 40.8% K-BB% while earning 37 saves on his way to taking home the NL Reliever of the Year trophy. The southpaw's 42.0% Whiff% unsurprisingly led all pitchers in this category thanks to remarkable 40.9% and 46.3% respective marks with his fastball and slider. However, when opponents did make contact, they punished the ball to a 12.6% Barrel% and 90.4 MPH Exit Velocity. These underwhelming metrics led to Hader surrendering 15 big flies last season after allowing 13 in his career prior as his HR/FB soared from a 12.3% lifetime mark to 21.4%. This number should regress in 2020, and since he has the best swing-and-miss stuff in the league, Hader will further establish himself as the top reliever in all of baseball.

Some people will argue that Kirby Yates should have taken home the NL Reliever of the Year award last season as he led baseball with 41 saves while finishing second in K-BB% (36.2%). His 41.6% K-rate and 5.4% walk rate were both career-bests after he focused on a two-pitch approach by scrapping his slider. When he relied on his fastball and splitter, he became virtually untouchable, holding opponents to a 4.1% Barrel% and 34.6% Whiff%. Yates will have trouble keeping his 1.19 ERA this low in 2020, but the right-hander will continue to rack up saves while providing an upper-echelon K-BB% number.

Aroldis Chapman had his slowest season with the fastball yet in 2019 (98.0 MPH) that led to his second-lowest K-rate of his career (36.2%). Still a terrific number, but his 10.6% walk rate helped push him nearly outside the top-20 in K-BB%. Entering his age-32 season, there's still gas in the tank for the southpaw, but his points league value is diminishing since his strikeouts keep falling.

 

Tier Two

Liam Hendriks took over the closing duty for the Athletics mid-way through the year and still managed to pile up 25 saves for the club. The right hander's career-high 37.4% K-rate aided his top-five finish in K-BB% (31.0%) as his added nearly two ticks of velocity to his fastball. He upped the usage on his 96.7 MPH heater as well, which made his wipeout slider even more unhittable as it sported an elite 54.2% Whiff%. Entering the 2020 campaign with the ninth-inning job for the first time in his career, Hendriks' repertoire will certify his arm as a top reliever in the AL in all formats.

Kenley Jansen is coming off his worst year after posting a career-low 3.71 ERA and a six-year low in saves (33). The veteran's velocity didn't drop a considerable amount from 2018, but his once-dominant cutter has dipped over 1.5 MPH since the 2017 campaign. Jansen surrendered eight long balls on this offering and a .232 batting average against, his worst mark on this pitch since 2014. Pair these waning stats with a 24.3 K-BB% that sat narrowly in the top-25, Jansen is no longer an elite bullpen arm, but his ninth-inning role will help keep his value afloat in points leagues with a path to saves.

Edwin Diaz presents a tremendous buy-low opportunity after getting selected as the No. 1 reliever a season ago. His 15 homers allowed highlighted his collapse with the Mets, but he never lost his ability to strike batters out. Diaz's 39.0% K-rate sat as a top-five mark and his 30.3% K-BB% finished eighth, the only question is how long his leash will be in 2020? The soon-to-be 26-year-old will get the first crack at the ninth-inning job, but the threat of Dellin Betances or Seth Lugo taking over linger if he struggles again.

The Minnesota Twins surprisingly went with their left-hander Taylor Rogers as their closer last season. He didn't disappoint after nailing down 30 saves while sporting career bests in K-rate (32.4%) and walk rate (4.0%). Rogers' 2.63 SIERA and 2.85 FIP supported his 2.61 ERA, so the 29-year-old should put up another productive season as the closer in the Twin Cities.

 

Tier Three

In the wake of the Emilio Pagan trade, Nick Anderson has soared up the draft boards despite one big-league season under his belt at age-29. After seeing his 2019 stats, there's no question why since he posted a 3.32 ERA, 2.35 FIP, 2.21 SIERA, and the second-best K-rate in the majors (41.7%). Anderson got even better as the season wore on with a 27.7% K-BB% in the first half and a 45.7% mark the rest of the way. He pairs his 96.0 MPH fastball with a curve that caused batters to whiff 54.2% of the time; the only concern is if he'll get the reigns to the closing job. The Rays also have Diego Castillo and Jose Alvarado in the mix and haven't shied away from a committee approach before. Anderson currently isn't a lock for the job, but if the word comes down, his stock will rise even further.

I'm bullish on Ken Giles in 2020 after he quietly put up a 1.87 ERA and the fourth-best K-rate in the league last season (39.9%). He also finished sixth in K-BB% (31.7%) and third in Whiff% (40.0%), his only knock was securing just 23 saves. Giles only blew one opportunity in 2019, and with the Blue Jays projected to win more in 2020, the right-hander has sneaky points league value if he sustains his superb K-BB%.

 

Tier Four

There was a lot to like and a lot to dislike in Brandon Workman's 16-save season. The good was his 1.88 ERA, 36.4% K-rate, and one barrelled ball in 135 events (0.7% Barrel%). The bad was his 3.78 SIERA, 3.33 xFIP, and troublesome 15.7% walk rate. Fate should have it that his numbers fall somewhere in the middle in 2020, but the upside is salivating if he harnesses his control. Workman appears to have a firm grip on the ninth-inning job since Matt Barnes struggled in the role last season and makes an intriguing middle-round relief option.

Craig Kimbrel will look to have a bounce-back season after posting an atrocious 6.53 ERA in his 20.2 innings with the Cubs last season. His midseason signing likely played a factor in his demise, but he's no spring chicken entering his age-32 season. He'll keep a stranglehold on the closing job, which boosts his value even if his strikeout total doesn't live up to his 41.1% career mark.

Hansel Robles had a productive first full season as the Angels closer, converting 23 of 27 saves in 2019. The right-hander added a changeup to his arsenal last season that generated a 36.0% Whiff% and a measly .175 BAA. Robles' effectiveness with his new repertoire helped improve his K-BB% in the second half by over 8% to 24.6%, while his ERA fell from 2.74 to 2.10. He doesn't have the upside of a top-tier arm, but he should see more save opportunities on an improving Angels team in 2020, making him a viable relief option.

Archie Bradley's year-end 3.52 ERA looks a little bleak, but once he started closing games for the Diamondbacks at the end of July, he was one of the better relievers in baseball. He locked down 18 of 19 opportunities while holding his ERA at 2.10 in this span, although he dropped his K-BB% nearly 3% to a meager 13.5%. Bradley's points ceiling isn't as high since he doesn't have the strikeout ability like most relievers, and it the D'backs have always preferred him in a setup role, so I wouldn't pay full price for him in 2020.

 

Tier Five

Giovanny Gallegos may have the most upside of all the relief arms in this tier. After posting an admirable 2.31 ERA and a shiny 27.6% K-BB% in his first full season, the right-hander's future looks bright at the back end of the Cardinals bullpen. Carlos Martinez will stretch out as a starter this spring, giving Gallegos a path to the ninth-inning job if he can fend off veteran Andrew Miller. Still, the 28-year-old's ability to strike batters out will keep his arm worth rostering in points formats even if he winds up in a setup role.

An elbow injury led Keone Kela to just 29.2 IP with the Pirates in 2019, where he quietly posted a 2.12 ERA as the team's setup man. The 26-year-old got off to a rocky start where he allowed six runs in his first eight appearances of the season, but was lights-out the rest of the way surrendering just one earned run over his final 23.0 IP. Kela has struggled with control during his five-year career (9.4% BB%), but the ninth-inning job is his for 2020, although the opportunities won't be as bountiful on an underwhelming Pirates team.

As members of the Giants bullpen a season ago, Will Smith was the ninth-inning option while Mark Melancon worked as the setup man. Now with the Braves in 2020, it appears their roles have flipped at least for now. Smith, the left-hander, is the more elusive arm (29.2% K-BB%) but will find the majority of his usage matching up against fellow lefties when they step to the plate. Despite posting a 17.6% K-BB% a season ago, Melancon can accrue a similar point total to Smith as the primary closer, although if he stumbles, it will be the southpaw who takes over the job.

 

Tier Six and Lower

Diving this low in the player pool, it's difficult to find arms who will provide a sturdy point total from accumulating saves. Players like Brandon Kintzler, Mychal Givens, and Matt Magill may wind up as long-term closers this year, but their stuff isn't drool-worthy on below-average teams. If your points league counts holds there are some players to admire in the depths of these rankings.

Ryne Stanek may have the best arsenal on the Marlins with a 97.6 MPH fastball and whiff-inducing deliveries with the slider (45.5% Whiff%) and splitter (57.3% Whiff%). His 27.2% K-rate from 2019 is laudable, but he'll have to cut down on his 11.9% walk rate if he ever wants a shot at the closing job. Luckily, he only has to ward off recently-signed Brandon Kintzler.

Tying for the league lead in holds last season was Ryan Pressly, who missed about a month of action with a knee injury. He posted an excellent 28.4% K-BB% for the Astros and has proven to be just as effective versus lefties and righties over his career. Keeping the ball on the ground over 50% of the time also takes away the chance of surrendering the ERA-inflating home run as Pressly stands as one of the best setup men in the league.

Adam Ottavino and Zach Britton combined for 57 holds with the Yankees in 2019, paving the way for Aroldis Chapman to lock the game down. Ottavino is the better strikeout arm (17.0% K-BB%), whereas Britton is the lefty specialist who pitched to the highest groundball contact among all pitchers last season (76.7%). Both men get the job done, but Ottavino is the better points league play since he racks up a higher total via the punch out.

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2020 Early Bullpen Outlooks - N.L. West

We've made it out west, folks! After covering every American League team and all of the National League East and Central, it's time for our final division of the winter: the National League West. The NL West has the bullpen that is likely to be the best in the National League. It also has one that may be one of the worst. With three (and maybe even four) "Solid" ratings on our Rotoballer Closers & Saves Depth Charts it is the best established division in the National League, at least in terms of bullpens.

There aren't many changes in terms of personnel to talk about in the NL West, but some roles have been established, others have been re-established, and some have slightly altered. It should be an interesting division to keep an eye on throughout the season, and there's plenty of fantasy value to be had from each team.

Let's ride into the sunset together and see what the National League West bullpens look like right before Spring Training kicks off.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Arizona Diamondbacks were decent last year, finishing with an 85-77 record. With the regular season juggernaut Dodgers in the division, however, the 85 wins still left them 21 games out of first place. They have a solid core and some offseason moves could propel them a bit for 2020. The bullpen looks more or less set, with Archie Bradley heading into Spring Training as the closer. Bradley picked up 18 saves in 21 chances last season, pitching to a 3.52 ERA/4.06 xFIP. He struck out 27.4% of the batters he faced while walking 11.4%. SIERA had him at 4.03 for the season. None of these numbers are particularly eye opening, but they're all certainly "good enough". Bradley should be able to keep the ninth inning to himself for most of the season and does have some upside if he can reign in his control a bit. He's not a guy that you must get in the draft and definitely not a guy to reach for, but he is a guy who you can be happy with if you waited on closers.

Elsewhere in the Arizona bullpen will be Kevin Ginkel, Hector Rondon, and Junior Guerra. Ginkel has some nice strikeout upside and should work as one of the key setup men ahead of Bradley. Ginkel debuted last season with a 29.2 K% and posted some outrageous numbers in the minors, including a 53.7 K% in Triple-A, albeit in just 16 2/3 innings. His control hasn't been perfect, as seen by his 9.4% BB% in his big league innings last season, but if he can work on his control a bit, he has elite holds league potential. Rondon will likely throw some significant innings in his first season as a Diamondback, but he's a guy with more value to his real team than to any fantasy team. Guerra is similar to Rondon in that regard. Both have experience and could be called upon for saves now and then, but Bradley and Ginkel are the arms to own from the desert.

 

Colorado Rockies

The Colorado Rockies bullpen was a wild ride last season, with injuries and ineffectiveness reigning supreme. Wade Davis returns in 2020, and the Rockies reportedly want him to close. That went excruciatingly poorly in 2019, as Davis posted an 8.65 ERA/5.80 xFIP, somehow only blowing three saves in the process. He struck out 20.4% of batters faced and walked 14.1%. It was an overwhelmingly bad season for a formerly elite relief pitcher, and the Rockies are clearly hoping he can return to the form that earned him a three-year, $52 million contract. There's little reason to believe he'll ever be that guy again, but it isn't far-fetched to think he'll at least improve on his 2019 numbers. Davis may be the closer to start the season, but he's perhaps the least likely Opening Day closer in the NL West to keep his job all year.

Davis will be backed up by Scott Oberg, who took over for Davis last season before suffering a medical issue that cut his season short. Oberg was solid when on the mound, pitching to a 2.25 ERA/3.90 xFIP. He posted a 26.0% K% and a 10.3% BB%. He's solid enough on the mound, but there were some concerning signs pointing toward possible regression in 2020. SIERA had him at an even 4.00, and his .248 BABIP and 80% LOB% are sure to change. Still, Oberg is in position to take over the closer's role as soon as Davis falters, so he's worth keeping an eye on in most formats. Carlos Estevez and Jairo Diaz will also throw important innings in 2020, but neither is worth a look in standard formats at this point.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers offense is going to be absolutely ridiculous in 2020. With the Mookie Betts trade, their lineup will now arguably have two of the top five players in baseball in it every day. Their bullpen, however, is a different story and may be one of the key weaknesses addressed by the team as the summer drags on. For now, it's Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning again. The formerly elite, unquestionably top-three closer in baseball has had two down years in a row (by his standards) although 2019 was a slight bounce back from a career-worst 2018. Last season, Jansen saved 33 games in 41 chances, posting a 3.71 ERA/3.77 xFIP. He had a 30.4% K% and a 6.1% BB%. Those are all fairly good numbers, but they're just not Kenley Jansen numbers. He's still worth picking up in all formats since the Dodgers will win plenty of games and he'll get plenty of saves, but his name may still be outperforming his game in some drafts, so be careful not to take him too early.

The Dodgers added to their bullpen by inking Blake Treinen to a one-year deal, but it's Pedro Baez who will likely return to the eighth inning, at least to start the year. Baez was thoroughly unexciting but solid in 2019, posting 25 holds and a 3.10 ERA/4.82 xFIP. There are clear signs of regression based on a quick look, but Baez has soundly outperformed his xFIP in all but one of his big league seasons. He's solid enough for deeper holds leagues, but not a must-own. Treinen, meanwhile, had one of the best relief seasons of all time in 2018 (0.78 ERA!) but took a giant's step back in 2019. His 2019 ERA was 4.91 (5.01 xFIP) and he saved just 16 games for Oakland before watching Liam Hendriks take over and run away with the job. If Treinen can return to form, he should challenge Baez for eighth inning work and could even push Jansen if he struggles. For now, he's a wild card with nice upside but a clear floor.

 

San Diego Padres

The 72-win San Diego Padres from 2019 are being picked by many to be legitimate Wild Card contenders in 2020. The bullpen isn't the only reason for that, but it's certainly a big reason. The Padres should have the best and deepest bullpen in the NL West and maybe in the entire National League. It'll be anchored by Kirby Yates, who is coming off an amazing season in which he saved 41-of-44 games and posted a 1.19 ERA/2.25 xFIP. His rate stats were amazing as well, with a 41.6 K% compared to a 5.4% BB%. Yates is the best closer in the National League and at this point, it's not really close. He should be the first closer taken off most draft boards, although there's always the risk of overdrafting. Remember: he's still a "just a closer".

Yates will be set up by another elite right hander, Emilio Pagan. Pagan was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays recently, and while it was a massive blow to his personal fantasy value, it's an enormous boost to an already strong bullpen. Last season, Pagan saved 20 games and put up a 2.31 ERA/3.15 xFIP. He struck out 36.0% of the batters he faced while walking just 4.9%. He'll be one of the best assets in holds leagues and has the clear path to the ninth inning if Yates were to miss any time. Pagan-Yates is easily the best 8-9 (innings) combo in the National League. But wait, there's more! Drew Pomeranz and Andres Munoz are also in the San Diego bullpen. Pomeranz found new life in the bullpen in 2019, posting a 1.88 ERA/1.67 xFIP with 47.2 K% and 7.6 BB% as a reliever. He'll work exclusively out of the bullpen in 2020 and should be one of the better lefties in the National League. Andres Munoz throws 103 mph and looked unhittable in many of his 23 big league innings in 2019.

 

San Francisco Giants

The San Francisco Giants bullpen is the most up-in-the-air bullpen in the National League West and one of the lest certain in terms of roles in all of baseball. Will Smith led the Giants with 34 saves last season, but he's a member of the Atlanta Braves now. Sam Dyson and Shaun Anderson were tied for second with...TWO saves each. Dyson is still a free agent and could be in trouble with Major League Baseball due to a domestic violence incident. Anderson is being looked at as a starter heading into Spring Training. That leaves some sort of mix of Tony Watson, Trevor Gott, Jandel Gustave, and Tyler Rogers likely taking the important late innings in 2020.

Watson is the favorite for closing duties for now mostly due to his experience. He hasn't saved a game since 2017, but he's been a solid, if low-upside reliever since 2012. His "veteran presence" will likely give him the role or at least a large chunk of a committee approach. He ended last season with a 4.17 ERA/4.89 xFIP and just 17.8 K%. He may end up picking up a decent enough number of saves, but he won't contribute in any other standard fantasy category. He's one of the last relievers on draft boards. Tyler Rogers had some decent numbers but will likely be used in situational...situations. Reyes Moronta should take the ninth inning outright once he returns from the injured list sometime in the second half of the season.

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2020 Early Bullpen Outlooks - N.L. Central

We've covered all of the American League and the NL East, and next week we'll wrap things up with the National League West. This week, it's the National League Central's turn though. There are plenty of players with fantasy importance in the Central, and that rings true in the bullpens as well.

The National League Central looks primed for another interesting season, as all of the following descriptions can be said about teams in the division: a bad team got better; a good team got worse; a bad team got worse; a good team got better. There's a lot to look at in the Central and for some teams a lot to look forward to. It'll almost certainly be a long, tough season for a couple of teams in the division, but hey it's baseball, you never know!

Let's jump into the bullpens in the National League Central and see where there might be some fantasy value in 2020.

 

Updates

Update 2/14/2020: Keone Kela confirmed as Pirates closer.

 

Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs have Craig Kimbrel as their closer. That would have been great news for Cubs fans as recently as 2018. But now? It's a legitimate cause for concern. The Cubs invested three years and $43 million on Kimbrel, only to see him put up a 6.53 ERA in 20 2/3 innings in 2019. There were some positive signs though, as his xFIP was a much lower 4.75 and he still struck out 31.3% of the batters he faced and saved 13 games. But Kimbrel was not Kimbrel, and he'll need to be Kimbrel again in order to keep his role and maintain fantasy value. Given his contract and his last name, he'll almost certainly be given a long leash in the role, but fantasy owners won't have that luxury.

Backing up Kimbrel will be Rowan Wick. Wick was very good last season in 33 1/3 innings, posting a 2.43 ERA and 25.0% K rate, but there were some concerns. His 4.38 xFIP was close to Kimbrel's, and his 11.4% BB% was much higher than you'd like for a reliever who doesn't rack up Ks. Still, Wick performed well enough to earn the main setup role and will be Kimbrel's ninth inning handcuff, at least to start the season. Brandon Morrow joined the Cubs on a minor league deal and could be a huge factor if he can stay healthy. Morrow has been excellent whenever he's been on the mound, he's just barely been on the mound. He's thrown a combined 156 2/3 innings since 2014. If he shows enough to make the team, he should quickly work his way into a setup role. Kyle Ryan, Jason Adam, (the two-first-names-duo) and Ryan Tepera should all pitch significant innings in 2020, but it'll take an injury or two ahead of them to give them significant fantasy value.

 

Cincinnati Reds

Every season seems to have a surprise playoff team, or at least a team in contention until way later in the season than expected. My bet is on that team being the Cincinnati Reds this season. They've improved in many aspects this season and return most of what was a pretty solid bullpen. Raisel Iglesias will return to the ninth inning after saving 34 games in 2019. He put up a 4.16 ERA/3.72 xFIP with 31.9% K% and 7.5 BB%. He showed flashes of being an elite closer, but also some flashes of getting everything wrong. It all averaged out to a pretty solid season, although the Reds would prefer to see a bit more consistency in the ninth inning.

Iglesias will be set up by Amir Garrett, Michael Lorenzen, and Robert Stephenson. Garrett had some control issues in 2019 (14.2 BB%) but showed enough swing-and-miss stuff (31.7 K%) to be worth considering in all holds formats. He ended up with a 3.21 ERA/3.80 xFIP and 22 holds. Lorenzen was used in many different ways (including as a center fielder!) and performed well in all of them. On the mound, he threw 83 1/3 innings, putting together a 2.92 ERA/3.97 xFIP with 24.8% K% and 8.2% BB%. Lorenzen is an extremely fun player to watch, but his fantasy value is actually somewhat limited by his versatility. Stephenson looked like he was finally putting it together in 2019 and has the upside to have a strong 2020 season, but he hasn't shown much of anything in his big league career outside of 2019, so he's a definite risk-reward kind of guy.

 

Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers made the playoffs as a Wild Card team last season and were just two games behind the Cardinals for the division. They should be good again this year despite a rather quiet offseason and a concerning starting rotation. The bullpen was solid last season and should be again, led by closer Josh Hader. Hader has been one of the hottest fantasy commodities and there's no reason to think he won't be again in 2020. In 2019, he saved 37 games and put up a 2.62 ERA/2.36 xFIP. His elite 47.8% K% and 6.9% BB% both made fantasy owners foam at the mouth, and most predictors show he's in for another similar season. He did blow seven saves in 2019, but the ridiculous numbers everywhere else made up for it.

David Phelps was one of the Milwaukee free agent bullpen signings, and he should immediately slot into the late innings. Phelps missed all of 2018 and struggled somewhat in 2019, but he was great out of the bullpen before then. He should work in a set up role along with Alex Claudio. Claudio is a solid enough pitcher on the mound, but he has very little fantasy value as seen by his 16.5% K% and 4.59 xFIP. While the upside of Hader alone makes the Brewers bullpen fantasy significant, there isn't much else to see beyond him.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates, folks. 2020 is going to be ROUGH. The Pirates entire payroll is essentially one Mike Trout season right now, and they're the early favorites for the worst record in the National League. That doesn't mean the team is devoid of fantasy talent, though. Keone Kela will likely open the season in the closer's role. Kela missed a lot of time in 2019, pitching just 29 2/3 innings, but he was solid in those innings. He posted a 2.12 ERA and 27.7% K%. His 4.28 xFIP is slightly concerning, but more concerning is how few games he'll likely be asked to save. Kela is certainly an option in deeper leagues if he keeps the ninth inning for himself, but he should be one of the last full-time closers drafted just because of his team's situation.

