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Closers and Saves Report - Week 10 and Bold Predictions Revisited!

So this is it, huh? Playoffs after just 10 weeks of regular season play feels weird, but it's better than nothing, right? Congratulations to all of our readers who made it to the championship in their fantasy leagues, here's hoping this weekend goes well and helps you bring a title home!

This week, we'll take a look at the bullpen news for this last week of the regular season, then we'll go back and see how close and how far I was on some of my bold bullpen predictions from before the season started. Huge thank you to everyone who has kept up with Closers and Saves Report in this weird season, I hope it's been helpful!

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 10

Los Angeles Angels

The Angels are...still not eliminated from postseason contention as of the writing of this article. They've gone with Mike Mayers in key late innings, and he seems like the best bet for saves over this weekend. He's been fantastic this year and has definitely worked his way into late-inning consideration for 2021. Mayers has a 1.52 ERA and a 35.9 K% in 29 2/3 innings. His 2.64 SIERA and 1.70 FIP back up his strong performance.

Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles have turned to veteran Cesar Valdez for a few saves down the stretch. Hunter Harvey is still the best pitcher in that bullpen, but Valdez looks like the leader of the Orioles committee for the last few games. Anyone desperate for maybe one more save can almost certainly find him on the waiver wire.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals closer committee is hard to predict, with Andrew Miller seemingly at the top, but Genesis Cabrera and Ryan Helsley also throwing good innings. Now, Giovanny Gallegos is back from the injured list and figures to mix in as well. It'll be hard to predict who the Cardinals will use in save situations, but they may be the team with the most games left to play. They have an "if necessary" double header against the Tigers on Monday, so fantasy owners desperate for saves may want to take a chance on a St. Louis reliever. The safest pick is likely Miller (assuming that your league will count stats accumulated from those potential Monday games, of course.)

 

Bold Predictions Revisited!

Before the season, I wrote a Bold Bullpen Predictions for 2020 article, then updated it in early July without making too many changes. You can see that article by clicking here: Bold Bullpen Predictions. Turns out, of my five predictions (all of which I caught TONS of flak for), two were correct, two could have been correct, and one was WAY off.

  1. Brad Boxberger leads the Marlins in saves and nets a legitimate prospect at the Deadline.
    • Okay, so that didn't quite happen, but Boxberger did pitch really well and could have likely been traded for a decent prospect at the deadline if the Marlins had been sellers. I don't think anyone could have predicted the Marlins being legitimate buyers at the deadline, but Boxberger has a 2.12 ERA in 17 innings, five holds, and a 24.7 K%.
  2. James Karinchak makes would have made the All-Star team.
    • Of course, there was no All-Star Game so this prediction was wrong from the get go, but still, the point made was that Karinchak was really, really good and not a lot of people knew who he was. The 25-year-old struggled somewhat with his command (15.1 BB%), as predicted, but he pitched to a 2.77 ERA (1.68 FIP) with a 47.2 K%. Would he have made the All-Star Team? Probably not, but he ended up fifth among all Cleveland pitchers in fWAR.
  3. Josh Hader exits the top tier of fantasy closers and is just OK.
    • This is the one that I got THE MOST side eye for. Ranging from "yeah, right" to [expletive deleted], people were just not ready to believe that Josh Hader might not be the top closer in 2020. Cut to the end of the season, and Hader has a 4.24 ERA, a career low strikeout rate and a career high walk rate. Sorted by fWAR, Hader is 146th on the lost of relievers in 2020. I'd say that's safely outside of the top tier, right?
  4. Edwin Diaz has a huge bounce-back season, gets Cy Young Award votes.
    • I don't expect Diaz to win the Cy Young, of course, but he may get some down ballot votes to make this prediction completely right. The important part though, was the "huge bounce-back season", which he definitely had. Diaz had a struggle or two earlier in the year, but his overall numbers are excellent: 1.50 ERA, 46.6 K%, and a .184 opponent's batting average.
  5. Luke Jackson will be the best pitcher in the Braves' bullpen.
    • This was my big miss. Jackson not only isn't the best pitcher in the Braves bullpen, he actually hasn't really been all that good at all. He has an ugly 5.33 ERA and a 16.4 K% to go with a 9.8 BB%. Meanwhile, the rest of the Braves bullpen has been the best bullpen in baseball by many measures, making this prediction not only wrong in terms of the individual player, but in terms of the whole team.

I guess we can play three true outcomes with my predictions. I either struck out (Jackson), walked (Karinchak and Boxberger), or hit a home run (Diaz and my Hader grand slam).

 

Best of the Season

This section is usually for our Best of the Week, but let's wrap things up with a Best of the Season instead!

Liam Hendriks, Oakland A's- 23 IP, 1.17 ERA, 14 SV, 39.8 K%, 1.2 fWAR

A's closer Liam Hendriks was the best fantasy closer again this year, posting 14 saves and a tiny 1.17 ERA. He was second among all relievers in fWAR with 1.2.

Brad Hand, Cleveland Indians- 19 2/3 IP, 2.29 ERA, 14 SV, 32.9 K%, 0.9 fWAR

Cleveland closer Brad Hand had a huge bounce back season that I certainly didn't predict. Hand had all kinds of issues last season, but he was great in 2020, saving 14 games while posting a 2.29 ERA that could have been even better when looking at his 1.45 FIP.

Alex Colome, Chicago White Sox- 21 1/3 IP, 0.84 ERA, 12 SV, 17.2 K%, 0.5 fWAR

White Sox closer Alex Colome doesn't strike guys out, but he just gets it done. He gets guys out, he saves games. Colome had a dozen saves and a microscopic 0.84 ERA.

Devin Williams, Milwaukee Brewers- 25 IP, 0.36 ERA, 0 SV (9 HLD), 55.3 K%, 1.4 fWAR

MLB's leader in fWAR among relievers in 2020 is Brewers rookie Devin Williams. Williams had a stunning season, allowing just one earned run and six hits all season long, all while striking out 52 and walking just nine. If he ends up in the closer's role, Williams could easily be the number one reliever in baseball next season.

 

 



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Week 10 MLB Closers & Bullpen Usage Report

Monitoring bullpens in 2020 will be a vital task each and every day. Because of this, we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used.

The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.

 

Around the American League

Chicago White Sox - Matt Foster and Jace Fry have each pitched in two of the past three. They have also alternated between pitching late in a game and facing big spots midgame. The rest of the Chicago pecking order is well enough rested.

Cleveland - Finally getting nipped for a run, Brad Hand has gone back-to-back days and three of four. Nick Wittgren and James Karinchak both pitched Monday but could go again. Wittgren, if he goes Tuesday, would then have pitched in three of the past four days. Cam Hill has already thrown in three of the past five.

Kansas City - Greg Holland has pitched in back-to-back games. Jesse Hahn could be called upon to close if Holland rests. He's been racking up holds and has looked good for a few weeks now. He's only been called upon to pitch the eighth once, though, in recent games. Josh Staumont is another option, as is Scott Barlow, though the latter was given the fifth inning on Monday.

Houston - Ryan Pressly grabbed two more saves over the weekend. He did get a day off after two straight outings but will likely need another day after another appearance. Brooks Raley is a likely fill-in if Pressly does rest.

Los Angeles Angels - It was multi-inning outings in two of the past three days for Mike Mayers as he cements his status as the current Angels closer. Los Angeles has found a little something in multi-inning relievers with Mayers and Matt Andriese. Both may need to rest, in which case LA may have to turn back to Ty Buttrey for a save opportunity. Felix Pena would also be an option.

Seattle - All of Yoshihisa Hirano, Kendall Graveman, and Casey Sadler pitched in back-to-back before a day off. Fortunately, Marco Gonzales went eight scoreless on Monday, and the team didn't need any of them. Look for better staggering of the three arms this week, with help from Yohan Ramirez, so all don't need to rest at the same time again.

 

Around the National League

Atlanta Mark Melancon has pitched in two straight. He is hardly alone in heavy recent usage. Will Smith has pitched in three straight; Chris Martin two straight; Shane Greene two of the past three. Greene also really got knocked around this past week. A.J. Minter would be a plausible fill-in if everyone needs a day. Darren O'Day is probably not, as he needed 24 pitches on Monday to get through his inning. Keep in mind that although Smith has gone in three straight, he needed just nine total pitches the last two outings.

Miami - Brandon Kintzler got a day off after two straight outings. James Hoyt is also worth keeping an eye on. He pitched in two of three, though needed just 15 total pitches to get through them.

New York Mets - Edwin Diaz and Miguel Castro both pitched Monday. Jeurys Familia didn't but did pitch both weekend games. All three players would need a day off after another outing. Look for Luis Rojas to stagger their usage to avoid that this week.

Washington - Will Harris and Kyle Finnegan, holds guys but not in the mix for saves, both may need some rest. Harris has gone in three of four; Finnegan in two of three. Daniel Hudson pitched Monday but hadn't gotten into a game for four days before that.

Chicago Cubs - Rowan Wick is on the IL and likely out for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, Craig Kimbrel picked up a save back on September 12 and has pitched just once since then, striking out two in a clean eighth. Jeremy Jeffress has been busy in that same timeframe, but it isn't clear why Kimbrel has been packed away. Jeffress pitched on Monday, so another entrance would require a day off. Maybe then Chicago finally calls upon Kimbrel once again, who, by the way, has been great for the entire month of September.

Cincinnati - In a flip of protocol, Raisel Iglesias pitched the eighth, picking up a hold, only to be followed by Nate Jones. Nothing to worry about though. Iglesias came out after the Reds extended the lead past a save situation. That makes it two straight for Iglesias, though just 11 total pitches. Jones has now thrown in two of the past three.

Pittsburgh - Richard Rodriguez pitched in back-to-back before a day off. Neither outing was a save opportunity, but if one does come when Rodriguez needs to rest, Nik Turley is the next man up.

St. Louis - Tyler Webb, who snuck a save last week, is the only Cardinal who's gone in two straight. Giovanny Gallegos is also back off the IL, so the backend of the bullpen could be in flux the final week of the season.

Colorado - Par for the course, the Colorado bullpen has been busy. Daniel Bard pitched in two straight before a day off, including throwing 35 pitches on Sunday. Mychal Givens has gotten into three consecutive ballgames. Tyler Kinley has pitched in three of the past four. It's been two straight for Yency Almonte. Carlos Estevez continues his struggles. He gave up another run Monday and probably won't be called upon in a close game, a la Jairo Diaz and Wade Davis.

 



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Stefan Crichton (RP, ARI) - Week 10 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues

ROSTERED IN: 18% of leagues

ANALYSIS: With a week of the season left, if you are in need of saves you will be willing to take them from wherever you can get them. So the fact that a team's closer is available in 82% of leagues is pretty staggering. But that's exactly where we are with Stefan Crichton. There should be no doubt he is the Diamondbacks closer having secured Arizona's last four saves, all in the space of eight days. His emergence from seemingly nowhere may have caught fantasy managers by surprise but that should be corrected this weekend.

Crichton has had himself a solid season even without the saves with 24.2 IP, 2.55 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 23 Ks. The Diamondbacks have the fifth worst record in baseball but as mentioned, he's still managed to secure four saves since last Friday. His schedule next week is favourable too with six home games, two against the Rangers (last in runs scored) and four against the Rockies (tied 27th runs scored in road games). Crichton could easily find himself with three more save opportunities next and against low scoring offenses so shouldn't have any problem converting the chances which come his way. Crichton should certainly be rostered in more than the 18% of leagues he currently is.

 


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MLB Closers and Saves: Fantasy Baseball Depth Charts

Saves are an important component for many fantasy baseball leagues. Closers are one of the most volatile positions in fantasy baseball, and one of the highest turnover positions in MLB. Each year, closers drop like flies and many MLB teams make in-season changes due to injuries or poor performance.

In addition to closers and saves, relief pitchers are becoming increasingly important for fantasy baseball pitching staffs, especially in a volatile season like 2020. Bullpen arms with elite ratios will be relied upon heavily, especially for those in Holds (HLD) leagues or Saves+Holds leagues (SV+HLD) formats. But not to worry, the RotoBaller team is here every day to help you stay on top of all closer depth charts for the AL and NL, and dominate in saves, holds and bullpen arms this year.

We will be updating the MLB Closers & Saves Depth Charts every day, all season and off-season long. Be sure to also check out these quick-hit notes from @DavidMarcillo77 and @NMariano53 looking at the biggest daily bullpen news from around MLB:

  • 9/21: All bullpens updated for (maybe?) the last time in the regular season! Check it out and good luck in the fantasy finals!
  • 9/21: Cesar Valdez is all of a sudden seeing save opportunities in Baltimore and might be a good pickup for the last week of the season. The 35-year-old has earned two saves in the last two save chances the Orioles have had.
  • 9/16: Welp, so much for Ken Giles in Toronto. The closer is back on the injured list with the same injury he suffered before. Giles has dealt with issues in his throwing arm since last season and might not return until 2021. The Blue Jays pen will likely go back to being a committee led by Rafael Dolis.
  • 9/11: The Diamondbacks made it seem like Kevin Ginkel was going to get a chance to close, but today they optioned him back to the Alternate Site, so it certainly won't be him handling any ninth inning leads. Stefan Crichton and Travis Bergen look like the next possible guys up, but it could be a day by day thing in the desert.
  • 9/11: Giovanny Gallegos has landed on the IL with a groin injury. Andrew Miller looks like he's next in line, but it could end up continuing as a committee at least until someone stands out.
  • 9/11: Ken Giles is on his way back and could be activated this weekend. He'll get an inning or two of low-leverage work, but should be in the closer's role before long.
  • 9/11: Giovanny Gallegos was forced to leave Thursday's game with a groin injury. It's unclear if he'll miss extended time, but Andrew Miller, John Gant, and Ryan Helsley should step up if necessary.
  • 9/11: Bryan Garcia looks to be rising to the top of the Tigers bullpen committee. He's worth picking up in most formats for fantasy managers desperate for a few more saves.
  • 9/8: The Mariners bullpen is finally somewhat settled, but closer Yoshihisa Hirano still hasn't pitched in back-to-back days since returning from the IL. So yesterday, Yohan Ramirez saved his third game of the year. It's not quite a committee because Hirano will be in there when he's available, but he might not be as locked in as other closers until he can pitch in consecutive games.
  • 9/7: Almost nothing happened in bullpens for several days! That was a nice respite from this wild season.
  • 9/3: Hoby Milner is on the injured list with back spasms, meaning the recently-returned Cam Bedrosian should log several holds in September. If he looks sharp then he may see a save opportunity or two with Ty Buttrey's shaky 1.34 WHIP and poor 10/6 K/BB ratio over 18 2/3 IP treading water.
  • 9/2: Zack Britton is back in the Yankees bullpen and should continue as the primary setup man. Aroldis Chapman has been suspended for three games, and Britton should close if necessary for the games Chapman misses.
  • 9/2: Emilio Pagan landed on the injured list, so Drew Pomeranz and newcomer Trevor Rosenthal will continue atop the San Diego bullpen with a little less competition.

More Closer and Bullpen Articles

In addition to our bullpen depth charts below, be sure to also read our other articles on closers, relief pitchers, and bullpens:

 

AL EAST: 2020 Fantasy Baseball Closers & Saves

RotoBaller Stability Rating Team Name Current Closer Direct Backup More Holds  Candidates Immediate Waiver Add
Solid Yankees Aroldis Chapman Zack Britton Adam Ottavino N/A
Solid Red Sox Matt Barnes Ryan Brasier Phillips Valdez N/A
Questionable Blue Jays Rafael Dolis Anthony Bass A.J. Cole Rafael Dolis
Questionable Orioles Cesar Valdez Hunter Harvey Tanner Scott N/A
Questionable Rays Nick Anderson Diego Castillo Oliver Drake N/A

 

AL CENTRAL: 2020 Fantasy Baseball Closers & Saves

RotoBaller Stability Rating Team Name Current Closer Direct Backup More Holds
Candidates
Immediate Waiver Add
Solid Tigers Bryan Garcia Gregory Soto Jose Cisnero Bryan Garcia
Solid White Sox Alex Colome Codi Heuer Jimmy Cordero N/A
Solid Indians Brad Hand James Karinchak Nick Wittgren,
Oliver Perez
N/A
Solid Royals Greg Holland Scott Barlow Jesse Hahn, Josh Staumont Greg Holland
Questionable Twins Taylor Rogers Sergio Romo Tyler Duffey, Trevor May N/A

 


AL WEST: 2020 Fantasy Baseball Closers & Saves

RotoBaller Stability Rating Team Name Current Closer Direct Backup More Holds
Candidates
Immediate Waiver Add
Solid Rangers Rafael Montero Jonathan Hernandez Brett Martin N/A
Questionable Angels Ty Buttrey Felix Pena Cam Bedrosian, Mike Mayers N/A
Solid Athletics Liam Hendriks Joakim Soria Jake Diekman, Yusmeiro Petit N/A
Solid Astros Ryan Pressly Andre Scrubb Brooks Raley N/A
Solid Mariners Yoshihisa Hirano Yohan Ramirez Anthony Misiewicz N/A

 

NL EAST: 2020 Fantasy Baseball Closers & Saves

RotoBaller Stability Rating Team Name Current Closer Direct Backup More Holds
Candidates
Immediate Waiver Add
Solid Braves Mark Melancon Will Smith,
Shane Greene
Chris Martin N/A
Solid Marlins Brandon Kintzler Yimi Garcia Brad Boxberger N/A
Solid Mets Edwin Diaz Justin Wilson Jeurys Familia N/A
Questionable Phillies Hector Neris Tommy Hunter David Phelps N/A
Solid Nationals Daniel Hudson Will Harris Wander Suero N/A

 

NL CENTRAL: 2020 Fantasy Baseball Closers & Saves

RotoBaller Stability Rating Team Name Current Closer Direct Backup More Holds
Candidates
Immediate Waiver Add
Solid Cubs Jeremy Jeffress Craig Kimbrel Jason Adam N/A
Solid Reds Raisel Iglesias Archie Bradley Amir Garrett,

Nate Jones

N/A
Solid Brewers Josh Hader Devin Williams Alex Claudio N/A
Solid Pirates Richard Rodriguez Nik Turley Chris Stratton Richard Rodriguez
Questionable Cardinals Andrew Miller Alex Reyes Ryan Helsley Andrew Miller

 

NL West: 2020 Fantasy Baseball Closers & Saves

RotoBaller Stability Rating Team Name Current Closer Direct Backup More Holds
Candidates
Immediate Waiver Add
Solid Diamondbacks Stefan Chrichton Travis Bergen Junior Guerra N/A
Solid Rockies Daniel Bard Mychal Givens Yency Almonte Daniel Bard
Solid Dodgers Kenley Jansen Blake Treinen Brusdar Graterol, Pedro Baez N/A
Solid Padres Trevor Rosenthal Drew Pomeranz Emilio Pagan N/A
Committee Giants Tony Watson Tyler Rogers Sam Selman N/A

 