Elsewhere in the Pirates bullpen we find Kyle Crick. Crick has exciting stuff and showed some flashes in 2019, but ended up with a 4.96 ERA/5.33 xFIP along with 27.0% K% and 15.5% BB%. If Crick can find the type of command he showed in previous seasons while keeping his strikeouts up, he would be a solid holds league option with the same bad team caveat of Kela, but he's not someone who needs to be drafted in most formats. Richard Rodriguez and Michael Feliz make up the rest of the Pirates bullpen, but both have little upside when it comes to fantasy. Nick Burdi is certainly someone to keep an eye on, but his role and health are yet to be determined.

 

St. Louis Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals bullpen is set to look quite different on Opening Day 2020. Carlos Martinez, who did well in the ninth inning for the most part in 2019, has said he expects to be in the starting rotation in 2020. Jordan Hicks is recovering from Tommy John Surgery and won't be back until the All-Star Break at the earliest. So that leaves a ninth inning hole for manager Mike Shildt. The logical candidate would be Giovanny Gallegos, who worked as the main setup man for most of 2019. Gallegos tossed 74 innings with a 2.31 ERA/3.59 xFIP. He showed excellent control, posting a K rate of 33.3% and a BB rate of just 5.7%. He would do well as a closer and could be a sneaky-good pick in the later middle rounds if he's named to the role.

Another possibility is former top prospect Alex Reyes. Reyes has spent a ton of time on the injured list (even back when it was the disabled list.) He threw three innings in 2019 and four in 2018. He missed all of 2017. He was electric in his rookie season of 2016 though, posting a 1.57 ERA in 46 innings, including five starts. He's still just 25, and while he's said his goal is to be a starter, the Cardinals have said they hope he can develop into a high-leverage bullpen arm. He has the upside to be elite, but is an absolute question mark at this point. Andrew Miller should return to a setup role but could close if other options fail. John Gant and John Brebbia will be solid late-inning guys both worthy of looks in deeper holds formats.

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2020 Early Bullpen Outlooks - N.L. East

It's Super Bowl Week, and that means a lot in football, sure. But what about baseball? It means anticipation. It means the free agent pool is drying up, and players are starting to make plans for Spring Training. We don't know much about the 2020 season yet, but there has been enough movement to at least start developing an idea of how things might go.

It's the first year of the new rule that will force relief pitchers to face at least three batters, leaving the LOOGY as a thing of the past. It'll give much more value, both on the field and in fantasy, to those pitchers who can "get more than one guy out."

The National League East made some moves this offseason, and if you believe some projections, this has a chance to be the best division in baseball. (Harold Reynolds, for example, has the Marlins finishing in last place...with 80 wins.) Let's take a look at the bullpens in the N.L. East.

 

Updates

Update 2/14/2020: Brandon Kintzler confirmed as closer in Miami.

 

Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves added one of the best available relievers this offseason, signing lefty Will Smith to a three-year deal worth at least $39 million. Smith was great for the San Francisco Giants last season, putting up 34 saves in 38 chances with a 2.76 ERA and a matching 2.73 xFIP. He struck out 37.4% of the batters he faced while walking just 8.2%, both very good rates. Despite all that, reports say Smith will begin the season as the setup man for Mark Melancon. Melancon took over the closer's role in Atlanta last season after almost everyone else in the bullpen failed when given the chance. He ended up a perfect 12-for-12 in save opportunities, posting a 3.61 ERA/3.06 xFIP. His 23.9 K% wasn't much to get excited about, but his strong control led to a low 6.3% BB%. Melancon should  be able to hang onto his closer's role, but he's not the high-upside fantasy piece that Smith could be.

Elsewhere in the Braves bullpen will be former closers Shane Greene and Luke Jackson. Both had success at times in 2019 but with plenty of struggles mixed in. Greene essentially had two vastly different seasons in 2019: he went 22-for-25 in saves with a 1.18 ERA and 28.5 K% as a member of the Detroit Tigers, then just 1-for-3 in saves with a 4.01 ERA and 20.8 K% as a member of the Braves. There were plenty of signs showing that Greene's success with the Tigers wasn't sustainable (3.81 xFIP compared to that 1.18 ERA) but he's still a better pitcher than he was in a Braves uniform in 2019. He should settle in as a solid late-inning option and could develop some holds league appeal. Luke Jackson blew seven saves but put up solid strikeout numbers and could also be an option in deeper holds leagues. Chris Martin, Darren O'Day, and possibly A.J. Minter make up the rest of the back end of the Braves bullpen, a unit that should be a strength for the team in 2020.

 

Miami Marlins

The Miami Marlins have led the National League in losses for two straight seasons. They'll be better this season, though. That's what the team is telling us, and that's what projections say. Some are quite a bit lofty (80 wins? maybe if we count Spring Training), but it would be an enormous disappointment if the Marlins didn't improve on 2019's 57-105 record. Much of the expected improvement for Miami comes from prospects panning out and young players improving, but they made some smart bullpen signings this offseason as well. Ryne Stanek figures to enter the season as the team's closer despite struggling in that role late last season after coming over from the Tampa Bay Rays. Stanek thrived as the opener in Tampa Bay, but pitched exclusively in relief for the Marlins, often in high-leverage situations. He threw 21 1/3 innings in a Marlins uniform, saving just one game while blowing four and posting a 5.48 ERA/5.31 xFIP. That came with a decent 28.3 K% and a disgusting 19.2 BB%. There's little reason to think Stanek will suddenly become a valuable closer, but he should certainly improve on a what's been a disastrous Marlins career so far.

Newly acquired Brandon Kintzler was confirmed as closer by Marlins manager Don Mattingly on the first full day of Spring Training. Kintzler signed a one-year deal as a free agent and brings solid numbers and a veteran presence to the bullpen. Last season, he picked up 17 holds for the Chicago Cubs, posting a 2.68 ERA/4.06 xFIP. He's never been a huge strikeout guy, but his 21.2 K% matches well with his 5.7 BB%. He's a solid big league pitcher that should bring plenty of value to the Marlins in real life, but he won't be much of a fantasy option unless he locks down the ninth inning early and should  be consistent enough to put up solid mixed league value despite the low strikeout total. The Fish also added Yimi Garcia, who pitched well for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. He put up a 3.61 ERA but a concerning 4.90 xFIP. He's a guy that "throws strikes" though, which is something the Marlins specifically said they wanted. Garcia's 2019 featured a 26.7 K% compared to a 5.7 BB%. Similar to Kintzler, he should be solid on the mound in Miami, but won't be much of an option in fantasy lineups. Elsewhere in the Miami bullpen will be Jarlin Garcia, Drew Steckenrider, and Adam Conley. None of those three have much relevance in fantasy leagues, but Steckenrider and Conley do still have some untapped upside and maybe "this is the year."

 

New York Mets

The New York Mets thought they had their bullpen issues solved before last season started, acquiring elite closer Edwin Diaz from the Seattle Mariners. Instead, Diaz had a disastrous season and the Mets disappointed in the standings once again. There were some encouraging signs from Diaz, however, and a lot of his struggles could have been bad luck. He ended up with 26 saves in 33 chances and a 5.59 ERA, but a 3.07 xFIP. He maintained an elite 39.0 K%, and his 8.7 BB% was tolerable as well. Diaz is a prime bounce back candidate and can likely be had later in a lot of drafts than his upside implies. He's someone I am targeting in most leagues this season, as I think he's one of the safer bets to outperform his ADP.

He will have some competition though, as the Mets signed former elite Yankee reliever Dellin Betances to a one-year deal with two player options attached. Betances threw just 2/3 of an inning for the Yankees last season, spending the vast majority of the season on the injured list with arm troubles. He expects to be ready for Spring Training however, and has thrown plenty of elite innings in the past. In 2018, Betances posted a 2.70 ERA/1.95 xFIP to go with an otherworldly 42.3 K% and 9.6 BB%. If Betances can recover from his injury and Diaz can recover from his awful season, the Mets could have one of the best 1-2 punches at the end of their bullpen in 2020. Spin-rate king Seth Lugo (2.70 ERA/3.24 xFIP, 33.1 K%) should maintain a late-inning role along with Justin Wilson and Jeurys Famila. Lugo should be a solid holds league contributor, with the other two likely needing injuries ahead of them to develop consistent fantasy relevance.

 

Philadelphia Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies had 36 saves as a team in a disappointing 2019 season. Hector Neris got 28 of those in 34 chances, and he'll return as the team's closer in 2020. Neris went a bit under-the-radar in 2019, but he was more than solid and seems set for another similar season in 2020. Last year, he put up a 2.93 ERA/3.53 xFIP with a 32.4 K% and 8.7 BB%. He is not an elite closer like some of the other NL East guys have the potential to be, but he's consistent and doesn't have the name recognition that will bump him up draft boards. Neris is one of those closers that you can draft late but get mid-round results out of most of the time.

Seranthony Dominguez spent a ton of time on the injured list in 2019, pitching just 24 2/3 innings. In those innings, he ended up with a 4.01 ERA/3.98 xFIP and 26.4 K%. He was better in his rookie season of 2018, when he was healthier and pitched 58 innings of 2.95 ERA/3.04 xFIP ball. He should be a solid setup man for Neris and could have some nice value in holds leagues as long as he stays healthy in 2020. Jose Alvarez and Adam Morgan should be pitching important innings for the Phillies this season as well, but both are far better "real life" pitchers than they are fantasy assets.

 

Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals won the World Series last season despite having one of the worst bullpens in baseball history. They acquired Daniel Hudson at the trade deadline, and he made a huge difference. So huge that they decided to re-sign him to a two-year, $11 million contract. For 2019 as a whole, which he split between Washington and Toronto, Hudson pitched 73 innings, posting a strong 2.47 ERA but a concerning and ominous 5.08 xFIP. As a member of the Nationals, he went with a 1.44 ERA/4.68 xFIP. There's reason for concern with Hudson, but there's also reason to believe he's just one of those pitchers who outperforms his predictors. Despite getting the last out of the World Series (and famously "yeeting" his glove away afterwards), Hudson will enter the season as the primary setup man, not the closer.

The closer for the World Series Champions will be lefty Sean Doolittle. Doolittle dealt with some injuries that made him ineffective at times in 2019, but he ended up with a good season overall. He saved 29 games in 35 chances, putting up a 4.05 ERA/5.08 xFIP. All of his numbers took a dip after an excellent 2018 (1.60 ERA/2.68 xFIP), but as long as he can stay healthy, he should end up with stats closer to his 2018 season than to his 2019. He's a somewhat risky, but nice upside option in most fantasy formats. Will Harris, Hunter Strickland, and Tanner Rainey will all pitch meaningful innings this season while the Nationals defend their title. Harris should have some value in holds formats, and Rainey could as well. Strickland is too risky to bet on in all but the deepest formats.

 

More 2020 Fantasy Baseball Advice




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2020 Saves+Holds Rankings - Fantasy Baseball Mixed Leagues

To any reader who thinks they don't have a voice here at RotoBaller, let it be known that this article came from a simple Reddit comment about how those seeking Saves+Holds reliever ranks were often overlooked. Poof, and here we are. Allow me, Nick Mariano, 2018's most accurate draft expert and sharer of names with the best reliever of all-time, to supercharge your bullpen.

While the closer's role is important, some managers are moving their best arm into a flexible role while shuffling who gets the ninth. Saves+Holds leagues help fantasy leagues reward the best arms regardless of the inning, though it still favors closers in a vacuum. But the most important thing to note for 2020 is a new rule that changes how relievers can be used. Starting in 2020, *all pitchers* must face a minimum of three batters per appearance or pitch to the end of the half-inning. While Rob Manfred has ID'd short RP appearances as a scourge, one-batter relief appearances reached a 13-year low in 2019 per SI's Tom Verducci. That same article says, "The proposed rule would eliminate one mid-inning pitching change every three or four games." So, be reasonable and don't move the goalposts too much.

Reminder: A hold is recorded when a relief pitcher enters with a lead of three runs or less, or with the tying run on-deck, at the plate, or on base, and maintains that lead while recording at least one out. Read on and you'll see where I rank each player, what tier they're in, and their "Team Rank" (spot in their team's bullpen hierarchy.) I will make updates and note the most recent day of a change here.

 

Save+Hold Relief Pitcher Ranks - Mixed Leagues (January)

In case you missed it, our very own "Big Pick Nick" Mariano was named the #1 overall most accurate industry expert ranker for the 2018 season.

Rank Tier Player Team Team Rank
1 1 Josh Hader MIL 1
2 1 Kirby Yates SD 1
3 1 Aroldis Chapman NYY 1
4 1 Liam Hendriks OAK 1
5 1 Roberto Osuna HOU 1
6 1 Nick Anderson TB 2
7 1 Ryan Pressly HOU 2
8 2 Taylor Rogers MIN 1
9 2 Brad Hand CLE 1
10 2 Ken Giles TOR 1
11 2 Will Smith ATL 2
12 2 Kenley Jansen LAD 1
13 2 Emilio Pagan TB 1
14 2 Edwin Diaz NYM 1
15 2 Giovanny Gallegos STL 1
16 2 Hector Neris PHI 1
17 2 Seth Lugo NYM 2
18 2 Craig Kimbrel CHC 1
19 3 Raisel Iglesias CIN 1
20 3 Brandon Workman BOS 1
21 3 Zack Britton NYY 2
22 3 Adam Ottavino NYY 3
23 3 Hansel Robles LAA 1
24 3 Jose Leclerc TEX 1
25 3 Alex Colome CWS 1
26 3 Keone Kela PIT 1
27 3 Sergio Romo MIN 2
28 3 Sean Doolittle WAS 1
29 3 Ian Kennedy KC 1
30 3 Archie Bradley ARI 1
31 3 Matt Barnes BOS 2
32 3 Mark Melancon ATL 1
33 3 Will Harris WAS 2
34 4 Michael Lorenzen CIN 2
35 4 Tommy Kahnle NYY 4
36 4 Craig Stammen SD 2
37 4 Yusmeiro Petit OAK 4
38 4 Aaron Bummer CWS 2
39 4 Andrew Miller STL 2
40 4 Scott Oberg COL 1
41 4 Seranthony Dominguez PHI 2
42 4 Dellin Betances NYM 3
43 4 Andres Munoz SD 3
44 5 James Karinchak CLE 3
45 5 Rowan Wick CHC 2
46 5 Pedro Baez LAD 2
47 5 Colin Poché TB 5
48 5 Joe Jimenez DET 1
49 5 Diego Castillo TB 4
50 5 Ty Buttrey LAA 2
51 5 Emmanuel Clase TEX 3
52 5 Drew Pomeranz SD 4
53 5 Daniel Hudson WAS 3
54 5 Kevin Ginkel ARI 2
55 6 Trevor May MIN 3
56 6 Amir Garrett CIN 3
57 6 Tony Watson SF 1
58 6 Nick Wittgren CLE 2
59 6 Matt Magill SEA 1
60 6 Joshua James HOU 3
61 6 Jose Alvarado TB 3
62 6 Carlos Martinez STL 3
63 6 Oliver Drake TB 6
64 6 John Gant STL 4
65 6 Adam Morgan PHI 3
66 7 Josh Taylor BOS 3
67 7 Trevor Gott SF 2
68 7 Tyler Duffey MIN 5
69 7 Tyler Clippard MIN 4
70 7 Joe Kelly LAD 4
71 7 Chad Green NYY 5
72 7 Kyle Crick PIT 3
73 7 Steve Cishek CWS 3
74 7 Rafael Montero TEX 2
75 7 Freddy Peralta MIL 3
76 7 Blake Treinen LAD 3
77 7 Lou Trivino OAK 2
78 7 Sam Tuivailala SEA 2
79 7 Luke Jackson ATL 4
80 7 Trey Wingenter SD 5
81 8 Ryne Stanek MIA 1
82 8 Anthony Bass TOR 2
83 8 Marcus Walden BOS 4
84 8 Darwinzon Hernandez BOS 5
85 8 Mychal Givens BAL 1
86 8 Brent Suter MIL 2
87 8 Jordan Hicks STL 5
88 8 Shane Greene ATL 3
89 8 Chris Martin ATL 5
90 8 Tyler Rogers SF 3
91 8 Tim Hill KC 2
92 8 Jake Diekman OAK 5
93 9 Scott Barlow KC 3
94 9 Shawn Armstrong BAL 2
95 9 Tanner Rainey WAS 4
96 9 Joe Smith HOU 4
97 9 Corey Knebel MIL 4
98 9 Corbin Burnes MIL 5
99 9 Adam Cimber CLE 4
100 9 Wade Davis COL 2
101 9 Richard Rodriguez PIT 2
102 9 Keynan Middleton LAA 3
103 9 Hector Rondon ARI 3
104 9 Jairo Diaz COL 3
105 9 Jarlin Garcia MIA 2
106 9 Chris Devenski HOU 5
107 10 Joakim Soria OAK 3
108 10 Hunter Harvey BAL 3
109 10 Carl Edwards Jr. SEA 3
110 10 Jose Alvarez PHI 4
111 10 Darren O'Day BAL 6
112 10 Trevor Richards TB 7
113 10 Carlos Estevez COL 4
114 10 Evan Marshall CWS 4
115 10 Brad Brach NYM 4
116 10 Jandel Gustave SF 4
117 10 Hunter Strickland WAS 5
118 10 Matt Strahm SD 5
119 10 Yoan Lopez ARI 4
120 10 Wilmer Font TOR 3
121 10 Brandon Brennan SEA 4
122 10 Pedro Strop N/A N/A
123 10 Buck Farmer DET 2
124 10 Jose Quijada MIA 3
125 10 Jose Cisnero DET 3
126 10 Jeremy Jeffress N/A N/A
127 10 Adam Conley MIA 4
128 10 Andrew Kittredge TB 8


Tier One

Josh Hader was electric in 2018, and many metrics improved in 2019 but were overshadowed by an issue with homers. His swinging-strike rate soared, from 19% to 22.7%, which yielded a 47.8% strikeout rate -- over six percentage points higher than the next-best qualified RP, Nick Anderson. His 43 Saves + Holds tally led the Majors and this format means you can get away from his being left-handed.

He did this while trimming his walk rate to 6.9% from 9.8% and his .232 BABIP was close to the career .228 mark, but homers don’t factor into that. His 21.4% HR/FB rate and 1.78 HR/9 did all it could to inflate his 2.62 ERA. Strikeouts and homers, the 2019 way. Still, his 1.78 SIERA made him the only qualified RP with a mark south of 2.00 and I’m here for his being the first off the board.

I won’t begrudge anyone for going with Yates over Hader, as his 41 SV+HLD barely trailed Hader while his 1.19 ERA was far cleaner. Still, we know the surface stats for a reliever are highly volatile. Yates’ 2.05 SIERA was second to Hader’s rate, while his 41.6% strikeout rate was third-best, just behind Nick Anderson.

I don’t think I can dance around addressing Anderson anymore. He was simply lights out after joining the Rays. 2019 was his first MLB season, and Anderson was inconsistent in Miami, throwing more breaking balls instead of ripping into hitters with his elite heat. Then he was traded to Tampa Bay at the deadline and proceeded to log a whopping 41/2 K/BB rate and 2.11 ERA (1.03 SIERA!) across 21 ⅓ IP.

Hendriks’ stock gets more comfortable with Treinen going to LAD. His average fastball velocity went from 94-95 MPH to 96.5 MPH, his curveball rose from 82 MPH to 84 MPH and the rate at which he threw it soared, from 1.8% in ‘18 to 7.8%. The added heat helped, as hitters pulled a career-low 26.5% of batted balls off of him, which eased the damage done by the 49.5% fly-ball rate.

The other non-closer worthy of the elite Tier One label is Ryan Pressly, who put up stats nearly identical to teammate Roberto Osuna. His 72 strikeouts in 54 ⅓ IP offer a better K/9 than Osuna’s 73 K’s in 65 frames, while also putting up a top-10 SV+HLD total for 2019 (34) with a beautiful 2.32 ERA/0.91 WHIP. Houston may be mired in scandal, but the Pressly-Osuna bridge at their endgame should remain steady.

 

Tier Two

Rogers has an argument for Tier One with the incredible 2.61 ERA/1.03 WHIP and 90 K’s and 40 SV+HLD in 69 IP last season. The Twins are in a fantastic spot in the top-heavy AL Central and Minnesota’s defense only got better behind their pitchers with the addition of Josh Donaldson. That’s only if hitters are fortunate enough to put bat on ball, as his 2018 28.9% strikeout rate jumped to 32.4% while posting a 50.6% groundball rate and 4% walk rate.

There are some huge beneficiaries from the SV+HLD format, with less value tied up in needing to retain permanent closer status. Emilio Pagan stepped up for the Rays after Jose Alvarado and Diego Castillo were injured or inconsistent down the stretch, but full health may create flexibility with how Kevin Cash deploys these arms. At least you can buy into his skills without worrying about the rigid roles here.

Meanwhile, Giovanny Gallegos posted a 2.31 ERA and 0.84 WHIP over 74 IP in 2019, but didn’t see consistent late-game work early on. The SV+HLD format shields you from the mystery surrounding Carlos Martinez’s role as well as Jordan Hicks’ recovery.

Atlanta also boasts several late-inning arms with closing experience, but Will Smith is the most talented player in the ‘pen. Mark Melancon may defy the odds and hold onto the ninth throughout 2020, but Smith could wind up with 30 more strikeouts and better ratios.

Meanwhile, Jansen had to miss a few games at altitude due to a heart condition, but his overall 3.71 ERA/1.06 WHIP and 80 K’s in 63 frames remained strong. He’s always been a fly-ball pitcher and as such, 2018’s and 2019’s “higher” (for him) ERAs with a low WHIP add up with homers and fly outs. The last two seasons have also seen him post mortal 6% walk rates after that incredible 2.7% clip in ‘17 -- just small things worth noting. He remains a top-10 option, but he’s no longer in the upper echelon.

The Mets may have to decide on how to best use Edwin Diaz given his loss of command in ‘19 and Dellin Betances coming off a lost season. But they have one stable commodity in Lugo, who turned in 80 innings with 27 SV+HLDs, 104 strikeouts and pristine ratios in ‘19. Don’t count on seven victories to trickle in again, but he should get 35-40 decision opportunities.