Previous Closers and Saves News Updates

  • 8/31: TRADE DEADLINE UPDATES! Seattle sent Taylor Williams to the Padres, where he'll settle in somewhere in middle relief. Yoshi Hirano should close in Seattle. Archie Bradley went to the Reds, where Raisel Iglesias should still close, but he'll have much less room for error. Hector Rondon and Junior Guerra should split opportunities in Arizona. David Phelps went to the Phillies, where he might be a good candidate for holds, and Miguel Castro joined the Mets and could get some late inning hold chances too.
  • 8/31: There are sure to be several changes coming throughout the day as the trade deadline approaches, but for now, the Orioles are giving Cole Sulser a bit of a break after he's struggled a bit. There's no clear replacement, but Hunter Harvey seems like a strong candidate if he can get back up to speed and stay healthy.
  • 8/31: For those keeping an eye on committees, Gregory Soto seems to be moving to the top in Detroit, and rather surprisingly, Sam Coonrod got a save for San Francisco. Nothing is determined, but it's something to keep an eye on for managers desperate for saves.
  • 8/30: The Mariners and Padres completed a seven-player trade with some bullpen arms involved. Dan Altavilla and Austin Adams will head to San Diego in the deal. They should both pitch out of the bullpen, but likely won't mix into the late innings now that Drew Pomeranz is healthy and Trevor Rosenthal is a Padre.
  • 8/30: The Orioles traded Mychal Givens to the Rockies, and he should immediately be in the mix for saves in Colorado. Cole Sulser remains the top guy in the Baltimore pen.
  • 8/29: When asked about the closer situation after trading Trevor Rosenthal, Royals manager Mike Matheny hinted at Greg Holland, but also mentioned Scott Barlow and Josh Staumont. The dark horse? Matheny also said Jesse Hahn may get an opportunity. It's a full committee for now, it seems.
  • 8/29: Plenty of news for a Saturday! New closers in San Diego, Kansas City, and Toronto. The Royals traded Trevor Rosenthal to the Padres, making him the top option for the Padres and leaving Scott Barlow and Josh Staumont to likely work the ninth together in Kansas City.
  • 8/29: Drew Pomeranz was activated off the injured list today. He'll rejoin the Padres bullpen, but it's unclear if he or the newly acquired Trevor Rosenthal will work as closer.
  • 8/29: Jordan Romano landed on the injured list, leaving the Blue Jays back to a committee likely with Anthony Bass and Rafael Dolis working the ninth. Romano is expected to miss two to four weeks.
  • 8/29: Hunter Harvey has been on the injured list most of this season, but he'll be activated within the next day or two. He'll probably need time to get back up to speed, but he could work his way into the closer's role before long.
  • 8/27: Keone Kela has only pitched two innings this year and now he's heading right back to the injured list with tightness in his forearm. Richard Rodriguez should pick up whatever save chances the Pirates accidentally end up in.
  • 8/27: Andrew Miller has hit the IL with arm fatigue, which should solidify Giovanny Gallegos as the closer for the time being. This is a bullpen to monitor.
  • 8/26: Shakeup in the Tigers bullpen, as Joe Jimenez will get some time to get things ironed out. In the meantime, manager Ron Gardenhire says he'll play matchups in the ninth inning.
  • 8/24: Daniel Bard got the most recent save chance for the Rockies, and converted it with a perfect ninth inning. The Colorado bullpen is still a committee, but it looks like Bard may be taking over at least as the head of the committee.
  • 8/24: Jordan Romano picked up the save for the Blue Jays and looks to be the new closer in town.
  • 8/23: Nick Anderson is the latest Rays pitcher to hit the IL. He's dealing with a forearm strain, but it's not expected to keep him out for too long. Diego Castillo will probably see the most save chances, but this could be more of a ninth inning closer carousel.
  • 8/23: Just when the Pirates finally got their closer back on the mound, Keone Kela got hurt. He'll be out for a bit, but the Pirates likely won't have too many save chances anyway. If they do, Richard Rodriguez seems like the favorite for the ninth.
  • 8/23: Andrew Miller came in to pitch the eighth inning and Giovanny Gallegos had to bail him out and then pitch the ninth. It's still a committee until we see more consistent usage, but Gallegos seems to be atop the committee now at least.
  • 8/21: TRADE! The Red Sox and Phillies have worked out a trade to revamp the Phillies bullpen. Brandon Workman should immediately become the closer in Philly, moving Hector Neris into a setup role. Meanwhile, Matt Barnes should take over for Boston if they ever accidentally have a lead in the ninth.
  • 8/21: Drew Pomeranz is dealing with shoulder tightness and ended up on the IL, right when he was given the chance to take over the closer's role full time. There doesn't seem to be a ton of concern long term, but any shoulder issue with a pitcher could become a big deal. Emilio Pagan and Craig Stammen figure to fill in for Pomeranz in the meantime.
  • 8/20: Corey Knebel has landed on the IL thanks to a hamstring strain. David Phelps and Devin Williams will move into more prominent roles behind Josh Hader while Knebel recovers.
  • 8/19: Big news out of Queens, as Seth Lugo will be stretched out to become a member of the starting rotation. Edwin Diaz figures to get another shot to lock down the closer's role for the Mets, but Dellin Betances and Jeurys Familia could be involved as well.
  • 8/17: Padres closer Kirby Yates has been recommended for season ending surgery. Drew Pomeranz has been working as closer in his place and should continue to do so, although Emilio Pagan could get some chances as well.
  • 8/17: Andrew Miller got another save in Game 1 of Monday's double header, pitching after Giovanny Gallegos. It's two save situations in a row that have gone to Miller, and he's now listed as the head of the committee. This is all subject to change, of course, especially with the Cardinals playing tons of double headers coming up.
  • 8/16: Turmoil in the Rockies bullpen as Jairo Diaz made a mess on Sunday that got cleaned up by Carlos Estevez. Following the game, the Rockies announced that they would no longer use a designated closer, and that Estevez would be sent for x-rays of his throwing hand after taking a comebacker off his hand in the game. Daniel Bard may suddenly jump into save situations after an excellent start to the season.
  • 8/15: For some reason only Gabe Kapler could know, Trevor Gott was allowed into a game tonight after last night's disastrous outing. Gott was bad again and it's hard to see him having any confidence the next time he climbs the mound. Tony Watson and Tyler Rogers were good and may see the next few save chances for the Giants.
  • 8/15: In the first save situation since the Cardinals shutdown, Andrew Miller was on the mound and earned the save in Game 2 of a double header. It's hard to tell what that means going forward since Giovanny Gallegos pitched in Game 1, but Miller is someone to keep an eye on, all of a sudden.
  • 8/15: Craig Kimbrel had his best outing in a while on Friday, inducing more swinging strikes than he had in the entire rest of the season. It was also the first appearance where he didn't allow a run, after seven straight where he did. Rowan Wick still seems to be atop this committee, but Kimbrel could quickly work his way back in if he's Craig Kimbrel again.
  • 8/15: Trevor Gott got got on Friday night, allowing five runs and giving up the lead (bright spot? no blown save because the lead was so big. Okay, maybe not so bright.) He should still stay atop the San Francisco committee, but another bad outing from Gott could shift things around.
  • 8/15: Devin Williams is ascending in the Milwaukee bullpen, and could soon take over for Corey Knebel as Josh Hader's top setup man. Williams has been excellent and has elite swing-and-miss stuff.
  • 8/15: Huge news out of San Diego, as closer Kirby Yates is heading for an MRI after leaving Friday's game. He threw just six pitches and has seemed hurt pretty much all season. Drew Pomeranz will take over the closer's role and could easily be one of the best closers in the game, much like Yates was last season.
  • 8/13: Edinson Volquez is done for the season (and maybe for his career?) after being placed on the injured list with an oblique strain. Rafael Montero has a hold on the ninth, but Joely Rodriguez will move into a position where he could earn some holds.
  • 8/13: Keone Kela has been activated and will be back on the mound for this weekend's series. He's likely to be the closer right away and although the Pirates may not win a ton, Kela is solid enough to be worth owning in most formats.
  • 8/12: Aroldis Chapman will pitch in a simulated game on Friday and that may be the last step before he's activated. He should take over the closer's role pretty soon, but might get a few lower leverage innings when he first gets back on the mound.
  • 8/11: Padres closer Kirby Yates was unavailable on Monday due to "soreness in his body" which to be honest: same. Drew Pomeranz got the save, but Yates should be back on the mound the next time the Padres have a lead to lock down.
  • 8/10: Cole Sulser still looks like the main guy in Baltimore, but Miguel Castro has been pitching important innings and earned a save on Sunday. It's another committee for the Orioles, with Sulser still holding a slight edge.
  • 8/10: The Mariners bullpen continues to be a day-to-day event, but Taylor Williams has three saves while all of the other options have just one. Williams came in to bail Dan Altavilla out of a rough situation and it looks like Williams has moved into the top spot for right now. With Carl Edwards Jr. now heading to the IL, Williams should have a bit of a leash, but this will be a fluid situation all year long, though.
  • 8/10: Looks like Rafael Montero is the guy in the Texas bullpen. We'll keep it as questionable for now just to be sure, but he's a must-add in most formats at this point.
  • 8/10: Oliver Drake ended up on the IL thanks to biceps tendinitis, so Nick Anderson should be the top choice in the Rays pen once again. Jose Alvarado and Diego Castillo will be in the mix as well.
  • 8/10: Trevor Rosenthal needed a day off so Scott Barlow earned the save on Sunday. Rosie is still the guy here right now, but Barlow may have moved into the top setup role.
  • 8/9: Seth Lugo has taken over as the closer for the Mets, based on usage over the past few games. Edwin Diaz has been much better lately and should get any chances that Lugo doesn't. Lugo needs more days off than most relievers, so this is still kind of a committee, but Lugo is the clear head.
  • 8/9: Trevors around the league have moved into closer's roles, with Trevor Rosenthal taking over in Kansas City and Trevor Gott in San Francisco. Rosenthal is the better fantasy bet thanks to his strikeout upside.
  • 8/8: The Marlins placed Richard Bleier on the injured list on Saturday because of a mild left elbow triceps strain. He was looking like a solid source of holds in deeper leagues, but won't be back on the mound for at least 10 days.
  • 8/8: When Wade Davis hit the injured list for the Rockies, we knew it would be either Jairo Diaz or Carlos Estevez taking over. While it's still likely to be a committee to some extent, it does look like Diaz has jumped ahead and will be the best bet at least until Davis returns.
  • 8/8: We're seeing more and more committees forming in bullpens around the league. The Mets ninth inning will be split between Seth Lugo and Edwin Diaz for now, and the Cubs will go with a combo of Craig Kimbrel and Rowan Wick. There's a chance these committees could be temporary, but if none of the pitchers separate themselves, then it could remain a group effort going forward.
  • 8/8: Taylor Williams and Carl Edwards Jr. seem to be the current best bets for saves in the Seattle bullpen. This has already been one of the most volatile bullpens in the league and should continue to be. There are some decent arms here, but the overall situation makes it a bullpen likely best left alone in most fantasy formats.
  • 8/8: Who knows when the Cardinals will play again, but when they do, it won't be Ryan Helsley taking the ball in the ninth, as he's on the IL with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. It looks like Giovanny Gallegos may end up closer by default.
  • 8/7: Rafael Montero was activated off the IL and immediately picked up a save. He has moved to the top of the Rangers bullpen depth chart. Montero was a promising prospect who dealt with multiple injuries over the years but definitely has the stuff to be a solid closer.
  • 8/7: Trevor Rosenthal picked up the save and has been moved to the top of the Royals bullpen depth chart. Meanwhile, Ian Kennedy continues to struggle after his surprisingly great 2019.
  • 8/5: Shake up in the Cardinals bullpen, as Kwang-Hyun Kim will leave the closer's role and enter the starting rotation. For now, the Cardinals will go with a committee, but Giovanny Gallegos and Ryan Helsley seem to be the best bets for save chances.
  • 8/5: The Pirates placed Nick Burdi on the 45-day injured list, so his season is over. Keone Kela will close as soon as he returns, and the Pirates will probably mix and match until then.
  • 8/5: With Hansel Robles struggling, the Angels will make their way to a committee. Ty Buttrey got the first save of the post-Robles era, and he's the best bet to get the most chances going forward.
  • 8/4: Updates on Astros closer Roberto Osuna show what manager Dusty Baker said to be correct: the team will be without their closer for a long time. Osuna has been recommended for Tommy John Surgery, which would knock him out of this season and likely most of next season as well. Ryan Pressly will work the ninth innings in Houston for now.
  • 8/4: The Pirates confirmed that Keone Kela would be the closer once he was back with the team. Kela has been dealing with COVID-19 but has been cleared to return to workouts and is working his way back. Nick Burdi is currently the closer in Pittsburgh, but that will change soon.
  • 8/4: Astros manager Dusty Baker said about closer Roberto Osuna's injury, "Doesn't look real good, actually." We can expect a long absence from Osuna, leaving Ryan Pressly to serve as closer. Pressly has dealt with his own arm issues, though, so Blake Taylor could be the backup's backup in Houston.
  • 8/2: Astros closer Roberto Osuna was officially placed on the IL with a case of elbow soreness. Ryan Pressly just got back on the mound after dealing with elbow issues of his own, but he's still the best bet to be on the mound in the ninth inning for Houston.
  • 8/2: Big shake up in the Colorado bullpen, as Wade Davis landed on the IL with a shoulder strain and Scott Oberg was transferred to the 45-day IL. Carlos Estevez and Jairo Diaz will likely share save chances until one of them stands out.
  • 8/1: Roberto Osuna had to be removed from a save situation due to an injury later reported to be "discomfort" in his throwing arm. He is scheduled for an MRI, but it appears he will miss some time. Ryan Pressly is next in line, but he's been dealing with his own health issues as well.
  • 8/1: Hansel Robles blew another save in grand fashion on Saturday. Robles was solid and consistent last season, but he's having a lot of trouble getting outs in 2020. It's unclear who'd be next in line in Anaheim, as top setup man Ty Buttrey has been struggling this year as well.
  • 8/1: Cole Sulser has jumped to the top of the Orioles committee. He is extremely effective against lefties, so manager Brandon Hyde may choose to use him more in a fireman role rather than limiting him to the ninth inning, but Sulser is the top of this committee for now.
  • 8/1: The Marlins and Orioles made a trade, with Richard Bleier heading from Baltimore to Miami in exchange for a player to be named later. Bleier will likely work in the late innings for Miami if they play another game this season.
  • 8/1: Dan Altavilla looked like he was taking over the Mariners bullpen, but he got lit up in a save opportunity and Taylor Williams earned another save on Friday. The Seattle bullpen will probably feature a carousel of closers this season, but for now, Williams seems like the top dog.
  • 8/1: Kirby Yates, baseball's best closer by a decent margin last season, is on the hot seat already this season. He's allowed four earned runs after allowing just eight in all of 2019. His biggest issue seems to be control, as he usually keeps his BB% under 8%, and it's at 25% right now. Drew Pomeranz got a save on Friday, and is more than just knocking on the door of the ninth inning.
  • 8/1: The Royals bullpen looks like an all-out committee, we'll say Trevor Rosenthal is at the top for now, but that can change from one day to the next.
  • 8/1: Surprising literally no one in baseball, Wade Davis hasn't been great this year. Scott Oberg has been hurt but is on his way back and would be next in line. For now, it's Carlos Estevez and Jairo Diaz at the end of the Rockies pen, along with Davis.
  • 7/31: Will Smith feels "really really good" according to manager Brian Snitker. He'll face live hitters in a couple of days, then throw in a sim game. After that, he should be activated and quickly become the top setup man in Atlanta.
  • 7/31: Sean Doolittle is working on things right now, making Daniel Hudson the choice for saves in Washington, at least temporarily. A good showing from Hudson could keep him in the ninth inning for a while though.
  • 7/31: The Blue Jays sound optimistic about Ken Giles, saying they hope to have him pitch again "relatively soon".
  • 7/31: Aroldis Chapman was dealing with COVID-19 but has been cleared to rejoin his teammates. He'll probably get a few normal innings to get his feet wet before jumping back into the closer's role full time.
  • 7/31: Mets manager Luis Rojas said "we need to talk" about removing Edwin Diaz from the closer's role. It sounds like Diaz is on extremely thin ice, or that he's lost the job already. The Mets have several closer-type arms to choose from, including Seth Lugo, Dellin Betances, and Jeurys Familia.
  • 7/30: Lots to look at in Thursday night's games. James Karinchak got the save for Cleveland. He may be next up if Brad Hand continues to struggle with his velocity. Trevor Rosenthal got the save for Kansas City, but the Royals bullpen still looks like a committee of veterans, including Ian Kennedy and Greg Holland as well. Daniel Hudson got the save for Washington, and he's been off to a much better start than current closer Sean Doolittle. The two Nationals may switch roles before too long.
  • 7/30: Rangers closer/fireman Jose Leclerc is dealing with the same injury as his teammate Corey Kluber. They both have a Grade 2 strain of the teres major muscle in their throwing shoulders. Neither will be on a mound again likely until the postseason. Nick Goody picked up the save on Wednesday night, but it was mostly due to game circumstance. If Leclerc misses more time, the Rangers could send Jonathan Hernandez or Edinson Volquez to the mound in the ninth innings.
  • 7/29: Oliver Drake looks like he's earned the "hot hand" in the Rays bullpen. He earned his second save in a row on Tuesday night and should continue to get save chances until his hand is less hot.
  • 7/29: Nick Burdi earned his first career save last night and will be the favorite for saves in Pittsburgh, but manager Derek Shelton admitted he'd be careful with Burdi because of his previous injury history. Burdi should still easily have the most fantasy value, but Richard Rodriguez and Michael Feliz will find themselves on the mound in the ninth inning when Burdi is deemed unavailable.
  • 7/29: Sergio Romo earned a save last night for the Twins, and Taylor Rogers still hasn't pitched this season. Manager Rocco Baldelli says that Romo was already up and warm when the Cardinals turned the game into a save situation by adding a run. It's a bit concerning for fantasy owners, but it seems Taylor Rogers is fine and should be on the mound soon.
  • 7/28: More injuries in the Pirates bullpen have led to Kyle Crick joining Keone Kela on the injured list. That leaves Nick Burdi as the favorite for saves in Pittsburgh. He's one of the top relief prospects in the game and should be added immediately.
  • 7/28: Many people expected some turmoil in the Mets bullpen, but maybe not this early. On Monday night, Seth Lugo earned a four-out save, bailing out Jeurys Familia in the eighth then pitching a clean ninth to lock down a 7-4 win. Edwin Diaz has already blown a save and the Mets bullpen could be fully on its way to a committee at this point.
  • 7/27: Blue Jays closer Ken Giles officially landed on the injured list with elbow soreness. It's unclear how long he'll be out, but it could be a while. Toronto figures to go with a committee for now, featuring Jordan Romano, Anthony Bass, and Rafael Dolis. Keep an eye on how Toronto uses their bullpen to see if any of those guys are worth a waiver claim.
  • 7/27: Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel did almost nothing right on Monday, walking four and giving up two runs while getting just one out. He threw 34 pitches, just 13 for strikes. Kimbrel was clearly not right last season, and it seems like he's not much different in 2020. Jeremy Jeffress came in to rescue Kimbrel and earned the save, and would likely be next in line if Kimbrel loses his ninth inning role.
  • 7/27: Astros top setup man Ryan Pressly is dealing with elbow soreness. For now, he's listed as "day-to-day", but it'll be important to keep an eye on him. Roberto Osuna remains at the top of the Astros bullpen, but Chris Devenski will likely move into Pressly's spot.
  • 7/26: The Giants (somewhat surprisingly) had two save opportunities this weekend against the Dodgers. Both went to Trevor Gott. With Gabe Kapler as manager, it's almost impossible to say anyone has a leg up on the ninth inning, but Gott does seem like the early favorite, as he was able to save both games he came into.
  • 7/26: Lots of news today, as Will Smith has been cleared to rejoin the Braves after throwing a side session in Atlanta. He'll likely slide into the eighth inning/fireman role and should be an excellent roster piece in any holds leagues for now.
  • 7/26: Trevor Gott earned the save for the Giants last night. Tony Watson and Tyler Rogers pitched in the eighth inning right ahead of him. It'll likely be a full on committee for San Francisco this season, with recent usage and opposing batters determining the closer's role each game.
  • 7/26: The Mariners pretty much had a bullpen day on Sunday, with seven pitchers pitching against the Astros. When a save situation finally came around, though, Seattle gave the ball to Taylor Williams, who earned the save by striking out three in the inning despite allowing a run.
  • 7/26: Blue Jays closer Ken Giles was forced to leave the game today due to an injury. It's unclear how much time he will miss, but the Blue Jays could choose to go with Anthony Bass in the ninth inning, or with a committee that includes Bass, Rafael Dolis, and a few others.
  • 7/26: Some interesting bullpen usage last night, as Greg Holland earned the save for Kansas City and Oliver Drake earned one for Tampa Bay. Ian Kennedy was used in the 6th and 7th innings, and Nick Anderson came in as a fireman in the 7th and 8th.
  • 7/26: Edwin Diaz blew a save on Saturday, an all too common sight for Mets fans after last season. He was used as the closer in Games 1 and 2, but his leash will likely be very short.
  • 7/23: A couple of bits of good news in the Phillies bullpen, as Tommy Hunter and closer Hector Neris are healthy and ready to go for Opening Day. With Joe Girardi serving as manager this year, Neris should have a more solid role in the ninth inning.
  • 7/23: Astros closer Roberto Osuna will be on the Opening Day roster. He got a late start at Summer Camp, so there was reason to wonder if he'd start the season on the injured list, but he's far along enough in his training that he'll be on the team from the outset. Ryan Pressly will likely still get the first few save chances while Osuna gets up to speed, but it's ultimately Osuna's job once he's set to go.
  • 7/22: Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman is still testing positive for COVID-19 despite remaining asymptomatic. He'll need two negative test results before he can rejoin the Yankees. Zach Britton is expected to handle the bulk of the save opportunities in the meantime.
  • 7/22: Rockies reliever Scott Oberg will begin the season on the injured list. He was set to be the main setup man for Colorado and the handcuff for the volatile Wade Davis. At least for now, it seems like Oberg won't be on the shelf for too long.
  • 7/22: Pirates closer Keone Kela revealed that he has been away from the team due testing positive for COVID-19. He says he has been asymptomatic, but continuously tests positive or inconclusive. He'll need two negative tests before he can rejoin his teammates.
  • 7/22: Orioles rookie reliever Hunter Harvey is "very doubtful" to be ready for Opening Day. He's dealing with soreness in his throwing elbow, although the team is reportedly "not concerned about it at all". Mychal Givens will open the season as the Orioles closer, but Harvey should take over once he's healthy.
  • 7/22: More mess in the Mariners bullpen, as Austin Adams looks like he'll start the season on the injured list. Adams is dealing with a knee injury, but should be right back into the ninth inning mix once he's back on the mound.
  • 7/22: Rays reliever Colin Poche is out for the year and likely most of next year as well. He was diagnosed with a torn UCL and will likely undergo Tommy John Surgery.
  • 7/21: Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said that Hunter Harvey is dealing with, "a little bit of arm fatigue". It's unclear if he'll just need a couple of days off or if he'll need a stint on the injured list to start the season. Harvey should be a ninth inning option for the Orioles this season once he's healthy.
  • 7/21: Just as the Cardinals bullpen seemed to be settling down, manager Mike Schildt announced that lefty Kwang-Hyun Kim would be starting the season in the bullpen and would likely be the primary closer. Kim does not have the kind of "stuff" you usually see in an effective closer, but his role will give him plenty of fantasy value.
  • 7/20: The Astros bullpen has been downgraded to Questionable as closer Roberto Osuna may not be ready to go when the season starts. Manager Dusty Baker has said that Ryan Pressly will "probably" be the closer until Osuna is able to return.
  • 7/20: The Phillies released Anthony Swarzak, presumably so he'd have a chance to pitch elsewhere. He's more of a middle reliever at this point, but he could work his way into fantasy relevance if he signs with a club with a shallow bullpen.
  • 7/19: Astros manager Dusty Baker said that he is "not sure" if closer Roberto Osuna will be ready to go for Opening Day. Osuna is behind after reporting late to Summer Camp. Ryan Pressly is the top option to take his place, but Osuna's job is safe once he returns.
  • 7/18: Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos (undisclosed) is finally on his way to St. Louis to join the team. He hasn't been with the club since Summer Camp opened, so he's unlikely to be ready to go on Opening Day. Still, he shouldn't be too far behind and will play a key role in the Cardinals bullpen this season.
  • 7/17: Pirates manager Derek Shelton said that he plans to mix and match for his closer's role while Keone Kela is away for "undisclosed" reasons. Kyle Crick is the most likely one to get chances, but he's a bit behind in Summer Camp so Nick Burdi could get some chances as well.
  • 7/16: The Royals and Padres have agreed to a trade that will send Tim Hill to San Diego. Hill will be buried in the Padres bullpen, but should provide solid middle relief and situational outings against lefties.
  • 7/16: Phillies closer Hector Neris was activated from the injured list and cleared to return to action. He should be ready to go on Opening Day.
  • 7/14: Astros reliever Joe Smith has opted out of the 2020 season.
  • 7/13: Jordan Hicks was expected to get a late start to the season after finishing his recovery from Tommy John Surgery, but he's chosen to opt out of 2020 all together. Ryan Helsley seems like the the highest upside add, with Giovanny Gallegos slightly safer, although there's plenty of risk there too.
  • 7/13: Diego Castillo was back in Rays camp on Monday and believes he could pitch in back-to-back games right away. He missed three days of workouts due to a "personal matter" but seems right on track and should have a key role in the Tampa Bay bullpen this season.
  • 7/11: Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman has tested positive for COVID-19 and is showing symptoms. Manager Aaron Boone says he is doing okay, but he won't be around for a while of course. The Yankees bullpen is strong enough to take care of things while Chapman recovers, with a mix of Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino likely handling the ninth.
  • 7/8: Cardinals president John Mozeliak was asked about his team's closer role and the first person he mentioned was Ryan Helsley. He also mentioned Giovanny Gallegos, who hasn't joined the team just yet, and Carlos Martinez if he is unable to stretch out into a starting role. Helsley has the most upside and is worth keeping an eye on.
  • 7/7: The Baltimore bullpen looks like it could be a committee between Mychal Givens and Hunter Harvey. Harvey has the higher upside, but Givens has the experience that managers crave.
  • 7/7: Trevor Rosenthal slides into the backup/handcuff role in Kansas City. He was terrible last season in 15 1/3 innings, but now reunited with manager Mike Matheny, Rosenthal should be given the chance to climb up the depth chart.
  • 7/7: Jose Leclerc is the best reliever in the Texas bullpen, which is this case might not be the best thing for his fantasy value. Leclerc may be used in more of a fireman role than in a classic closer role, making him much more valuable to the Rangers, but potentially much less for fantasy owners.
  • 7/7: Austin Adams works his way into the top spot in the Seattle bullpen, but that whole bullpen looks to be a work in progress, with Hirano, Magill, and perhaps even a few more likely mixing in for saves based on matchups.
  • 7/7: Corey Knebel looks set to be the main handcuff for Josh Hader in Milwaukee, but Knebel may get a slightly late start. He's recovering from Tommy John Surgery and has reportedly been throwing well, but he's not a sure thing to be ready for New Opening Day.
  • 7/7: Nick Burdi sneaks into the Pirates bullpen hierarchy and while he'll likely start somewhere in a middle relief/7th inning role, he could have huge upside as closer if the Pirates move Keone Kela before the deadline.
  • 7/7: John Brebbia was a key part of the Cardinals bullpen and was set to be again this year, but he was forced to undergo Tommy John Surgery and will miss all of whatever the 2020 season is, and likely a big part of 2021 as well. Ryan Helsley could have a huge year in a role somewhat like Brebbia's, although he could move up in the pecking order if he pitches well.
  • 7/7: Speaking of the Cardinals, Jordan Hicks should be ready to pitch at some point this season, but he won't be ready to start the year. Giovanny Gallegos should take the closer's role, but he's currently on the injured list as well. The Cardinals expect Gallegos to be ready to go, but if he's not, that bullpen will be mixing and matching to start the season.
  • 7/6: Baseball is back! Maybe? The season is still a work in progress, but bullpen depth charts have been updated to reflect a few recent pieces of news, including a few closers landing on the injured list due to positive COVID-19 tests.
  • 7/6: Key relievers currently dealing with positive COVID-19 tests include Will Smith of the Braves, Giovanny Gallegos of the Cardinals, and Hector Neris of the Phillies. There are reportedly 31 players who have tested positive so far, with more tests and certainly more positives to come. Bullpens could be more of a revolving door than ever before this season.
  • 7/6: New Mets manager Luis Rojas is already making waves, refusing to commit to Edwin Diaz as closer when asked. The end of the Mets bullpen has a lot of great arms in Diaz, Dellin Betances, Seth Lugo, and Jeurys Familia. Diaz should still lead the committee, but may not end up taking the role for himself.



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Closers and Saves Report - Week 9 Waiver Wire

It feels like the season just started. Remember drafting your team? Remember how excited you were about your roster? Well, I hope you're still excited, because it's time for playoffs (in most leagues). This has been a weird season and 40-something games was not nearly enough to determine what fantasy managers deserved an appearance in the digital  playoffs, but that's what we were given this year and it's what we have to play with.

Despite the shortened season, this year seemed to have more bullpen drama than any year I can remember. We had days where it seemed like half of the teams in the league made some kind of bullpen change. Then we had the trade deadline, which of course changed things as it always does. It's been a fun season, and I'm going to go ahead and assume that bullpens are going to be key parts in determining many fantasy championships. So let's make sure you're ready!

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 9

Arizona Diamondbacks

Before the trade deadline, the Diamondbacks had one of the more solid bullpen situations with Archie Bradley holding things down. Ever since Bradley was sent to the Cincinnati Reds, though, the Arizona bullpen has been a mess. This week it looks like there finally might be some settling going on in the desert though, as Stefan Crichton seems to have taken the ninth inning and run with it. He was atop a messy committee last week, but his usage this week makes it seem like he might be the full-fledged closer. Crichton doesn't have eye-popping numbers in any category, but he should be more than solid enough to keep the job at least until the end of the season. Fantasy managers hurting for saves might want to take a look at him.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays bullpen has seen Ken Giles and Jordan Romano both installed as closers and then both removed due to injury. Giles was finally able to come back this week, but didn't last thought the week, going right back on the injured list with the same elbow injury that sent him there in the first place. It's a tough break for Giles and the Blue Jays, but it likely means Anthony Bass and Rafael Dolis will continue to share save chances, with Dolis getting the larger share at least for now.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates bullpen has also dealt with some injuries up top, as the team announced this week that Keone Kela is unlikely to pitch again this season. Kyle Crick also ended up going back on the injured list on Monday, leaving Richard Rodriguez with little competition in the ninth inning. Rodriguez won't get too many save chances most likely, but he can help with ratios, making him a potentially valuable pick up who could be on the waiver wire for the fantasy playoffs.

 

 

Short Relief

  • The Marlins made a quick switch in their bullpen, having Brandon Kintzler set up for Yimi Garcia. It seems like it was just a one-time thing though, as they went back to Garcia setting up for Kintzler later in the week.
  • The Phillies bullpen, historically bad, is shifting around some more, as Hector Neris got a save chance this week while Brandon Workman pitched in the seventh inning. It's definitely a bullpen to just completely avoid if at all possible.
  • Daniel Hudson has been really bad, with an ERA north of seven, but he's still getting save chances and has little competition in the Nationals bullpen now that Tanner Rainey might be done for the year.
  • Veteran reliever Matt Andriese got two saves in two days for the Angels, so that's another name to throw in to the committee in Anaheim.

 

Roster Moves of the Week

Adds

Stefan Chrichton, Arizona Diamondbacks- Crichton looks to be the guy in the desert, so he's worth picking up down the stretch in hopes of a few saves.

Richard Rodriguez, Pittsburgh Pirates- Rodriguez pitches for the Pirates, which means he might not get a ton of save chances. But when the Pirates do have a save chance, it'll be him on the mound. He has good enough ratios to make him worth having in a fantasy lineup even if he isn't getting consistent saves.

Drops

Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays- It looks like Giles is done for the year, and at least for the remainder of the fantasy baseball season. No reason to hang on to him in any kind of redraft leagues.

 

Best of the Week

Matt Barnes, Boston Red Sox- 3 IP, 3 SV, 5 K, 0.00 ERA, 3 base runners allowed

Red Sox closer Matt Barnes had a shutdown week, saving three games while striking out five and allowing only two hits and a walk.

Stefan Crichton, Arizona Diamondbacks- 2 2/3 IP, 3 SV, 1 K, 0.00 ERA, 0 base runners allowed

New Diamondbacks closer Stefan Crichton was great this week, saving three games while not allowing a hit or a walk. He only struck out one, but he certainly got the job done.

 



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Week 9 MLB Closers & Bullpen Usage Report

Monitoring bullpens in 2020 will be a vital task each and every day. Because of this, we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used.

The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.

 

Around the American League

New York Yankees - The Yankees received a much needed day off. Aroldis Chapman, Zach Britton, Chad Green, and Jonathan Holder had all pitched in back-to-back games. Fortunately, none of them had thrown all that many pitches. The highest total was Green's at 35 pitches between the two outings.

Toronto - Rafael Dolis pitched in two straight before an off day. If he goes again, another day of rest will follow. That may be the opening for the Blue Jays to transition back to Ken Giles to close, though Dolis and Anthony Bass have been so solid.

Chicago White Sox - Alex Colome has pitched in two straight and three of four. He will need at least one day, and maybe multiple days off early this week. Codi Heuer and Evan Marshall both pitched early in Monday's game. Steve Cishek could be an option to vulture a save while Colome rests.

Minnesota - Taylor Rogers will need some rest after pitching three of the past four days. If Tyler Duffey and Matt Wisler get called upon again, they will each need days off as well, as that would make it three in four for them.

Los Angeles Angels - Matt Andriese picked up two saves over the weekend. As the team looks for a new plan to combat the Ty Buttrey struggles, it still seems unlikely Andriese factors into that. On Saturday, he pitched the 11th inning after all the main arms had already thrown. On Sunday, he grabbed a two-inning save with Buttrey, Felix Pena, and Mike Mayers having all gone in back-to-back.

Oakland - After a week of losses and blowout wins, the A's bullpen is pretty well rested. Joakim Soria is likely to be the only arm unavailable. He needed 29 pitches to get through Monday's outing.

Seattle - For a while there, Yoshihisa Hirano was not pitching on back-to-back days. Then he was and actually went three straight. So much for easing his arm load. You'd have to imagine Yohan Ramirez gets the next save chance, though, if it comes anytime soon.

Texas - Both Rafael Montero and Jonathan Hernandez went in two straight before the team's off day. If either one pitches on Tuesday, they would need another day of rest.

 

Around the National League

Cincinnati - All of Raisel Iglesias, Archie Bradley, and Nate Jones have pitched in back-to-back games. Amir Garrett could be the next man up if all three get a day off. He's only pitched once since September 6 though, indicating the coaches may have lost trust in him. Not sure why that would be, as Garrett has pitched well this season and was pitching well recently before his last outing.

Milwaukee - Josh Hader's entrance into Monday's game meant he pitched in three of the past four days. Devin Williams got into action on the same three days as Hader. Both will need days off. Alex Claudio can pick up the slack in the immediate future, though he has pitched in two of three. Oh by the way, the Brewers have another double header scheduled for Wednesday.

St. Louis - Tyler Webb grabbed an extra-inning save, pitching for the third time in four days. Alex Reyes has now gone in back-to-back. Genesis Cabrera has pitched in three straight. Andrew Miller was unavailable for Monday's double header, so at least he should be ready to roll.

Colorado - A group of arms in front of Daniel Bard had all pitched in two straight before a day off. That includes Yency Almonte, Jairo Diaz, and Carlos Estevez. Bard himself is rested, as are Mychal Givens and Tyler Kinley.

Los Angeles Dodgers - Kenley Jansen got the day off after going in two straight. If he enters another game here right away, he will likely need another day of rest. Blake Treinen will be in the same boat. He's gone in two of three currently.

San Diego - The Padres got back into action, and only Drew Pomeranz is ready for some rest. He's gone in two straight games.



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Closers and Saves Report - Week 8 Waiver Wire

It seems like the season just started, but we're already talking fantasy playoffs in most leagues. That's something we expected with such a short season, but it still seems way too soon for playoffs. One bad week of injuries could have knocked a really good team right out of the playoff picture in some leagues (complaining for a friend...)

Things in the bullpens around the league did seem to settle down a bit after the trade deadline, but there's still plenty to look at and talk about. Fantasy managers prepping for a playoff run need to be as on top of their bullpen as possible, and that's why we're here!

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 8

Toronto Blue Jays

The Jays bullpen has been a committee for most of the season, usually led by Anthony Bass. Bass has struggled lately though, right at the same time that Rafael Dolis has been pitching very well. Dolis saved two games in a row earlier this week and could be making his way to the top of the committee in Buffalo for Toronto. Bass appeared in a six-run game, which is not a spot you'd usually see a team's closer. For now, we'll leave Bass atop the committee, but Dolis is essentially the 1B at worst.

Kansas City Royals

The Royals traded away their closer, Trevor Rosenthal, to the San Diego Padres before the deadline. Based on comments and history, it was assumed that manager Mike Matheny would go with Greg Holland as his new closer, but for the three saves the Royals have had since the trade deadline, we've seen three different relievers. Scott Barlow, Jesse Hahn, and Holland have notched the three saves in what looks to be an all-out committee for now. Nothing in Matheny's history shows that he wants it to continue that way though, so look for him to ride the hot hand and the person that hand is attached to to eventually become the outright closer. Kyle Zimmer has also been solid out of the Royals bullpen lately, so there could be one more contender for the ninth.

Chicago Cubs

Nobody in the Cubs bullpen has the official label of closer, according to manager David Ross, but Jeremy Jeffress has recorded the last four saves for the team and is “probably the guy that’s going to be on the back end for a little bit" so like...Jeremy Jeffress is the Cubs closer. He may not get as many chances to mess up as a team's closer usually gets, but as long as he's pitching well, it's hard to see anyone but Jeffress coming into the ninth inning for the Cubs any time soon.

Los Angeles Angels

The Angels opened the season with Ty Buttrey as their closer, and all of his numbers from previous years showed that he should be a very solid if not maybe even excellent closer. But, it's 2020, so nothing goes as planned. Buttrey had a 28.6 K% in 2018 and a 27.2 K% last year. This season, somehow, that's gone all the way down to 14.9%. Not coincidentally, his ERA this season sits at 5.14 after never posting anything above 4. He's blown three saves and recorded five, so the Angels are making their way into some kind of committee instead of just relying on the new-and-definitely-not-improved version of Buttrey. Felix Pena got the first chance and it didn't go well. Manager Joe Maddon said that Pena and Buttrey would both get chances. Buttrey, despite his season-long struggles, has been decent lately while Pena blew his first chance. It's a committee for now, but it might not be long until Buttrey jumps back on top, as long as he can remember the pitcher he was last season.

 

Short Relief

  • The Mariners settled on Yoshihisa Hirano as their closer after jettisoning much of their bullpen at the trade deadline. Hirano's coming back from an injury though, so he hasn't pitched in back-to-back days yet.
  • The Giants bullpen hierarchy is still anyone's guess, but Tony Watson is rocking a 0.75 ERA, so...maybe he should see some more save chances going forward?
  • The Diamondbacks bullpen looks like it now features a guy with a near-7 ERA as its closer. Kevin Ginkel has struggled a lot this year, but it seems he's the head of the committee.

 

Roster Moves of the Week

Adds

Jeremy Jeffress, Chicago Cubs- Jeffress is the closer in Chicago even if his manager won't say so yet. He's worth picking up in most formats, especially with fantasy playoffs approaching.

Rafael Dolis, Toronto Blue Jays- Anthony Bass has been leading the Buffalo Bullpen, but Rafael Dolis looks like he could be taking over. It'll still be a committee, so some shallower waiver wires may have better options, but Dolis should be a decent fantasy reliever going forward.

Drops

Ty Buttrey, Los Angeles Angels- Buttrey may very well hang onto his job as Angels closer, but the Angels aren't winning enough and Buttrey isn't striking guys out enough to be worth a spot in most fantasy bullpens.

 

Best of the Week

Daniel Hudson, Washington Nationals- 4 IP, 3 SV, 5 K, 4.50 ERA, 1 Blown Save

Hudson wasn't great this week by any means, but he was the only closer to save three games, so he earns a spot in Best of the Week. He blew a save and allowed two runs on two hits and a walk while striking out five.

Rafael Dolis, Toronto Blue Jays- 3 1/3 IP, 2 SV, 7 K, 0.00 ERA, 1 BB

Blue Jays reliever/closer (maybe?) Rafael Dolis had a near-perfect week. He saved two games and struck out seven while allowing just one batter to reach base.

 

 

 



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Week 8 MLB Closers & Bullpen Usage Report

Monitoring bullpens in 2020 will be a vital task each and every day. Because of this, we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used.

The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.

 

Around the American League

Toronto - Anthony Bass has pitched in three of four. Rafael Dolis grabbed the save on the day Bass rested. Bass has allowed runs in his last two appearances, so Dolis might get the next save chance regardless of rest.

Chicago White Sox - Jimmy Cordero pitched in back-to-back games (grabbing holds in both) before an off day. He may be ready to throw again though, as he only needed three pitches to complete that first outing.

Cleveland Brad Hand pitched three straight days, picking up two saves and a win. His early season troubles are behind him, though he will need rest for sure. Nick Wittgren pitched in two straight but had Monday off. Phil Maton is the only other taxed arm in the pen. He pitched in two straight and three of four. He now has four holds in the last eight days.

Detroit - After one slip-up, Gregory Soto was brought on in the seventh inning of his next appearance. Jose Cisnero was given the save opportunity...and promptly blew it. One would figure Detroit goes back to Soto. Everyone is pretty well rested other than Joe Jimenez. Jimenez has pitched in three of four as Ron Gardenhire tries to get him back on track. (It isn't working.)

Houston - Blake Taylor and Chris Devenski were both placed on the IL. This could open up more hold opportunities for the likes of Brooks Raley and Andre Scrubb.

Los Angeles Angels - Before a day off, Ty Buttrey had pitched in three straight games. He grabbed one save, one hold, one loss, and got blasted twice. He is leaking runs fast, and the Angels may turn to a new face like Cam Bedrosian or Mike Mayers. The latter also pitched three straight days before a day off. Felix Pena would have been the next man up, but he is also struggling and pitched back-to-back before the day off.

Oakland - Liam Hendriks' setup men are getting a lot of work lately. Jake Diekman pitched in two of the past three days; T.J. McFarland pitched in two of four; Yusmeiro Petit pitched in two straight before a day off. All three can still be used early this week but will need to rotate through rest.

Seattle - Yoshihisa Hirano isn't pitching in back-to-backs. He's been rotating days with Yohan Ramirez, and the surging Mariners have supplied them with three save chances in the past four outings. They each should continue getting chances moving forward.

 

Around the National League

Miami - Brandon Kintzler has pitched three straight days. Brad Boxberger would be the logical fill-in to close, but he will also need some rest. He's pitched back-to-back days. Nick Vincent or James Hoyt could be options, though both pitched Monday as well.

New York Mets - All of Edwin Diaz, Miguel Castro, and Jeurys Familia have pitched on two of the past three days. Diaz is the most likely to go again right away, as he only needed 12 pitches last outing. Justin Wilson is also well rested.

Chicago Cubs - Rowan Wick now seems to be ahead of Craig Kimbrel yet behind Jeremy Jeffress in the pecking order. Wick has pitched in two straight and three of four and will need a day or two as the other arms pick up the slack.

Cincinnati - Amir Garrett and Michael Lorenzen both pitched in two straight before an off day. They may need another day if they pitch early in the week, though both Archie Bradley and Raisel Iglesias are on normal rest. Just keep an eye out if Iglesias has another long outing. He needed 29 pitches to complete Sunday's game.

Arizona - As the Diamondbacks hunt for a committee order to settle on, Junior Guerra has pitched back-to-back and three of four sixth innings, grabbing one hold. Joe Mantiply and Keury Mella have each pitched in two of three, though they don't appear to be in the late inning plans for close games. Kevin Ginkel, the only Diamondback to pick up a save over the holiday weekend, is well rested since that outing.

Colorado - Everyone in Colorado is tired. Yency Almonte has pitched in three straight games; Daniel Bard pitched in two straight before a day off; Carlos Estevez pitched in two straight and three of four, though he couldn't even record an out in his last outing. Mychal Givens has also pitched in two straight and three of four. After Givens gets some rest, he may move ahead of Estevez on the hierarchy. Estevez may soon join Jairo Diaz in the doghouse. Diaz, by the way, hasn't pitched since September 1, which was the third straight appearance he gave up multiple runs.

San Diego - Trevor Rosenthal pitched in two straight before needing a day. Drew Pomeranz has now pitched two straight. Interestingly, Taylor Williams and Dan Altavilla have made only one combined appearance since being acquired by the Padres. Williams didn't even make the active roster when he first joined the team.

San Francisco - We expected it all year, but Gabe Kapler's bullpen is finally a mess, both in terms of results and usage. Sam Coonrod has pitched in three of the past four games and four of the past six, allowing runs in three of four outings. Tyler Rogers pitched back-to-back, allowing another run after blowing the game last week. Tony Watson was clean in his two consecutive outings but then promptly ceded the next save chance to Rogers anyway.



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Archie and the Gang: Navigating the New-Look Cincinnati Bullpen

As of August 31st, the day of the 2020 MLB Trade Deadline, the Cincinnati Reds sat at a record of 15-19, placing them at fourth-place in the NL Central and well outside of the NL postseason picture in this year of the expanded playoff format. While the Cincinnati offense has been far from elite through August and past the season's halfway point, the main problem has been with the Reds bullpen as evidenced by their 4.09 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in innings 1.0-6.0 (top-10 in MLB) in contrast with their 5.42 ERA (eighth-worst in MLB) and 1.32 WHIP from the seventh inning on.

It was billed as a year prime for the organization to go all-in following their high-profile offseason in which many placed them on the short list of National League contenders, and the Redlegs were desperate for a bullpen boost if they were to make a competitive bid for the postseason. Finally, in a last-second deal on Deadline Day with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Reds acquired electrifying righty Archie Bradley in exchange for 25-year-old utility-man Josh VanMeter and minor league outfielder Stuart Fairchild (top-15 organizational prospect).

Of the range of hurlers dealt this year, Archie Bradley might be the most exciting name, and considering the fact that he won't hit free agency until 2022, he brings the potential to make a huge impact in Cincinnati for years to come. But with Raisel Iglesias eligible for arbitration and free agency at the same times as Bradley, how will Manager (for now) David Bell distribute responsibilities between the resident closer and the new big-name gas with mounting pressure to win in the short term?

 

Who Will Save the Day?

Raisel Iglesias remains the only relief arm to record a save this season in a Reds uniform, having notched five in six opportunities with a 2-2 record through 13.0 IP. Notably, the Cuban native had accumulated 102 saves with the Reds from 2016-2019 and possesses a 3.21 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 400.2 IP with the club. In comparison, Archie "Hollywood" Bradley came to the Queen City after netting six saves in seven chances with a 1-0 record in 10.2 IP for the Diamondbacks; not to mention his 18 saves, seven holds, and four wins with the D-Backs in 2019 and 59 combined holds through 2017-2018, earning him a rare 20th-place finish in the 2017 NL MVP voting (in conjunction with a dominant 1.73 ERA and 1.04 WHIP).

In short, these are two pitchers that are extremely comfortable with high-leverage work and have achieved substantial success from those positions. Interestingly, since Bradley was brought in this past Monday, David Bell has thrown Iglesias into play several times while apparently trying to gradually ease 28-year-old Archie into the fold as the Reds have gone 2-3 with a -14 run differential. In that brief window, Iglesias has allowed four hits, three walks, and zero ER with three strikeouts, one win, and one save across 3.1 IP; while Bradley was deployed just once during the 16-2 loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday, only allowing two hits with two strikeouts in a robust 1.2 inning stint.

Basically, the first week of the new-look Cincy bullpen hasn't highlighted much other than the fact that Bell and the Reds tend to stick with whom they are most comfortable and are hesitant to remove Raisel from closer duties (as he tends to make a stink of it when they do), but we already knew this. The real question is: who is most likely to receive the bulk of save chances, both for the remainder of 2020 and the 2021 season, and who is most likely to thrive in the role they are assigned? To drastically complicate this matter, Iglesias and Bradley are two pitchers who seem to be performing far better than their surface numbers would indicate.

30-year-old Iglesias has steadily worked down to a 4.50 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, and sports such figures as a 0.8 HR/9, 3.0 BB/9, and 12.8 K/9 which combine for an impressive 2.64 FIP. His opponents hold a .310 BABIP, which frankly, seems outrageous. His barrel rate and hard-hit rate are down by 1.1% and 5.6% to 6.7% and 26.7% respectively, his hard contact rate on batted balls has fallen by 12.2% to 26.7%, his line drive rate has plummeted from 26.2% to 13.8%, and his ground ball rate has made a massive leap from 29.9% to 48.3%. The sole caveat comes from his soft contact on batted balls rate falling from 22.8% to 13.3%. His changeup still hovers at 89 MPH, his slider is back to 85 MPH, and his fastball once again clocks in over 96 MPH, and through the body of his peripheral numbers, Iglesias should truly be well on his way to a career-season for 2020.