 

Tier Three

Iglesias leads Tier Three, which sounds great except those who played this format last season will recall his 37 SV+HLDs were seventh-best in the game. So, what gives? Well, the 12 losses hurt, but underneath the surface, you’ll see how the 3.22 SIERA is consistent with his 3.31 career mark and the 31.9% strikeout rate was a career-best alongside a slight drop in walks (8.6% to 7.5%.) His HR/9 has been 1.50 and 1.61 in the past two seasons, but it was ramped up by allowing more fly balls in ‘19. After surrendering an average 35.2% fly-ball rate in ‘18, he was crushed by a 43.9% mark in ‘19. Soft contact went up, but so did hard contact. Welcome to modern-day baseball, land of the extremes.

While one could argue that Zack Britton belongs higher, but the poor strikeout rate stands out more in today’s world. While that sinker yielded amazing ratios for the Yankees and fantasy owners alike, a reliever that isn’t getting dedicated late work better give you plus whiffs to make it worth your while. You can’t rely on the holds racking up here this early in drafts, and I’m wary of ratios being the main reason to draft a reliever this early. At least his repertoire is good at mitigating any balls getting into the air.

The SV+HLD format really helps most of the Red Sox relievers retain a high floor as well, with Workman boasting the greatest skill set on the surface. But while most are aware of him after a brilliant 2019 where he recorded 10 wins, 16 saves and 15 holds with a 1.88 ERA/1.10 WHIP. He led the league with just one barrel allowed across the whole season, which means we need to prepare for regression. Matt Barnes is also in this group, as his 110 strikeouts in 64 ⅓ IP was outstanding but the walks and 1.42 WHIP that came with them were tough to absorb.

Washington is another bullpen with two players in this range, with Sean Doolittle’s left-handed and eased usage giving way to plenty of late work for righty Will Harris. Whether it’s a matchup decision or Davey Martinez is trying not to overwork Doolittle, Harris is almost guaranteed to work those late frames on defending World Series champs that should vie for 90-plus wins.

 

Tier Four

Here is where you start to find players with some fleas, but guaranteed roles. Andrew Miller had a 4.45 ERA/1.32 WHIP while Craig Stammen’s strikeout rate fell from a 27.8% spike in 2018 to 21.5% last year. Miller had poor ratios in 2018 as well (4.24 ERA/1.38 WHIP) but maintained hope in the 3.51 FIP/3.29 SIERA. With similar surface stats in ‘19, his FIP ballooned to 5.19 while the 3.87 SIERA wasn’t as dramatic. Be careful, but the opportunities for 30 SV+HLD will be there as long as he’s healthy. 

At 36 years old, Stammen boasts strong control (4.4% walk rate in ‘19) but his FIP soared to 4.12 after an elite 2.19 mark in ‘18. He should continue to work alongside Andres Munoz ahead of Kirby Yates, but this is another case of lesser strikeouts and some troubling sabermetrics under the hood.

Yusmeiro Petit has been a beast over the past three seasons, posting ERAs of 3.00 or less while tossing 83-93 innings with a collective WHIP below 1.00. His 19.8% K-BB% blends with Oakland’s pitcher-friendly park to yield BABIPs around .230 as an Athletic. You’ll find lesser K’s (71 in 83 IP last year) but in this case, his ratios appear safer on a year-to-year basis and Oakland is a great spot for churning Hold opportunities.

I’ll bet you can get Seranthony Dominguez on the cheap after losing large chunks of 2019 to injury, as new manager Joe Girardi knows how to flex a bullpen asset. Dominguez is only 25 years old and posted a 2.95 ERA/0.93 WHIP as a rookie, with 74 K’s in 58 frames. The command unraveled as his arm wore down last year, but even conservative Steamer gives him a 3.67 ERA/1.27 WHIP. I don’t understand where it pulls projecting a mere 13 holds over 55 innings, though. Dominguez scored 30 SV+HLD in 2018, and should work in the seventh, eighth or ninth innings with Hector Neris and (eventually) David Robertson.

 

Tier Five

Here comes the upside speculation, as I can’t get away from the Nick Anderson potential that lives in James Karinchak. Perhaps the Indians don’t use him in enough Hold opportunities to excite you, but he could top 80 strikeouts if given 50 innings. Colin Poche offers a similar profile with lesser strikeout upside and perhaps greater bullpen volume, though if he continues to throw his fastball around 85% of the time and is prone to the longball as a result. Hence the gorgeous 1.04 WHIP but 4.70 ERA.

Another premier setup men pop here, with Ty Buttrey bringing in around 30 SV+HLD over the year with plus strikeouts and average ratios. The raw SV+HLD volume is what buoys his value behind Hansel Robles in a subpar bullpen. Upside lurks with Clase on the Indians, with his penchant for control and being worth Corey Kluber’s trade potentially putting him ahead of Karinchak.

If I knew Drew Pomeranz was going to stay in the bullpen all year long and not potentially get stretched out as a starter then I’d have him higher, especially after he turned in a 1.88 ERA/0.85 WHIP with 50 K’s in just 28 ⅔ IP of relief for Milwaukee last season. He's a premier draft-day target here given the 100-plus strikeouts possible with 55-60 innings.

I want to believe in Joe Jimenez over the longterm, but the 3.14 SIERA in 2018 was tied to a 4.31 ERA and his 3.41 SIERA last season hid behind a 4.37 ERA. At some point, the results have to be there. After a rough July 17 outing, Jimenez posted a 2.55 ERA with 31 strikeouts to seven walks over 24 ⅔ IP. Of the seven runs allowed, five of them came on solo homers. He didn’t issue a walk over his final eight appearances of the season, so there are hints of greatness, but we must keep our heads on straight.

 

Tier Six

I realize folks may be down a bit on Trevor May with Sergio Romo’s signing, but I still have him as the third man in this ‘pen and he should get 20-plus SV+HLD opps throughout the season. Amir Garrett had a nasty 1.43 WHIP last season, but the 3.21 ERA had him mitigating the potential damage while logging 22 holds. Tony Watson will need to recapture his form after a “blah” 4.17 ERA and poor 41 K’s in 54 IP last season, but he’s got a veteran’s inside track to the late innings in San Francisco.

While everyone’s looking at Karinchak and Clase, folks may let Nick Wittgren and his 2.81 ERA/1.10 WHIP with a strikeout per inning slide. The other two are flashier with higher upside, but Wittgren has trust and should stay in the late innings. I believe Matt Magill and the improved control he showed on Seattle will give him the edge as either Seattle’s fireman or closer, as Sam Tuivailala’s walk rate was twice Magill’s in 2019.

 

Tier Seven

Those hairs we split in “tiers” really start to make themselves known the further you get, but I have to point out that folks like Chad Green and Freddy Peralta aren’t likely to rack up the saves or holds, but have earned a place in RP ranks with their strong strikeout work.

Feel free to ignore them at your leisure, as Trevor Gott should find himself towards the late innings in spacious San Francisco after a helpful 1.11 WHIP and 57 K’s in 52 ⅔ IP last season. Tyler Duffey may not get the same Hold tally in 2020 if Minnesota’s bullpen is healthy, but the 2.50 ERA/1.03 WHIP and 82 punchouts in 57 ⅔ IP should give him 15-20 holds. Sergio Romo can’t pitch every day!

I’d rather not rely on Joe Kelly rebounding when you can just buy into Pedro Baez or Blake Treinen instead, with Treinen’s rebound ceiling higher than Kelly’s. But the Dodgers bullpen use is typically structured and Kelly shouldn’t fall far down the totem pole. Kyle Crick’s control left him entirely through 2019, but he’s still at least a top-three arm in that rebuilding ‘pen with plus strikeout ability. The same goes for Lou Trivino.

Crick could emerge should the rebuilding Pirates deal Keone Kela. Crick has reported no setbacks in recovery from tendon repair surgery on his right index finger, an injury suffered during a fight with Felipe Vazquez. Shocking that someone would fight Vazquez, I know. Crick’s command left him in ‘19, with an awful 15.5% walk rate and 1.84 HR/9 mark, but he’d posted a 2.39 ERA/1.13 WHIP in ‘18. Just keep an eye out on his spring command.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Tyler Clippard returns the most value here after the 2.38 ERA/0.87 WHIP from last year, but life may be difficult beyond Rogers, Romo and May in the ‘pen. I’d rather have Tyler Duffey, who had 23 more strikeouts in just one additional inning last season and won’t grab anyone’s attention by name.

 

Tier Eight

Here’s where you have to make some team-dependent decisions, as you can target high-strikeout potential in Darwinzon Hernandez and hope his command improves enough to be trusted with hold-worthy innings. Jake Diekman has a shade of this as well, though his command is still better than Hernandez. Put it this way, you’re hoping Hernandez reaches Diekman-level control and perhaps you get 100 K’s in 55 frames.

If you’re okay with lower K output but improved ratios and SV+HLD potential, then you might want Toronto’s Anthony Bass or Milwaukee’s Brent Suter. Both are currently around the eighth inning for their teams, but aren’t likely to reach the 9.0 K/9 mark. Baltimore’s Mychal Givens and Texas’ Rafael Montero offer more middle ground, with enhanced K’s but with shakier roles. Givens needed to recover his form with early work, while Montero is likely the best riser to identify here after the Clase deal.

Miami offers sneaky upside with Ryne Stanek, as the Marlins may look to get Jose Urena back into a starting role. Stanek slogged through a 6.35 ERA as a traditional reliever last season, posting a 40/25 K/BB ratio in 34 frames against his prettier stats as a “starter” (Tampa’s opener,) with a 49/14 K/BB ratio and 2.09 ERA in 43 IP. You can gamble on that form returning for the cost of a penny.

 

Tiers Nine and Lower

Here are those project relievers who have a couple of things to work on. Tanner Rainey offers incredible K upside (74 in 48 ⅓ IP last season) but you know you’re soaking in a 1.50 WHIP and lower-leverage innings with recent signings on the team. How long does it take Corey Knebel to get moving and does he return to form, or is this 2019 Jimmy Nelson all over again for the Brewers?

Speaking of Milwaukee, does Corbin Burnes figure out how to stop giving up homers and does he stay in the bullpen if so? Can Wade Davis reclaim his form or has age and pitching at altitude ruined his potential? Does Keynan Middleton get back to form for the Halos? Maybe Hector Rondon steps up with Arizona’s humidor at his back and becomes their seventh-inning man ahead of Archie Bradley and Kevin Ginkel. 

And then it becomes about finding roles rather than skills. Does Jose Alvarez keep his place towards Philly’s back-end? It’s a decent shot. Maybe Brad Brach rebounds and leapfrogs any of Betances, Diaz or Familia, all of whom have shaken trust. Seattle signed Carl Edwards Jr. and there’s no reason he doesn’t become the closer with a great spring, but I think he settles into the seventh inning and quietly offers 15 holds. Joakim Soria is likely Oakland’s RP3 at the moment, same goes for Wilmer Font in Toronto, Scott Barlow for Kansas City and Jarlin Garcia in Miami.

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2020 Early Bullpen Outlooks - A.L. West

Welcome to 2020, fantasy friends. There are two football teams left and basketball and hockey are doing their things, so it's past time now to start thinking about the 2020 baseball season.

Free agency has been a little more front-loaded this season, leaving fewer questions about rosters heading into Spring Training. Still, there will be changes between now and Opening Day, so keep an eye on our Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Depth Charts throughout the year.

Let's get into it again, this time with the American League West, where not much has changed in terms of bullpens and only one team is entering Spring Training with a question mark at closer.

 

Updates

Update 2/14/2020: All quiet on the AL West -ern front, no changes so far in the bullpens.

 

Texas Rangers

The Texas Rangers are expecting a better season in 2020. They finished 78-84 last season, but they added a few pieces and made a big splash by getting ace starting pitcher Corey Kluber in a trade with the Cleveland Indians. They may still struggle to compete in a top-heavy division, but they are indeed likely to improve. As far as the bullpen goes, Jose Leclerc should enter the season as the closer once again. He struggled mightily at times last season, but ended up with 14 saves in 18 chances, posting a 4.33 ERA/4.21 xFIP. He was tough to hit, with a solid 33.4 K%, but that came with a concerning 13.0 BB%. That was Leclerc's main issue: control. When he was on, he looked like one of the best relievers in the division. If he can find more consistency this season, he could be one of the best values in fantasy drafts coming up.

Bridging the gap to Leclerc and potentially taking over if the closer struggles again will be former Mets top prospect Rafael Montero. Montero did well in 29 innings with the Rangers last season, posting a 2.48 ERA/3.45 xFIP with an impressive 30.1 K% and 4.4 BB%. Thr 29-year-old showed signs of a mid-career breakout and could have plenty of value in holds leagues this year. The Rangers bullpen will also include guys like Jesse Chavez, Brett Martin, and Nick Goody, but there would need to be injuries ahead of them for those three to make much noise in standard fantasy leagues.

 

Los Angeles Angels

The Los Angeles Angels have the best player in baseball in the outfield and one of the most exciting players in baseball in the lineup and occasionally on the mound. Yet those same Los Angeles Angels have been no better than mediocre for several years now. They are hoping for something different in 2020, and the addition of Anthony Rendon may help push them in that direction (that starting rotation still looks rough though.) The bullpen should be solid once again, anchored by Hansel Robles in the ninth inning. Robles was good in 2019, saving 23 games in 27 tries while putting up a 2.48 ERA/3.89 xFIP. That difference is a little concerning, but his 26.5 K% and 5.7 BB% show that he has the talent to potentially outperform his predictors.

Also in the Angels bullpen will be Ty Buttrey, who at times looked like the best reliever in the AL West last season. Combining his dominant peaks with some valleys led to his overall 2019 numbers: 3.98 ERA/3.90 xFIP with 26 holds and 27.2 K% with 7.4 BB%. The tantalizing upside he showed at the beginning of the season may lead to Buttrey being a bit overdrafted in holds leagues this season, but there is always the chance that he reaches and maintains that upside. Cam Bedrosian will work in a setup role alongside Buttrey but is more of one of those "good in real life" guys than a strong fantasy consideration.

 

Oakland Athletics

The Oakland A's will start 2020 without the guy they had closing for them on Opening Day 2019. But despite that, they've actually improved. Blake Treinen's rough 2019 led to the emergence of All-Star closer Liam Hendriks, who took the ninth inning over and never looked back. Hendriks saved 25 games and put up a strong 1.80 ERA. His 3.21 xFIP shows that there may be some regression at hand, but other predictors seem to think he'll be more than solid once again in 2020. His 2019 rate stats were excellent, as he came up with a 37.4 K% to go with a 6.3 BB%. He should be one of the top closers in fantasy, but because of a relative lack of name recognition, he could be quite a value pick in the middle rounds.

The rest of the Oakland bullpen is a bit cloudy right now in terms of roles. Jake Diekman should have a late-inning role and offers possible holds and strikeouts (29.8 K% in 2019) but can get a little wild and give up too many base runners (13.8 BB%). Joakim Soria is a safer bet in holds leagues (28.4 K%, 7.2 BB%), but neither makes for a particularly exciting option. A.J. Puk put up some exciting innings at the end of 2019, but his role in 2020 is still up in the air.

 

Houston Astros

The Houston Astros have been all the talk of the baseball world lately for all the wrong reasons, but their relievers (probably) had nothing to do with all that, so let's see what the buzz is about in the bullpen. Roberto Osuna returns for another year in the ninth inning. He was very good last season, saving 38 games in 44 tries. He pitched to a 2.63 ERA/3.60 xFIP with 28.9 K% and 4.7 BB%. He doesn't offer the elite strikeout rate of some other closers, but his pinpoint control helps him avoid the big innings and ERA/WHIP blowups that some other relievers can suffer from now and then. On a team that should still be good and will provide him with plenty of save chances, Osuna is one of the safer fantasy options.

Ryan Pressly will resume his role as Osuna's primary setup man. He was outstanding in 2019, putting up 31 holds and a pristine 2.32 ERA/2.21 xFIP. His rate stats were great too, as his 34.1 K% and 5.7 BB% are both excellent numbers. Pressly is one of the top relievers in holds leagues and should be drafted ahead of many closers in that format. Chris Devenski, Brad Peacock, and Joe Smith could all offer some fantasy value in deeper leagues as well, and their roles should be monitored throughout Grapefruit League play.

 

Seattle Mariners

The Seattle Mariners are the only AL West team entering 2020 without a bona fide closer in their bullpen. For now, it seems like Matt Magill is the leading candidate for the closer's role, but this is a ninth inning that will either be determined in Spring Training or left to a committee approach to start the season. Magill spent a little time in the ninth inning last season, saving five games while putting up a 4.09 ERA/3.95 xFIP. His 28.0 K% and 8.7 BB% were both fine but nothing to get excited about. If he wins the closer's role, he'll be one of those solid enough closers to be owned in most fantasy formats, but not to be much of a difference maker.

Sam Tuivailala will be in the mix as well. He put up a 2.35 ERA/5.07 xFIP with 28.7 K% and 11.7 BB%. Predictors aren't kind to Tuivailala, and a lot of that is based on his trouble with control. He has swing-and-miss upside, but he needs to throw strikes. Brandon Brennan, Dan Altavilla, and Carl Edwards Jr. will all be in the late-inning mix as well and any of them could end up as the closer. "Mariners Closer" is unlikely to be a particularly fantasy-relevant role in 2020, but it's always worth rostering a full-time closer, so this is a ninth inning competition to keep an eye on.

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2020 Early Bullpen Outlooks - A.L. Central

Welcome to 2020, fantasy friends. There are four football teams still playing and basketball and hockey are in full swing, so it's time to start thinking about the 2020 baseball season.

Free agency has been a little more front-loaded this season, leaving fewer questions about rosters heading into Spring Training. Still, there will be changes between now and Opening Day, so keep an eye on our Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Depth Charts throughout the year.

Let's continue with the American League Central, where it looks like closers might remain the same as in 2019, but some things may have changed in the seventh and eighth innings, and some leashes may have been shortened. Let's sneak out of this collar like my cat did in an airport once and rush through security into the AL Central.

 

Updates

Update 2/14/2020: No changes in AL Central bullpens so far!

 

Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers were bad last year. The Detroit Tigers will be bad again this year. But that doesn't mean the Detroit Tigers won't have some valuable fantasy contributors on the squad. One of them could be in the bullpen in the shape of closer Joe Jimenez. Jimenez had been the "closer of the future" for the Tigers for what seemed like forever before finally getting his chance after the team traded Shane Greene to the Atlanta Braves. Jimenez was okay overall in 2019, saving nine games in 14 chances. He posted a mediocre-if-we're-feeling-generous 4.37 ERA/4.19 xFIP in 59 2/3 innings, but he was able to post a strong 31.9 K% along with a decent 9.0 BB%. He had definite issues with the home run ball but showed enough upside to be worth a late-round selection in most formats.

Elsewhere in the Tigers bullpen reside even more question marks, with Buck Farmer looking like the best bet for the main setup role. Farmer posted a 3.72 ERA/4.11 xFIP in 67 2/3 innings in 2019, along with a 25.4 K% and 8.3 BB%. He's a solid reliever in real life, but not much of a fantasy asset, especially on a team unlikely to provide a ton of opportunities for holds. Gregory Soto and Jose Cisnero wrap up the likely end-of-bullpen arms for Detroit, and neither belongs on too many fantasy rosters.

 

Chicago White Sox

The Chicago White Sox have improved their team in almost every aspect this offseason, including a somewhat under-the-radar bullpen addition that could pay off in 2020. At the end of their bullpen remains Alex Colome, who was decent in 2019 but outperformed his peripherals and leaves some cause for concern. Colome converted 30 of his 33 save opportunities and posted a 2.80 ERA, but a 4.61 xFIP and pedestrian strikeout (22.1 K%) and walk (9.2 BB%) rates show possible signs of regression in 2020. He's still worth rostering in most formats, but he's likely to be overdrafted in some leagues.

Aaron Bummer should return as the key lefty and setup man in the White Sox bullpen. Somewhat similar to Colome in that he outperformed many peripherals, Bummer put up a sparkling 2.13 ERA but a 3.49 xFIP, partly thanks to his .228 BABIP against. He struck out 22.9% and walked 9.2% of the batters he faced. Solid enough numbers on a real mound, but not much to be excited about in fantasy. Steve Cishek joined the White Sox recently on a one-year contract. He was great in the first half last year before hitting an extended second-half slump, but should be a valuable part of the bullpen if he can find his first-half form again. For the season, he ended up with a 2.95 ERA/4.95 xFIP, 21.4 K% and 10.9 BB%. At this point in his career, he's another arm that is better on the mound than on your screen.

 

Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians traded their ace Corey Kluber and have been rumored to be looking to trade their best player Francisco Lindor (although more recent reports expect Lindor to stay for 2020). One place they did improve was in their bullpen. Brad Hand will be back to close things out, but Emmanuel Clase could put some heat on Brad's seat. Hand was excellent for some stretches in 2019 and awful for some stretches as well. He was so good when he was good that his season numbers don't show how bad he was when he was bad. Overall, he ended up with 34 saves in 39 chances, posting a 3.30 ERA/3.41 xFIP and a 34.7 K% with a 7.4 BB%. Those are potentially elite numbers, and bad luck may have played a role in Hand's struggles (.362 BABIP compared to his career .288 number, for example.) Hand should be back to his 2019-good self for most of 2020 and is worth being one of the first few closers drafted in most formats.

Clase came from the Texas Rangers in the Kluber deal and should immediately slot into the eighth inning. He will be just 22 on Opening Day and has only thrown 23 1/3 innings at the big league level, all in 2019. In those innings, he pitched to a 2.31 ERA/3.42 xFIP. He showed strong control with a 6.4 BB% and should improve upon his so-so 22.3 K%. He has an unquestionably elite fastball (often given an 80 grade on the 20-80 scale) and could become an elite bullpen arm if he can develop a decent enough secondary offering. Clase is the closer-in-waiting in Cleveland and was the prize of the Kluber deal, so Hand could end up on the trading block at the deadline if Cleveland struggles. Other relievers to keep an eye on are James Karinchak and Nick Wittgren. Wittgren is one of those guys who has more value to his real team than to any fantasy team, but Karinchak has had almost unheard of strikeout numbers in the minors (66.7 K% in Double-A and 53.9% in Triple-A!) He struggles with control quite a bit though, however he was excellent in his 5 1/3 cup-of-coffee innings in 2019.

 

Kansas City Royals

The Kansas City Royals are bringing back most of the same relievers in 2020, although roles may be a little more solidified at least to kick off spring training. Ian Kennedy's career renaissance as a closer was a sight to see in 2019, as he saved 30 games in 34 tries while putting up a 3.41 ERA/3.77 xFIP. He enjoyed the best strikeout rate of his career (27.4% compared to a previous high of 24.5%) and the lowest walk rate (6.4%) since 2012. He'll be the unquestioned closer in KC at least until the trade deadline and should make for a solid value pick in the later rounds of fantasy drafts.