If you can wrap your head around it: you can say almost exactly the same things about Bradley, except that Bradley's numbers may be even more promising. In total for this season, the former consensus top-10 prospect has produced a 3.65 ERA and 1.46 WHIP off of 10.2 K/9, zero allowed home runs, and a career-best 2.2 BB/9 in 12.1 IP. His FIP currently sits at 1.84, which is currently the best measure of his six-year career by a significant margin (0.77). Now, while his BABIP is sky-high at .441, his barrel rate has risen seven ticks to 11.8%, his hard contact on batted balls rate is up to 47.1%, and his ground ball and line drive rates have practically flip-flopped to 32.4% and 38.2%. Still, his walk rate is down from 11.4% to 5.8%, his hard-hit rate is 35.3% (down 3.3%), he is forcing 6.2% more batted balls into center field, and his batted-balls soft contact rate is up from 14.8% to 20.6%. While there are some numbers packed in that mix that inspire trepidation, the career-best 5.8% walk rate is optimistic enough, and not allowing a single dinger thus far while calling Chase Field and Great American Ball your home is emphatically impressive.

Ultimately, this is all good news for the Reds: everyone loves a decision with two correct choices. With the way that this first week since the trade has unfolded, David Bell seems set on easing Archie into the high-leverage equation without the urgency that the Reds' current standing would probably demand, and that is a luxury that he has been temporarily afforded with Iglesias finding the groove that he had lost around late-July and mid-August. Let there be no delusions though: the Reds are 2.0 games behind the Brewers for second place in the NL Central and are within arm's reach of the Marlins, Mets, Cardinals, Rockies, and Giants for the NL Wildcard spots. If Raisel Iglesias stumbles even one more time, there is a very good chance that Bradley slowly starts to eclipse him in the ninth inning.

Cincinnati gave up a young, MLB-tested utility bat in VanMeter and a highly regarded outfield prospect in Fairchild to land him, and he is now the blue chip backup plan that they have lacked for several seasons. Not to mention that Raisel surprisingly remains the more expensive of the two even though Archie is younger and probably more marketable (from a popularity perspective), and it wasn't that long ago that the Reds were floating Raisel's name around the trade deadline market.

Putting up career-best marks for walks and HR allowed is a fantastic formula for success in a dinger-friendly venue like GABP, and while he may hit the mound from the sixth to the eighth inning and could grab zero to five holds in the meantime, all it will take is a high-key slip-up from Iglesias for Bradley to grab the reigns at closer for the rest of 2020, and by extension, carrying over into 2021. Raisel Iglesias has been a fixture in Cincinnati for years, but the circumstantial body leads me to believe that Archie Bradley is the arm with a future as a Redleg. Raisel Iglesias is currently rostered in 88% of leagues, while Archie Bradley is rostered in 77% of leagues, and that number has fallen by 10% in the last day. If you are down for a roll of the dice and could use some holds, wins, or strikeouts to pass the time, he could be an ultra-sneaky buy-low candidate with one-third of the season to spare.

 

Loose Ends Before the Last Inning

The Reds only have 12 holds on the season through 37 games, accumulated by seven different players, one of whom (Pedro Strop) is no longer with the team, with at least half of the remaining field still struggling to find their rhythm on the mound. Strop, Tyler Thornburg, Robert Stephenson, and Michael Lorenzen each have one; Lucas Sims has two, with Nate Jones and Amir Garrett leading the field with three apiece. Additionally, the only Reds relievers to pick up a win during this campaign have been Sims (two), Joel Kuhnel (one), and Lorenzen (one).

Two-way athlete Mikey "Biceps" Lorenzen becomes a FA in 2022 with Iglesias and Bradley. Lorenzen is a former college outfielder and 98+ MPH slinger who has accumulated seven HR, five steals, and a .235/.284/.432 slash in 132 AB over six years in Cincinnati. After his 21-hold/seven-save showing of 2019, Lorenzen was slated as the go-to setup man behind Iglesias in 2020, and while that was derailed after his horrendous seven-game start, he has bounced back big-time with a 2.77 ERA and 1.31 WHIP over his last 13.0 IP (which took him just five outings to rack up). Lorenzen can still see high-leverage work. A week ago, this meant receiving moderate looks at the eighth and ninth innings. Now, with Archie in town and each appearance stretching 2.0-4.0 IP, that's likely diminished to the occasional long hold or extra-long save. When noting that Lorenzen tallied eight wins in a similar role for 2017, that capacity is nothing to sneeze at.

Nate Jones (6.39 ERA and 1.66 WHIP) has struggled this season compared to years past with the White Sox (3.12 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, nine saves in 291.1 IP), but has been an economical asset with his $100K salary, and is set to hit the FA market after this year. Despite being tied with Garrett, the former Northern Kentucky Norseman hasn't notched a hold since August 14th, and is likely a non-factor in the category moving forward. Still, a player like Jones (and Thornburg for that matter) shouldn't be easily dismissed: teams always need a couple of guys like him for the thrifty experience and volume of work.

Amir Garrett has improved every year since debuting in the big leagues, posting a 2.31 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, and 13.9 K/9 through 11.2 IP this season. The fiery on-field presence and former St. John's hooper has shockingly yet to earn a save in 201.1 MLB IP, and has seen his role become far less transparent over the last three seasons, netting 43 combined holds from 2018-2019 yet capturing just three this year, which is quite mysterious considering he is actually staying in games longer this year than in years previous. Fortunately, as Jones began to falter, Garrett began bulldozing back into his previous slot, hammering all three of his holds of 2020 from August 20th onward.

 

ROS Outlook

For the rest of this shortened season, there are just three Reds RP that you want any part of: the obvious combo of Bradley and Iglesias, and Garrett (rostered in 5% of leagues) either as an insurance policy or a second-half surger in leagues incorporating holds. I would love to have confidence in saying that this trajectory indicates a 2021 bullpen pecking order of Bradley/Iglesias, Garrett, Lorenzen, etc. where each arm earns their neatly divided portion of saves, holds, and wins for the rest of 2020 running into 2021, but that's rarely how the Reds (or any other MLB club) run the show. Each offseason brings a new wave of budget-friendly vets, platoon specialists, and big-league ready farmhands; which for the Reds, could feature the likes of Nick Lodolo, Ryan Hendrix, Hunter Greene, and even the three college arms of the 2020 draft class as soon as Opening Day 2021.

You've got to love the annual chaos brought on by the Trade Deadline. While major trades, especially those involving the bullpen, can certainly throw a monkey wrench in best-laid plans, it is through these shake-ups that windows of opportunity open, and the same goes for the heated closer battle opened up by the Cincinnati Reds this week.



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Richard Rodriguez (RP, PIT) - Week 8 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues

ROSTERED IN: 12% of leagues

ANALYSIS: With just three weeks remaining this season, fantasy managers are scrambling to boost stats wherever they can and no more so than searching for saves. So the fact Richard Rodriguez is rostered in just 12% of leagues is surprising. Granted, the Pirates have the worst record in baseball but a save is a save no matter where it comes from and Rodriguez is the undoubted closer in Pittsburgh so will be the guy called upon to lock down any win the team manages to pull off.

Rodriguez has pitched well in 2020 with a 3.78 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 22 K in 16.2 IP. His underlying numbers back-up his performances too with a 2.60 SIERA, 3.74 FIP and 3.51 xFIP. Rodriguez has only walked three batters this year too so has demonstrated good control, hence the exceptional WHIP. Due to a lack of save opportunities, Rodriguez does get called upon in non save situations with only six of his 17 appearances coming with a save in order, meaning he has enough of a workload to not be a saves only addition to your roster. He'll tally up good strikeout numbers each week while helping in WHIP and ERA so even if he can only chip in with one save a week until the end of the season, Rodriguez is still worthy of being rostered in 12+ team leagues.


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Closers and Saves Report - Week 7 Waiver Wire

In the wild 2020 season, it made sense that we had a somewhat wild 2020 trade deadline. The trade deadline is a legitimate baseball holiday, and without an All-Star Game this year, it became the most exciting day in the regular season. The Padres went wild and made all the headlines, acquiring basically a whole new team. But plenty of smaller trades were made before the deadline as well, changing things around in bullpens throughout the league.

Some trades that weren't made changed things around for bullpens too. Guys who were almost 100% sure to get traded just...didn't. Bullpens that needed improvement ended up just...not improving. With no non-waiver/waiver trade deadline to think about now, what teams have today is what they'll have for the rest of the season and the playoffs. There will still be injuries and unexpected (or maybe somewhat expected) struggles, but there won't be any more trades, so we can look more confidently at what bullpens will look like for the last month of the regular season.

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 7

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners bullpen was quite a mess before the trade deadline. They went ahead and traded a bunch of relievers without really acquiring any and...made it less of a mess? Taylor Williams, Austin Adams, and Dan Altavilla all went to the Padres at the deadline, leaving the Seattle bullpen with Yoshihisa Hirano at the closer's role. It's the first time all year the Mariners bullpen has been Solid instead of Questionable or occasionally even volatile. So Hirano sits atop the hierarchy, with Yohan Ramirez next in line and Anthony Misiewicz behind him. Matt Magill could return from a shoulder strain at some point and work some late innings, but he won't be much of a threat to Hirano's role. Hirano isn't the high-upside closer fantasy managers want, but he should provide consistency and will have some mixed league value.

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks made a few trades at the deadline, with news of the one that changed their bullpen around coming a bit after the deadline had passed. Archie Bradley, who had been pitching well as the closer in Arizona, was sent to Cincinnati. Someone still needs to close for the Diamondbacks though, and for right now it looks like we'll see a committee made up of Junior Guerra and Hector Rondon. Guerra has a decent 3.14 ERA but he's walked almost as many batters as he's struck out. Rondon is missing way more bats, but also walking a ton of hitters and pitching to an ugly 9.00 (mostly backed up by his 7.21 FIP). Neither reliever looks like a great fantasy asset right now, but if one of them manages to start pitching well and take over the role, that would make him worth rostering in deeper mixed leagues.

San Diego Padres

The Padres went wild at the trade deadline, re-shaping most of their team and adding several arms to their bullpen. Besides all that, Drew Pomeranz came off the IL too. The Padres picked up Trevor Rosenthal from the Royals, and then seemingly half of the Mariners bullpen as well. "Rosie" will continue in his ninth inning role for his new team, and Pomeranz should be the main setup man, occasionally earning saves if Rosenthal needs some rest. Emilio Pagan landed on the injured list, so newly acquired Taylor Williams may slide into the third spot in the Padres bullpen hierarchy.

Kansas City Royals

The rebuilding Royals traded closer Trevor Rosenthal, as expected. They were also widely expected to trade some other relievers, but ended up keeping everyone else around. Rosenthal's departure did leave an opening for the closer's role, however. Manager Mike Matheny loves his veterans, so Greg Holland is the head of what is a committee for now, but may end up being just Holland's job as long as he pitches well. Josh Staumont, Jesse Hahn, and Scott Barlow should all pitch late game situations and could be considered part of the committee for now as well. Holland is the one to pick up right now, but only in deeper leagues and for fantasy players struggling with saves.

Baltimore Orioles

Cole Sulser was doing a pretty good job as closer in Baltimore, but he had a few rough outings in a row and manager Brandon Hyde decided to take Sulser out of the ninth and give him some lower-leverage outings to try to get him right. In the meantime, Mychal Givens was traded to the Rockies and Miguel Castro went to the Mets, which cleared some room in the Orioles bullpen for exciting young arm Hunter Harvey to come off the injured list. Harvey hasn't pitched much this year, but he has the upside to be one of the better closers in the league. For now, he seems set to head the committee in Baltimore at worst. He'll compete with Tanner Scott and Evan Phillips, but Harvey is the best arm by far in the Baltimore pen.

 

Short Relief

  • The Reds picked up Archie Bradley, but it looks like he'll work behind closer Raisel Iglesias for now. Iglesias will have much less room for error with a proven guy like Bradley in the bullpen with him, though.
  • Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman was suspended for three games, so players in daily leagues may want to check on when he will serve that suspension so they don't include him in their lineups on those days.
  • Gregory Soto continues to solidify himself as the head of the committee in Detroit, but it's still a committee for now, with Buck Farmer and Jose Cisnero involved.
  • The Cubs bullpen keeps trying to get Craig Kimbrel to work, but it's not working. Rowan Wick and Jeremy Jeffress have been much more effective, with Jeffress taking over as head of the committee at this point.
  • The Rockies picked up Mychal Givens at the trade deadline and he should factor into their late inning situations, but Daniel Bard seems to remain atop the committee with Carlos Estevez around as well. Jairo Diaz has quickly fallen out of favor and won't likely see significant innings for a bit.
  • The Giants bullpen is a revolving door in a windstorm, but for now it looks like Tyler Rogers sits atop the committee, with Sam Coonrod and Tony Watson helping out.

 

Roster Moves of the Week

Adds

Yoshihisa Hirano, Seattle Mariners - Hirano sort of fell backwards into the closer's role in Seattle, as essentially everyone else is either injured or got traded away. Hirano won't put up elite closer numbers, but he seems to have the ninth inning to himself and that will always bring some fantasy value.

Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals - Holland looks like the favorite for saves on Mike Matheny's Royals. He's the head of the committee for now, but it shouldn't be long until he takes over full time as long as he pitches well.

Someone on the Diamondbacks, Arizona Diamondbacks - There don't seem to be too many good options left in the Diamondbacks bullpen, but someone will need to be on the mound if they have a lead in the ninth inning. Keep an eye on Junior Guerra and Hector Rondon, both have been pretty bad this year but pretty good in the past. One of them could take the ninth and run with it if they start throwing more strikes.

 

Drops

Archie Bradley, Cincinnati Reds - There's a decent chance Bradley will take over the closer's role in Cincinnati before the end of the season, but at least for now, he's working in a setup role which will severely limit his fantasy value in standard leagues.

Any Ex-Mariners Relievers, San Diego Padres - All of the former Mariners now pitching out of the San Diego bullpen will be pitching in more of a middle relief role, leaving them with very little value in the vast majority of fantasy formats.

 

Best of the Week

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

3 1/3 IP, 3 SV, 7 K, 0.00 ERA

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen appeared in four games this week, saving three of them while striking out seven and allowing just an unearned run.

Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros

4 IP, 3 SV, 7 K, 2.25 ERA

Astros closer Ryan Pressly got off to a rough start this season, but he was strong this week, saving three games and striking out seven while allowing just a solo home run and one other hit.



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Week 7 MLB Closers & Bullpen Usage Report

Monitoring bullpens in 2020 will be a vital task each and every day. Because of this, we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used.

The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.

 

Around the American League

Baltimore - What's left? Miguel Castro and Mychal Givens were shipped out. Cole Sulser was demoted. Hunter Harvey returned from the IL and got banged around just a bit. Tanner Scott has pitched in back-to-back games, though needed only 12 total pitches. Looks like Evan Phillips is the last man standing. Harvey is obviously the arm to own for the long-term, but who knows how long it will take him to settle into the season.

Toronto - Anthony Bass has pitched in three of four, allowing runs in back-to-back contests. With both Ken Giles and now Jordan Romano on the IL, this feels like Bass' job for a while. He'll need rest anyway though. Rafael Dolis and A.J. Cole are somewhat more rested, though they pitched Monday in front of Bass. Cole needed just five pitches for his outing; he's the best bet for a save if it comes.

Chicago White Sox - Alex Colome will need some rest after pitching in two straight and three of four. Steve Cishek pitched in back-to-back before a day off. Matt Foster somehow managed to receive back-to-back calls two days after throwing 37 pitches. Granted, that first return outing was just three pitches long, but he should need some rest for sure. Meanwhile, Jace Fry has actually thrown in three straight, and Jimmy Cordero did the same before a day of rest. It may take some piecing together to get through the early portion of this week.

Cleveland - Nick Wittgren and James Karinchak have each pitched in two of three. So has Phil Maton, who grabbed a hold on Monday. Fortunately, Brad Hand is very well rested. He's thrown only three total pitches since last Wednesday.

Detroit - A cursory watch of Gregory Soto's usage is needed. He pitched in two straight before an off day. He can go again early in the week but then may rest in favor of Buck Farmer.

Kansas City - Welcome back to high leverage, Greg Holland. Since the team traded Trevor Rosenthal, Holland pitched on three consecutive days and will now need at least a day of rest. It seemed like Ian Kennedy would be next in line, but he's had a tough time of things. Jesse Hahn is an option, but before picking up a surprise save, he hadn't even entered a game where KC was leading in weeks. He has also pitched in three of four days. Josh Staumont is another name to watch for holds and fill-in saves and is the most rested of the group.

Minnesota - Taylor Rogers needed 33 pitches to get through Monday's outing. In fact, everyone outside of Sergio Romo who pitched Monday got some good work in. Look for Romo to cover the slack until Rogers is rested.

Los Angeles Angels - Ty Buttrey has thrown on three of the past four days. Felix Pena has pitched in back-to-back. Keynan Middleton would have been next. Instead, he pitched only twice in the past 12 days, giving up runs in both outings, and was subsequently demoted to the LAA training site. Hansel Robles hasn't allowed a base runner since August 24...mostly because he hasn't gotten into a game since then. The Angels did activate Cam Bedrosian from the IL. He may be that late-inning option the team now needs.

Seattle - The Seattle bullpen is just Yoshihisa Hirano doing the Vincent Vega meme.

 

Around the National League

Atlanta - Mark Melancon has pitched in two straight games, rebounding nicely from his slip-up last week. Will Smith and Chris Martin have pitched in two straight as well; the former throwing 41 pitches. If all three need to hit the bench, Shane Greene is next in line for important usage. He pitched Sunday but only needed 12 pitches.

New York Mets - Edwin Diaz has pitched in three of four. Jeurys Familia pitched in three straight before a day off. Justin Wilson pitched in back-to-back before a day off. The addition of Miguel Castro couldn't come soon enough.

Philadelphia - Like their New York peer, a valuable bullpen addition was well timed here. Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree both pitched on three of the past four days. Hopefully David Phelps can supply some stability.

Washington - Sean Doolittle pitched in two straight; his first two outings since returning from the IL.

Cincinnati - The acquisition of Archie Bradley throws the back end of the Cincy bullpen into flux. Raisel Iglesias probably holds onto the closer job, but Amir Garrett certainly will lose some high-leverage spots in favor of Bradley. That bumps Nate Jones and Lucas Sims down another peg, perhaps out of serious holds consideration on most nights.

Milwaukee - With the Brewers trading David Phelps, it opens up more opportunities for Devin Williams and Alex Claudio. However, all of Williams, Claudio, and Josh Hader have pitched in two of the past three days. Do they dare recall Corey Knebel from the training site? Probably not, instead attempting to balance rest between the three arms.

Arizona - After trading away Archie Bradley, Arizona likely turns to a combination of Hector Rondon and Junior Guerra to get the late outs in games. Both men had pitched twice in a row heading into Monday. Another visit to the mound would then mean another day of rest needed. The Diamondbacks may be inclined to give newly acquired Humberto Mejia an early chance in that scenario.

Colorado - Everyone is rested; it's anyone's guess what the pecking order will be in this pen after the trade deadline. Daniel Bard still leads the committee, but with Jairo Diaz dropping out of favor, where does Mychal Givens slide in? Givens currently has a career-best 37.3 percent K-rate, but it goes along with a career-worst 11.8 percent walk rate. I'd guess Givens settles second in line after Bard, but they may not start him out that high as he learns opponent and ballpark tendencies these first couple weeks.

San Diego - No bullpen beefed up more at the deadline than San Diego. The Padres added Dan Altavilla, Taylor Williams, and Trevor Rosenthal, while activating Drew Pomeranz from the IL. The pecking order seems to be anyone and everyone, followed by Pomeranz to set up, and Rosenthal to close. Poor Emilio Pagan righted his season only to see his stock plummet right after getting a real chance to close.

San Francisco - Before an off day, all of Tony Watson, Tyler Rogers, and Sam Coonrod had pitched in back-to-back games. Coonrod seems the most likely to need a full day rest; the other two threw a low enough pitch count where they should be ready to roll next game.



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Unexpected Dynasty Risers - Pitchers

Every year in dynasty league drafts fantasy managers will target young future stars, prospects which rank highly among all prospect rankings. There's a tendency to overdraft/overpay for these high-end prospects as fantasy folks are drawn to the new and shiny things much like kids get gooey-eyed for the newest toys each Christmas.

While this is understandable as these prospects are ranked highly for a reason; they have the best chance of translating potential into Major League success. But there are always some hidden gems, those with impressive Minor League numbers which can act as a great indicator of how a player will fare in the Majors and how a prospect will transition into fantasy relevancy when they get called up to The Show.

But every year, lesser know prospects emerge at the Major League level as viable fantasy options. Sometimes, players in their mid-twenties who aren't even in the top-10 of their club's farm system get called up and perform at an unexpected level to become fantasy relevant. Despite the uncertainties of 2020, we are still seeing such players come from nowhere into fantasy relevancy so we're going to take a look at five pitchers who are doing just that, assess their performances so far and what their long-term fantasy value is.

 

Tejay Antone (SP/RP, CIN)

Antone has appeared in seven games for the Reds predominately out of the bullpen but has made two starts, although he's yet to get through five innings and maxed out at 82 pitches. That has limited his exposure in fantasy which can only be a good thing as he continues to go under the radar. But a quick look at the 26-year-old's Statcast profile will very quickly get you on the Antone hype-train.

After missing 2017 following TJS, Antone had a solid 2018 season in High-A pitching 96.0 innings (17 starts) with a 4.03 ERA. Antone started 2019 in Double-A and in 13 starts put up a 3.38 ERA (74.2 IP) before finishing the season in Triple-A with a less impressive 4.65 ERA from his 71.2 IP (13 starts and one relief appearance). His Triple-A BABIP was .402 so his ERA was inflated due to some misfortune.

In the Major League, Antone has a 2.66 ERA from his 20.1 IP with a 3.38 SIERA. His numbers have been better coming in relief as he's given up just two earned runs in 12.0 IP out of the bullpen and that could be where his long-term future lies. Antone might offer more fantasy value as a long reliever too as he's struck out 18 batters in his 12 relief innings (compared to 9 Ks in 8.1 IP as a starter). He can get through enough innings to help with ERA and WHIP and will pick up wins along the way. His dynasty outlook is certainly a positive one and a few more good outings this year will only increase interest among fantasy players.

 

Logan Webb (SP, SF)

Webb came into the season as the Giants no.1 pitching prospect, but after making just one Triple-A start in his career, he made the jump up to the Majors in 2019 and struggled. As a result, some of the shine came off of Webb's fantasy outlook. In eight starts, Webb threw 39.2 IP and had a 5.22 ERA, a 1.46 WHIP with 37 Ks and 14 BB. Although his underlying numbers suggest Webb was unfortunate last year (4.45 SIERA, 4.12 FIP and 3.89 xFIP), they aren't quite at the level to justify rostering Webb in anything other than the deepest of leagues. This year, Webb has marginally better numbers with a 4.35 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in 31.0 IP (seven starts). His underlying numbers are similar too with a 4.48 SIERA, 3.27 FIP and 4.23 xFIP. Again, nothing that really justifies rostering Webb in fantasy leagues.

If we take a look at his minor league numbers, we'll see a pitcher who dominated at the MiLB levels for the last two years. In 2018, Webb had a 2.41 ERA in 104.2 IP before a 1.85 ERA in 63.1 IP last year prior to his Major League call up. The concern for Webb was developing his changeup as he had a plus fastball and slider in the minors but looking at his numbers this year, his changeup has been his best pitch with just a .250 SLG% against it (compared to .400 in 2019).

We're talking small sample sizes but if Webb's changeup does continue to dominate and gives him an out pitch against left-handed hitters, he should be able to take the next step up and become a more dominant pitcher. Interestingly, he's upped its usage this year too from throwing it 20.1% of the time in 2019 to 30.2% in 2020.  This could be the last time you can add Webb to your dynasty rosters without spending much to pick him up.

Devin Smeltzer (SP/RP, MIN)

After being traded by the Dodgers to the Twins in 2018, Smeltzer had an impressive Minor League season in 2019 before being promoted to the Twins. Between Double-A and Triple-A, Smeltzer made 19 starts and one relief appearance, totaling 104.1 IP with just a 2.76 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, tallying 104 Ks and 22 BB. His first go at the Major League level was impressive too as Smeltzer had a 3.86 ERA across 49.0 IP as he made six starts and appeared in relief five times (four of the five relief appearances were at least 4.0 IP). Smeltzer had just an 18.8% K% but only walked 12 batters in the 49.0 IP. He did have a dose of good luck last year with a 4.68 SIERA, 4.58 FIP and 4.85 xFIP so when we see Smeltzer has a 6.59 ERA so far in 2020, you'd be forgiven for thinking he has no fantasy relevance.

However, as lucky as Smeltzer was last year, he's been even more unlucky this year with a 4.19 SIERA, 4.24 FIP and 4.62 xFIP as well as a .344 BABIP against him. He's only pitching 13.2 innings this year in five appearances and made just one start but has pitched between two and three innings in his relief outings and went 4.1 innings in his solitary start, so Smeltzer is at least in consideration for starting long-term and isn't seen as a one-inning type bullpen arm. It's unclear whether Smeltzer will make any more starts in 2020 but if he doesn't, fewer people will be looking to add him to their dynasty rosters this year, making him easier to pick up for your teams with a solid outlook for the coming years.

 

Ryan Castellani (SP, COL)

It seems as though a young pitcher emerges in Colorado every year before finding out how brutal pitching at Coors Field can be and getting discarded in fantasy leagues as quickly as they get rostered. Castellani's Major League career has started well and it'll come as no surprise that he's fared better on the road than at home. In four starts (two home and 2 away), Castellani has a 5.23 home ERA (10.1 IP) and a 1.80 road ERA (10.0 IP). It may seem futile rostering a Rockies pitcher especially one who had an 8.31 ERA in Triple-A last year and a 5.49 ERA in Double-A in 2018. His scouting reports mention Castellani was working to correct his delivery in 2018 and was making mechanical alterations and then last year, had to undergo surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow which limited him to just 10 starts so I'm fine with giving him the benefit of doubt that injury was the cause for last season's numbers. Especially when we see how well he did in the Arizona Fall League after recovering from surgery where he threw 16.2 innings and had just a 2.16 ERA.

Castellani does have a four-pitch arsenal with a four-seam fastball having enough life on it that it registers as a sinker on Statcast almost half the time it's thrown. That will hold him in good stead pitching at Coors Field as if he can keep the ball on the ground, he'll have a much better chance of success there more so than any other ballpark. His fastball has been sitting at around 93 MPH this year but did touch 97 MPH last year in the Minor League so there could be more to come. If we look at the effectiveness of his pitches this year both the actual stats and expected stats against each pitch (below), we have reason to believe Castellani can get even better if he finds more consistent movement on his fastball so it registers as a sinker more often. Castellani could be a very effective pitcher with the Rockies for years to come and is certainly someone who warrants rostering in dynasty leagues.

Pitch type # thrown % used AVG xAVG SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA
Four seamer 84 26.5 .368 .347 .789 .612 .491 .426
Sinker 69 21.8 .071 .262 .286 .469 .263 .394
Changeup 66 20.8 .125 .213 .313 .292 .206 .243
Slider 59 18.6 .083 .188 .083 .388 .163 .306
Curve 39 12.3 .222 .243 .778 .670 .385 .375

 

JT Brubaker (SP, PIT)

The Pirates have had very little to get excited about in 2020 but the emergence of Brubaker as a viable Major League pitcher is one positive. Whether or not he continues to be a starter or transitions into the bullpen long-term could rest on how he gets on the remainder of this year but he's certainly done well enough to warrant consideration as a rotation option. After a highly impressive 2018 which saw Brubaker reach Triple-A, the Pirates added him to their 40-man roster but any hopes of a call-up to the Major Leagues last year were curtailed by arm injuries (forearm strain and elbow inflammation) which limited him to just 27.2 IP. His ERA last year was still a miserly 2.28 when he was able to take the mound, which backed up his improvements in 2018 that saw him throw 154 innings with a combined 2.81 ERA across two levels.

After two scoreless relief outings to begin this year consisting of 5.0 IP and seven Ks, Brubaker moved into the starting rotation but struggled and lasted just three innings in each of his first two starts and gave up three earned runs in both games. His last two starts have been better with a 4.0 IP, 2 ER and 6 K performance followed by a 5.0 IP, 2 ER and 6 K outing, both coming against Milwaukee. His best two pitches are his sinking fastball and a slider with a curveball and changeup added into the mix but neither of which grade out particularly well. The lack of a really solid third pitch is what leads many to believe Brubaker will end up in the bullpen but his curveball and changeup have yet to give up a hit so far (thrown a combined 60 times). If just one of those pitches can continue to be as good as they have so far and with his hard slider, the offspeed pitches will continue to compliment his sinking fastball which has enough movement on it to be a strikeout pitch itself. That effective third pitch could be the difference between being a good bullpen arm and a good Major League starter as well as making Brubaker a viable fantasy option.



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Kevin Gausman (SP/RP, SF) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues

OWNED IN: 29% of leagues

ANALYSIS: Kevin Gausman continues to be under rostered and continues to run into bad luck. He's pitched in seven games (six starts) totalling 35.2 IP and has a 1-2 record, a 4.54 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. Why is he considered unlucky? Well, Gausman has a 3.14 SIERA, 3.32 FIP and 2.95 xFIP. His BABIP against him is currently sitting at .344 and his HR/FB rate is at 18.2% which is the highest it's been since Gausman's debut season in 2013. Gausman has also had a rough run of opponents having faced the Dodgers three times and one start at Coors Field.

There's a good chance Gausman's next start comes at Coors Field next week but after that, the Giants aren't due to visit Colorado again nor do they face the Dodgers any more. They do have two series against San Diego left, a team Gausman has already faced this year and despite lasting just 4.1 IP and giving up three earned runs, he actually had a -0.54 FIP and 0.82 xFIP in that appearance and stuck out eight batters. After next week, Gausman probably has four starts left but it wouldn't surprise me if he put up four quality starts and with a career-best 12.11% K% so far this year, he should be able to boost your team's strikeouts in the process. Given the seemingly endless array of pitchers going on the IL, Gausman should definitely be someone rostered in 12+ team leagues.


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Closers and Saves Report - Week 6 Waiver Wire

We've only had about 30 games per team (or way less for some), but it's already almost the trade deadline! This season's trade deadline is on Monday, August 31st, and while there have already been a few trades made, there will certainly be a flurry before Monday afternoon. One thing we as baseball fans can always rely on, even in a season as strange as this one, is an active trade deadline.

Bullpens continue to fall apart at what has to be a record pace (citation needed, maybe, but like...common sense, I think?) Pitchers keep getting injured and guys who seemingly never struggle are certainly struggling this year. We've had about as much bullpen news this season as we would have had by late August in a regular baseball season, it seems.

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 6

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers were one of the seemingly few teams with a pretty solid bullpen situation. Joe Jimenez, their closer since Opening Day, has struggled lately, posting an overall 12.10 ERA despite officially blowing only one save so far. Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said he will use a committee to close out games, at least for now. Jimenez figures to get another chance in the ninth if he starts pitching well, but Buck Farmer, Jose Cisnero, and Gregory Soto will split those chances for now.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays didn't have a full-on closer, but Nick Anderson was about as close as they'd get. With Anderson now on the injured list (and Jalen Beeks joining him there), Tampa Bay will likely go right back into a rotating committee approach. Diego Castillo seems like maybe the best best, but John Curtiss and Edgar Garcia could see some ninth inning work as well. Castillo may be the one worth owning, especially for fantasy managers desperate for saves.

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies are in committee mode for their ninth innings, but Daniel Bard has risen to the top lately. It's still a revolving door, but Bard seems to be at the top of the hierarchy (ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage: Mixed Metaphor!) Jairo Diaz, Carlos Estevez, and maybe even Jeff Hoffman should mix in for save chances now and then, but as long as he keeps pitching well, Bard might carve out a role as a full time closer.

"Toronto" Blue Jays

Another team in all-out committee mode seems to have a bit of clarity, as Jordan Romano has risen to the top of the Buffalo/Toronto closers hierarchy. Romano has a 0.64 ERA and misses plenty of bats. He saved two games in three days this week, and more of that will potentially lead to him taking over the ninth inning all on his own. For now, he'll lead a committee that also features Anthony Bass and Rafael Dolis.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates had their closer, Keone Kela, join late after he dealt with COVID-19 issues at the beginning of the season. He pitched just two innings before ending up back on the injured list, leaving a mess in the Pirates bullpen again. Richard Rodriguez figures to be in there for any save chances the Pirates end up with, but Chris Stratton and Geoff Hartlieb will mix in as well. Only players in the deepest leagues should consider any Pirates relievers.

 

Short Relief

  • The Giants bullpen remains unclear after Trevor Gott struggled his way out of the closer's spot. Tony Watson, Tyler Rogers, and Jarlin Garcia are the likely arms to get ninth inning shots when the situations arise.
  • Emilio Pagan has taken over in the San Diego bullpen, and he should hold down the role until Drew Pomeranz comes back. He's worth having in the lineup of most fantasy rosters.
  • Giovanny Gallegos looks like he's finally worked his way up to the head of the Cardinals committee. There still doesn't look like there's a solid closer in St. Louis, but Gallegos is as close as it gets there for now.
  • Trevor Rosenthal had a rough outing this week, but should still be one of the top trade targets before Monday's deadline. He may close for his new team, but he could also slide into a setup role, depending on where he ends up. Now is a good time to sell high in fantasy leagues just in case he loses his ninth inning spot at the deadline.

 

Roster Moves of the Week

Adds

Jordan Romano, Toronto Blue Jays - Romano has taken over as the top of the committee, and may soon take over outright. He's been excellent this season, with a high strikeout rate and a manageable walk rate. He should be owned in most formats.

Emilio Pagan, San Diego Padres - The Padres are on their third potentially-elite closer of the season. They started with Kirby Yates, who wasn't good then got hurt. Then they went to Drew Pomeranz, who was excellent but then got hurt. It's Emilio Pagan's turn, and he has the stuff to be very good as well.

Giovanny Gallegos, St. Louis Cardinals - Gallegos was expected by many to be the Cardinals closer all season, and it looks like he's finally worked his way at least into the front of the committee.

Daniel Bard, Colorado Rockies/Diego Castillo, Tampa Bay Rays - Both of these righties could be good if they keep pitching well, but they don't have a locked-in role just yet. If you're desperate for saves, they're worth an add in standard leagues now, and both should be owned in holds leagues already.

Richard Rodriguez, Pittsburgh Pirates - Only for the most desperate fantasy owners who might need a save every 10 days.

 

Drops

Keone Kela, Pittsburgh Pirates - Kela could be done for the year, and is at least out until past the trade deadline.

Joe Jimenez, Detroit Tigers - You might have already dropped Jimenez just based on how bad he's been this year, but now that he's been removed from the closer's role, there's no real reason to hold on.

 

Best of the Week

Brad Hand, Cleveland Indians

3 IP, 3 SV, 3 K, 0.00 ERA, 0 base runners allowed

Cleveland closer Brad Hand was perfect this week, facing nine batters and retiring all nine while saving three games.

Brandon Kintzler, Miami Marlins

4 IP, 3 SV, 1 K, 0.00 ERA, 4 base runners allowed

Marlins closer Brandon Kintzler doesn't get it done with strikeouts, but he gets it done most of the time. He saved three games, getting just one strikeout but not allowing any runs.

Liam Hendriks, Oakland A's

4 IP, 2 SV, 5 K, 0.00 ERA, 1 base runner allowed

A's closer Liam Hendriks allowed just one base runner this week while saving two games and striking out five.



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Week 6 MLB Closers & Bullpen Usage Report

Monitoring bullpens in 2020 will be a vital task each and every day. Because of this, we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used.

The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.

 

Around the American League

Baltimore - Both Mychal Givens and Miguel Castro pitched in two straight ballgames before a day off. If either one gets into a game the beginning of the week, they will likely need another day off. Of the two, Castro would be fresher regardless, as he threw 23 pitches in his two outings, compared to 42 for Givens. Closer Cole Sulser threw a whopping 33 pitches in his last outing, which was why Tanner Scott cleaned things up for a sneaky save on Sunday, but Sulser's gotten multiple days off since then and should be ready to roll.

Tampa Bay - Next man up in Tampa Bay. John Curtiss pitched in two straight before a day off. Pete Fairbanks did as well. Aaron Loup has gone in two straight and three of four. Jalen Beeks may start getting more late-inning appearances. Either way, the Rays need to start getting some arms back from the injured list.

Toronto - Just when we thought Anthony Bass would be slotted back into the closer's role, he seems to have been usurped by Jordan Romano. There is some possibility that Bass remains the head of the committee, and he just needed extra rest after returning from a minor injury and pitching back-to-back over the weekend. Even still, Romano has converted two straight saves. The latter may get a day off now for the former, but Romano is the arm to own for saves...for the time being.

Cleveland - Nick Wittgren and James Karinchak have both pitched twice in three days. Expect another day of rest for either if they make an appearance the beginning of this week.

Detroit - As the Detroit bullpen (unsurprisingly) implodes, Jose Cisnero sneakily picked up both a hold and a save over the weekend. The save came after another horrendous Joe Jimenez outing. Buck Farmer and Gregory Soto had both already entered the game earlier, so they remain ahead of Cisnero in the pecking order, but Jimenez's closer security is waning. He now has a 1.85 WHIP, and 7.63 FIP, along with his lowest K-rate since his rookie year and a career-worst 9.5 percent walk rate. Interestingly, all of Cisnero, Farmer, and Soto have pitched in two of four days. None could likely go more than one more outing without another day off.

Kansas City - Greg Holland has pitched in three straight games. He does not seem to be a factor even for holds anymore though, let alone save chances. His last six outings have all seen him enter games where KC was losing. It doesn't help that he's allowed a run in four of his last six appearances.

Minnesota - The Twins continue to get great work out of the pen, but their arms remain busy, busy. Tyler Clippard pitched in two straight before an off day; Taylor Rogers, Sergio Romo, and Trevor May have all pitched in two straight. Tyler Duffey is the rested arm likely to get a chance if the team needs him.

Los Angeles Angels - Closer Ty Buttrey pitched in two straight before a day off. Noe Ramirez and Hansel Robles have both pitched in two straight heading into Tuesday. Incidentally, Robles continues to struggle and will not regain his closer role anytime soon. If Buttrey needs another day off, look for Felix Pena to perhaps get a chance.

Texas - Rafael Montero needed 31 pitches to get four outs Monday. He will likely get a day. Jonathan Hernandez has gone two straight. Everyone else is pretty available though. Joely Rodriguez would be next in line to fill in.

 

Around the National League

Miami - Brandon Kintzler has picked up three saves since Friday. Brad Boxberger picked up three holds in the same time frame. Both have thus pitched in three of the past four days and could need multiple days of rest this week. Richard Bleier and James Hoyt have been turned to in the seventh in recent days, so they could be used later in games, though Don Mattingly would likely try his best to rotate through and at least have one of Kintzler or Boxberger available in the coming days.

Philadelphia - Brandon Workman pitched in two straight before a day off. His Philadelphia start hasn't gone well, which means he fits perfectly into the Phillies bullpen.

Chicago Cubs - On Sunday, Craig Kimbrel needed Jeremy Jeffress to save him in the eighth. Jeffress allowed three base runners but eventually got the save. Presumably, Rowan Wick was unavailable after throwing the day before, though he also got knocked around in that outing. Kimbrel still hasn't allowed a run or a hit since August 6, but he walked two in this latest performance. Best guesses can't even nail down who is currently in charge of this committee. Kimbrel is the one to own, but that doesn't mean he'll get the next save chance.

Milwaukee - David Phelps blew the save Sunday but rebounded for a hold Monday. He will need some rest after pitching in two straight. Josh Hader may also have a day off very soon. He threw 22 pitches Monday. This would be the perfect spot for Corey Knebel if he hadn't fallen completely out of favor. He will come nowhere near the ninth in a close game even if both Hader and Phelps need rest. Instead, look for Devin Williams to get a shot.

St. Louis - Alex Reyes is trying to iron out a late-inning role. He's pitched in two straight. Andrew Miller and John Gant both pitched in two straight before resting Monday.

Colorado - After failing to even record an out in his previous appearance, Daniel Bard was tabbed for, and nailed down, the save on Monday. Jairo Diaz was available, so this was a hunch or a matchup play by manager Bud Black as he works his closer committee. Carlos Estevez pitched earlier in the game, making it two appearances in three days. He'll need a day of rest.

San Diego - Emilio Pagan is the last elite arm standing in the Padres pen. He's pitched in two of four days. If he goes again and needs another day off, Craig Stammen could be a closer replacement. Matt Strahm and his zero walks are also interesting, though his 13.7 percent K-rate isn't what you want from a closer fill-in.



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Statcast Starting Pitcher Leaderboard - CSW%

More starting pitchers bite the dust each week and fantasy baseball managers are forced to turn to the waiver wire for streamers more than ever. The other approach is to stock up on relievers and rely on a couple of high-end starters, assuming you have any left. Either way, it's crucial to find pitchers who can contribute in this short season. Wins and saves are completely unpredictable at this point and ratios are prone to massive fluctuations over small sample sizes, so it's only logical to fall back on strikeouts as an indicator of fantasy value.

One could simply look at K% but we're here to dig deeper. Last year, Alex Fast of PitcherList introduced his own metric called CSW% (Called Strikes + Whiff rate) and our own Ariel Cohen has recently dissected this stat with analysis on Whiff leaders and Called Strikes leaders. I'll take a look at some of leaders in this category that may be undervalued and/or widely available on waiver wires.

I am including relievers along with starters this week because if your fantasy teams are anything like mine, you'll take pitching help wherever you can find it.

 

James Karinchak (RP, CLE)

42.4% CSW%

Let's begin with a relatively well-known commodity, at least among RotoBallers. Karinchak has been one of the top bullpen arms this season, posting a 0.61 ERA, 0.68 WHIP while striking out two batters per inning! He is in the 100th percentile for pretty much every expected stat that exists on Statcast at the moment. He accomplishes this with exceptional spin on both his heater and curve. It has frozen many a hitter in their stance, as he is inducing a ton of called strikes.

Thus, it's no surprise that he is far and away the leader on the CSW leaderboard. While aces like Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, and Luis Castillo are at the 32% mark, Karinchak is a full 10 points higher. He obviously has fewer innings under his belt but he has been employed enough that he is relevant in any fantasy format outside of maybe 10-teamers.

 

Devin Williams (RP, MIL)

38.7% CSW%

Williams is a rookie who got his first cup of coffee late last year, pitching to an unremarkable 3.95 ERA, 1.76 WHIP, and 14:6 K:BB ratio in 13 2/3 innings of work. This year, he's looking like the next coming of Nick Anderson from 2019, or Corey Knebel from 2017. In just under 10 IP, Williams has 20 K while his ERA and WHIP are both under 1.00. Obviously, the sample size is tiny this year, but these numbers should at least raise an eyebrow.

He's not in the ninth-inning conversation as long as Josh Hader is around, but Knebel has looked rough this year and the door is open for Williams to work his way into higher-leverage situations. He is currently tied for the team lead with three holds so there is already some value in SV+HLD leagues. While veteran Alex Claudio is likely next in line for saves, Williams clearly has the stuff and may be the Brewers' closer of the future, possibly sooner if the Brew crew keeps losing and decides to trade him rather than extend him a contract offer after the season.

 

Kevin Gausman (SP, SF)

33.7% CSW%

Another former Oriole who I've sworn off long ago (hello Dylan Bundy), Gausman has revived himself in the Bay. Gausman is not doing anything different except throwing the ball harder. His velocity is back to 2016 levels after a three-year dip.

Strikeouts have been plentiful, as his 42 K are ninth-most in the majors, tied with Lance Lynn and Zac Gallen, more than Aaron Nola and Trevor Bauer. The question is whether he keeps it up or not. Even back in 2015-2016 when his velocity was at this level and he was in his mid-20s, Gausman was regularly at a 25% whiff rate. His 32.4% clip seems unsustainable but in a short season, it could stay close to 30% as it did last year.

It looks like many are still skeptical and some may be jumping ship after a rough last couple of starts has raised his ERA up to 4.65. The strikeouts are there and he is only rostered in 28% of Yahoo leagues, so if you are willing to dive in and take a chance, now is the time.

 

Zach Eflin (SP, PHI)

33.1% CSW%

For the following exercise, I'm going to ask you to ignore Eflin's actual ratios (5.12 ERA, 1.55 WHIP) and focus on the xStats (2.58 xERA, .258 xwOBA) and then confuse you further by explaining that his 2020 is nothing like his career stats.

His first two seasons in the majors, Eflin had a strikeout rate in the bottom 3% of the league. Now, it's in the top 8%. He's always been well below the league average walk rate, especially in 2017 when he was in the top 2% of the league. Now, it's up to 9.2%.