Kevin McCarthy will be one of the main setup guys in Kansas City, but he shouldn't be a factor in any but the deepest of AL Central-only fantasy leagues. McCarthy somehow posted a 4.48 ERA/4.55 xFIP despite striking out only 14.2% of the batters he faced and walking 7.8%. He's fine on a Royals team not expected to do much in 2020, but you won't want him on your fantasy team that you're expecting good things from. Elsewhere in the Royals bullpen will be the similarly uninspiring Scott Barlow (lots of strikeouts but too many walks) and Jake Newberry (lots of walks, not enough strikeouts). Kennedy is the only one in KC right now worth considering for your fantasy bullpens.

 

Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins are set up for another good season in 2020. They won 101 games in 2019 and still went out and improved the team for 2020, adding some starting pitching and Josh Donaldson. Their bullpen was solid last year and should be again in 2020, with most of the same arms in there. Taylor Rogers will enter the season as the unquestioned closer after posting 30 saves in 36 chances and pitching to a 2.61 ERA/2.84 xFIP. He struck out 32.4% and walked only 4.0% of the batters he faced, both very strong numbers. Rogers should be one of the better, more consistent fantasy closers in 2020 and can likely be had for a good value because of a lack of name recognition.

Sergio Romo will return for the Twins, re-signing for 2020 after being acquired from the Miami Marlins at the 2019 trade deadline. Romo's slider was still sliding throughout 2019, when he put up 20 saves (17 with the Marlins) and a 3.43 ERA/4.68 xFIP. His strikeout and walk rates (24.1 K%, 6.8 BB%) don't make for an elite fantasy reliever, but those in holds leagues looking for consistency can likely draft Romo in one of the last rounds and be satisfied with their choice. Trevor May has more upside but also a bit more risk. He came up with a 2.94 ERA/4.15 xFIP in 2019, striking out 29.7% and walking 9.8% of opposing batters. May and Romo will be the main setup arms ahead of Rogers, and both should have mixed league hold value. Romo for consistency, May for upside.

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2020 Early Bullpen Outlooks - A.L. East

Welcome to 2020, fantasy friends. With football season winding down and basketball and hockey in full swing, it's time to start thinking about the 2020 baseball season.

Free agency has been a little more front-loaded this season, leaving fewer questions about rosters heading into Spring Training. Still, there will be changes between now and Opening Day, so keep an eye on our Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Depth Charts throughout the year.

Let's get started with the American League East, where not much has changed since last season, but some things may have settled down a bit. There's a lot of upside in AL East bullpens, and some potential later-round value as well. Let's dive in.

 

Updates

Updated 2/14/20: Pagan no longer on the Rays, Anderson likely closer. Workman confirmed as closer in Boston.

 

New York Yankees

The New York Yankees are World Series favorites heading into 2020. Signing Gerrit Cole moved the needle significantly, but their elite bullpen plays a huge role in their outlook as well. Aroldis Chapman will return as closer after posting 37 saves and a 2.21 ERA/2.28 FIP. His K% went down a bit from 2018, but was still an excellent 36.2%, especially when combined with his improved 10.6% BB%. Chapman should once again be one of the more popular closers on fantasy rosters.

The Yankees will also have Zach Britton, Adam Ottavino, and Tommy Kahnle returning, among others. Dellin Betances moved on to the other New York team, but he hasn't been a factor in the Bronx since 2018 due to injuries. Britton is the early favorite for the main setup/8th inning role, but any of Britton, Ottavino, and Kahnle could be solid holds league options, likely ranked in that order. There is a ton of fantasy value throughout the Yankees pitching staff.

 

Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox went through a rough 2019 in terms of the bullpen and other issues. They finally seemed to figure things out at the end of the season though, and Brandon Workman will head into Spring Training as the main closer in Boston. Workman closed out the season with a 10-1 record, 16 saves, and a 1.88 ERA/2.46 FIP. He struck out a strong 13.06 per inning, but also walked a concerning 5.65 per nine. Workman has nice upside on what could end up being a slightly rebuilding Red Sox team in 2020, but there is a little bit of concern based around his control.

Along with Workman, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, and Marcus Walden should feature prominently in the Boston bullpen. Barnes would be the best choice in holds leagues, and should also be next in line if Workman were to be hurt or ineffective. Barnes ended 2019 with a 3.78 ERA, but he struck out 38.6% of the batters he faced. He also has some control concerns (13.3 BB%), but showed some flashes of elite upside last season.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays were generally disappointing last season, but they showed some flashes and should be much improved in the 2020 season. Injuries and constant trade rumors messed with the bullpen north of the border somewhat, but Ken Giles will be entering the season healthy and as the unquestioned stopper in the Jays bullpen. When he was on the mound, Giles was excellent in 2019, posting 23 saves to go with a 1.87 ERA/2.27 FIP. He struck out 39.9% of the batters he faced and only issued walks to 8.2%. Those are elite-level numbers given a better team that should provide more save chances.

The rest of the Blue Jays bullpen is much more of a question mark, but Sam Gaviglio and Anthony Bass should play significant roles. Gaviglio was a solid enough middle reliever last season, posting a 4.61 ERA/4.64 FIP. His control was solid, as he struck out 8.28 per nine while walking just 2.07 per nine. He's not a high-upside arm and will likely be more valuable on the mound than in a fantasy lineup. Bass had similar numbers in 2019 and a similar outlook for 2020: he'll be good enough for the Blue Jays, but likely not good enough for many fantasy lineups. Bass had a 3.56 ERA/3.90 FIP with 8.06 K/9 and 3.19 BB/9. The only standard-league asset in the Blue Jays bullpen will be Ken Giles.

 

Baltimore Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles had a long, difficult 2019 season and seem almost certain to experience a similar ordeal in 2020. Still, bad teams will win some games, and a lot of them will be close, making a closer a potentially valuable fantasy piece. Mychal Givens spent time as the Orioles closer in 2019 and was okay, although he showed signs of being more than that. Overall, he ended up with 11 saves, a 4.57 ERA/4.50 FIP, and 12.29 K/9. His 3.71 BB/9 wasn't great, but it wasn't as concerning as many other closers with high strikeout rates.

Givens will have competition from Hunter Harvey perhaps as early as Spring Training, however. Harvey only pitched 6 1/3 innings at the big league level, but he posted strong numbers on the mound in Triple-A and could be given a chance to earn a significant role right out of camp. At least, he should be a holds league option in deeper formats. Richard Bleier and Shawn Armstrong should make up the rest of the late-inning bullpen options for Brandon Hyde and the Baltimore Orioles.

 

Tampa Bay Rays

As usual, the Tampa Bay Rays led the charge with creative uses of the pitching staff in 2019. Continued use of the "Opener" strategy made things messy for fantasy purposes in 2019 and will keep the theme going in 2020. Still, the Rays have several high-upside arms on the roster that could make for excellent fantasy assets depending on the way they are used. Emilio Pagan seems locked in as closer right now and ended last season with 20 saves, a 2.31 ERA/3.30 FIP, and 36.0% K%. Combined with a strong 4.9 BB%, Pagan could be one of the better fantasy closers as long as manager Kevin Cash keeps him in the ninth inning.

While Pagan's role seems mostly secure, the rest of the Rays bullpen is more of a free-for-all. Nick Anderson, Colin Poche, and Jose Alvarado will all mix into the late innings, although some will perhaps be featured as openers as well. Anderson seems like the best bet for saves now that Pagan was traded. Anderson was excellent in 2019, posting a 3.32 ERA/2.35 FIP with 15.23 K/9 and just 2.49 BB/9. He split time between the two Florida teams, starting the season with the Marlins before heading to the Rays before the trade deadline. Anderson's only issue was that when he did give up hits, he gave them up HARD. Batters seemed to have a hard time making contact against Anderson, but made hard contact when they did. If he can limit hard contact or induce more ground balls, Anderson could suddenly become one of the most effective relievers in baseball.

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2020 Closer / Relief Pitcher Offseason Rankings - Fantasy Baseball Mixed Leagues

It's never too early to start looking ahead to the next baseball season, so here we deliver our 2020 rankings to those of you looking to scratch your fantasy itch. Whether you're searching for a reprieve from a long fantasy football season or you're getting a head start on next year's keeper selections, RotoBaller has got you covered. We've assembled a collection of stout minds, including the #1 ranked expert from 2018, Nick Mariano, to help you get a jump start on your competition for the upcoming season.

With the Winter Meetings over and free-agency underway, there will be plenty of movement with these rankings before the draft season gets into full swing. Be sure to check in frequently during the offseason as we'll have updated rankings as soon as big names begin to change places.

Today, we're making a call to the bullpen. It's easy to reduce this position to "saves or nothing," but we know better than that here. While the closer's role is important, some managers are moving their best arm into a flexible role while shuffling who gets the ninth. Maddening for us, but rewarding for those paying attention. With early ADP data coming in, let's see if we can score early for 2020.

 

Relief Pitcher Ranks - 5x5 Mixed Leagues (December)

In case you missed it, our very own "Big Pick Nick" Mariano was named the #1 overall most accurate industry expert ranker for the 2018 season.

Ranking Tier Player Pos Nick
Mariano
Nicklaus Gaut Riley
Mrack
1 1 Josh Hader RP 56 55 51
2 1 Kirby Yates RP 68 72 44
3 1 Aroldis Chapman RP 71 69 57
4 2 Liam Hendriks RP 77 102 74
5 2 Roberto Osuna RP 84 91 91
6 2 Kenley Jansen RP 89 106 95
7 2 Brad Hand RP 79 146 83
8 3 Ken Giles RP 119 142 113
9 3 Edwin Diaz RP 134 123 142
10 3 Taylor Rogers RP 135 118 147
11 3 Emilio Pagan RP 139 138 134
12 3 Craig Kimbrel RP 136 158 118
13 3 Raisel Iglesias RP 160 132 158
14 3 Hector Neris RP 147 151 210
15 4 Jose Leclerc RP 183 161 174
16 4 Julio Urias SP/RP 182 165 175
17 4 Carlos Martinez SP/RP 188 190 149
18 4 Brandon Workman RP 199 148 184
19 4 Hansel Robles RP 189 179 167
20 4 Sean Doolittle RP 158 237 164
21 4 Alex Colome RP 174 205 185
22 4 Kenta Maeda SP/RP 192 176 203
23 4 Will Smith RP 198 170 221
24 4 Archie Bradley RP 177 168 251
25 4 Ian Kennedy RP 176 193 242
26 5 Keone Kela RP 210 188 223
27 5 Joe Jimenez RP 209 211 213
28 5 Nick Anderson RP 211 177 272
29 5 Giovanny Gallegos RP 226 171 266
30 5 Mark Melancon RP 232 201 256
31 6 Scott Oberg RP 255 246 276
32 6 Seth Lugo SP/RP 249 241 295
33 6 Josh James RP 272 #N/A 259
34 6 Mychal Givens RP 274 270 294
35 6 Andres Munoz RP 279 291 #N/A
36 6 Adam Ottavino RP 292 #N/A 286
37 6 Ryan Pressly RP 308 282 300
38 7 Diego Castillo SP/RP 298 #N/A #N/A
39 7 Colin Poché RP 300 #N/A #N/A
40 7 Dellin Betances RP 305 #N/A 310
41 7 Matt Barnes RP 313 #N/A #N/A
42 7 Tommy Kahnle RP 318 #N/A #N/A
43 7 James Karinchak RP 355 298 #N/A
44 7 Chad Green SP/RP 319 #N/A 355
45 7 Zack Britton RP 331 #N/A 344
46 8 Ty Buttrey RP 341 #N/A #N/A
47 8 Daniel Hudson RP 476 #N/A 218
48 8 Ryne Stanek RP 443 262 #N/A
49 8 Nick Wittgren RP 354 #N/A #N/A
50 8 Blake Treinen RP 340 #N/A 371
51 8 Emmanuel Clase RP 356 #N/A #N/A
52 8 Matt Magill RP 359 #N/A #N/A
53 8 Jose Alvarado RP 360 #N/A #N/A
54 8 Shane Greene RP 545 #N/A 195
55 8 Luke Jackson RP 478 #N/A 282
56 8 Drew Pomeranz SP/RP 383 #N/A #N/A
57 8 Wade Davis RP 404 #N/A 364
58 8 Matt Strahm SP/RP 433 #N/A 345
59 9 Michael Lorenzen RP 452 #N/A 329
60 9 Freddy Peralta SP/RP 399 #N/A #N/A
61 9 Pedro Baez RP 401 #N/A #N/A
62 9 Trevor Richards SP/RP 440 #N/A 363
63 9 Andrew Miller RP 407 #N/A #N/A
64 9 Tony Watson RP 411 #N/A #N/A
65 9 John Gant RP 423 #N/A #N/A
66 9 Randy Dobnak SP/RP 427 #N/A #N/A
67 9 Amir Garrett RP 428 #N/A #N/A
68 9 Yusmeiro Petit RP 431 #N/A #N/A
69 9 Sergio Romo RP 432 #N/A #N/A
70 9 Alex Reyes SP/RP 547 #N/A 339
71 9 Joe Kelly RP 451 #N/A #N/A
72 9 Will Harris RP 455 #N/A #N/A
73 9 Jordan Hicks RP 456 #N/A #N/A
74 9 Jeremy Jeffress RP 458 #N/A #N/A
75 10 Brad Peacock SP/RP 461 #N/A #N/A
76 10 Anthony Bass RP 542 #N/A 382
77 10 Pedro Strop RP 580 #N/A 346
78 10 Jairo Diaz RP 471 #N/A #N/A
79 10 Seranthony Dominguez RP 480 #N/A #N/A
80 10 Oliver Drake RP 496 #N/A #N/A
81 10 Collin McHugh SP/RP 498 #N/A #N/A
82 10 Chris Martin RP 502 #N/A #N/A
83 10 Andrew Cashner RP/SP 504 #N/A #N/A
84 10 Shawn Armstrong RP 507 #N/A #N/A
85 10 Steve Cishek RP 515 #N/A #N/A
86 10 Trevor May RP 521 #N/A #N/A
87 10 Kyle Crick RP 524 #N/A #N/A
88 10 Andrew Kittredge RP 525 #N/A #N/A
89 10 Corbin Burnes SP/RP 534 #N/A #N/A
90 10 Adam Conley RP 546 #N/A #N/A
91 10 Chris Devenski RP 549 #N/A #N/A
92 10 Austin Adams RP 555 #N/A #N/A
93 10 Yoshihisa Hirano RP 560 #N/A #N/A
94 10 Roenis Elias RP 561 #N/A #N/A
95 10 Felix Pena RP/SP 577 #N/A #N/A
96 10 Craig Stammen RP 578 #N/A #N/A

 

Tier One

If you had to guess, how many relievers were top-100 players in 2019 5x5 leagues? The answer is 14, with another 16 appearing between 100-150. This expands to roughly 25% of the top-200 being RP-eligible arms.

Josh Hader was electric in 2018, and many metrics improved in 2019 but were overshadowed by an issue with homers. His swinging-strike rate soared, from 19% to 22.7%, which yielded a 47.8% strikeout rate -- over six percentage points higher than the next-best qualified RP, Nick Anderson. He did this while trimming his walk rate to 6.9% from 9.8% and his .232 BABIP was close to the career .228 mark, but homers don’t factor into that. His 21.4% HR/FB rate and 1.78 HR/9 did all it could to inflate his 2.62 ERA. Strikeouts and homers, the 2019 way. Still, his 1.78 SIERA made him the only qualified RP with a mark south of 2.00 and I’m here for his being the first off the board.

Riley has Kirby Yates above Hader, which I’m not going to argue with. Yates’ 2.05 SIERA was second to Hader’s rate, while his 41.6% strikeout rate was third-best, just behind Nick Anderson. While Milwaukee had to turn to Matt Albers or Jeremy Jeffress in years past to ease Hader’s workload, Yates owned the closer role.

Then there’s Chapman, who will be 32 next year as he tries to rebound from a “down year” in which his 36.2% strikeout rate wasn’t among the league leaders. He somehow failed to capitalize on the strikeout surge of ‘19, yet his 0.47 HR/9 mark was also unharmed by the longball trend. He continues to lose bite on his fastball, averaging 98.4 MPH on his heater (down from 98.9 MPH in ‘18 and 100.1 MPH in ‘17,) which led to a reliance on the slidepiece. He threw it a career-high 31.1% in ‘19, up from 25.4% in ‘18 and 19.7% in ‘17. You can see how the scales stay balanced -- he’s navigating the aging curve well.

 

Tier Two

Here, we start to really disagree about the order. Riley and I have Liam Hendriks first, but then Riley and I have Brad Hand second while Nick G would put Hand in the midst of Tier Three. I'll have to chase him down and ask what that's about! Nick G has Roberto Osuna as his top RP in this tier, with the low WHIP likelihood probably fueling that fire. We each have Osuna over Kenley Jansen.

Osuna locked down 38 saves in 65 innings with a hearty 2.63 ERA/0.88 WHIP and 73 strikeouts. The age-24 closer has yet to log a WHIP above 1.00 after five big-league seasons. He worked around a career-high 12.3% HR/FB rate with a career-best 16.9% swinging-strike rate and yet another year with a sub-5% walk rate (that’s four straight now.) The scandals are there on a personal and team level, but Osuna’s effective on the bump and Houston enters the ninth with leads quite often.

Meanwhile, Jansen had to miss a few games at altitude due to a heart condition, but his overall 3.71 ERA/1.06 WHIP and 80 K’s in 63 frames remained strong. He’s always been a fly-ball pitcher and as such, 2018’s and 2019’s “higher” (for him) ERAs with a low WHIP add up with homers and fly outs. The last two seasons have also seen him post mortal 6% walk rates after that incredible 2.7% clip in ‘17 -- just small things worth noting. He remains a top-10 option, but he’s no longer in the upper echelon.

Hendriks’ stock gets more comfortable with Treinen going to LAD. His average fastball velocity went from 94-95 MPH to 96.5 MPH, his curveball rose from 82 MPH to 84 MPH and the rate at which he threw it soared, from 1.8% in ‘18 to 7.8%. The added heat helped, as hitters pulled a career-low 26.5% of batted balls off of him, which eased the damage done by the 49.5% fly-ball rate.

 

Tier Three

Minnesota allowed a budding star in Taylor Rogers to take the ninth after he posted a 2.63 ERA/0.95 WHIP in 2018, which he followed up with an eerily similar 2.61 ERA/1.00 WHIP in ‘19. But 30 saves last season compared to two in ‘18 makes for quite the fantasy jump, let alone going from a 28.9% strikeout rate to 32.4% while posting a 50.6% groundball rate and 4% walk rate. Seriously, it’s a sabermetric dream come true.

I want to believe in Edwin Diaz enjoying better luck, but my philosophy on “luck” when it comes to 2019’s stats has to be different. The bar has to be moved and expectations reset, because hitters’ approaches differed and the ball was altered. After posting an elite 1.96 ERA/0.79 WHIP with an absurd 1.49 SIERA, reasonable .281 BABIP, and solid 0.61 HR/9 in 2018, Diaz cratered in ‘19.

The 2.63 SIERA would have you think, “it can’t be that bad,” but it was. The 5.59 ERA/1.38 WHIP rose with a ballooned .377 BABIP and 2.33 HR/9.  A high BABIP won’t necessarily come back down just like that. Still, I would be happy to get Diaz near the 11th or 12th round of 12-team drafts as a discount RP1/2. The Dellin Betances signing does shorten the leash a bit, but Betances has his own game-action rust to deal with first.

Following the rebound theme, Craig Kimbrel faltered after joining the Cubs in the middle of the season. A lack of preseason prep and normal routine didn’t pan out, but he may have been tipping pitches. There’s a lot to unpack, but he’s a top-five closer when on. I wouldn’t draft both Diaz AND Kimbrel, but they both offer discounted pricing for a high ceiling.

When viewing the K-BB% leaderboard, you’ll see Hader, Yates, Anderson, Felipe Vazquez (who can be erased,) Hendriks, and then Ken Giles. The 1.87 ERA was his best mark since 2015, as he was another who allowed fewer homers while enjoying the strikeout spike. Interestingly enough, the 42.1% fly-ball rate was a career-high, but he survived. I wouldn't blink if he finished as a top-three closer.

Originally, I was the highest on Raisel Iglesias, but I recently dropped him. The 12 losses cut deep, but the 3.22 SIERA is consistent with his 3.31 career mark and the 31.9% strikeout rate was a career-best alongside a slight drop in walks (8.6% to 7.5%.) His HR/9 has been 1.50 and 1.61 in the past two seasons, but he couldn’t dance around it again. After surrendering an average 35.2% fly-ball rate in ‘18, he was crushed by a 43.9% mark in ‘19. Soft contact went up, but so did hard contact. The all-or-nothing swings smacked him around, and I felt I needed to drop him a bit until he proves otherwise.

Neris had a tumultuous 2018 that saw him sent to the minors, but 2019 saw him unfurl that premier splitter all season long. The 2.93 ERA/1.02 WHIP with 89 K’s in 67 ⅔ IP had him ranked 100th overall, as he cut his fly-ball rate by nearly 10 percentage points while simultaneously enjoying a 114-point drop in BABIP. Those don’t particularly jive, so I’m anticipating some give in the WHIP category for 2020.

 

Tier Four

You’ll notice I have Sean Doolittle up at 158 alongside Riley's 164 and an ice-cold 237 for Nick G. I buy his talent when not overused and I believe Davey Martinez learned his lesson in ‘19. Doolittle had a 2.72 ERA with a 51/11 K/BB ratio over 43 winnings through July 24, when he notched the save in each game of a doubleheader. That speaks to his heavy usage, and 10 appearances later he’d be placed on the 10-day Injured List with diminished velocity. He worked low-leverage spots in September and was strong throughout the playoffs, allowing two runs over 10 ⅓ IP while only walking one.

Did you know that Brandon Workman was one of eight relievers with at least 100 strikeouts, and just one of three to meet that mark while posting an ERA below 2.00? The other two are Hendriks and Yates, so I’m all for buying Workman here until other competition enters the fray.

 

Tier Five

I want to believe in Joe Jimenez over the long term, but the 3.14 SIERA in 2018 was tied to a 4.31 ERA and his 3.41 SIERA last season hid behind a 4.37 ERA. At some point, the results have to be there. After a rough July 17 outing, Jimenez posted a 2.55 ERA with 31 strikeouts to seven walks over 24 ⅔ IP. Of the seven runs allowed, five of them came on solo homers. He didn’t issue a walk over his final eight appearances of the season, so there are hints of greatness, but we must keep our heads on straight.