Why such dramatic differences? He's changed who he is as a pitcher. Eflin now uses his sinker more than half the time and it's helped him induce more weak contact while upping his ground ball rate. His 62.5% strand rate may see an uptick even with the whiffs he's inducing because the BABIP on those grounders may rise. This seems like a terrible thing given his already-high ratios.

The real issue Eflin faces is lefties - he can't get them out. If Eflin is facing a predominantly right-handed lineup, he can produce for you in a pinch. If there is more than one lefty slugger in the bunch, forget it. That makes him streamable in his next start against the Braves, riskier against the Nats, and a great start against the Marlins thereafter.

 

Tyler Anderson (SP, SF)

32.8% CSW%

Anderson jumps onto this leaderboard and into the collective fantasy consciousness because of one game, albeit a spectacular one. Just when you thought the complete game was dead, 30-year-old Anderson went the whole nine for a victory over Arizona. He wasn't necessarily dominant, striking out just four batters, but he stymied the D-Backs all game long.

While his CSW is high and ranks in the top 25 with our parameters, his 16.2% K% is far from impressive and won't play in fantasy. This is a case of a crafty veteran getting by with a low BABIP that is almost 60 points below his career average. Moving from Colorado to San Francisco is as positive of a move as can happen for a left-handed pitcher, but negative regression is coming nonetheless.

 

Touki Toussaint (SP, ATL)

31.8% CSW%

Another touted Braves prospect ready to disappoint in the rotation? It's too early to say but Toussaint has at least stuck around while Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson were sent down.

Toussaint has slightly above-average fastball velocity at 94 MPH but his main pitch is his curve, mainly because it's his best one. This season, it has limited batters to a .182 average with a ridiculous 50% whiff rate. His split-finger is almost as effective with a .160 BAA and 38.8% Whiff%. The problem is his slider, which has gotten battered to a .625 BAA and 1.375 SLG. He's allowed more hits against his slider than any other individual pitch type despite throwing it the least at 11.8%. While he could improve it over time, it would be nice to see him increase his two primary pitch usages, as there's not a need to work in something else to keep batters off balance. If it ain't broke...

The good news is that it has gotten better since his first start, as have all his pitches. Of course, he had nowhere to go but down.

He was lit up in his first start against the Rays and hasn't brought his ERA down much since. Toussaint has limited base hits but has walked too many batters and been done in by the long ball. Consistency with his location is the key and either harnessing the slider or focusing on his primary pitches more will help. He could be a year away from being trustworthy in fantasy unless your ratios are already blown to hell and you just want to pile up Ks.



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Greg Maddux Plate Discipline Standouts for 2020

In my previous article, I wrote about my new weighted index statistic for hitters – mPDI, which stems from a famous quote by Hall of Fame pitcher, Greg Maddux:

“The key to pitching is to have the ability to throw a strike when they’re taking and throw a ball when the hitter is swinging.”

The Maddux Plate Discipline Index (mPDI) for hitters led us to uncover some plate discipline standouts such as Cavan Biggio and Christian Walker. Today, we will look at the pitching version of mPDI. We can enumerate the percentage of the time in which pitchers demonstrate Greg Maddux's formulation of deception. To review, each and every pitch thrown at a baseball game can be classified into one of the following tracked six outcomes:

 

mPDI Matrix

Outcome A Outcome B Outcome C Outcome D Outcome E Outcome F
Zone? Out of Zone Out of Zone Out of Zone In Zone In Zone In Zone
Swing? Swung On Swung On No Swing Swung On Swung On No Swing
Contact? No Contact Contact Made No Swing No Contact Contact Made No Swing

Closely resembling his quote, the Maddux Plate Discipline Index (mPDI) for pitchers is defined as:

Outcome A + Outcome B + Outcome F
Total Pitches

The version of mPDI for pitchers is the mirror image definition of the hitter’s mPDI [which aggregated Outcomes C, D & E]. To give context, an awful pitcher mPDI would be one nearing .250, while an elite one would approach .400. The average for 2019 was .315.

First, let’s start by looking at the 2019 mPDI leaderboard for pitchers (minimum 25 innings):

Player IP mPDI
Sergio Romo 60.3 .390
Ryan Pressly 54.3 .387
Adam Morgan 29.7 .387
Andrew Kittredge 49.7 .385
Evan Marshall 50.7 .383
Jimmy Cordero 37.3 .382
Stephen Strasburg 209.0 .372
Zac Gallen 80.0 .366
Chaz Roe 51.0 .364
Chris Sale 147.3 .364
Victor Alcantara 42.7 .361
Alex Claudio 62.0 .361
Will Smith 65.3 .361
Brandon Workman 71.7 .360
Aaron Nola 202.3 .359
Randy Dobnak 28.3 .358
Matt Bowman 32.0 .358
Tommy Milone 111.7 .358
Adam Kolarek 55.0 .358
Matt Wisler 51.3 .358
Jose Berrios 200.3 .357
Lucas Sims 43.0 .357
Jake Jewell 26.3 .357
Dominic Leone 40.7 .356
Brad Hand 57.3 .355
Blake Snell 107.0 .355
Zack Greinke 208.7 .355
Blake Treinen 58.7 .354
Kyle Gibson 160.0 .354
Tim Mayza 51.3 .354
Jared Hughes 71.3 .353
Austin Adams 32.0 .353
Tony Watson 54.0 .353
Scott Barlow 70.3 .352
Collin McHugh 74.7 .351
Jordan Hicks 28.7 .350
Zack Britton 61.3 .350
Jameson Taillon 37.3 .350
Patrick Corbin 202.0 .350
Luke Jackson 72.7 .350
Keone Kela 29.7 .349
Hyun-Jin Ryu 182.7 .349
Yoshihisa Hirano 53.0 .349
Miles Mikolas 184.0 .348
Austin Pruitt 47.0 .348
Jeurys Familia 60.0 .348
Wandy Peralta 39.7 .347
Noe Ramirez 67.7 .347
Hector Neris 67.7 .346
Tyson Ross 35.3 .346
Charlie Morton 194.7 .346
Kyle Hendricks 177.0 .346
Joe Kelly 51.3 .345
Pedro Strop 41.7 .345
Yu Darvish 178.7 .345
Jonathan Loaisiga 31.7 .345

Let’s dive into a few of these top Maddux Plate Discipline pitchers.

 

Stephen Strasburg (SP, WAS)

Name IP mPDI Outcome A Outcome B Outcome F
Stephen Strasburg 209.0 .372 .096 .129 .146

At the top of the mPDI leaderboard for starting pitchers, we find the World Series MVP, Stephen Strasburg. He was my pre-season prediction to win the NL Cy Young award. Last year, Strasburg compiled a 5.7 WAR, which was third-most amongst National League pitchers. He struck out a career high 251 batters, with a 10-year best 1.04 WHIP.

But today, we give him attention for his plate discipline and deception. Last year’s O-Swing% was 37%, the highest of his career. That means he was generating more swings out of the zone than ever before. His total swinging strike rate [in and out of the zone] was an elite 13.4% - also the best of his career.

It is too early to tell whether these gains have sustained in 2020, as he began the season injured. To date, in his 5 innings thus far, he has not fared well. His fastball velocity is down 2 MPH from last season, but his command looks decent with a first-pitch strike rate of almost 70%. If Strasburg can return to full health, look for him to continue to pitch at an ace level.

 

Ryan Pressly (RP, HOU)

Name IP mPDI Outcome A Outcome B Outcome F
Ryan Pressly 54.3 .387 .122 .106 .159

Ryan Pressly has quietly been one of the most effective relievers over the past couple of seasons. His .390 mPDI was the 2nd highest of any pitcher in the majors last year. Only Sergio Romo had a higher Maddux index. What jumps out from a plate discipline perspective is his Outcome A (out of the zone, swung on and missed). 12.2% of Pressly’s pitches in 2019 fell into this cohort, which was the 2nd highest in all of baseball. His Outcome F (in the zone, no swing) was also elite. Almost 16% of his pitches were taken for a strike without a swing!

Ryan caught my eye last season in his first 26 innings. From March to May last year, Pressly yielded only one earned run. Even more impressive – he only issued two walks during that span. As we see from his mPDI result, these were hardly lucky outcomes; Pressly is an elite deceptive reliever.

Pressly started 2020 with some injury concerns, but assuming he gets through those – the closer job will be his in Houston.

 

Evan Marshall (RP, CHW)

Name IP mPDI Outcome A Outcome B Outcome F
Evan Marshall 50.7 .383 .079 .181 .123

In an uncertain fantasy landscape, I prefer at times to roster (and activate) high strikeout middle relievers, rather than to play a poor 7th starting pitcher. It behooves the astute fantasy owner to look for a few unknown diamonds in the rough.

Evan Marshall is slowly becoming a trusted option in the South side of Chicago. He is being used in more and more high leverage situations, and has found himself recently pitching in the 8th inning of games.

mPDI can give us a clue as to why. Marshall’s Outcome B (Out of zone, swing and contact) was the highest of any pitcher in baseball last season at 18%. Almost one-fifth of his pitches were contacted while out of the zone – which is a key to generating poor contact. His hard-hit contact rate according to Statcast was 30% last season, and it has stayed low thus far in 2020 at 33%.

To start the season, in his first 11 innings, he has compiled a 2.38 ERA – which FIP and xFIP agree with (2.79 & 2.51 respectively). His WHIP is a mere 1.15 and he has yet to give up a barrel. His K% rate is 33.3% - which means that one out of every three batters he faces ends in a strikeout.

Should Alex Colome falter, I could see Marshall sliding into some save opportunities. Even if not, Marshall could be an excellent play in deeper formats.

 

Zac Gallen (SP, ARI)

Name IP mPDI Outcome A Outcome B Outcome F
Zac Gallen 80.0 .366 .090 .120 .156

Zac Gallen was traded from the Marlins to the Diamondbacks in the middle of last season, in a trade of prospects. The Marlins perhaps had enough pitching depth in the organization, and wanted to secure a position player, which are often more reliable. Perhaps though, Gallen was worth keeping.

After a 2.81 ERA in 80 innings last season, Gallen is off to a brilliant start in 2020. In his first five starts he has a 2.40 ERA, a dazzling 1.03 WHIP with 36 strikeouts in 30 innings. To boot, he has a near 50% groundball rate.

As for his plate discipline, Gallen was the 2nd best starting pitcher in terms of his mPDI. His Outcome F (in the zone, no swing) was superb, and his out of zone metrics are outstanding. His swinging strike rate was 12.8% last year, and so far in 2020 it is up to 13.0%! Gallen is increasing his use of sliders in his pitch mix this year – further perfecting his repertoire.

I have high hopes for Zac Gallen long term, and mPDI is thus far confirming my intuition in the short term.

 

Randy Dobnak (SP, MIN)

Name IP mPDI Outcome A Outcome B Outcome F
Randy Dobnak 28.3 .358 .087 .134 .138

I did not expect to be writing about this next player. Randy Dobnak is an individual that I personally had not been high on for fantasy baseball. However, his results in 2020 have been stellar. In his first 5 games, he is currently 5th in the major leagues in ERA [among qualified starting pitchers] at 1.42. In fact, his career ERA is now sitting at 1.59 with a 1.01 WHIP. It seems fantastic, until one glances at his strikeouts which are sub-pedestrian. He struck out just 14 batters in 25 innings this season – less than a 5 K/9.

Then we come to his plate discipline. His mPDI of .358 was among last year’s top pitchers. Each one of his Maddux plate discipline outcomes are superb. Despite sub-par strikeouts, Dobnak has generated an elite 65% groundball rate this season; he is producing weak contact.

Succeeding at pitching is not only about raw "stuff." Effective pitching is highly dependent on deceptiveness. Using tangential guidance from Greg Maddux via mPDI, we are now clued into keeping an eye out for potentially undervalued pitchers such as Randy Dobnak.



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Closers and Saves Report - Week 5 Waiver Wire

The best closer in baseball last year is done for the year, but he's been replaced by a guy who looks like he could be the best closer in baseball this year. Must be nice. One of the best closers of this generation finally looked a little more like himself this week, but is it enough for his manager to trust him with a close lead?

One of the most consistent relievers in the game will now be a starter, a role in which he hasn't excelled in the past. One of the bullpens that was expected to be the most solid in the game, even after losing its closer, is seeing even more turmoil now. In other words, there was a lot this week. So let's get started.

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 5

San Diego Padres

Kirby Yates was the best closer in baseball last season by almost any metric. He never looked right this year, though. He struggled out of the gate and now he's done for the year due to an elbow injury that required surgery. In steps Drew Pomeranz, which means the Padres may have 2020's "Best Closer in Baseball" even after losing 2019's. Pomeranz is nearly unhittable out of the bullpen and should step into Yates' ninth inning role. Emilio Pagan will be around for the occasional save, but it should be Pomeranz more often than not.

UPDATE: Drew Pomeranz is dealing with shoulder tightness, right when he was given the chance to take over the closer's role full time. There doesn't seem to be a ton of concern, but any shoulder issue with a pitcher could quickly become a big deal. Emilio Pagan and Craig Stammen figure to fill in for Pomeranz in the meantime.

New York Mets

The Mets had a bit of a mess in their bullpen earlier this season, with Edwin Diaz struggling out of the gate. He's been much better lately and seems to have inspired confidence in the Mets. Seth Lugo, who was closing games while Diaz struggled, will be moved to the rotation, leaving Diaz as the favorite for saves once again. The Mets also have Dellin Betances and Jeurys Familia in their bullpen, but the job would seem to be Diaz's to lose once again.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs have not gotten much out of Craig Kimbrel in a Chicago uniform, but he's quietly strung together three excellent appearances, punctuated by a save in which he struck out all three batters he faced. It was his first save of the year. After the game, the Cubs refused to give Kimbrel anything like a vote of confidence, but with all the chances they've given him, it feels safe to assume he'll get another chance at the ninth as long as he keeps pitching well. Rowan Wick has been heading the Cubs committee with Jeremy Jeffress involved as well, but Kimbrel is one of the best closers of this generation even if he has barely even been a shell of himself as a Cub.

St. Louis Cardinals

No one really knew what to expect from the Cardinals once they returned from their forced vacation, but it looks like Andrew Miller may have emerged as the top closing option. He's already struggled through an outing though, so we may end up seeing a full-on committee in St. Louis. Giovanny Gallegos will certainly be involved, and Ryan Helsley should be back in the mix once he's able to get back on the field.

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies seemed ready to go with Jairo Diaz in their ninth innings, but he's struggled and the team decided they wouldn't be naming an outright closer, instead going with matchups. Another classic committee. Diaz will still be involved, along with Carlos Estevez and the brand new and improved Daniel Bard. Bard may be the higher upside option here, but Diaz is the safer bet, still.

 

Short Relief

  • Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman has struggled but is still expected to replace Zack Britton soon. That timeline may be expedited, as Britton is being evaluated for a hamstring injury and could be forced to miss time.
  • Daniel Hudson hasn't been great as the Nationals closer, while Tanner Rainey has been incredible as the Nationals setup man. If Hudson continues to struggle, a change could come sooner than expected.
  • Taylor Rogers has struggled in Minnesota, and with Sergio Romo's experience backing him up, we may start seeing Romo in the ninth inning a bit more often pretty soon.
  • Trevor Gott has really struggled, and he has his manager to thank for giving him more opportunities to struggle. The Giants bullpen should be a full blown committee pretty soon if it isn't already.

 

Roster Moves of the Week

Adds

Drew Pomeranz, San Diego Padres- Pomeranz has a legitimate chance to be the best closer in baseball this season, so he of course needs to be owned in absolutely every format imaginable. (Keep an eye on his shoulder though, and potentially switch this to Emilio Pagan instead.)

Craig Kimbrel, Chicago Cubs- There's still work to be done for Kimbrel to be Kimbrel again, but there were good signs this week and it's no secret that the Cubs want to get the most out of their investment. This is a speculative add for now.

Edwin Diaz, New York Mets- Diaz returns to the closer's role and if he's been dropped in your league, now might be the time to snag him back up. There's always risk with Diaz, but the potential reward is enormous.

Seth Lugo, New York Mets- This is usually a bullpen article, but I honestly think Lugo can be a very good big league starter. If he gets dropped in your league by someone thinking he's only a worthy fantasy asset out of the bullpen, pick him up and be patient as he stretches out into a starting role.

 

Drops

Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres- Yates won't pitch again this year, so anyone owning him in redraft formats can go ahead and let him go.

Trevor Gott, San Francisco Giants- Gott has hurt your fantasy team enough at this point, it's time to let him go.

 

Best of the Week

Liam Hendriks, Oakland Athletics - 3 IP, 3 SV, 4 K, 0.00 ERA

A's closer Liam Hendriks had an excellent week, saving every game he appeared in while striking out four batters and not allowing a run.

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers - 2 1/3 IP, 3 SV, 4 K, 0.00 ERA

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen matched the numbers Hendriks put up, but only needed 2 1/3 innings to do it.

Craig Kimbrel, Chicago Cubs - 3 IP, 1 SV, 7 K, 0.00 ERA

Shoutout to Kimbrel here, who used to be a fixture on the Best of the Week list. He only saved one game, but he struck out seven of the 11 batters he faced. This week could have been the turning point we've all been waiting for in Kimbrel's game.



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Week 5 MLB Closers & Bullpen Usage Report

Monitoring bullpens in 2020 will be a vital task each and every day. Because of this, we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used.

The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.

 

Around the American League

New York Yankees - Aroldis Chapman is back. He threw 20 pitches on Monday. Zach Britton has been one of the best closers in baseball, yet he may only have the job for another week at the most as Chapman gets his sea legs. Whenever the swap is made, Britton immediately becomes an elite holds guy.

Toronto - Rafael Dolis has pitched in two straight heading into Tuesday. Anthony Bass returned to the mound after being dinged up and only threw 14 pitches. He may need another day to rest and recover back to full health, but Bass should be back to closing in no time.

Chicago White Sox - Alex Colome hasn't pitched in a while, but all of his supporting arms may need rest. Zack Burdi, Steve Cishek, Jimmy Cordero, Ross Detwiler, Evan Marshall, and Jose Ruiz all have appeared in two of the last three days.

Cleveland - Everyone should be available Tuesday, but all of Cam Hill, James Karinchak, Dominic Leone, and Nick Wittgren pitched at least two of three days to start the week. Anyone who gets action will need another day of rest immediately following.

Minnesota - The Twins bullpen has been well worked. Sergio Romo and Taylor Rogers both pitched in two straight before a day off Monday. Trevor May and Tyler Clippard pitched in two straight now. Minnesota will have to stagger returns in order to not be without everyone at the same time.

Houston - Ryan Pressly got into two straight games before needing a day off, though he only threw 18 total pitches. The rest of the bullpen seems to be rounding into form as the Astros needed to pull a quick restart on their reliever depth. Blake Taylor, Josh James, and Brooks Raley seem like the new go-to arms in front of Pressly. Taylor has gotten into two straight games now; James and Raley both pitched in two of three. None of these guys were on the radar (James was a starter) before injuries decimated the unit. Now they are being leaned on in a major way.

Los Angeles Angels - All of Ty Buttrey, Felix Pena, and Keynan Middleton have pitched in two of the past three days. Hansel Robles also got back into the action with a scoreless outing. The team may be forced to turn back to Robles at least for one outing as the rest of the bullpen rests up.

Oakland - T.J. McFarland has taken the mound in three of the past four days. The Athletics have plenty of other options late in games, so McFarland's holds chances could be lacking this week.

 

Around the National League

Atlanta - Will Smith pitched in two of the past three. Shane Greene pitched in two straight before a day off. Mark Melancon already got a couple days of rest last week; now it's likely Smith's and Greene's turn for at least a day.

Washington - Tanner Rainey has looked good but has thrown in two straight games, including needing 29 pitches in the most recent outing. Daniel Hudson secured the team's closer role, and then has decidedly not looked good, getting rocked in multiple outings. He has also pitched in two straight. With Will Harris throwing 25 pitches on Monday, and Sean Doolittle sidelined, we could see a surprise save from someone like Javy Guerra. Guerra's 22.2 percent K-rate has been a career-best; as has his 5.6 percent walk rate.

Chicago Cubs - Jeremy Jeffress has gotten into two of the past three. With Jeffress needing a blow, Craig Kimbrel may very well get another save chance after two clean outings for himself.

Milwaukee - David Phelps has been moving up the responsibility ladder. He's pitched in two straight, though, before a day off. Devin Williams is moving into that third option, with two holds in the last four days. Everyone still looks up at Josh Hader, but Hader has thrown a lot of pitches recently. An appearance every other day in the span of four days saw him need 60 pitches in just two outings.

St. Louis - With the Cardinals finally back in action, Andrew Miller and Giovanny Gallegos have both been used heavily, pitching in two of three games. If both need a day off this week at the same time, it is hard to tab a replacement. Genesis Cabrera and John Gant have also both pitched in two of three days. Kwang Hyun Kim moved to starter and threw 57 pitches Monday. Expect St. Louis to stagger days off the next few days to avoid losing multiple guys. More importantly, Miller seems to be ahead of Gallegos in closer pecking order. There isn't much to read into that statistically yet. Neither guy has even thrown four total innings.

Arizona - Archie Bradley pitched in two straight before a day off. One more outing could force him to the bench again this week.

Colorado - Carlos Estevez pitched in two straight games, recorded a save, got banged up, and is a question mark. Yet the rest of the Colorado pen has been scuffling as well. Jairo Diaz now has a 2.07 WHIP; Daniel Bard has given up runs in two straight; Tyler Kinley has five walks in his last two innings, which included getting blasted for five runs last week. The starters have been amazingly good thus far, but recent bullpen outings put into question who Bud Black can count on.

Los Angeles Dodgers - Kenley Jansen pitched in three of four days, nabbing a save in each. He will get some much needed rest. Perhaps Jake McGee, well rested and pitching very well, gets a vulture save this week. He currently sports a 33.3 percent K-BB rate and has a .071 BAA. Pedro Baez has been getting eighths and will also be an option.

San Francisco - Tony Watson pitched in three of four. The same goes for Tyler Rogers and Trevor Gott. Gott will need rest but has also been rocked recently. Watson is the best bet to get a save chance this week. He has pitched as often as the other late-innings guys but threw only nine and seven pitches respectively in two of those outings.



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Closers and Saves Report - Week 4 Waiver Wire

For a season chock full of bullpen changes and injuries already, this week was a slight cool down period. In other words, this would still probably have been a bigger bullpen news week during a normal season, but for this particular season, it seemed like a much-welcomed downswing.

There were still depth chart changes, there were still injuries, and there were still saves (and blown saves of course.) The season pretty much just started (especially for the Cardinals), but the trade deadline is already coming up in about two weeks. Lots has changed in almost every bullpen, and it's a safe bet to say plenty of more changes are coming.

Stick with us here at Rotoballer and you'll always be a step ahead of everyone else in your league!

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 4

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates finally got their closer back, as Keone Kela was activated off the injured list, where he'd been since before the season began due to COVID-19. Kyle Crick was meant to be the closer without Kela, but he ended up on the IL as well. Then Nick Burdi was up next, and he was exciting, but quickly got hurt as well and is now out for the season. Kela is basically the only reliable, experienced arm left in the Pirates bullpen, and he'll take over the closer's role right away. He's a prime trade candidate, though, so he may not end up staying on the Pirates for too long. Still, he could be a decent saves option short term, although the Pirates may have a hard time handing him too many leads.

Kansas City Royals

I made a bet with a Twitter user before the season started because I did not believe that Trevor Rosenthal would be any good this year. I was wrong. "Rosie" has been solid and has taken over the closer's role in KC. He's thrown nine innings, collecting four saves while allowing just one run. He's struck out 10 and walked three. Small sample size warning of course, but his SIERA sits at 3.26 so while he hasn't been 1.00 ERA good, he's been very good and should be owned in all eligible formats. Scott Barlow and Greg Holland have been working the later innings ahead of Rosenthal.

Texas Rangers

The Rangers have had pretty bad luck with pitching injuries this season, but they have gotten a pitcher back who could be a strong closer option for the rest of the season. They started the season with Jose Leclerc in the ninth, but after he got hurt, they went with Jonathan Hernandez and Edinson Volquez in the later innings. Neither guy inspired much confidence (and now Volquez is hurt and done for the year), so when former top Mets prospect Rafael Montero came off the IL, he was given a chance to close and has done well so far. He's only thrown four innings so far, but that's counted for four saves, and he's yet to allow a run. Montero is a definite injury risk, but he's in a good spot and has the stuff to be a good closer.

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies chose to give Wade Davis a second chance after his horrifying 2019 performance, but he didn't get too much time to show anything before he got hurt. With Davis on the IL now, Jairo Diaz has taken over the ninth. It's not a full-time role yet, with Carlos Estevez and Daniel Bard (yes, that same Daniel Bard) likely to mix in for save chances too. It's unclear when Davis will be ready to return, but if his replacements do well, the ninth inning may not be waiting for Davis when he gets back.

 

Short Relief

  • The Mariners bullpen is a mess, but Taylor Williams seems like the top choice for now. Carl Edwards Jr. landed on the IL, making things just a tiny bit clearer in Seattle, but not much. This will likely be a committee throughout the season.
  • Aroldis Chapman is on his way back, finally. He'll pitch a simulated game on Friday and should be activated soon after. Despite how well Zack Britton is doing this year, Chapman is sure to take over the ninth inning once he's ready.
  • Oliver Drake landed on the IL this week, so the Rays bullpen is back to a committee again, with Nick Anderson probably up top.
  • It's been a gradual change, but Seth Lugo has taken over in the Mets bullpen. Edwin Diaz has been much better lately, so we may see some mixing and matching, especially with Lugo requiring more time off than some other relievers.
  • Craig Kimbrel continues to be bad and Rowan Wick continues to be good enough, so another gradual change may be taking place in the Cubs bullpen.

 

Roster Moves of the Week

Adds

Rafael Montero, Texas Rangers- Montero is finally healthy and has fully taken over the closer's role in Texas. He's appeared in four games so far and earned a save in every single one. He should be owned in all formats.

Trevor Rosenthal, Kansas City Royals- Rosie's back! After injuries destroyed his 2019 and forced him to miss all of 2018, I honestly did not think he'd be any good this year. I was wrong, and not only is he pitching well, he's also earned the closer's role for the Royals.

Keone Kela, Pittsburgh Pirates- Kela should make his 2020 debut this weekend, and while the Pirates likely won't have many leads for him to save, he'll put up decent enough numbers to help fantasy teams and could be traded before the August 31 trade deadline.

 

Drops

Ian Kennedy, Kansas City Royals- I thought Ian Kennedy could repeat his success from 2019. I was wrong. Kennedy doesn't even seem to be on the radar for the ninth inning right now, with Rosenthal, Scott Barlow, and Greg Holland ahead of him at least.

Jonathan Hernandez, Texas Rangers- For a little bit, it looked like Hernandez would be the guy in Texas, but then Montero came off the IL and has been great since.

Anyone in the Pirates Bullpen Besides Kela, Pittsburgh Pirates- With Kela back and with the Pirates unlikely to win much, there are no strong fantasy options in this bullpen behind Kela.

 

Best of the Week

Rafael Montero, Texas Rangers- 4 IP, 4 SV, 4 K, 0.00 ERA, 0 H, 0 BB

Montero came off the IL, faced 12 batters, and got them all out this week, earning four saves. That's...that's literally the best he could have done.

Trevor Rosenthal, Kansas City Royals- 4 1/3 IP, 3 SV, 5 K, 0.00 ERA, 2 H, 3 BB

"Rosie" was given the closer's role this week and responded by saving three games and striking out as many batters as he allowed to reach base.

Alex Colome, Chicago White Sox- 3 IP, 2 SV, 4 K, 0.00 ERA, 0 H, 0 BB (1 HBP)

White Sox closer Alex Colome allowed just one base runner this week, on a hit by pitch. He struck out four and saved two ball games.

More closers with two saves this week:

Zack Britton, Liam Hendriks, Archie Bradley, Drew Pomeranz (Pomeranz was filling in for Kirby Yates, who was dealing with a back issue)



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Week 4 MLB Closers & Bullpen Usage Report

Monitoring bullpens in 2020 will be a vital task each and every day. Because of this, we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used.

The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.

 

Around the American League

New York Yankees - Zack Britton finally encountered a bump in the road this season. However, it came in the dreaded, non-save situation. Closers (anecdotally) always struggle when entering tie games because, supposedly, the juices aren't flowing as high as normal. Britton is not normally the Yankee closer, though. Too bad Aaron Boone didn't tell Britton before he entered that Aroldis Chapman was ready to be reinserted as closer. That way, Britton wouldn't have fallen victim to the curse of a closer in a tie game.

Incidentally, a decision on what to do with Chapman may come down as soon as Tuesday after he throws against live hitters that day.

Tampa Bay - With Oliver Drake moving to the injured list, it is finally time to bank on Nick Anderson closing games for the Rays, right? Don't be so sure. Andrew Kittredge came in for the save Monday (and was then tabbed as the starter for Tuesday, because, Rays). He isn't the long-term closer answer, but he might be a piece of it. Tampa Bay is likely to leave Anderson in as the fireman and turn to any number of other options to close depending on the matchup. That includes Kittredge, Chaz Roe, Diego Castillo, and the newly instated Jose Alvarado.

Castillo should be a top option. He has yet to allow a run this season. Though his walk rate is up to 16.7 percent, he is inducing less than hard contact on 78 percent of balls in play. Alvarado is also very interesting. He was lights out in 2018 before losing control last season. His walk rate jumped to 18.5 percent. However, that was accompanied by being unlucky. He had a .346 BABIP against him despite giving up less hard contact (37.3 percent down to 35 percent) one season to the next. Of course, it would be a surprise to see anyone grab a stranglehold on the closer job like Drake had; even the fact that that happened remains surprising.

Detroit - Buck Farmer and his four holds were not for real, even before he hit the IL with a groin strain. With a 3.7 percent K-rate that is so low it requires a double-take, Farmer had a .174 BABIP against. It doesn't make any sense. He was allowing 43.5 percent hard contact, but thanks to one of the highest ground-ball rates in the league, had allowed zero home runs.

It was just a matter of time until his results started to go the other way. Instead, the injury opens the door for Gregory Soto to have an even larger role. Soto has been more sustainably great, with a 32.2 K-BB rate, but there is reason to worry about him as well. The luck will eventually run out on a 0.0 home-run rate, a .056 BABIP(!!), and a 100 percent left on-base percentage. For this week particularly, Soto has pitched in three of four games and will need some extra rest.

Kansas City - Greg Holland pitched in three straight before Monday's day off. He is no longer an immediate factor in save situations. That job belongs to Trevor Rosenthal, but Holland has become a large piece in the KC pen, which may be only slightly less surprising than Rosenthal doing the same.

Los Angeles Angels - Ty Buttrey pitched in two straight games, though he only threw five pitches in the front half of that back-to-back. The Angels' new closer may need a day or two this week, likely in favor of Felix Pena.

Oakland - The Oakland holds mastery of Diekman and McFarland has a new member. They are joined by Yusmeiro Petit to create the holds triumvirate. As of 8/11, only 12 players in baseball had at least four holds. This A's trio is a full 25 percent of that group.

Petit may need a day before he keeps pace. He has pitched in two straight ballgames.

Seattle - The bullpen pecking order continues to be in flux in Seattle. Taylor Williams pitched in two straight before a day off. He will likely need another day off this week. Logic would dictate Matt Magill getting a save chance sometime soon. It feels like Seattle is instead using him as a fireman, but that hasn't at all been the case. He's allowed zero runs and a single hit in six appearances, but only once has he entered a game with his team-leading by three or fewer runs.

Texas - Nick Goody is dinged up and may need a couple of days off this week. Jimmy Herget would be a possible replacement moving up the responsibility ladder, but he has pitched in two straight and will need a rest himself. Edinson Volquez and Joely Rodriguez also both pitched in back-to-back games before getting one day of rest. Texas could be scrambling if the bullpen gets taxed too much more this week.

 

Around the National League

New York Mets - Seth Lugo has surpassed Edwin Diaz in the pecking order. If we accept Diaz as never being his 2018 version again, he can still be seen as a useful fantasy player. He is currently striking out a career-best 48.1 percent of opposing batters and allowing just a .182 BAA despite a sky-high BABIP that has hounded him most of his career.

With that said, we haven't seen the last of Diaz closing games. Lugo pitched twice in a row before one day off. If he sees another night of action, it will mean one or two more days off before the week is out.

Philadelphia - The Phillies continue to be impressive in their ineptitude out of the pen. In case anyone thought they were getting out of their comfort zone by winning comfortably on Monday, the bullpen took care of that by allowing seven runs in the ninth. Philly's 9.87 reliever ERA is more than two full runs worse than every other team in baseball.

Los Angeles Dodgers - Middle reliever Blake Treinen has pitched in two straight, though he only needed three pitches to get through that first outing. He may see a day off or two going forward.

San Diego - Kirby Yates was too sore to pitch on Monday. This may finally be the excuse the Padres needed to indefinitely remove him from the closer's role in favor of Drew Pomeranz or the streaking Emilio Pagan.

After a very rough July start, Pagan hasn't allowed a run or a hit yet this month, and he's only walked one batter in three appearances.

San Francisco - Tyler Rogers is tied for the league lead with five holds. We assumed there would be craziness in Gabe Kapler's bullpen, but he's been pretty steady in his role distribution at the end of games between Trevor Gott, Tony Watson, and Rogers. Rogers is the most interesting case though. He is valuable in fantasy as long as he holds Kapler's trust. But maybe he shouldn't anymore. He's had three terrible outings, and those five holds are sunk down by three losses and a blown save.



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Rafael Montero (RP, TEX) - Week 4 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues

OWNED IN: 3% of leagues

ANALYSIS: Rafael Montero was activated off the injured list on Friday and promptly added his name to the seemingly never-ending list of pitchers who have recorded a save in 2020, striking out two in a clean ninth inning. The Texas Rangers are more likely to get the next no.1 draft pick than they are reaching the postseason this year but the fact Montero was given the chance to earn a save as soon as he was back from his elbow injury (tendonitis) shows the team has faith in him. And a look at last year's numbers will explain why.

Montero's first year with the Rangers saw him pitch 29 innings and put up a 2.48 ERA while striking out 34 hitters with a 30.1% K%. With Jose Leclerc likely to miss the remainder of this season, the closer role is up for grabs in Texas and Montero looks like he's at the very least put his name atop the list. Given he's only just back from an elbow injury and he missed all of 2018 through injury, it's unlikely Montero will be heavily used (at least not in back-to-back days to begin with) but any closer with a good ERA and high strikeout numbers should be rostered. Even if Montero only tallies one or two saves a week, he could be one of the most valuable waiver adds this season.


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Trevor Gott (RP, SF) - Week 4 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues

OWNED IN: 35% of leagues

ANALYSIS: The San Francisco Giants went into the season without a confirmed closer but heading into week 4 of the season, it has become clear that Trevor Gott is their 9th inning guy of choice as no one else has recorded a save for the Giants yet. Already this season, 56 different pitchers have recorded a save so having a guy on your fantasy roster who has three saves by himself, as Gott has, will have been incredibly useful.

Through four innings of work, Gott has a 2.25 ERA and has given up just three hits with one walk. He's only struck out two hitters but does have a career 19.4% K% so he should chalk up a few more strikeouts as the season progresses. The one caveat to this is Gott's ERA has been lucky so far as his FIP, xFIP and SIERA are all north of 6.00. But we are talking about a very small sample size and you can easily pick up Gott now, nab yourself some crucial saves and if his ERA does balloon to the point he loses his job, you just drop him again. Until such a time happens (if at all), he should be rostered in all leagues.


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Closers and Saves Report - Week 3 Waiver Wire

Before this 60-game season started, we all knew every little thing would matter more. We knew that every game was, essentially, 2.7 times as important as a regular game in a 162-game season. We knew managers would have much shorter leashes on their underperforming players, and perhaps much quicker promotions for the quick starters.

But we had no idea things would move THIS fast. Every day seems like a week's worth of bullpen news. It seems like almost every bullpen is volatile, or at best, questionable. Every day, there are fewer and fewer solid, one-man closer type bullpens. Even some of the closers were used to seeing dominate are looking very hittable this year.

It makes sense to use a committee in a season like this one, and many teams look like they're heading in that direction. That, combined with injuries and poor performance, will make for quite an annoying season for fantasy owners outside of those lucky few who drafted the closers who are actually keeping their jobs. Stick with Rotoballer's Closer Depth Chart (linked below) and our weekly Closers and Saves Report (hi! hello! how are you?) to keep as much on top of this wild season as possible.

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 3

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates bullpen was a mess right before the season started, with Keone Kela and Kyle Crick not quite ready to get the season going. Nick Burdi jumped in and showed his nice upside for a while, but now he's done for the season with elbow issues. Kela is on his way back from COVID-related issues, and the Pirates have already confirmed that he'll close as soon as he's back on the mound. The Pirates might not even have a save chance until then, so it's not the bullpen to target for saves even for streamers. Unfortunately, Burdi can be dropped in all redraft formats.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals surprised everyone by naming Korean free agent signing Kwang-Hyun Kim as their closer. He was not even known to be in the running, but injuries and delayed Summer Camp starts caused them to scramble for a ninth inning option. Kim did well enough in the ninth, but his services are now needed in the starting rotation. As Kim was originally signed to be a member of the rotation anyway, he'll now work his way from there. That leaves an open space in the ninth inning, which for now will be filled by a committee. Some comments from manager Mike Schildt made it seem like fireballer Ryan Helsley may be the top option, but Giovanny Gallegos figures to find himself on the mound with a lead now and then as well. Either guy would be a worthwhile fantasy closer if handed the full time job, so keep an eye on how the Cardinals close out their games once they're back on the field.

New York Yankees

Aroldis Chapman is reportedly through with his bout of COVID-19 and on his way back to the mound. He has been cleared to throw again, but manager Aaron Boone has repeatedly said that he doesn't want to rush his closer back. With Zach Britton performing well in the Yankees closer role, there's no need for Chapman to rush through his progressions. Still, he is fully expected to resume the closer's role before too long.

Los Angeles Angels

The Angels will be moving on from having Hansel Robles handle save situations on his own. Despite a solid season last year, Robles was off to a putrid start in 2020, and the Angels will work with a committee approach, at least for now. Ty Buttrey got the first post-Robles save chance and converted it just fine. He's the most likely option for saves, but Hoby Milner and Felix Pena will likely join in as well.

Colorado Rockies

Rockies closer Wade Davis pretty much started the year on the hot seat. He didn't take too long to lose his job, although it was due to injury this season. Davis is on the IL with a shoulder strain. The Rockies haven't named a closer in his place, but Jairo Diaz and Carlos Estevez figure to benefit the most from the new Colorado bullpen hierarchy. Either would be worth an add if they took the job for themselves, but it will be hard to predict which reliever will be next up for now.

 

 

Short Relief

 

Roster Moves of the Week

Adds

Cole Sulser, Baltimore Orioles- Sulser has seemingly taken over the ninth inning on a somewhat surprising Orioles team (at least until they faced the juggernaut Marlins). He can strike guys out and should be a help to any mixed league roster.

Keone Kela, Pittsburgh Pirates- You might have to wait a few days to see Kela pitch if you add him, but he's guaranteed the ninth inning in Pittsburgh and should put up decent ratio stats as well.

Ryan Helsley or Giovanny Gallegos, St. Louis Cardinals- One of these two guys will likely emerge from the current committee to take over the ninth inning. Gallegos has a bit more experience, but Helsley has more upside. Take your pick.

Carlos Estevez or Jairo Diaz, Colorado Rockies- Again, it's a take your pick add here, whichever guy you think will emerge from the committee as the closer is certainly worth a roster spot.

Ty Buttrey, Los Angeles Angels- Buttrey struggled to start the year, but so did Hansel Robles ahead of him. Buttrey looks like the leader of the committee and should come out on top of the Angels hierarchy.

 

Drops

Nick Burdi, Pittsburgh Pirates- Just featured on the "adds" last week, now it's Bye Bye Burdi, as his season is over due to arm troubles.

Hansel Robles, Los Angeles Angels- Robles has lost his job and doesn't really even seem to be in striking distance now. It could be a while until he sees another ninth inning opportunity.

 

Best of the Week

Liam Hendriks, Oakland A's- 4 IP, 3 SV, 6 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP

A's closer Liam Hendriks had a great week, saving three games while allowing just two hits and no runs, striking out a half dozen along the way.

Zach Britton, New York Yankees- 3 IP, 3 SV, 2 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP

Yankees closer (for now) Zach Britton did not allow anyone to reach base all week. He saved three games and struck out two.

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers- 3 IP, 3 SV, 4 K, 3.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen didn't put up the sparking ERAs and WHIPs of the other two members of this list, but he rounds out the three-saves-this-week club with a solid enough performance, thanks in part to an excellent throw from left field by Chris Taylor.

 



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Week 3 MLB Closers & Bullpen Usage Report

As this weird, altered season progresses, the imbalance in the schedule becomes a bigger and bigger issue. Some teams have already played double-figure games, while others have played just a single series.

This imbalance is obviously troublesome for the standings with the playoffs not all that far off in the grand scheme. It is also annoying for fantasy owners who are trying to compete either head-to-head in a given week or in roto scoring. Yet there's nothing to be done.

These games cannot be played when it is unsafe to do so. We have to roll with it. Unlike any year previously, it may be safe to move on from certain players who haven't necessarily been bad; they've just been endlessly unavailable because of canceled games.

 

Monitoring Bullpens in 2020

Bullpen usage will be something to monitor each and every day, so we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed, and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used. The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.

 

Around the League

Baltimore - Cole Sulser is the guy. We thought there was a committee in Baltimore to start the year. Maybe that would've been the case if Hunter Harvey were healthy. But even with a healthy Mychal Givens pitching well, every save chance has gone to Sulser. He's blown one already; he doesn't have great strikeout stuff; he's the guy nonetheless.

This week, look for Miguel Castro to get some rest. He had pitched in back-to-back games before an off day Monday.

New York Yankees - Aroldis Chapman's return is on the horizon. Zack Britton remains an elite closer until that day comes. The Yankees may need to turn to Adam Ottavino at least once this week, though, as Britton pitched in two straight before the rainout Tuesday. Ottavino will obviously be a bigger holds target regardless with the news that Tommy Kahnle will miss the rest of the season.

Tampa Bay - It may be time for Nick Anderson owners to abandon ship if they were relying on him for saves and nothing more. Anderson is not the closer that we all thought he would be. He may be the next Josh Hader, but Hader from 2017 or 2018. That's a guy who rarely is saved for the save because he is more valuable pitching in key spots earlier in the game.

Cleveland - Brad Hand has been really bad, but he remains the closer. The danger of the 60-game season: how long do the Indians wait for him to get on track?

Minnesota - Taylor Rogers is the main closer here, though he may not collect as many save opportunities as some of his peers. The Twins utilize a bit more flexibility in their bullpen than other teams. Rogers will likely offer up another save chance to a teammate this week as well. He's pitched in three games in four days, although he only threw five pitches in one of those outings.

Houston - The Astros are running out of options. The banged-up Ryan Pressly is now the guy, though one can't feel great about him as a key fantasy closer.

Los Angeles Angels - Hansel Robles has been really bad, but he remains the closer. The danger of the 60-game season: how long do the Angels wait for him to get on track?

Oakland - Jake Diekman is a holds king, but don't forget about teammate T.J. McFarland. McFarland has recorded a hold in three straight appearances and has only allowed one base runner all season.

Miami - The Marlins bullpen is well-rested!

New York Mets - We still aren't sure who Luis Rojas will turn to for the next save chance. One name not to discount in holds leagues is Justin Wilson. Yes, he has a 8.10 ERA, but he leads the league in holds for a reason. That ERA was bloated by one bad outing. He's only allowed two base runners in his other four outings combined.

Chicago Cubs - Craig Kimbrel is still holding onto the closer job by a thread. Potential usurper Rowan Wick didn't look good last time out and has also pitched in three of the past four days but he does have two saves now.

Cincinnati - Raisel Iglesias has pitched in three of the past four days. Each subsequent outing in his young season seems better than the last after that rocky start, but he should need some time off this week regardless.

Pittsburgh - Nick Burdi needed 20 pitches to record one out on Monday. The Pirates have been careful with him thus far, so look for someone else to be involved in a save situation. Although that someone else likely won't be Richard Rodriguez, who has pitched in two straight heading into Tuesday.

Colorado - With Wade Davis sidelined, Jairo Diaz becomes the head of a closer committee, followed by Carlos Estevez. This week could be touch and go though. Diaz has pitched in two straight and three of four. Estevez has also pitched in two straight, as has Tyler Kinley. Daniel Bard anyone? It's been nine years since Bard last recorded a save in the majors.

San Diego - Kirby Yates has been really bad, but he remains the closer. The danger of the 60-game season: how long do the Padres wait for him to get on track?

(Oh, they already turned to Drew Pomeranz you say? I can't use this bit anymore?)

Emilio Pagan has been really bad, but he remains the setup man. The danger of the 60-game season: how long do the Padres wait for him to get on track?

(Now don't you feel dumb?)

San Francisco - Shaun Anderson, perhaps not quite in the mix for saves, although one never knows with Gabe Kapler, has pitched in three of the last four days. He leads the league in appearances to this point, so Kapler may be hard-pressed to turn elsewhere in the middle innings of a close game.