I already alluded to Nick Anderson’s greatness, but it’s worth highlighting. Even without a set closer’s role, he’s a stud worth starting in any format. 2019 was his first MLB season, and Anderson was inconsistent in Miami, throwing more breaking balls instead of ripping into hitters with his elite heat. Then he was traded to Tampa Bay at the deadline and proceeded to log a whopping 41/2 K/BB rate and 2.11 ERA (1.03 SIERA!) across 21 ⅓ IP.

I’m hard-pressed to see Mark Melancon holding off Will Smith for any extended period of time for closing duties, but I can’t pay up to bet against it either. We each have Smith about 30 spots ahead of where we listed Melancon. I respect taking on Melancon as your RP3 if you feel comfortable otherwise, but I wouldn't project him for 30 saves this year. I prefer Giovanny Gallegos to have more days as closer in '20 than Melancon, and certainly put up better numbers in the end. Still, until concrete word comes down then we must bake in the chance Melancon holds down the ninth all year, sigh.

 

Tier Six

Seth Lugo made the leap to fantasy-relevant elite middle reliever in 2019. Despite pitching 21 fewer innings, he struck out one more hitter compared to 2018. His 28% K-BB rate was nearly 10 percentage points above his ‘18 clip, and he largely avoided the homer boom. We can thank Citi Field for some of that friendliness. The Mets bringing on Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha bode well for Lugo’s staying in the bullpen, where he shines. Ryan Pressly is another relief arm without the closer’s job who is worth our attention.

Mychal Givens remains the Orioles' most intriguing bullpen arm -- his 86 strikeouts, 11 saves and 1.19 WHIP over 63 innings offered promise, but the 4.57 ERA and four other pitchers siphoning multiple saves left Givens outside the top-300 in 5x5 scoring. I’d prefer aiming for upside SP flyers or position players in tenuous playing-time scenarios than go with low-ceiling closers, but Givens may fill a need for those who punted saves while they await waiver-wire finds.

I don’t hold as much hope for Adam Ottavino, whose 1.31 WHIP was more indicative of his season than the 1.90 ERA. The 24.6% K-BB rate that made him so special in '18 fell to 17% in '19, with more walks leading to quicker hooks from Aaron Boone. I much prefer speculating on Andres Munoz and his 80-grade fastball as a hedge to Yates, and Scott Oberg, who may straight up edge Wade Davis before April. Munoz does need to get that 11.3% walk rate in check, though his minor league marks orbited the 15% mark so I’m not holding my breath. If Yates goes down, Munoz’s powerful 15.6% swinging-strike rate would offer top-12 RP stuff.

Meanwhile, Oberg carried an unsettling 13/11 K/BB ratio into the middle of May, but a .196 BABIP masked the 5.12 xFIP with a 1.77 ERA. This left me cold on his prospects as closer when Wade Davis hit the injured list on May 22, only for Oberg to post a 41/10 K/BB mark with a 2.95 xFIP, 2.37 FIP and 1.47 ERA between May 24 and July 31. August saw him placed on the injured list himself with blood clots in his right arm, ending his season. Davis needs to rebound from an awful 8.65 ERA/1.88 WHIP over 42 ⅔ IP in ‘19, far from a given. Our ranks jive with early NFBC ADP of 283.

 

Tier Seven

When you continue to dig down the ranks, you’ll find 100 RP-eligible arms within the top 315 players. Early NFBC ADP data has 150 total pitchers within the top-400, and I understand the latter being more useful for draft purposes. That shouldn’t dictate exactly how we play our game or construct our teams, but it’s worth noting and led me to try to make my relief ranks more robust at the back-end. Unfortunately, it opens the door for lots of volatility as the offseason plays out, opinions about bullpen usage changes, and so on. 

Folks like Chad Green, Matt Barnes, Colin Poché and Tommy Kahnle offer strikeout upside, all ranking in the top 30 of strikeout rate (and K-BB%) from relievers with at least 20 frames under their belt. This is particularly helpful if you have someone like Kyle Hendricks or Miles Mikolas.

Cleveland may be hiding 2020’s Nick Anderson in James Karinchak, who was straight up masterful across the minors in 2019. Between Rookie Ball, Double-A and Triple-A, Karinchak struck out 74 in just 30 ⅓ IP. Read that again, let it sink in. He had a cup of coffee with five MLB appearances in September, striking out eight while walking one over 5 ⅓ IP. The tools are there.

 

Tier Eight

At this point, you’re targeting talent and letting the chips fall, especially in the early offseason. We originally put these out before Blake Treinen signed with the Dodgers, but I like that landing spot for him behind Jansen. Of course, this hurts the chances of Joe Kelly or Pedro Baez being a consistent option should something happen to Jansen.

We should note that Emmanuel Clase wasn't in the first run of ranks, but he's in there now and should be considered towards the last rounds of your draft if you want to hedge Brad Hand or simply require unheralded ratio relief.

I believe Matt Magill is Seattle’s best option with Austin Adams out, though other resources like Roster Resource show Sam Tuivailala as Seattle’s closer. While Tuivailala’s 30.2% strikeout rate edges Magill by one percentage point, Magill’s 5.2% walk rate is half of Tuivailala's 10.5% rate. I'd prefer a more complete package for the ninth inning, though Seattle may see it differently. Still, I'll target the better K-BB% rates if I can help it.

 

Tiers Nine and Lower

Here’s where the fun begins, with lottery tickets abound! The bulk of the upside is wrapped into talented arms who may capitalize on a starting gig, such as Matt Strahm, Freddy Peralta, Randy Dobnak, Collin McHugh, Corbin Burnes and Elieser Hernandez. If you want a boring handful of saves, consider Steve Cishek, who always seems to find the occasional ninth inning thanks to his “Proven Closer” tag.

Jordan Hicks is recovering from Tommy John surgery that he underwent in late June 2019, and may be a factor in the second half with his flamethrower of an arm. I prefer my late-round picks going to guys who are either going to pan out or bust in the early going so that I can have that spot for waiver-wire speculating should they fail, but I understand the allure of Hicks' cannon.

One who may experience a significant rise is Pittsburgh’s Kyle Crick, who could emerge should the rebuilding Pirates deal Keone Kela. Crick has reported no setbacks in recovery from tendon repair surgery on his right index finger, an injury suffered during a fight with Felipe Vazquez. Shocking that someone would fight Vazquez, I know. Crick’s command left him in ‘19, with an awful 15.5% walk rate and 1.84 HR/9 mark, but he’d posted a 2.39 ERA/1.13 WHIP in ‘18. Just keep an eye out on his spring command.

More 2020 Fantasy Baseball Advice




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2019 Season in Review - Edwin Diaz

After a lights-out 2018 campaign, Edwin Diaz emerged into the elite class of closers heading into the 2019 season. He wrapped up his historic year with the second-most saves in a single season (57) to go along with a sparkling 1.96 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, and 44.3% K-rate. The Mariners sold high on their young hurler in the offseason by shipping Diaz from the peaceful Pacific Northwest to the bright lights of New York City to play with the Mets. The acquisition, however, turned out to be somewhat of a regrettable move for the National League club.

Getting selected as the top reliever off the board at an ADP of 51.5 in fantasy drafts last season, calling Diaz a letdown in 2019 would be an understatement. In his first taste of full-time NL action, he wrapped up a hideous campaign by cutting more than half off his save total (26) while sporting a 5.59 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. The only bright spot was that Diaz could still strike out batter's to a 39.0% K%, good enough for fifth-best in the league.

The 25-year-old's free-fall from the upper echelon of relief pitchers forced the Mets to remove him from the ninth-inning role as the team surprisingly stayed in the playoff hunt until mid-September. Where did it all go wrong for Diaz in 2019? Let's dive into the data to help us understand his frustrating year.

 

A Diaz-strous 2019

We'll start with one of the few things that went well for Diaz in his debut season as a New York Metropolitan, and that was his ability to strike batters out. To go along with his elite K-rate, the right-hander once again impressed with a 17.8% SwStr%, which was 1% lower from 2018, but still right on his career average. He achieved this top-five number with his slider making batters whiff 43.2% of the time, while his four-seamer improved nearly 5% in this category from 2018 to a 35.1% Whiff%.

Diaz has a two-pitch arsenal, which is common for relievers, but hitters took advantage of their 50/50 shot at guessing what delivery was coming last year. His slider was always an effective pitch for him through his first three big-league seasons, but he struggled with it in 2019. Coming into last season, he held batters to a lifetime .134 BA with five homers off this breaking ball, including limiting them to a .121 BA in 2018. In 2019, hitters punished this offering to a worrisome .297 average while smacking six balls out of the park.

Diaz's slider is still electric and can make batters miss as good as anyone in the league when it's utilized properly. The problem was he threw it in the zone more often than ever before in 2019, with it significantly jumping from a 34.3% Zone% in 2018 to 42.5% last season. In turn, his Whiff% on his slider in the strike zone spiraled from 37.2% in 2018, to a career-low 27.3%. His slider works best when it paints the corner or falls out of the zone, but his command of the pitch failed him.

His struggles with this delivery helped force his HR/9 to balloon from a 0.61 mark in 2018 to a disastrous 2.33 HR/9 last season, the highest number of all relievers. Meanwhile, Diaz' HR/FB doubled from his 13.2% lifetime mark to 26.8%, while he saw his batting average against also hit a career-worst .254. Statcast recorded his expected batting average (xBA) at .200, so there is some optimism since he was on the wrong end of the good luck charm.

The former All-Star also surrendered the second-highest BABIP among all pitchers (.377) after entering the season with a .291 lifetime mark. BABIP doesn't factor in home runs, so this number is a bit inflated even with his general struggles. It was no coincidence that Diaz's 3.07 xFIP and 2.63 SIERA suggested he should have only allowed nearly half the amount of runs. Still, misfortune and home run susceptibility are two dangerous chemicals to mix.

 

2020 Outlook

Diaz's defined role heading into 2020 remains up in the air after a late-season demotion last year. The Mets will undoubtedly give the Puerto Rican the first crack at the closing job to help justify sending away a promising prospect haul, but it's up to Diaz to maintain the job. Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen made it clear he won't ship the reliever away, but that doesn't eliminate the possibility that they add an end-of-the-bullpen arm this offseason as a security measure.

Diaz has clued in on his struggles with the slider and is making a point of refining it before spring training begins in February. "The slider's the most important pitch," stated Diaz. "The main goal is just to get that right again so I can be effective." He plans to throw more bullpen sessions this offseason in an attempt to recover his previous success that made him one of the most feared closers in the game.

It'll surely be something to monitor this spring whether or not Diaz can regain his dominance from previous years with this pitch. He'll likely come into the upcoming fantasy baseball season at a price in the mid-to-high 100s for ADP, creating a potential pick for an incredible value. The risk will come with it as well, but even if Diaz can get back to 80% of his 2018 results, he can be a top-five reliever at a top-15 price.




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Closers and Saves Report - Week 26 Waiver Wire

Well, it's over. Baseball's regular season comes to a close this weekend, and with it most fantasy leagues will wrap up as well. Daily fantasy will go strong into the postseason, but most standard leagues will be looking toward next season, especially dynasty and keeper leagues. While the vast majority of fantasy players play in redraft leagues, a dedicated few keep their rosters (or at least parts of their rosters) year in and year out.

This week's Closers and Saves Report will take a look at who is most likely to close for each team to kick off the 2020 season. This is very, very far from a science, as players will get injured, free agents will be signed, and trades will reshape bullpens throughout the offseason. But based on what we know right now, assumptions can be made. And you know what they say about assumptions, right? "Go ahead and make them, because we don't know anything else." That's the quote, right?

Take a look at our Closer Depth Chart, which is updated daily. Let's jump in and take a look at what's been going on in the bullpens around baseball.

 

Bullpen News for Week 26

Washington Nationals

The only pressing bullpen news this week is that it looks like Sean Doolittle has reclaimed his role. He should be the team's closer for the playoffs and could perhaps nab another save this weekend before the regular season ends.

 

Short Relief- Bullpen Crystal Ball

Baltimore Orioles- Hunter Harvey

Hunter Harvey has impressed enough this season (while all other Orioles relievers have disappointed more than enough) to make it a safe bet that Harvey works as the closer in Baltimore next year.

Boston Red Sox- Brandon Workman

Brasier was supposed to do it. Barnes was supposed to do it. Eovaldi was supposed to do it. None of them did, so Brandon Workman got a chance and actually did it. Workman has been solid and should go into the 2020 season as the Red Sox closer.

New York Yankees- Aroldis Chapman

It's Aroldis Chapman, he's not worried about competition. Ottavino will continue to set him up as part of one of the league's best bullpens again in 2020.

Tampa Bay Rays- Jose Alvarado/Emilio Pagan

The Rays don't really like setting a closer and pigeon-holing him into the ninth inning, so they probably won't do that next year either. A healthy Jose Alvarado will likely pair up with Emilio Pagan to lock down games in 2020. Nick Anderson will have a role as well.

Toronto Blue Jays- Ken Giles

Ken Giles was very much expected to be traded before the deadline this season. He remained in Toronto, however, and will keep the closer's role there assuming he remains with the team through the winter. Next in line would likely be Derek Law.

 

Chicago White Sox- Alex Colome

Alex Colome was also expected to be traded but wasn't and should retain his role if he sticks around. If not, Aaron Bummer would be ready to take over the closer's role and has much more upside than Colome.

Cleveland Indians- Brad Hand

Brad Hand has struggled a bit in the second half this season, but he's still easily the best reliever in Cleveland. Strikeout artist James Karinchak is exciting, but he won't supplant Hand next season.

Detroit Tigers- Joe Jimenez

The Tigers "closer of the future" finally got a chance to close this season after the Tigers sent Shane Greene to the Braves at the deadline. Jimenez will resume his role next season, but isn't a particularly exciting fantasy prospect.

Kansas City Royals- Ian Kennedy

Ian Kennedy, ladies and gentlemen. He came out of the failed starter ranks and dominated (at times) as the closer in Kansas City. He should be right back in there next season and could be a valuable trade chip for the rebuilding Royals at the 2020 deadline.

Minnesota Twins- Taylor Rogers

It took a while and a few committees, but Rogers emerged as the closer for the AL Central Champion Twins and will be right back in there next season. The team may pair him with a right-handed reliever sometimes, but Rogers will be the arm to own in Minnesota for sure.

 

Houston Astros- Roberto Osuna

The Astros bullpen has a ton of talent but hasn't been as good as it should be this season. Osuna should return as closer next season, but Ryan Pressly and Will Harris should be around as well.

Los Angeles Angels- Hansel Robles

Ty Buttrey had some dominant stretches this season and if he can improve his consistency a bit heading into 2020, he could be one of the better relievers in baseball. He was used in a fireman role this season, and should return to that role next year with Hansel Robles, who has been solid in his own right, returning to the closer's role.

Oakland A's- Liam Hendriks

Liam Hendriks took over the ninth inning from Blake Treinen this season and never looked back. Hendriks should return to the ninth inning next year in what will be his first full season as a closer, and he's a safe bet to make the All-Star team again.

Seattle Mariners- Anthony Bass/Matt Magill

The Mariners have relied on a closer-by-committee most of this season and that's unlikely to change going into next year. Barring trades or free agent signings, Matt Magill and Anthony Bass should be the main closers in Seattle next season. Bass gets the slight nod based on usage this year.

Texas Rangers- Jose Leclerc

Jose Leclerc went through some very rough patches this season but was ultimately able to put together a decent year. He'll enter next season as the closer and ideally will be able to keep the job throughout the season. He still has plenty of upside if he can avoid the deep slumps.

 

 

Atlanta Braves- Shane Greene/Mark Melancon

The Braves needed bullpen help at the deadline, so they strengthened their bullpen with Mark Melancon and Chris Martin, and nabbed the closer they wanted in Shane Greene. Then things went awry. Greene's peripherals finally caught up to him while Melancon went 11-for-11 in save chances. Greene is still likely to take over in 2020 based on what the Braves gave up to get him, but if his struggles continue, Melancon would be the next to step in.

Miami Marlins- Jose Urena/Drew Steckenrider

The Marlins have tried Jose Urena in many different roles: starter (failed), ace (laughable), and now closer (failing). He hasn't been good in any of them, but the Marlins seem to think he has what it takes to be a closer. He might head into next season with the job, but Drew Steckenrider should be healthy for the start of the season and could take the job as well. It'll be an awfully unexciting competition in Spring Training.

New York Mets- Edwin Diaz

Edwin Diaz's 2019 was, in one word, bad. But he still showed signs of being the pitcher the Mets thought he was when they traded for him. He should enter 2020 as the closer unless his struggles visibly continue in the spring. Seth Lugo will resume his fireman role or may reportedly even get a shot at the rotation.

Philadelphia Phillies- Hector Neris

The Phillies bullpen went through several stretches of closer-by-committee this season, but Hector Neris ultimately settled into the ninth on his own. He should retain that role next season, although the Phillies are one of the top teams that could look to add to their bullpen in the offseason.

Washington Nationals- Sean Doolittle

Sean Doolittle was the only good part of the Nats bullpen this season for a while, but then he started to pitch like the rest of them. Then he got hurt. But he's back and pitching well again and should have a hold of the ninth inning going into next season.

 

Chicago Cubs- Craig Kimbrel

The Craig Kimbrel signing has mostly been a disaster for the Cubs. But they won't admit that by making Rowan Wick their closer in 2020, right? It would be a shock to see anyone besides Kimbrel named the closer regardless of his stats to start the season, although unless Kimbrel figures things out, he won't stick in the ninth for too long.

Cincinnati Reds- Raisel Iglesias

Raisel Iglesias had some ups and downs this season but was overall a solid closer for the surging Reds. He'll return to the role in 2020 and should have an improved team around him, perhaps leading to more save chances.

Milwaukee Brewers- Josh Hader

Josh Hader is one of the hardest pitchers to hit in baseball, and that, of course, makes for a great closer. Corey Knebel should be back and healthy, but Hader has seemingly graduated from the role of fireman and into the role of closer.

Pittsburgh Pirates- Keone Kela

Kela only recently took over as closer in Pittsburgh but he should have the inside track to the role for the 2020 season. With Felipe Vazquez's playing future unknown, Kela could be the one in 2020.

St. Louis Cardinals- Carlos Martinez

Jordan Hicks won't be back on the mound until late next season, so Carlos Martinez should get more chances to close out games for the Cardinals. Unless he's stretched back out into the rotation, Martinez should keep up his solid but unspectacular ninth innings in 2020.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks- Archie Bradley

After a season where the Diamondbacks tried throwing all kinds of things to make them stick, Archie Bradley was the one who finally did. He's been solid in the ninth inning and should be the team's closer heading into 2020.

Colorado Rockies- Jairo Diaz

The Rockies bullpen was an absolute disaster almost all season, with Opening Day closer Wade Davis posting an ERA close to NINE! Jairo Diaz brought a bit of stability to the ninth inning towards the end of the season and might have the inside track for 2020. Davis will certainly be given another chance, but there's no reason to think he'll suddenly figure it out in the spring.

Los Angeles Dodgers- Kenley Jansen

Kenley Jansen hasn't been nearly as dominant this season as in previous years, but he's been good enough to still have the closer's job in 2020. The Dodgers will likely try to rebuild some of their bullpen in the offseason, but Jansen's job should be safe.

San Diego Padres- Kirby Yates

Kirby Yates has been one of the best closers in the game this season and will continue his role as closer in 2020. He should draw plenty of trade interest in the offseason, but he'd close for almost any other team as well, so his job is in little danger.

San Francisco Giants- Shaun Anderson/Jandel Gustave

Will Smith has been a very solid closer for the Giants this season, but he's an impending free agent. Shaun Anderson has the "stuff" to close but hasn't quite had the results yet. He may be the front-runner for now, but he and Jandel Gustave could battle it out in Spring Training 2020.

 

 

Best of the Season

Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres- 60 2/3 IP, 41 SV, 101 K, 1.19 ERA, 0.89 WHIP

Padres closer Kirby Yates doesn't just lead the league in saves, he's also second in fWAR (3.4) and third in strikeout-to-walk ratio. It's been an excellent season for the 32-year-old, and there's no reason to think he won't be just as good next year.

Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees- 56 IP, 37 SV, 84 K, 2.25 ERA, 1.13 WHIP

Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman was not quite as untouchable this season as he's been other years, but he still racked up almost 40 saves and posted a solid 2.0 fWAR. Much was made of his decline in velocity, but he was still able to be an effective closer all season long.

Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers- 73 1/3 IP, 36 SV, 134 K, 2.58 ERA, 0.79 WHIP

Josh Hader had a very interesting season in that he was very hard to hit, but when he did get hit, he got hit hard. Still, he posted 36 saves and led the league in K% with an astounding 48.2%.

Liam Hendriks, Oakland A's- 83 1/3 IP, 24 SV, 121 K, 1.62 ERA, 0.95 WHIP

A's closer Liam Hendriks took over after Blake Treinen proved ineffective, which limited the number of save chances he was given. Hendriks is on this list because he led all relief pitchers in fWAR with a 3.6 mark. He was seventh in K% and fifth in strikeout-to-walk ratio. With a full season in the closer's role next year, Hendriks should develop into one of the game's best.

 

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Closers and Saves Report - Week 25 Waiver Wire

Another week of head-to-head fantasy playoffs or another week closer to wrapping up in rotisserie leagues. Either way, here's hoping it all went well for you! Everyone's favorite Closers and Saves Report writer made the playoffs in every one of his leagues and got knocked out of said playoffs in every single league last week. In one of those leagues, he was up 9-1-0 up until Saturday afternoon. When he checked in again on Sunday evening, he had somehow lost 5-4-1, just one quality start away from tying 5-5-0 (and he would have won on a tiebreaker). So in retrospect...fantasy baseball is stupid and you should never waste your time on it.

In case you do, for some reason, decide to waste your time on it...Bullpens matter, especially in the fantasy playoffs where teams are trotting out guys no one has ever heard of and routinely using three pitchers to get the three outs in the late innings. The Rays and Dodgers played an 11-inning game on Wednesday night and combined to use 18 pitchers, only one of whom got more than six outs.

Take a look at our Closer Depth Chart, which is updated daily. Let's jump in and take a look at what's been going on in the bullpens around baseball.