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Closers and Saves Report - Week 2 Waiver Wire

Hey. Hey...Umm, there's baseball! It's pretty much already a mess and who knows how long this season will actually last, but for now? Baseball. We have it. And that's great. Summer's favorite sport is back on our TVs and in stadiums near us that we aren't allowed to go to. But: still baseball. Fantasy leagues are in full swing (pour one out for leagues that drafted before everything changed).

This season, it seems like bullpens will be MUCH more important on the field, and therefore in fantasy baseball as well. With only 60 games all season and expanded rosters at least part of the way, managers will be way more likely to give their starters a quick hook. We've already seen what at least seems like a disproportionate amount of starters being lifted in the third and fourth innings. Fantasy managers in quality start leagues are probably shaking their heads and wishing they'd just gone with Wins (just kidding, pitcher wins is the second worst stat in sports- after QB wins in football).

So, with bullpens being more important, that means Rotoballer's weekly Closers and Saves Report will be even more of a vital resource for fantasy baseball players everywhere. This series will publish every Friday morning and will recap what happened in the week that passed and also look ahead at the week 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 2

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates bullpen has already been quite the journey this young season. Expected closer Keone Kela still hasn't reported to the team due to COVID-19, and his primary replacement, Kyle Crick, has joined him on the injured list with a shoulder strain. Exciting rookie Nick Burdi is next in line and has looked excellent already this season, but manager Derek Shelton clarified that he would be careful with Burdi and could limit his innings or appearances. Burdi is still the arm to own in the Pittsburgh bullpen, but Richard Rodriguez and Michael Feliz are likely to spend some time on the mound in ninth innings going forward as well.

Texas Rangers

Rangers closer Jose Leclerc was skipped over for a save chance due to shoulder tightness, but the extent of his injury ended up being much worse than just tightness. Leclerc is dealing with the same injury as his teammate, Corey Kluber. They both have a Grade 2 strain of the teres major muscle in their shoulders and won't be able to even throw for four weeks. Nick Goody got a save in his place, but it was more due to game circumstances. With Leclerc set to miss most of the season, the Rangers will likely turn to Jonathan Hernandez or Edinson Volquez.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals expected Jordan Hicks to be back in their closer's role at some point this season. They expected Giovanny Gallegos to keep the mound warm for him in the meantime. Then...everything changed. Hicks opted out of the season due to concerns with COVID-19, and Gallegos was late to report to Summer Camp because of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. When Carlos Martinez, another candidate for the closer's role, earned a starting rotation spot instead, Cardinals manager Mike Schildt made a decision that no one expected: he made Kwang-Hyun Kim the full-time closer. Kim does not have the kind of swing-and-miss stuff you expect from a closer, but he seems to have the team committed to his role, and any full-time closer is worth a spot on most fantasy rosters.

San Francisco Giants

The Giants bullpen was always expected to be unpredictable and frustrating for fantasy players. Heading into the season, the pitcher with the most saves in his career that would wear a Giants uniform was Tony Watson, with 30. Thirty saves. In his entire career. To lead the team. Combine that with new manager Gabe Kapler's creative bullpen usage and...you end up with Trevor Gott looking like the early favorite for ninth inning work. It's early, things can and will change, and Kapler's gonna Kapler, but for now, Gott looks like he may actually be worth a roster spot in deeper formats.

Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles bullpen was never expected to be much of a strength, but fantasy players were excited to see the one real bright spot in the Birds' bullpen, Hunter Harvey. Mychal Givens was expected to get some save chances to start things off, but Harvey wasn't thought to be too far behind. Instead, Harvey finds himself on the injured list with elbow soreness, and Givens remains atop the Orioles bullpen committee.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays were another team not fully expected to have strictly defined roles in their bullpen. Nick Anderson was the fantasy favorite because of his gaudy strikeout numbers and his role to end last season, but as expected, the Rays have not done things according to other people's plans. Oliver Drake looked like he was ascending to the ninth inning after earning saves in two games in a row, but he followed that up with a blown save in another outing. He's still tentatively atop the Rays committee, but Anderson and Jose Alvarado are waiting for their turns as well.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays had one of the more solid bullpens heading into the season, with Ken Giles set fast in the ninth inning. That didn't last too long, as Giles is now on the injured list dealing with a forearm strain. It's unclear just how long he'll be out, but it's not often that "forearm strain" ends up as a short trip to the IL. In his place, the Blue Jays will likely try a committee at least until a hot hand appears. Anthony Bass, Rafael Dolis, and Jordan Romano will all work the late innings for Toronto (but never in Toronto, thanks 2020!). Bass is slightly ahead right now and would be the best choice for any managers desperate for saves.

Seattle Mariners

Much like the Giants bullpen mentioned above, the Mariners bullpen was always expected to be a mess. Many thought Matt Magill would be the favorite for saves given the role he played near the end of last season, but he appeared in the fifth inning on Sunday for his first appearance of the season. Taylor Williams earned a tough save with three strikeouts of very good hitters, but it looks like Dan Altavilla is the head of this committee, at least for now. The Mariners bullpen may end up being a lot like what we expected the Giants bullpen to be.

 

 

Short Relief

  • Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman is reportedly "doing well" but still hasn't been able to rejoin the team. He's been dealing with a case of COVID-19 since Summer Camp. Zach Britton will work the ninth until Chapman can return.
  • Cleveland closer Brad Hand struggled at the end of last season and seems to be struggling again this year. He's still the closer in Cleveland, but it's worth keeping an eye on. Nick Wittgren and James Karinchak would be next in line, with Karinchak earning the save on Thursday night.
  • Ian Kennedy was strong as a closer for the Royals last year, as he basically reinvented his career. He remains atop the Royals committee this year, but he might have some challenges from fellow veteran righties Trevor Rosenthal and Greg Holland, both of whom have earned saves before Kennedy this season.
  • Mets closer Edwin Diaz has continued to struggle a bit, and it's easy to assume his role is in jeopardy. He's still the head of the Mets bullpen, but Seth Lugo, Dellin Betances and Jeurys Familia are looming.
  • Craig Kimbrel hasn't looked good, and Jeremy Jeffress has the veteran bullpen guy energy managers like David Ross (presumably) crave, so keep an eye on the Cubs bullpen.
  • Padres closer Kirby Yates gave up eight earned runs all of last season. Eight! He's already allowed two this year, but the early blip is likely nothing to worry about.
  • Sean Doolittle isn't off to a great start for the defending champion Washington Nationals. He's still the closer, but Daniel Hudson is breathing down his neck.

 

Roster Moves of the Week

Adds

Nick Burdi, Pittsburgh Pirates- Burdi was already a decent fantasy asset due to his high-strikeout potential, but now that he's found himself in the closer's role, he's a must-own in pretty much all formats.

Oliver Drake, Tampa Bay Rays- As mentioned above, Drake may not have a super tight hold on the ninth inning in Tampa, but he's the one to own for now.

Jeremy Jeffress, Chicago Cubs- If Kimbrel keeps struggling, Jeffress will be next man up.

Nick Wittgren, Cleveland Indians- Similar to the Cubs situation, if Hand keeps struggling, Wittgren goes next.

Trevor Gott, San Francisco Giants- He might be the closest the Giants come to a closer this season.

Anthony Bass, Toronto Blue Jays- Bass seems like he'll take Giles' spot for as long as he's out.

 

Drops

There are no immediate drops this week, but it will all come down to roster space. If you have an IL spot available for guys like Chapman and Giles, use it, because if they make it back onto the mound, they will be giving you significant production.

 

Best of the Week

This section will usually be, as the title says, a place to highlight the best relievers of the week. Since this is our first regular Closers and Saves report of the season, however, we'll go all the way back to Opening Day this time.

Joe Jimenez, Detroit Tigers- 4 IP, 4 SV, 2 K, 2.25 ERA, 0.75 WHIP

Tigers closer Joe Jimenez leads the league in saves, with four (no one else even has three as of the writing of this article.) He hasn't been fooling many hitters, as his two strikeouts show, but he's been able to do his job and lock down wins for Detroit.

Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks- 2 2/3 IP, 1 SV, 5 K, 3.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP

Bradley hasn't been great, as he's already blown a save, but he is tied for the lead among one-save relievers with five strikeouts, and he's only gotten eight outs total.

Seth Lugo, New York Mets- 4 1/3 IP, 1 SV, 5 K, 2.08 ERA, 0.46 WHIP

Even better numbers overall for Mets reliever Seth Lugo, who also has five strikeouts and one save, but he's not expected to be the full time closer in Queens, at least not yet.



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Week 2 Bullpen Usage Report for Fantasy Baseball

Less than a week into the 2020 Major League Baseball season, the future is uncertain. Bullpens are normally the most unreliable and volatile aspect of the sport. This year, the outside world has told baseball to hold its beer and showed it what unreliable and volatile really meant.

As we see the Miami Marlins sit an entire week thanks to a slew of positive virus tests, each and every day become an unknown, almost like bullpen usage in more enjoyable times. We will continue to follow the sport we love as long as it remains viable this year. Who knows when more postponements or a permanent stoppage of play will come. Until then, we make the most of it!

Making the most of a bullpen report is about finding the usage trends that indicate something of value. Perhaps nothing of value will come with trying to analyze Gabe Kapler's trends, but we'll try anyway.

 

Monitoring Bullpens in 2020

Bullpen usage will be something to monitor each and every day, so we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed, and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used. The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.

 

The Cloudiest Bullpens

New York Mets - Edwin Diaz went 1-for-1 in save opportunities to start the year. He blew his next one and sat on the bench when the third went to Seth Lugo. In that first Diaz save, Lugo pitched good sixth and seventh innings in front of Justin Wilson's eighth. Diaz walked one but secured the 1-0 win. The very next day, Diaz churned through the first two batters of the heart of the Braves order before giving the lead back on a Marcell Ozuna opposite-field home run.

In totality, Diaz has looked pretty good in his appearances, but apparently not good enough to get in Monday's game. It may have been misleading though. Lugo came into the eighth to get Jeurys Familia out of a jam. That wasn't a spot where Diaz would be expected when the Mets have Lugo to turn to. Thus, it may have been a case of manager Luis Rojas leaving in the guy who was feeling good. If my hunch is correct, Diaz would get the next save chance.

Seattle - The Mariners had a tough ask with starting this truncated year with a four-game set against Houston and no scheduled day off until August 13. In that series, only one game saw Seattle with a lead late. It ended up winning, but nothing cleared up our picture of this group. Supposed closer Matt Magill pitched the fifth; supposed alternate Dan Altavilla pitched the seventh; new committee member Taylor Williams pitched the ninth for the save, yet he allowed two base runners and was the only one of the relievers to allow a run.

Atlanta - Mark Melancon has yet to pitch this season as he deals with back issues. He remains day-to-day; as does Will Smith, who has been cleared to return and just needs to build up his stamina. In addition, we saw Luke Jackson pitch multiple late innings in grabbing the bullpen's lone win this season. We also can't discount the presences of Shane Greene, Chris Martin, and Darren O'Day. Because of uncertain health and a bevy of comparable options, it's cloudy in Atlanta.

 

The Shakiest Bullpens

Chicago Cubs - It will soon be too late to jump off the Craig Kimbrel bandwagon. It will have careened off course, picking up speed as it ricochets. The closer on the Hall of Fame path may be gone for good. It was only one appearance, but I don't know how anyone can have the smallest shred of confidence in Kimbrel at this point. Kimbrel recorded one out (and a hold!) as he gave up two runs on four walks and a HBP in the ninth Monday. According to CBS, Cincinnati batters didn't swing at a single breaking ball Kimbrel threw. His track record buys him more time as the Chicago closer, which may not be a good thing for the Cubs.

Pittsburgh - We're just running out of arms here. Keone Kela remains out. Middle reliever Clay Holmes is out. And now fill-in closer Kyle Crick is sidelined as well. Richard Rodriguez has allowed two runs and a home run in two innings. Michael Feliz has given up four runs in 1.2 innings. The only one of the potential closers to start the season unscathed has been Nick Burdi. It all falls now to the 27-year-old with 11 career innings pitched.

 

Saves up for Grabs

Chicago Cubs - Kimbrel threw a load of pitches in his awful outing Monday. If he gets into Tuesday night's game as well, he will surely get the day off Wednesday, likely in favor of either of the righties: Jeremy Jeffress or Rowan Wick. (Jeffress pitched in back-to-back games heading into Tuesday.)

Houston - Robert Osuna has pitched twice already this season, with a third appearance possible for Tuesday night. If that happens, there's no way he then throws in four of five days. Of course, both Ryan Pressly and Chris Devenski suffered injuries on Monday. It is anyone's guess who would garner a save opportunity in that spot; it may even go to the newly signed Fernando Rodney.

Colorado - Wade Davis has gotten the job done thus far this season. If he gets into Tuesday's game, though, he may be due a day off. That would give him three appearances in four days. The rest of the Colorado bullpen has yet to allow a run, so all of Carlos Estevez, Jairo Diaz, and Daniel Bard are good vulture options.

Toronto - New Blue Jay closer Anthony Bass already has three appearances in 2020, including back-to-back heading into Tuesday night's game. They may need him again, in which case there's no way he sees action Wednesday. However, the Toronto bullpen has been leaned on heavily the entire first week, with both Rafael Dolis and Jordan Romano up to three appearances apiece. Whoever is able to get some rest on Tuesday would be the option in a Wednesday save.



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Statcast Sleepers - Relief Pitchers to Target

This is the first edition of our weekly series on Statcast Pitcher Analysis. Normally, I will select a different sabermetric evaluation method to identify undervalued and/or overvalued pitchers. Since we have less than a week's worth of data under our belt for 2020, let's take one more look back at last year's Statcast data to find pitchers who could provide unexpected value.

To take things a step further in this unique season, I will focus on an increasingly important facet of fantasy teams - relievers. Most non-closers don't find their way onto fantasy rosters in a typical season, but the lack of depth in some starting rotations and concerns over pitch counts early in the year have made middle relievers and setup men more valuable.

Finding RP who can stabilize ratios while providing a nice floor for strikeouts (a.k.a. JB's Bullpen Method) is a smart way to approach a shortened 2020 season that has already been full of surprises. That said, here are some relief pitchers who posted impressive Statcast numbers in 2019 that could be worth adding or watching.

 

xBA Leaders

Dan Altavilla, Seattle Mariners

It's probably best to avoid the M's bullpen altogether. There might not be many saves to go around and it will be spread among several relievers. That said, many fantasy managers play in 16-team, AL-only leagues, or are simply desperate for saves wherever they can be found. It's not a promise that Altavilla will collect any, but he's part of a committee that could lead to some opportunities. Yoshi Hirano is on IL (undisclosed), so the door is open for whoever steps up. The competition is Matt Magill, who has all of five career saves, so there's a chance for Altavilla to assert himself.

He uses a straightforward fastball-slider combo to attack hitters. Both get good horizontal movement, but it's his velocity that is his main tool. The four-seamer averaged 96.6 MPH last year and had good spin too. As for Altavilla's Statcast profile, he had the fourth-lowest xBA among all pitchers who faced at least 50 batters and sixth-lowest xSLG. He's shown steady progress each year and could breakthrough given the chance.

Lucas Sims, Cincinnati Reds

Sims is another former Braves pitching prospect who was moved to make way for the new wave of arms. He made a couple of lackluster starts in 2019 before transitioning to the bullpen in Cincy with good results. His ERA has been rather unappealing; last year's 4.60 is the best yet and his career MLB ERA is 5.45. In strictly relief appearances, it lowers to 3.42.

courtesy of baseball-reference.com

Sims has all of 117 innings of experience and is just 26 years old, so it's only fair to see what he can do in his new role for the length of a (shortened) season. He may serve as a "follower" that piggybacks after starting pitchers, which means the likelihood of relief wins is higher than saves or even holds.

Yimi Garcia, Miami Marlins

Garcia is part of a bullpen overhaul by the Fish in an attempt to acquire relievers who actually find the strike zone. Garcia has a healthy 4.9% walk rate in his career but also manages to limit hard contact, with a 27.3% Hard% last year. His 2.85 ERA was also in the top 4% of the league.

Garcia's strikeout rate has fluctuated wildly in his tenure with the Dodgers but it was a solid 26.7% in 2019 when he saw his most extended Major League action. Strikeouts and solid ratios are the best hope for fantasy relevance in 2020, as he is currently behind Brandon Kintzler and Brad Boxberger (possibly Ryne Stanek too) in the pecking order for saves.

 

xSLG Leaders

Darwinzon Hernandez, Boston Red Sox

The lowest xSLG of 2019 belonged to Hernandez, who didn't allow a single barrel. It's a small sample, as he only completed 30 1/3 innings of work, but it's still impressive considering he faced the likes of the Yankees, Rays, and Twins multiple times. His repertoire isn't complicated - it's 75% fastball and 25% slider. Those two pitches work well together, seeing as how the fastball averages 95.5 MPH and the slider has superior vertical movement. He underachieved on his actual SLG allowed by .120, meaning that his ugly 1.75 WHIP should have been much better.

It looked as if Hernandez might be out a while due to COVID, but he was cleared a couple of days prior to Opening Day. He's currently on IL as of July 14 so that he can work his way back into shape, much like Eduardo Rodriguez. It may be another week or two before Hernandez is ready to take the mound but once he does, he could solidify a shaky pen and provide help to fantasy owners.

Tyler Rogers, San Francisco Giants

I saw what transpired on Opening Day, so rest assured I don't have blinders on while writing up this analysis. Rogers got lit up by the Dodgers to the tune of four earned runs in less than an inning of work in his 2020 debut. Not a great way to show that you deserve the ball in pressure situations. Still, it's just one outing against the best lineup in the National League, so let's proceed by assuming it won't happen again.

The twin brothers of Twins closer Taylor Rogers has the pedigree and the delivery to keep hitters off balance. Anyone who grew up watching Dan Quisenberry or Gene Garber knows what I mean.

Rogers mixes a sinker with a curve to keep hitters off balance. His 1.02 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, .180 xBA, and .233 xSLG would be considered outstanding if not for the fact he only faced 70 batters in his rookie year. His 90.1 MPH average exit velocity on fly balls/line drives is also encouraging and supported by a low HR rate throughout the minors of 0.35 HR/9.

Although he looks like a player to avoid based on his disastrous start to the season, he still has value in Holds leagues and will remain in consideration for late-inning work until Trevor Gott proves he can hold down the job.

Aaron Bummer, Chicago White Sox

Bummer's Statcast profile is full of red - the good kind. He posted a 1.5% Brls/PA rate, .200 xBA, and .274 xSLG in 2019.

The former Nebraska Cornhusker is presumably second in line for saves behind Alex Colome, which makes him a player to keep close tabs on in 5x5 leagues where multiple RP slots are required. He picked up his first hold of the year in a victory over the Twins and already has value wherever holds are counted.



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Week 1 Bullpen Usage Report for Fantasy Baseball

One of the biggest questions in baseball this season will be how managers approach bullpen usage. That was already arguably the manager's heaviest workload in a normal season, apart from immeasurable impacts on team mood and cohesion. However, this year the bullpen will be in even clearer focus.

Every blown save counts 2.7 times more than in a normal year. Each loss is almost three normal-year losses. With starting pitchers throwing less and less and now entering under such bizarre circumstances, nearly every, single game this year is going to come down to bullpen performance.

But which direction does a manager go? Does he lean even more on his best guy, throwing him nearly every day? What if that means using them in high-leverage, non-save situations? Does he throw out all roles and sub based entirely on matchups? Is there a shorter leash for closers because of the stakes? A longer leash because no one else would have time to get comfortable in the role? All these answers remain up in the air until we see how each manager chooses to approach this 60-game slate.

 

Monitoring Bullpens in 2020

Bullpen usage will be something to monitor each and every day, so we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed, and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used. The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.

 

The Cloudiest Bullpens

Not every team has a designated closer entering the season; some by design, many not. Injuries play a part, but injuries don't make a bullpen cloudy. Uncertainty in talent, production, and pecking order do. We know Aroldis Chapman will not be closing for the New York Yankees to start the season. We also know he will most certainly be closing once he returns to full health. The same goes for Keona Kela in Pittsburgh. That isn't a cloudy bullpen. These are:

Baltimore - There are few save chances to go around in Baltimore. Mychal Givens got a lot of them last year, but not all. Instead of giving him the role to start and removing a lot of uncertainty, manager Brandon Hyde elected to do the opposite. He declared the back of the bullpen very much unknown, with Givens, Hunter Harvey, and Richard Bleier in contention to close.

Seattle - We thought newcomer Yoshihisa Hirano would be installed as part of a committee in the Seattle pen to begin 2020. Hirano instead enters the delayed start on the IL. What remains is still a surprisingly large committee that is a huge jumble of unknown options and potential usage based on matchup. According to MLB.com, all of Matt Magill, Austin Adams, Dan Altavilla, and Anthony Misiewicz are options for Scott Servais, and the manager is not planning on going with a set closer.

St. Louis - What a roller coaster the Cardinals pen has been! We thought Giovanny Gallegos was going to close but may get pushed by Carlos Martinez and Andrew Miller. Then Gallegos got hurt. Now he'll probably be healthy for Opening Day. But he isn't going to close anyway. And it isn't Martinez or Miller taking his spot! Instead, Mike Shildt tabbed rookie (and Korean veteran) Kwang Hyun Kim as the closer, even though he never closed in Korea during regular-season games. Fangraphs isn't yet convinced. As of July 21, it lists four players as the St. Louis closer.

 

The Shakiest Bullpens

Cloudy bullpens don't have to be shaky. A number of the options in St. Louis seem like premiere late-inning guys. We just don't know how it will play out on a day-to-day basis. Shaky bullpens don't have to start cloudy either, though they normally get cloudy as one failure leads to another.

Miami - Brandon Kintzler will lead the way out of the Marlins bullpen. His 2019 was statistically tremendous for Chicago, though it was in a secondary role, he didn't strike out many batters, and his FIP was nearly a run worse than his ERA. He was also one of the worst pitchers in the game in terms of hard-hit percentage allowed, exit velocity allowed, and whiff rate. The last time he was a go-to closer at the beginning of 2017, and yet he is far and away Miami's best option right now.

Colorado - It may be just a matter of time until the Rockies turn to Scott Oberg or Jairo Diaz late in games. For now, Wade Davis is the man with the job. Both Oberg and Diaz have pretty good swing-and-miss stuff, though the latter gives up far too much hard contact. And neither man can keep the base paths empty. Oberg had a sky-high 10.3 walk rate last season, and Diaz's 1.30 WHIP speaks for itself. Yet both seem better than Davis. Davis was non-functioning in 2019. The only saving grace may be how sneakily good he was in Colorado in 2018 and that his fastball spin rate remains elite. If that indicates a jump back up in strikeout rate is coming, stay tuned.

 

Saves up for Grabs

Stay tuned during the season where we'll monitor weekly bullpen usage to get an idea of who may need rest, is in the doghouse, has favorable matchups, or where unexpected saves can be earned.

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