 

Bullpen News for Week 25

Pittsburgh Pirates

The biggest bullpen news of the week was quite disturbing, as Pirates closer Felipe Vázquez was arrested on a series of disturbing and disgusting charges. He won't pitch again this season and hopefully won't see a big-league mound for a long time. The Pirates don't seem like they're planning on winning too many games for the remainder of the season, but Keone Kela should be the one on the mound if a save situation comes up. Kela has been outstanding lately, giving up just one earned run in his last 19 innings pitched. Richard Rodriguez and Francisco Liriano could mix in for a save chance now and then if Kela ends up in more of a fireman role, but Kela is the one to roster in the Pittsburgh bullpen.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The question, "Is Kenley Jansen good again?" was likely on the minds of Dodgers fans until he blew his career-high eighth save of the season on Wednesday night. Jansen had indeed been good before that, putting together three strong outings in a row, but Wednesday's two runs in one inning blown save changed the question quickly to, "Is Kenley Jansen bad again?" There's plenty to worry about from a bullpen perspective for the Dodgers heading into the playoffs. With most of the rest of their team playing excellent baseball, it's worth wondering what they'll do with the bullpen heading into October. Jansen could get tons of rest going forward, or the Dodgers may want him throwing as much as possible in an attempt to get him right. Either way, he's a risky fantasy option much like he's a risky real-life playoff option.

Seattle Mariners

Matt Magill was the head of the Seattle closer committee for a bit, but then he got hurt. No one really knew what would happen when he came back, but it looks like he's healthy and back on the mound, and also back on top of the Seattle committee. He'll still cede some opportunities to Anthony Bass and Sam Tuivailala, but Magill is the arm to roster from the Mariners bullpen for any fantasy teams desperate for saves.

 

Short Relief

  • Blake Parker has resurfaced in the late innings in Philadelphia. He won't take over as closer, but he could suddenly have some holds league relevance behind closer Hector Neris.
  • Josh Hader was unavailable for a save opportunity this week, so Drew Pomeranz, of all people, closed out the game with two scoreless innings. Pomeranz has actually been incredible as a reliever and could have some legitimate holds league value to close out the year.
  • Giants closer Will Smith missed a little time with a back injury, but he's back on the mound and should get the majority of the save chances to wind down the season.
  • Craig Kimbrel is finally back from the injured list, and with the Cubs needing every win possible to keep their playoff hopes alive, he could end up thrown into high-leverage work right away.

 

Roster Moves of the Week

Adds

Keone Kela, Pittsburgh Pirates- Kela should be taking most of whatever save opportunities the Pirates have left. He's been almost unhittable lately and could provide fantasy teams with a few saves to wrap up the year.

Matt Magill, Seattle Mariners- Returning from an injury, Magill has reclaimed his throne atop the Seattle closer committee. He's not a must-own but could record a save or two going forward.

 

Drops

Felipe Vazquez, Pittsburgh Pirates- Vazquez won't pitch again this season after being arrested this week. He should be dropped in all redraft formats and could be dropped by Major League Baseball as well.

 

Best of the Week

Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds- 4 IP, 4 SV, 6 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP

Reds closer Raisel Iglesias had a rare four-save week, allowing just two hits while striking out six in his four innings of work.

Roberto Osuna, Houston Astros- 4 IP, 3 SV, 5 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP

Astros closer Roberto Osuna allowed just two hits and a walk in his four innings this week, saving three games and striking out five.

Brandon Workman, Boston Red Sox- 4 1/3 IP, 3 SV, 6 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.92 WHIP

Red Sox closer Brandon Workman worked well this week, recording 13 outs without allowing a run. He struck out six and recorded three saves.

 

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Closers and Saves Report - Week 24 Waiver Wire

Another quiet bullpen week in the fantasy playoffs (for most leagues) leading up to the real playoffs (for both leagues). There were some changes in bullpen hierarchies this week, but they mostly affected setup men and seventh inning guys. Fantasy managers in holds leagues may have seen some things happen this week, but in standard leagues there was really only one big piece of news, and it was an MRI on the arm of a Hand.

Here's hoping all regular readers of this article are killing it in the fantasy playoffs or hanging onto first place in their rotisserie leagues. It's a long season and baseball makes for the most involved fantasy sport, so cheers to all of you who have been here for the ride all along.

Take a look at our Closer Depth Chart, which is updated daily. Let's jump in and take a look at what's been going on in the bullpens around baseball.

 

Bullpen News for Week 24

Cleveland Indians

Cleveland had a bit of a scare in their bullpen, as closer Brad Hand had to go in for an MRI on his arm. They received good news, though, as the MRI came out clean. Hand will likely take a couple of games off and will then need to build back up a bit. In Wednesday's game, the Cleveland bullpen used three different pitchers to get the last three outs of the game. Nick Wittgren started the ninth inning and got one out. Oliver Perez then came in and got the second out of the inning. Adam Cimber followed, getting the last out and earning the official save for the game. Hand isn't expected to miss too much time, but there doesn't look like there will be anyone worth picking up in the meantime. The most desperate of fantasy managers would probably be best off with Wittgren if a Cleveland pitcher is the last possible option.

Seattle Mariners

Matt Magill was heading the Seattle closer committee for a while, but Sam Tuivailala got a save chance on Wednesday and was replaced by Anthony Bass when he started to struggle. Bass seems to have perhaps jumped to the committee throne, but despite a much less temporary timeline, the recommendation for the Seattle bullpen is similar to that of the Hand-less Cleveland bullpen: avoid if at all possible.

New York Mets

Justin Wilson earned a save this week, and a four-out one at that. It was only his second save of the year, but he seems like he could mix into the ninth inning for the Mets. Seth Lugo is still the best arm in the bullpen, but he'll pitch multiple innings and needs time off. Edwin Diaz should still factor in as well, but he's shown more than enough for even the Mets to know he can't be relied upon on his own. Wilson makes for a decent desperation grab but isn't anywhere close to a must-own in any format. He's a decent enough grab in holds leagues, though.

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies bullpen has been a disaster all season, but it looks like Jairo Diaz has taken his opportunity as a member of a closer committee and turned himself into their full-time closer. There may still be other mixing in on occasion, but it looks like Diaz is the closer in Denver until the end of the season.

 

Short Relief

  • Kyle Crick is done for the season in Pittsburgh after injuring his hand in a fight with his team's closer, Felipe Vazquez. That leaves Richard Rodriguez and Francisco Liriano as the main setup guys to work behind Vazquez.
  • Jose Urena, who was bad as a starter, is surprising no one except Marlins manager Don Mattingly by being bad as a closer. The Fish will likely give him the rest of the season to figure it out, but he's not a reliable fantasy option.

 

Roster Moves of the Week

Adds

Jairo Diaz, Colorado Rockies - Diaz has seemingly taken over as closer for the Rockies, shedding his committee mates and leaving them all in setup roles. Diaz is the only widely-available option this week who is likely to collect more than a save or two for the rest of the season.

Mariners Relievers?, Seattle Mariners - Fantasy players absolutely desperate for saves should keep an eye on the Mariners bullpen to see if Matt Magill, Anthony Bass, or Sam Tuivailala end up taking over the ninth. If anyone happens to take over, he'd be worth picking up only in deeper leagues.

 

Drops

Rockies Relievers Not Named Jairo Diaz, Colorado Rockies - With Diaz taking over, (see above. Like, seriously right above this.) all other Rockies relievers will slide back into setup and middle relief roles. Diaz is the only Rockies reliever worth picking up.

 

Best of the Week

Jairo Diaz, Colorado Rockies - 5 IP, 3 SV, 4 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.80 WHIP

Diaz is all over this week's article, but he's definitely earned his spot here: a scoreless week with three saves and four strikeouts while allowing just three hits and a walk will do that.

Felipe Vázquez, Pittsburgh Pirates - 3 1/3 IP, 3 SV, 6 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.60 WHIP

Not only did Vazquez presumably win a fight against Kyle Crick this week, but he also saved three games while striking out six and not allowing a run.

Jose Leclerc, Texas Rangers - 4 IP, 3 SV, 6 K, 2.25 ERA, 1.50 WHIP

Leclerc wasn't great this week as shown by the four hits and two walks he allowed, but he earned a save in all three of his chances and struck out six batters while only allowing one run to cross the plate.

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Closers and Saves Report - Week 23 Waiver Wire

A particularly quiet bullpen week leading into- or starting, depending on your league- the fantasy playoffs makes for less drama, but maybe more worry? Kind of the whole "calm before the storm" type of thing. It almost seems like since sort of nothing happened in bullpens this week, maybe everything will happen next week, right in the fantasy playoffs. We'll see.

This week, not a lot happened, but an established closer started to struggle again while a brand new closer who wasn't good as a starter showed that (gasp!) he might not be good as a closer either. Meanwhile, a hurt closer got back on the mound and a few young future closers got their first taste of a save. Also, Edwin Diaz.

Take a look at our Closer Depth Chart, which is updated daily. Let's jump in and take a look at what's been going on in the bullpens around baseball.

 

Bullpen News for Week 23

Miami Marlins

Jose Urena returned from the injured list and, as promised, he almost immediately slid into the closer's role. Perplexingly overrated by the team as a starter (they called him their ace), Urena does have velocity going for him. He doesn't miss bats and rarely strikes guys out, but if he was throwing 98 as a starter, maybe he could touch 100 in a relief role and get a few more swings and misses. Not so much. Still sitting between 96 and 98, Urena picked up a save in his first chance, pitching a clean 1-2-3 10th inning. His next outing though? Not so good. Urena was handed a two run lead and before long, the Pirates walked off with a win. Urena is still likely to remain in the closer's role until the end of the season as the Marlins will want to see what he might be able to do in the future. How many save chances they'll have to give him remains the issue, though. He's only worth owning on teams desperate for maybe two or three more saves.

Cleveland Indians

Cleveland closer Brad Hand was awesome. He made the All-Star Game. Then he was awful. For almost two months, he posted an ERA close to seven. He got a vote of confidence from his manager, and then just like that, he was good again. For a little while. This week, however, Hand struggled again. Given a four-run lead, Hand gave up a two run blast before loading the bases and only getting one out. He was pulled from the game and Nick Wittgren was able to close it out and earn a save. Hand owes him...a round of applause. He'll likely get another vote of confidence if necessary, but it's clear that Wittgren is his handcuff and Hand's owners may want to handcuff him if they have the roster space.

Washington Nationals

Sean Doolittle is back from the IL, but with the Nationals focusing on the real-life playoffs, he may not be right back into the closer's role. He seems healthy, but he'll work lower-leverage situations at least for now, leaving Daniel Hudson as the most likely National to earn saves. Doolittle should take over before long, though, making him a solid target for teams planning a deep run in the fantasy playoffs.

Chicago Cubs

Craig Kimbrel is hurt. Again. He'll go on the injured list, leaving closing duties to a mix of Rowan Wick, Pedro Strop, and Steve Cishek. Wick might stay in his setup role, leaving Cishek and Strop as the saves candidates. Neither is a must-add, but either one could potentially help a fantasy playoff team with a couple of saves here and there.

 

 

Short Relief

  • Edwin Diaz learned a new grip for his slider, borrowing some knowledge from Jacob deGrom. Edwin Diaz is no Jacob deGrom, especially not this season. Seth Lugo continues to be the most valuable member of the Mets bullpen.
  • Andres Munoz earned a save this week. He'll probably earn a ton more in his career, but the Padres ninth inning belongs to Kirby Yates for now.
  • Reyes Moronta is out for the year and at least part of next year as well. He's dealing with a torn labrum and while he still may end up as the closer of the future for the Giants, that future just got a little further away.
  • Josh James also earned a save this week. Sure to earn many more throughout his career, he'll work ahead of Roberto Osuna for at least the rest of this season.

 

Roster Moves of the Week

Adds

Jose Urena, Miami Marlins- Ew, gross. Only the most desperate owners need to target him, but he will at least get the chance to come in for saves for the rest of the month.

Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals- Dropped in many leagues, Doolittle could be a solid contributor in the later games of a fantasy playoff matchup.

Nick Wittgren, Cleveland Indians- Really, really desperate for saves? Wittgren is the Brad Hand-cuff and might jump into some ninth innings if Hand keeps slumping.

Pedro Strop or Steve Cishek, Chicago Cubs- One of these two will be on the mound in save situations for the Cubs. Owners looking for saves can flip a coin and pick either guy for now. Hopefully, there will be a bit more clarity soon.

 

Drops

Ryne Stanek, Miami Marlins- Stanek's time as Marlins closer was brief and brutal. He'll work in a setup or middle relief role ahead of closer Jose Urena, mostly because Marlins manager Don Mattingly is not creative enough to use him in the opener role he excelled in with the other Florida team.

 

Best of the Week

Mark Melancon, Atlanta Braves- 2 1/3 IP, 3 SV, 5 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP

Braves closer Mark Melancon had a perfect week, saving three games and striking out five without allowing a single base runner.

Emilio Pagan, Tampa Bay Rays- 5 IP, 3 SV, 7 K, 1.80 ERA, 0.40 WHIP

Rays closer Emilio Pagan pitched five innings this week, striking out seven while saving three games. He allowed a run on two hits.

 

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Closers and Saves Report - Week 22 Waiver Wire

It was a nice and quiet week for most of the world's bullpens this week, a welcome change in a season that has experienced almost non-stop relief pitching turmoil. With the fantasy playoffs approaching rapidly for most and already arriving for some, every save, hold, strikeout, and ERA fraction could be the difference between a win and a loss.

A closer got a vote of confidence and proved his manager right. Another closer is on his way back from an IL stay that sure did seem like as much a mental break as it did a physical one. A team recorded a save this week that had not recorded a save all month. All that and more, served warm and fragrant right to your screens, next.

Take a look at our Closer Depth Chart, which is updated daily. Let's jump in and take a look at what's been going on in the bullpens around baseball.

 

Bullpen News for Week 22

Miami Marlins

The Marlins got a save! Ryne Stanek, who was acquired at the deadline from the Rays, earned the Marlins first save for the month of August this week. The team seems to be trying hard to use him as their closer, even though the results haven't been great so far. Still, it seems he's moved close to the top of the committee. For now. Jose Urena, Marlins opening day starter and Atlanta Braves Super Villain, will reportedly return from the IL in a relief role and the team wants to try him out as a closer. He hasn't ever really been a good starter, but he does seem to maybe have the "stuff" to succeed in a shorter role. He throws hard and tends to fare decently enough the first time through a batting order. He's more than likely a showcase piece for the Marlins, who will hope to move him this winter.

Washington Nationals

Nationals closer Sean Doolittle struggled for a stretch and ended up on the IL with a diagnosis of right knee tendinitis. While that could certainly have been an issue that caused his struggles, the IL stint came at a great time for Doolittle to get a needed mental rest as well. He should come back stronger down the stretch and once again be one of the top left-handed relievers in the game. Roenis Elias is also on his way back from the IL and should strengthen the Nationals bullpen leading up to Doolittle's ninth inning.

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies bullpen has been...well, Rocky. not great this season. Wade Davis failed miserably in his second chance after Scott Oberg was forced to the IL. It seems a committee made up of Jairo Diaz, Carlos Estevez, and Bryan Shaw has formed in Denver, and Diaz looks like he has the slightest edge for now. It could be a true committee and lefty Jake McGee might mix in as well, but for now owners completely starved for saves and willing to take a chance on a Colorado reliever should target Diaz.

 

Short Relief

  • Keynan Middleton is back on the Angels roster after a successful recovery from Tommy John Surgery. He won't close, but he could be used in some high-leverage innings and might develop value in holds leagues.
  • Nick Goody looks like he's worked his way to the second spot in the Cleveland bullpen. He's been the main setup man for closer Brad Hand and should have holds league value.
  • Speaking of Brad Hand, he's out of his extended slump and back to dominating ninth innings.
  • Edwin Diaz is allegedly using a new grip: Jacob deGrom's slider grip is now in Edwin Diaz's hands. He struck out the side on Wednesday after a few days off, and maybe it's a sign of good things to come.

 

Roster Moves of the Week

Adds

Jose Urena, Miami Marlins- Urena is by no means a must-add, but he should be coming back as the closer and he's likely available in most leagues. If you're desperate for saves, he'll at least have the chance to earn a few.

Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals- Some owners thought his injury was season-ending and dropped him. Probably not in most leagues, but if he's available in yours, snatch him up before someone else does.

Jairo Diaz, Colorado Rockies- Only for those most desperate for saves, Diaz looks like he may be atop the Colorado committee and could pick up a save or two now and then.

 

Drops

Nationals Relievers Not Named Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals- Doolittle should be back from the IL and in his closer's role. The committee is done in the capital, and Doolittle will again be the only reliever worth owning in standard formats.

 

Best of the Week

Brad Hand, Cleveland Indians- 3 IP, 3 SV, 2 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP

Brad Hand was BAD for a while, but he got a vote of confidence from his manager and has been excellent since then. He saved three games this week while allowing just two hits.

Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks- 2 2/3 IP, 3 SV, 2 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP

Diamondbacks closer Archie Bradley locked down three games this week, allowing just a walk and a hit while recording eight outs.

 

 

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Closers and Saves Report - Week 21 Waiver Wire

The more NFL rumblings we hear, the closer we are to the fantasy baseball playoffs. With sports news fully engrossed with helmets and frostbitten feet, baseball rumbles along through August. The lack of a waiver trade deadline has made August a bit quieter than usual in the baseball world, but there's still tons going on, especially in bullpens.

One of the best closers of the first half got a vote of confidence from his manager this week after an awful stretch. One of the worst bullpens in baseball added a bunch of guys at the deadline only to...still be really, really bad. A guy who used to be one of baseball's best got a late start to the season then wasn't quite the best anymore, then made it worse by getting hurt and leaving his team's bullpen in shambles. Okay, was that all dramatic enough? Cool, let's jump in.

Take a look at our Closer Depth Chart, which is updated daily. Let's jump in and take a look at what's been going on in the bullpens around baseball.

 

Bullpen News for Week 21

Cleveland Indians

Cleveland closer Brad Hand was one of the best closers in baseball for the first half of this season and for most of last season. He was named to the All-Star Team but struggled in his appearance. Hand blew a save on Wednesday to mark three straight blown saves, capping off an awful two-month stretch where he's put up a 7.32 ERA and a 2.03 WHIP. He's looked like the Brad Hand the Marlins gave up on several years ago, not the one who they regretted not trying out in a high leverage role. Still, Hand's velocity seems fine, so it's likely not an injury that's leading to his struggles. It's been mostly his location that has changed, but that's something that he might be able to fix from one outing to the next. Nick Wittgren and Adam Cimber would be alternate options, but Hand is by far the most talented reliever in Cleveland's bullpen. Manager Terry Francona said, "We can't run from Brad," so it looks like he'll hold down the role and should come out of his funk before long.

Colorado Rockies

Okay folks, so the Rockies bullpen...what a mess. Wade Davis struggled all year (at home) and was eventually replaced by Scott Oberg. Oberg did fairly well for a while, but his season is over due to a blood clot issue. Davis got a chance to jump back in and gave up three runs in his first two outings. Not three runs total, but three runs in each of his first two outings. He just cannot get guys out in Denver. Carlos Estevez looks like he's leading the current closer committee for the Rockies, but Jake McGee, Jairo Diaz, and Bryan Shaw might all get some ninth innings looks as well.

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners traded two of their top relievers to the Nationals at the deadline, and have had a bullpen in flux since then. Anthony Bass seemed like the logical choice, and he did work out for a bit, earning two saves. But Matt Magill kind of appeared out of thick Pacific Northwest air and earned two saves in two days, quickly taking the throne as head of Seattle's committee. He got a third straight save chance, but three wasn't the charm this time, as he blew a save against the Rays. Still, his usage shows that he should remain atop the committee, at least until he has another bad outing.

Washington Nationals

Sean Doolittle, the only somewhat solid and consistent member of the Nationals bullpen, ended up on the IL this week after a rough four-run outing. It's a huge blow to the Nationals pen, who were already having plenty of trouble getting a lead to the ninth inning. With Doolittle out, Daniel Hudson looks like he might head the committee in the meantime. He's been the most consistent arm in the bullpen since the trade deadline. Hunter Strickland and Wander Suero figure to see some chances as well, along with everyone's favorite: Fernando Rodney.

 

Short Relief

  • Craig Kimbrel is back, so no more Pedro Strop blowing saves for the Cubs. Rowan Wick has worked his way up the bullpen hierarchy and looks like the top setup man to Kimbrel.
  • Not that he was going to take Kimbrel's inning anyway, but the Cubs confirmed that Brandon Morrow will not be back this year and in fact may be done with his baseball career all together. He needs another surgery on his elbow and hasn't decided if he's going to try to rehab it all the way back into pitching shape.

 

Roster Moves of the Week

Adds

Matt Magill, Seattle Mariners - Magill took hold of the committee in Seattle and looked good in his first two save chances. He blew the third, but did well enough that he should have a chance to close again soon. He's not a must-add, but could be a decent source of saves if he can hang onto the job.

Daniel Hudson or Hunter Strickland, Washington Nationals - It's probably best to avoid the Nationals bullpen entirely with Sean Doolittle on the IL, but those desperate for saves could take a chance on Hudson or Strickland. Someone is going to close games while Doolittle is gone, and these two make the most sense.

Carlos Estevez, Colorado Rockies - Another head-of-the-committee guy, Estevez looks like the only guy in Colorado who might be able to take the job and run with it. He's not a must-own either, but could be a decent under-the-radar grab for a team in dire need of saves.

 

Drops

Scott Oberg, Colorado Rockies - Oberg finally got his chance to be the closer in Colorado, but a blood clot had a different idea, knocking him out for the rest of the season.

Pedro Strop, Chicago Cubs - With Craig Kimbrel back and Rowan Wick jumping Strop in the hierarchy for top setup man in Chicago, Strop can be let go.

 

Best of the Week

Roberto Osuna, Houston Astros - 4 IP, 3 SV, 5 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP

Astros closer Roberto Osuna had the best week among closers, saving four games and striking out five while allowing just two hits in four scoreless innings.

Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds - 3 1/3 IP, 3 SV, 5 K, 2.70 ERA, 0.60 WHIP

Reds closer Raisel Iglesias had a three-save week as well, closing out every game he pitched in this week. He struck out five and allowed just a solo home run and a walk.

Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres - 3 IP, 3 SV, 5 K, 3.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP

Rounding out the three closers who earned three saves this week is Padres stopper Kirby Yates. He struck out five and allowed a run on three hits, but saved every game he pitched in.

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Closers and Saves Report - Week 20 Waiver Wire

It wasn't a huge week in terms of bullpen news, which was actually kind of nice after two weeks of shuffling and hustling throughout Major League Baseball's bullpens. There were some smaller things that happened this week though, that could lead to bigger news down the road. Some trade deadline acquisitions don't look like they're working out, with some bullpens somehow looking worse off now than they did before the deadline.

Some bullpens scrapped what seemed like a good idea without ever really giving that idea a chance in the first place. Injuries, of course, played a role this week as they do seemingly every week of the baseball season. With fantasy playoffs coming soon, it's critical to have your bullpens set and ready to succeed in the games that will matter the most.

Take a look at our Closer Depth Chart, which is updated daily. Let's jump in and take a look at what's been going on in the bullpens around baseball.

 

Bullpen News for Week 20

Atlanta Braves

The Braves picked up Chris Martin from the Rangers, Mark Melancon from the Giants, and Shane Greene from the Tigers. Wow! All set with a brand new bullpen, right? Not so much. Martin hasn't been great in his seventh inning role, Greene has already been removed from the closer's role in favor of Melancon, and Melancon has struggled mightily in the ninth inning (despite providing the Braves with the first 1-2-3 inning in a save situation since mid-July). Jerry Blevins ended up with a save this week for the Braves, and Luke Jackson looks like he just might make his way back into the ninth inning before long. It's a mess in Atlanta's bullpen, but Greene still figures to work his way back into the closer's role before long. For now, Melancon is the head of the committee, but that's subject to change on a daily basis.

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox hyped up Nathan Eovaldi as the incoming closer once he was ready to return from the injured list. He didn't do great in his first few relief outings while at the same time Brandon Workman was working, man. Workman took the ninth inning and didn't look back, and he's been excellent for several weeks now. Eovaldi, meanwhile, worked as an opener and will reportedly be stretched out so that he can finish the season as a member of the starting rotation. That makes Workman a great option in all formats, with Matt Barnes and Josh Taylor working ahead of him.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs thought they were all set when they signed Craig Kimbrel, then he went ahead and got injured, leaving Joe Maddon with another committee on his hands. For a while, it looked like Brandon Kintzler would be the one, since he'd been easily the most consistent member of the Cubs bullpen. But then he went and got hurt, joining Kimbrel on the IL. For a bit, David Phelps looked like the next guy up, but Pedro Strop seems to have taken over the king-of-the-committee position. It'll be Strop at the top, Rowan Wick and David Phelps behind him, and Steve Cishek somewhere in the mix as well. Strop is the guy to own until Kimbrel returns, which could even be as soon as this weekend.

 

Short Relief

  • The Mets added Julio Lugo to their closer committee, but manager Mickey Callaway threw him into the seventh inning on Wednesday and things did not go well. Still, it's Lugo and Edwin Diaz for the ninth innings in Queens going forward.
  • Sam Dyson came back to the Twins bullpen and Jose Alvarado came back to the Rays bullpen. Both relievers were activated from the IL this week and immediately returned to high leverage situations.
  • Ken Giles seems to perpetually be on the maybe-heading-to-the-IL track, but for now, he's still in the bullpen. A string of excellent pitching has put Derek Law second on the depth chart, and he'd be the one taking over if Giles ultimately were to end up missing time.

 

Roster Moves of the Week

Adds

Pedro Strop, Chicago Cubs- This is a very temporary add, but Strop should be the one in charge of saves until Craig Kimbrel returns. Kimbrel is expected back as early as this weekend though, so Strop could be a one or two-day thing.

Jose Alvarado, Tampa Bay Rays- Alvarado is finally back after a long stint on the IL. He won't be the outright closer (because the Rays simply don't play that game) but he could start mixing into save situations before too long. He's not a must add in any format, but managers in deeper leagues desperate for a save of two could take a look at Alvarado.

Drops

Nathan Eovaldi, Boston Red Sox- Eovaldi was supposed to be the closer until he wasn't. Now, he's a starter. You don't need to drop him if you want to take a chance on him as a starting pitcher, but if you're looking strictly for a reliever who might earn saves and holds, you'll need to look elsewhere.

 

Best of the Week

Emilio Pagan, Tampa Bay Rays- 3 2/3 IP, 4 SV, 7 K, 2.45 ERA, 0.27 WHIP

Rays reliever Emilio Pagan played the role of all-out closer this week, saving four games and striking out seven while allowing just a solo home run all week.

Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees- 3 IP, 3 SV, 4 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP

Another great week for the Yankees closer, as Chapman saved three games and struck out four while only giving up two hits this week.

Liam Hendriks, Oakland A's- 3 IP, 2 SV, 7 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.33 WHIP

Only two saves this week for A's closer Liam Hendriks, but seven strike outs in three innings and only one hit allowed all week makes for a spot in this week's Best of the Week list.

 

 

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Closers and Saves Report - Week 19 Waiver Wire

The trade deadline shook the fantasy baseball world, so this week wasn't going to be nearly as important, but there were still plenty of things going on around the league that need to be looked at. There were injuries this week, and there were key roster moves. One team more or less just got a closer, lost him to the IL, then replaced him with a reliever who was just coming off the IL. Another team finally gave up on a closer and removed him from the role, then gave up on him even more and took him off the roster completely.

It was a pretty active week in bullpens, only overshadowed by the recent trade deadline (and maybe by the Miracle Mets?) With fantasy managers starting to look ahead to the playoffs and some fighting for the final spot or two in the postseason, it's important to stay on top of what's going on from one day to the next. Keep an eye on Rotoballer for any more changes in the weeks to come.

Take a look at our Closer Depth Chart, which is updated daily. Let's jump in and take a look at what's been going on in the bullpens around baseball.

 

Bullpen News for Week 19

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs waited almost half of the season to get a closer, and when Craig Kimbrel signed, it seemed like things were looking up. Kimbrel hasn't quite been Kimbrel, and now he's on the injured list, leaving the Cubs with a committee to handle the ninth inning again. The day after Kimbrel went down, Pedro Strop was activated from the IL and should get the bulk of the save chances in the meantime, unless David Phelps proves to be the better option. Brandon Kintzler would have been another option, as he's been the most consistent member of the Chicago bullpen, but he joined Kimbrel on the IL the next day. So it will be Strop again, as it was in the beginning of the season, with a little help from Steve Cishek and David Phelps now and then. Owners of Kimbrel who need some temporary help with saves can look for Strop on the waiver wire, but his role as closer will be temporary.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Greg Holland closed for the Diamondbacks for way too long. He was obviously not pitching well, but the team stubbornly kept him in the role, even talking about removing him once before changing their mind the very next day. Finally, they removed him from the ninth inning officially last week, and he didn't even make it another week before he was designated for assignment. Holland wasn't looking like he'd ever gain his ninth inning back anyway, but the DFA just makes it crystal clear. He should be dropped in all formats of fantasy, even though he's sure to get picked up by some real-life team who thinks they can "fix" him. Archie Bradley has taken the reins in the desert, but he's still just a part of a committee that also includes Yoan Lopez and Yoshihisa Hirano. Bradley is the arm to target for fantasy, and could have some nice upside if he takes over the role all for himself.

Texas Rangers

It took a few trades and some injuries for Jose Leclerc to regain the closer's role in Texas, but it's his now. After the Chris Martin trade to Atlanta, Leclerc looked like the guy in the Lone Star State. But with Shawn Kelley returning from the injured list, some fantasy owners were worried that he'd take the ninth inning back for himself. Manager Chris Woodward made sure to assuage those concerns though, saying that Leclerc has earned the role and will continue to work as the team's closer. Kelley will help setup and should be a solid contributor in holds leagues and the next guy up if Leclerc stumbles again.

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies finally made a switch in the ninth inning, removing Wade Davis and his 6.61 ERA from the role and installing Scott Oberg and his 1.53 ERA in there instead. Oberg is outpitching his peripheral stats by quite a bit (3.35 FIP, 26.1% K%), but has still been far better than Davis this season and should be able to hold down the ninth inning for the rest of the year. Davis can be dropped in most formats and Oberg needs to be added anywhere he's available. Owners should expect a bit of regression, but still decent ratios and a good number of saves.

 

Short Relief

  • Jarlin Garcia seems to be the leader of the Marlins closer committee, but that might not last long. He's been good at keeping runs off the board, but he simply does not have closer "stuff" as batters very rarely swing and miss at his pitches. New Marlins Ryne Stanek could take over the closer's role before long and might be in that role next season as well. He's worth a look in deeper dynasty and keeper formats.
  • While nothing has been made official just yet, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Seth Lugo take the ninth inning from Edwin Diaz in the Mets bullpen sometime soon. As bad as Diaz has been this season is as good as Lugo has been, so the swap just makes sense as the Mets are suddenly in the playoff hunt again.
  • Brandon Workman has officially taken over in Boston, as he's now the closer and not just the leader of the committee. He can be added in all formats.

 

Roster Moves of the Week

Adds

Scott Oberg, Colorado Rockies- Oberg closed for a bit when Wade Davis hit the IL earlier this season and did really well. Now that Davis has been removed from the role entirely, we should expect more success from Oberg. He should be added in all formats.

Brandon Workman, Boston Red Sox- Workman was already owned in many leagues as the head of the Red Sox committee, but now that he's the full-fledged closer, he should be picked up anywhere he's still available.

Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks- Bradley hasn't been named the closer just yet, but he's been leading the committee and should take the role all to himself if his success continues.

David Phelps/Pedro Strop, Chicago Cubs- One of these two will lead the team in saves while Kimbrel is gone. Strop did the job before Kimbrel signed, but Phelps has been the better pitcher of late. Owners desperate for saves can take a chance on either guy and hope they made the right choice.

Ryne Stanek, Miami Marlins- Stanek was awesome as an opener for the Rays, but now that he has a manager who can't even manage a regular pitching staff, he's likely to work in a more traditional bullpen role. There's a strong chance he works his way into the ninth inning and could hold that job into next season if he does well.

Drops

Greg Holland, Arizona Diamondbacks- Hopefully it didn't take your fantasy team as long to drop Holland as it took the Diamondbacks. If he's still on your roster, I have mean things to say about you.

Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies- Who would have thought that an ERA over 6.50 wasn't good enough to hold down a closer's job? Davis is out, Oberg is in, and there's no reason to believe Davis will make his way back to the ninth inning this season.

Shawn Kelley, Texas Rangers- Some fantasy owners were holding onto Kelley in hopes that he'd go right back into the closer's role once he healed, but the Rangers are keeping Jose Leclerc in the ninth and moving Kelley into a setup role. He'll retain value in holds leagues, but in standard leagues he's no more than Leclerc's backup.

 

Best of the Week

Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees- 3 IP, 3 SV, 6 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP

Another strong week from the Yankees closer, who saved all three games he pitched in, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out six.

Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals- 3 IP, 2 SV, 3 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.33 WHIP

A good week from another lefty, as Doolittle allowed just one hit this week, saving two games and striking out three batters.

Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds- 3 1/3 IP, 2 SV, 4 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.30 WHIP

Reds closer Raisel Iglesias pitched well, saving two games while allowing just one hit in getting 1o outs. He struck out four without issuing a walk.

 

 

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Closers and Saves Report - Week 18 Waiver Wire (Trade Deadline Edition)

Okay, so...we need to talk about that trade deadline, folks. Nothing happened, then very little happened, then a couple of things happened, then the deadline came. It was 4:00 Eastern, and nothing close to what we expected had happened. But then...the late reports came in, and oohhh my dudes: things happened.

While the biggest deal (Greinke to Houston) didn't change around any bullpens, there were plenty of deals that did. The Marlins, for example, basically traded their 7th, 8th, and 9th inning guys. The Mariners traded their two best relievers. The Nationals completely re-did their bullpen. The Braves moved things around in their pen as well. All that and more, coming right up!

Take a look at our Closer Depth Chart, which is updated daily. Let's jump in and take a look at what's been going on in the bullpens around baseball.

 

Bullpen News for Week 18

Atlanta Braves/Detroit Tigers/San Francisco Giants/Texas Rangers

The Braves got one of the main things they wanted: bullpen reinforcements. A new closer and two solid setup men will join the club soon. Atlanta traded with Detroit, getting Shane Greene to close. They also traded with San Francisco, picking up Mark Melancon for a setup role. Before all of that, they added Chris Martin from the Rangers. Luke Jackson hasn't sparked much confidence in Braves fans or, apparently, in the Braves front office. He's put up strong numbers, but he has a hard time locking games down sometimes. He'll leave the closer's role and should pitch in high-leverage situations earlier in the game now. Greene will be the closer, although his peripherals do show his impressive season could start seeing some regression soon. Greene gains a bit of value in fantasy leagues as he moves to a team that will give him more leads to save. Jackson loses his value in standard formats but should still be okay in holds leagues. In Detroit, Joe Jimenez jumps into the closer's role right away. He's having a pretty bad season, but the Tigers have wanted him to be their closer for a while, so now is his chance. Jimenez should be picked up in all formats, but owners should temper their expectations a bit. Melancon is a solid reliever, but his days of significant fantasy value have been over for a while. In some deeper holds leagues, he might be worth a look, but he's generally one of those "better in real life" guys. Down in Texas, Jose Leclerc finally gets his closer role back by default, although he might not hold it long if Shawn Kelley can return from the IL quickly.

Miami Marlins/Minnesota Twins/Tampa Bay Rays

The Marlins got things started early, sending closer Sergio Romo to the Twins a few days before the deadline. Then, on deadline day, they shipped Nick Anderson and Trevor Richards over to the Rays. Romo was closing for the Marlins, Anderson was pitching the 8th, and Richards was a starter who had recently been switched into the bullpen. After the Romo trade, Anderson was assumed to be the closer, but that assumption only lasted until July 31st, when Anderson switched Florida teams. In Minnesota, Romo will set up for Taylor Rogers, who now has a solid grasp on the closer's role for the Twins. Over in Tampa Bay, Anderson could mix in to the Diego Castillo/Jose Alvarado/Emilio Pagan mess in their committee. The Marlins, meanwhile, will need to remake the entire back end of the bullpen. Jose Quijada, Jarlin Garcia, and Tayron Guerrero all figure to make some noise for the Marlins now. Garcia has solid "baseball card" numbers, but he doesn't strike anyone out and really just doesn't have closer "stuff". Quijada and Guerrero are interesting, but both have serious control issues that they'll need to work on before becoming truly effective ninth inning options. Ryne Stanek, acquired in the Rays deal, could mix into the late innings in Miami as well, although it's so far unclear how he will be used as a Marlin.

Washington Nationals/Seattle Mariners/Toronto Blue Jays/Houston Astros

The Nationals have had a BAD bullpen this season. So, on Trade Deadline Day, they made sure to address it with a lot of help from the Mariners. The Nationals started off by picking up Daniel Hudson from Toronto. He'll work in the later innings, but looks like a middle reliever based on the other deals made by Washington slightly later in the day. They went on to get both Roenis Elias and Hunter Strickland from the Mariners. Elias and Strickland will likely work the 7th and 8th innings, depending on the hitters due up for the opposing team. Closer Sean Doolittle should be safe in the 9th inning. In Seattle, much like in Miami, the back end of the bullpen will have a whole new look. The heir apparent is Anthony Bass, although Cory Gearrin and Sam Tuivailala could have some thoughts about that too. The Blue Jays ended up keeping closer Ken Giles, but traded away their top two setup men, Joe Biagini and Daniel Hudson. Once Giles is healthy, he'll return to the 9th inning, but in the meantime, it looks like rookie Justin Shafer could get some save chances. Tim Mayza could get some work in as well. Biagini in Houston won't do much as he'll be buried on the depth chart by quite a few higher-upside arms. He'll work closer to middle relief with his new team.

 

Short Relief

  • Archie Bradley looks like he could be "the guy" in Arizona's bullpen. With Greg Holland finally knocked out of the 9th inning, it was originally unclear who would close, but Bradley got the first chance and got a vague-but-meaningful vote of confidence from his manager.
  • The White Sox, for some reason, didn't trade their closer, Alex Colome. That means that fantasy sweetheart Aaron Bummer will continue in a setup role and not take over as closer.
  • The Pirates were reportedly pretty close to trading closer Felipe Vazquez to the Dodgers, but ultimately ended up hanging on. He'll keep closing in Pittsburgh.
  • The Red Sox did...nothing. Nathan Eovaldi and Brandon Workman will keep working the late innings until one of them takes the reins and grabs the 9th inning for himself.
  • Will Smith stayed in San Francisco, Kirby Yates stayed in San Diego, Edwin Diaz stayed in Queens, Raisel Iglesias stayed in Cincinnati, Mychal Givens stayed in Baltimore, and Ian Kennedy stayed in Kansas City.

 

Under-the-Radar Relievers

Roenis Elias, Mariners to Nationals- Elias joins what is all of a sudden a decent-looking Nationals bullpen. Sean Doolittle should be safe in the 9th inning, but Elias could have some holds league value with his new team. He strikes out about a batter per inning, but his 4.67 FIP doesn't inspire a ton of confidence.

Hunter Strickland, Mariners to Nationals- Another reliever who won't challenge Doolittle for the closer's role went from the Mariners to the Nationals. Strickland has only pitched 3 1/3 innings this season, but he's had success in the past, saving 14 games for the Giants in 2018. He should split 7th and 8th inning duties with Elias, and will carry fantasy value in holds leagues.

Daniel Hudson, Blue Jays to Nationals- No, like, seriously: The Nationals re-did their whole bullpen. The only legitimately reliable reliever on the Nationals on June 30th was closer Sean Doolittle. Now they have three solid but certainly unspectacular guys to bridge the game from their starters to Doolittle. Hudson could climb the ranks into the 7th or 8th innings, but he looks like he might start out behind Elias and Strickland. Hudson's had some control problems this season, but he's been solid overall. He'll likely have more of an effect in the Nationals bullpen than he will on anyone's fantasy team.

Ryne Stanek, Rays to Marlins- Right at the deadline, the two Florida teams were able to land on a trade, with the Marlins sending Trevor Richards and Nick Anderson to the Rays for Jesus Sanchez and Stanek. Stanek has had a lot of success in Tampa pitching as an opener. He'd already made 27 "starts" this year while pitching just 55 2/3 innings. He'd be great in a similar role with the Marlins, but manager Don Mattingly would likely tie himself in knots trying to figure out the opener strategy. Instead, he'll likely work in a later-inning role, perhaps even getting a chance to close if some of the young options the Marlins are going to try out at closer don't work out. For now, Stanek's fantasy value is extremely limited, but the Marlins bullpen is certainly one to keep an eye on.

Nick Anderson, Marlins to Rays- Nick Anderson came out of nowhere this season to post a 3.92 ERA/2.72 FIP and 37.1 K% with a decent 8.6 BB%. Opposing hitters rarely hit the ball off of Anderson's pitches, but when they do, they hit them hard. For a while, he led the league in hard hit percentage despite how often guys would swing-and-miss when he was on the mound. He's an incredibly interesting 29-year-old rookie, and the Rays should be able to figure out the best way to use him. He could mix into the closer committee before long.

Sam Dyson, Giants to Twins- Sam Dyson had a rough welcome to the Twins, throwing 14 pitches without getting an out. In the meantime, he allowed three runs on two hits and two walks, blowing the game and eventually leading to an extra-innings loss. It should still be the Taylor Rogers show at closer for the Twins, and Sergio Romo looks like the main setup guy. Dyson could work his way into holds league value, but he's not someone to jump on right away.

Joe Biagini, Blue Jays to Astros- Joe Biagini looked like he'd be the closer in Toronto by now. The Blue Jays were supposed to trade Ken Giles, and Biagini was going to step into the 9th inning. Nope. Instead, they kept Giles and dealt Biagini to Houston. Biagini joins a solid Astros bullpen and won't be anywhere near the closer's role. In fact, Biagini might end up in middle relief, giving him little fantasy value regardless of format.

 

Roster Moves of the Week

Adds

Joe Jimenez, Detroit Tigers- Jimenez hasn't been awesome this season, but he's the closer for the Motor City Kitties now. He'll have some value in standard formats, but he's not the exciting high-upside big name he was just a season ago.

Anthony Bass/Cory Gearrin, Seattle Mariners- One of these two guys will be closing in Seattle and should develop a bit of fantasy value. For now, it's a committee and neither guy is a must-own, but if either one seems to take over full time, he should be picked up.

Jose Leclerc, Texas Rangers- Leclerc is finally back in the closer's role, but it took an injury to Shawn Kelley and a trade of Chris Martin. Still, it's the destination, not the journey in this case, and Leclerc should be owned in most formats.

Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks- The Diamondbacks finally took Greg Holland out of the 9th inning, and it looks like Archie Bradley will get the first shot to close in the desert.

Jose Quijada/Jarlin Garcia, Miami Marlins- Neither of these guys is a particularly good pitcher, but one of them will be earning saves for the Marlins this season. Quijada has the better upside in terms of ratios, but Garcia seems to have a bit more of manager Don Mattingly's favor. Garcia doesn't strike anyone out, so he'd be a one-category closer if given the role.

Drops

Luke Jackson, Atlanta Braves- Luke Jackson not only lost his hold of the closer's role, he may have been pushed as far down as the 6th inning. Shane Greene will close, Chris Martin should work the 8th, and Mark Melancon could take the 7th. Jackson should be immediately dropped in standard formats, and can likely be let go in holds leagues as well.

Nick Anderson, Miami Marlins- Anderson was a closer for...a day? Anyone in standard leagues who picked him up hoping he'd close can drop him now that he's in a messy Rays bullpen.

Sergio Romo, Miami Marlins- Romo was traded to the Twins and will setup for closer Taylor Rogers. He's still a decent piece in holds leagues, but doesn't have the strikeout upside he used to have to make him worth owning in standard leagues.

Greg Holland, Arizona Diamondbacks- Why oh why would you still have Greg Holland on your roster at this point?

Aaron Bummer, Chicago White Sox- Bummer was a popular fantasy pickup recently because everyone assumed the White Sox would trade closer Alex Colome. Now that they held on to him, Bummer will only have value in leagues where holds count.

 

Best of the Week

Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds- 3 IP, 3 SV, 4 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP

Reds closer Raisel Iglesias survived the trade deadline and had an excellent week. He appeared in three games, saved all three, and allowed just two hits while striking out four.

Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals- 2 1/3 IP, 2 SV, 4 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.43 WHIP

Cardinals closer Carlos Martinez survived the deadline too. With the Cardinals not adding to their bullpen, Martinez should remain the team's closer as long as he stays healthy. He celebrated by saving two games and striking out four batters while only allowing one hit.

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Closers and Saves Report - Week 17 Waiver Wire

The trade deadline is coming up on Wednesday, and...nothing has really happened yet. With so many teams in contention (and so many rebuilding teams unwilling to trade young players), many reporters are saying this has been the quietest build up to the trade deadline they can ever remember. This season, there is only one deadline (no more August 31st waiver deadline) so you'd think there be more activity. Still, it's the baseball trade deadline, and trades will happen. Teams like the Marlins have players like Sergio Romo on expiring contracts. Will they get a top prospect for Romo? No, but they certainly won't keep him around for him to walk for nothing at the end of the season.

So, there will be trades, and they will happen sooner than later. It might be a quieter deadline than usual, but it absolutely will not be an actual quiet one. Starting position players will be traded, bench depth guys will be moved, and starters and relievers will switch teams. Next week's Closers and Saves Report will go in depth about everything that happened in the trade market. Since none of that has happened yet, let's go into what did happen this week in the bullpens in baseball.

Take a look at our Closer Depth Chart, which is updated daily. Let's jump in and take a look at what's been going on in the bullpens around baseball.

 

Bullpen News for Week 17

Texas Rangers

The Rangers had a hard time finally landing on a closer this season, but they did just that with Shawn Kelley. Kelley wasn't elite by any means, but he was more than good enough to hold down the ninth inning and hold off Jose Leclerc and Chris Martin. Kelley was placed on the injured list this week however, and the Rangers had a decision to make. Martin has been the better pitcher this season (and hasn't walked anyone since April), but Leclerc has been the closer of the future for the Rangers and was even the closer on Opening Day this season before he pitched his way out of the role. So what was the decision manager Chris Woodward made? He didn't. The Rangers will use a committee made up of Leclerc and Martin while Kelley is out. Martin could get a few more save chances in case the Rangers try to move him at the deadline. That fact combined with his recent success makes Martin the slightly more preferable fantasy add in the short term.

Minnesota Twins

The Twins had been playing with fire by letting Blake Parker pitch high-leverage innings all season, as many of his peripheral stats indicated that he was not doing great despite average results. Despite a decent stretch where he'd allowed just one run in his last 10 games, the Twins front office had finally had enough when Parker came into a game and coughed up four runs. Parker was designated for assignment and of course removed from any bullpen hierarchy in Minnesota. So that means it's all Taylor Rogers in the ninth inning for the Twins, at least for now. The team has been widely rumored to be in on Ken Giles and other closers and will try to make a trade before next week's deadline. There's always a chance that they acquire bullpen help to slot in ahead of the ninth inning, but if they manage to pick up someone like Giles, Rogers will move back into a setup role. It makes for a tough decision for fantasy owners, because if Rogers keeps his job past the 31st, he's an excellent fantasy relief pitcher in all formats. But, if he gets a new closer in front of him, he'll lose a lot of his value in standard leagues and could be a prime sell-now piece for those willing to take the risk.

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks decided to stick with Greg Holland as their closer, despite the veteran not really giving them any reason to. This week, he entered a game, threw nine pitches (only one strike), walked two batters, then left the game yelling at the umpire despite not throwing a single actual strike according to PITCHf/x data. Yoan Lopez came in and earned the save in just four pitches. Archie Bradley is also back into higher leverage roles, so if the Diamondbacks finally decide to move away from Holland as their closer, manager Torey Lovullo will have an interesting decision to make. Arizona sits just 3.5 games back from a Wild Card spot, so they're certainly going to try to keep winning ballgames.

 

Short Relief

  • The Mets are allegedly willing to trade closer Edwin Diaz, but they are expecting more in return than they gave up. With Diaz possibly hurt and in the middle of the worst season of his career: the Mets will not be trading Edwin Diaz.
  • Brandon Workman seems like he'll hold down the closer's role in Boston until he slips up. Maybe then it will be Eovaldi's turn. Eovaldi hasn't shown much yet, so it remains to be seen how this whole bullpen will shake up.
  • Andrew Miller looks a bit more like Andrew Miller these days, and he seems to have taken over the top spot in the Cardinals bullpen behind closer Carlos Martinez. Martinez has been solid but unspectacular, and in case he gets hurt or struggles, it looks like Miller would be next in line.
  • Jace Fry has been great lately for the White Sox and has some experience in the closer's role from last season. The ninth inning likely still belongs to Aaron Bummer once Alex Colome gets traded, but it's worth keeping an eye on Fry just in case.
  • Sam Dyson has taken over the main setup role in San Francisco behind closer Will Smith. Smith and Dyson were both prime trade candidates about a week ago, but with the incredible run the Giants are on, they might not sell any pieces at the deadline.
  • There was a bit of an injury scare with Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, but he assuaged all of that with a perfect inning in which he struck out the side. He's fine, and should continue earning saves and notching strikeouts throughout the rest of the season.
  • Don't forget to try to sell any closers who look like they won't be closers by next week (Segio Romo, Alex Colome, Shane Greene, etc.)

 

Roster Moves of the Week

Adds

Chris Martin, Jose Leclerc, Texas Rangers- With Shawn Kelley on the IL, Martin and Leclerc will be sharing closing duties in Texas. There's a chance Martin gets traded at the deadline, so Leclerc might be the safer long-term bet, but Martin has been pitching better lately so for short-term saves, he's the one to target.

Yoan Lopez, Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks- It looks like maybe Greg Holland has finally pitched his way out of the ninth inning, although we already thought that once or twice before. Still, Lopez or Bradley would be the likely beneficiaries of a Holland-less ninth inning. This is very much a speculative add at this point, but those desperate for saves might want to take the chance with one or both relievers (slight nod to Lopez if you have to pick one).

Drops

Blake Parker, Minnesota Twins- Anyone holding onto Parker for whatever reason can go ahead and click "DROP" as he's now been designated for assignment. He probably won't pass all the way through waivers, but he certainly won't be placed into a high-leverage role right away with whatever team picks him up.

 

Best of the Week

Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals- 3 2/3 IP, 3 SV, 5 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.55 WHIP

Nationals closer Sean Doolittle had a solid week, saving three games and striking out five while allowing just two hits.

Craig Kimbrel, Chicago Cubs- 4 IP, 3 SV, 5 K, 0.00 ERA, 1.25 WHIP

Welcome back to the Best of the Week to Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel. He got off to a bit of a slow start as many people expected, but he was rock solid this week. He saved three games and struck out five while not allowing a run all week.

Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers- 3 2/3 IP, 1 SV, 9 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.55 WHIP

It's not too often that a closer with one save makes it on the Best of the Week list, but it's also not too often that a pitcher gets 11 outs in a week and nine of them are strikeouts. Hader was excellent this week, allowing just two hits while pretty much striking everyone else out.

 

 

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Closers and Saves Report - Week 16 Waiver Wire

We're inching closer to the trade deadline and we still haven't seen any big bullpen changes. Oh, but they're coming. They'll just all come at once this season, it seems. Most of the non-contending teams have at least a bullpen arm or two that would serve a purpose on a contending team. They won't all be big-name trades involving top prospects and a reshuffling of an entire bullpen, but smaller deadline moves can make a difference in fantasy leagues as well, especially in holds leagues.

A few short-term bullpen changes this week gave us a peek of what might happen later in the season. An injury in Los Angeles, a suspension in Philadelphia, and a baby in Cincinnati all shook up bullpens, although only temporarily. What might those and other bullpens look like in August, or maybe a little sooner if the hot stove starts to heat up early?

Take a look at our Closer Depth Chart, which is updated daily. Let's jump in and take a look at what's been going on in the bullpens around baseball.

 

Bullpen News for Week 16

Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen wore a line drive on his ankle but stayed in the game earlier this week. That was a mistake, as he ended up blowing the save and allowing the Phillies to walk off. He was then unavailable for a couple of games afterwards, but is not going to need a stint on the injured list and should be back on the mound this weekend. Manager Dave Roberts said that either Julio Urias or Joe Kelly would serve as the team's closer if a save situation came up in a game that Jansen was not available.

The original thought was that Pedro Baez would be the temporary closer, but his recent struggles have apparently knocked him back quite a bit on the depth chart. If for some reason Jansen does end up needing IL time, Kelly would be the arm to own in the Dodgers pen. After a rough start to the season, the former Red Sox reliever has actually been pretty solid of late. The Los Angeles bullpen is in no danger of a trade deadline shake up at the closer spot, but the Dodgers are likely to try to acquire some bullpen help for the earlier innings. There could be some significant changes in value in holds leagues, so this is a bullpen to keep an eye on.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies bullpen settled itself when Hector Neris excelled in the earlier part of the season and more or less forced manager Gabe Kapler's hand to create a traditional closer role and give it to Neris. He was essentially the only Phillies reliever who was consistently getting guys out, so what other choice did Kapler really have? That's all different now, as Neris is struggling and will now be suspended for three games for throwing at David Freese's head.

We'll see who Kapler uses if a save situation comes up, but slightly longer-term, it could be David Robertson taking over the ninth inning for the stretch run. He's alternating between struggling and being injured for most of this season, but once he's back on the mound he could be a legitimate source of saves and strikeouts. There is also the chance that the Phillies decide to really go for it (they're currently tied for the second Wild Card spot) and acquire bullpen help at the deadline. They are a team that could acquire someone that will immediately take over the ninth inning, or that could acquire someone to beef up the bullpen in general and keep Neris or Robertson in the ninth inning. It might depend on what the team does on the field for the next week or so. Of course, any reliever traded to the Phillies who looks like he will slide into the ninth inning will have plenty of fantasy value.

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox have Nathan Eovaldi coming off the injured list perhaps as soon as this weekend, but in the meantime, Brandon Workman has emerged as a solid option in the late innings. He earned his fifth save of the season this week, getting the last five outs of Wednesday's win over the Blue Jays. He's been the best reliever in Boston lately and should keep getting meaningful innings even after Eovaldi gets back. Eovaldi will be the arm to own in standard formats, but Workman will still be worth hanging onto in holds leagues.

There's also the likelihood that the Red Sox add to their bullpen through the trade market, and that could shake things up pretty significantly. Expect to see the Red Sox use Eovaldi for big innings as much as they can so they can decide if they need to shoot high for someone like Ken Giles or Will Smith, or if they can just shore up the earlier innings in their bullpen as bridges to Eovaldi for the stretch run.

 

Short Relief

  • Don't look now, but the Giants are only 2.5 games out of the Wild Card. The team is widely expected to sell off most of its bullpen (Will Smith, Sam Dyson, Tony Watson, and Mark Melancon) but if they keep up the hot streak, who knows what the front office in San Francisco will decide to do? This next week will play a huge role in what will happen in the bullpen trade market, since the Giants have four relievers that would certainly attract trade attention.
  • Reds closer Raisel Iglesias was placed on the paternity leave list this week, so Michael Lorenzen and David Hernandez are temporary closers until he's back. Iglesias might be moved before the deadline, which would create a closer's role for someone else in the Reds pen.
  • Wade Davis had one foot out of the closer's role but was given another chance by his manager and did really well...for four scoreless outings. Then he allowed four runs while only getting one out, blowing a save and taking a loss. Davis now has a 9.53 ERA at home and a 0.79 ERA on the road. Hashtag Coors Field.
  • Ken Giles was back on the mound for the Blue Jays after taking a few days off to nurse an injury. He should be showcased over the next week or so until Toronto's front office receives an offer they like enough to move their closer to another team. He's been good enough that most teams that acquire him should slide him right into their ninth inning.

 

Roster Moves of the Week

Adds

Nathan Eovaldi, Boston Red Sox- Eovaldi should be back this weekend and should jump right into the closer's role. He needs to be owned in all formats, even though there's a slight bit of risk involved. He has the upside to be a difference-maker in fantasy leagues down the stretch.

Joe Kelly, Los Angeles Dodgers- Because of his atrocious start to the season, Joe Kelly remains on many waiver wires. He's actually been really good recently though, and should be picked up in holds leagues, especially in case closer Kenley Jansen ends up needing some more time to heal.

Drops

No immediate drops this week, but it's time to take a really close look at possible trade deadline movement and be ready to make quick adds and drops as soon as news breaks. Follow Rotoballer on Twitter and keep up with the News Desk to make sure you have all the latest news.

 

Best of the Week

It was another rough week for closers in general, as only three closers ended up with three or more saves, and two of those three had ERAs over SIX! Here's the best of a bad week:

Ian Kennedy, Kansas City Royals- 3 1/3 IP, 4 SV, 4 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.60 WHIP

In a week of mostly bad bullpen performances, Royals closer Ian Kennedy was able to shine. He needed just 10 outs to get four saves, allowing only a hit and a walk while striking out four.

Brandon Workman, Boston Red Sox- 3 2/3 IP, 2 SV, 7 K, 2.45 ERA, 0.82 WHIP

Brandon Workman served as the Red Sox closer this week and picked up two saves while striking out seven. He allowed just one run on one hit and two walks.

 

More 2019 Fantasy Baseball Advice


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Closers and Saves Report - All-Star Break Edition

The All-Star Game happened, and it was fun. But then came Wednesday, the only day of the season with NO BASEBALL. It was awful, but we all made it, we survived. Thursday featured just one game, but then we're back to normal on Friday for the second half. There are plenty of teams still in contention and plenty of things should change before the July 31 trade deadline.

This week, we'll take a look at what bullpens are most likely to change before the first pitch of August is thrown. Some closers will stop closing, some setup men will move into the ninth inning, and some bullpens might look completely different in about 20 days.

Take a look at our Closer Depth Chart, which is updated daily. Let's jump in and take a look at what's been going on in the bullpens around baseball.

 

Pitchers In Potentially Precarious Positions

American League

Baltimore Orioles- The Orioles have been using Mychal Givens as their "closer" and he ended up leading the team in saves in the first half...with six. Six saves. At the All-Star Break. Givens has shown some upside, with a 34.3% K%. His 4.76 ERA/4.88 FIP is certainly concerning, but a guy with all those strikeouts does have some use in a bullpen. Givens is under team control until 2021, so the Orioles won't be rushed to trade him, but if they receive a good enough offer, he's certainly someone that could move before the deadline. He won't close for any new team he joins, with his best case scenario possibly being joining a committee that already exists.

Boston Red Sox- Just a quick word about the Red Sox here: they have seemingly gone back a bit on scheduling Nathan Eovaldi as a "traditional closer" but he should still have a ninth inning role once he returns from the injured list. They could still seek bullpen help at the deadline though, so anyone besides Nathan Eovaldi is a sell-now in most formats.

Tampa Bay Rays- The Rays seem to hate the idea of a scheduled closer, so they are likely to continue using a committee approach for the rest of the season, even if they do acquire some more high-leverage arms. For now, Diego Castillo (coming off the IL for the second half) and Emilio Pagan should continue to earn saves.

Toronto Blue Jays- Ken Giles is having an excellent season (1.45 ERA/1.49 FIP, 43.4% K%) and should bring back a nice haul for the Blue Jays at the deadline. As long as he stays healthy, Giles is one of the best bets to move before August, and teams have reportedly already started asking the Blue Jays about him. Joe Biagini or Daniel Hudson will likely take over the ninth inning in Toronto, although both of them may be trade targets for teams shooting lower than Giles. Giles could close for his new team depending on where he ends up, as he's been one of the best relievers in baseball this season. Unless he winds up somewhere like Los Angeles, he's likely to remain a ninth inning arm.

Chicago White Sox- The White Sox are still somewhat in it, sitting seven games out of the Wild Card at the All-Star Break. They're likely to be sellers unless they go on a tear to open up the second half, and that means closer Alex Colome could be on the move. Colome has been solid, but some of his peripheral stats show reason for concern. He has a 2.02 ERA and 20 saves in 21 chances, but his FIP sits at 3.99 and he's only putting up a 20.8% K%. If he gets traded, he's much more likely to slide into a setup role than to remain as a closer in a new uniform. Meanwhile, in Chicago, Aaron Bummer looks set to take over the ninth inning and would need to be owned in all formats right away if the White Sox move Colome.

Cleveland Indians- There was word that Cleveland would listen to offers for closer Brad Hand, but now that they'll be starting the second half in the lead for one of the Wild Card spots, it's hard to see them moving one of their better, most consistent players. They may end up adding to the bullpen with guys to bridge the game from their starters to Hand, but there's not likely to be a huge shake up in the Cleveland bullpen.

Detroit Tigers- The Tigers bullpen is another one that's very likely to see some changes before the deadline. Closer Shane Greene has been amazing this season (1.09 ERA, 22 saves, 26.0% K%) and is another guy who is almost certain to be dealt this season. Many people thought the same thing last year though, so we'll see what happens. If Greene does move, his future role will depend greatly on what team he ends up on. There are some closer-needy teams that would slide Greene right into the ninth inning but others that would have him in a supporting role ahead of their closer. Greene's second half fantasy value is a huge question mark in standard leagues, making him a sell-now for those wanting to be safe. Joe Jimenez seems most likely to take over for the Tigers, even though he's having the worst season of his career so far.

Kansas City Royals- The Royals would seem to be a team in full-on sell mode, but their closer Ian Kennedy is actually not particularly likely to be moved this summer. He's been excellent in his new role as closer, but he's got two years left in a five year, $70 million contract, and he's still Ian Kennedy. It's not impossible for him to switch teams, but he's much more likely to stay in Kansas City this summer.

Minnesota Twins- The Twins have been running with a committee in the ninth inning for most of this season, although Taylor Rogers seems to have taken over at least the lion's share lately. That could all come to an end once trades start going down, though. The Twins are rumored to have shown interest in some of the top-flight closers that should be available, meaning Rogers and the rest of the Minnesota committee will slide into setup roles. Any closer who gets traded to the Twins will immediately see a nice bump in value.

**No teams in the AL West are really expected to do much shuffling of their bullpens in the second half. Liam Hendriks should hang on to the ninth in Oakland, the Rangers will continue working Jose Leclerc and Shawn Kelley in their ninth innings, and the Angels should keep trotting Hansel Robles out there. The Mariners will keep trying to find a closer and winding up with a committee, and finally the Astros are all set with Roberto Osuna in their ninth. The Astros and A's may add to the earlier parts of their bullpens, but the closer roles seem safe.

 

National League

Atlanta Braves- The Braves bullpen has been okay at times, but they are still rumored to be very much in the market for ninth inning help before the deadline. Luke Jackson has been decent this season (2.66 ERA/2.79 FIP and 31.9% K%) but he's blown six saves. Ken Giles is one of the names the Braves have been kicking the tires on, making them one of the teams more likely to have a new closer by August. Jackson will retain value in holds leagues, but he's looking like a guy who may end up insignificant in standard leagues. There's always the chance that the Braves can't work anything out for an elite option and end up strengthening the earlier innings and keeping Jackson around for the ninth, but fantasy owners who want to play it safe should already be preparing for life after he loses his closer's role.

Miami Marlins- Sergio Romo was signed for two reasons: to provide the Marlins bullpen with some veteran experience, and to develop trade value before the deadline. Romo has been decent this season, posting a 4.13 ERA and 16 saves in 17 opportunities. He won't close for whatever team acquires him, placing a clear deadline on his standard league fantasy value. He may actually see a slight increase in value in holds leagues if he moves to a team that installs him as a primary setup man, but he is not likely to earn many saves in a different uniform. In Miami, Nick Anderson may be traded too, but if he stays in Miami, he would likely take over the ninth. Beyond him, perhaps Austin Brice gets a chance to see some ninth inning action.

New York Mets- This season hasn't gone at all the way the Mets wanted it to, but they aren't likely to be major sellers at the deadline. Edwin Diaz has struggled but is under team control until 2022 so he's unlikely to go anywhere. The team may make some minor moves but it shouldn't be anything majorly fantasy relevant.

Washington Nationals- Despite what was widely considered a very rough first half for the Nationals, all of a sudden they are in the lead for the Wild Card and a somewhat-manageable six games out of the division. They won't be sellers, but they need A LOT of help in their bullpen. Closer Sean Doolittle has been good (19 saves, 3.13 ERA/2.93 FIP) but he's been the only reliable reliever in a Nationals uniform. They are likely to target slightly lower-tier relievers, but there's a chance they get in the mix for guys like Ken Giles or Kirby Yates as well.

Cincinnati Reds-  The Reds removed Raisel Iglesias from the closer's role for a little bit, but it looks like he's back in there for now, perhaps in an attempt to increase his trade value. He'll remain under team control until the 2021 season, so they Reds won't need to trade him, but they may if they receive a good offer. Iglesias would likely work in a setup role for a new team, but he's about 50-50 on staying as Reds closer or working in a setup role for a new team. A careful fantasy owner may be looking for move on. Michael Lorenzen or Amir Garrett would be next in line in Cincinnati.

St. Louis Cardinals- The Cardinals lost closer Jordan Hicks to Tommy John Surgery, but they seem happy with Carlos Martinez resurrecting his career as a closer. Still, they could be in the market for a more bona fide closer at the deadline. The rest of their bullpen has been solid, with John Brebbia, Genesis Cabrera, and John Gant all providing solid relief innings to take the game from the starters to the ninth inning. They may target a guy like Will Smith or Kirby Yates, but they could also be more in the market for starting pitching and leave the bullpen more or less alone.

Arizona Diamondbacks- The Diamondbacks looked ready to remove Greg Holland from the ninth inning, but he recently got a vote of confidence from his manager and will at least enter the second half with the closer's job in the desert. The Diamondbacks sit just 1.5 games back from a Wild Card spot, so they could be looking to improve their bullpen before the deadline. It remains to be seen whether that'll be a new closer to take Holland's spot, or some solid arms to work before Holland. Given Holland's struggles this season (including declining velocity and increasing walk rate) however, even a reliever acquired to setup may end up closing if Holland slumps again. He's been a risky fantasy asset all season and will only get riskier as the deadline approaches.

Los Angeles Dodgers- The Dodgers are all set in the ninth inning with Kenley Jansen, one of the best closers in baseball. But the rest of their bullpen could use some help, and they've been rumored to have strong interest in Will Smith. Jansen's job is not at all in jeopardy, but the Dodgers could be the reason another closer ends up in a setup role. Holds league players will want to target anyone the Dodgers acquire to add to their bullpen.

San Diego Padres- There has been some word that teams have been asking about Padres closer Kirby Yates, but with the Padres sticking around in the Wild Card race (2.0 games out) and Yates signed through next year, there's no certainty that he'll be on the move. Yates has been arguably the best closer this season, so if he does get traded, he'll bring in tons of value for the Padres and will nearly for certain retain the ninth inning on any new team. Craig Stammen or Luis Perdomo would take over, although they could both be targeted by teams looking for setup help as well.

San Francisco Giants- Giants closer Will Smith has been amazing this season, going a perfect 23-for-23 in save chances with a 1.98 ERA/2.02 FIP and 39.9% K%. The Dodgers are rumored to have tons of interest in the contract-year reliever, but he'd work before Kenley Jansen there. Almost any other team he goes to would keep him in the ninth inning, but the Dodgers have so far been the team rumored to have the most interest.

 

 

 

 

 

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