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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Closer Conundrum: What Does Managing Like It's The Playoffs Mean?

"In a 60-game season, managers will approach every game like it's the playoffs."

We've heard that refrain over and over again as we prepare for the 2020 fantasy baseball season. In fact, I think I've written that sentence, or something similar, close to ten times already. But that statement brings up a natural follow-up question: How do managers manage in the playoffs? 

In order to answer that, I looked back through every game in the 2019 postseason to see if I could pinpoint some managerial tendencies that we could act on in this shortened season. Specifically, I wanted to see what "managing like it's the playoffs" means in terms of how teams use their closer. I'll set up each section with a fact that I discovered and then explain how that should impact your fantasy approach. Let's see if we can figure this out together.

 

A team's saves leader got 12 of the 14 total postseason saves

Now, this stat is slightly skewed because the Washington Nationals used both Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson as their "closer" for much of the final months of the season; however, that means we knew to treat them as one "tandem closer." (I'll talk more about that later). As a result, it was fairly easy to predict which pitchers would get saves for teams in the playoffs as it was the same pitchers who had gotten the saves for them during the entire season, even if that team used multiple relievers to close games through the longer regular season.

In the case of both saves that were recorded by non-closers, the team's closer had been in the game earlier and blew the save, leaving a save opportunity for somebody who was not the natural closer. So, if you wanted to look at it another way, a team's saves leader was used in every single opportunity where a save was on the line.

 

A saves leader was used 85% in the 9th or a save situation

The pitchers who led their team in saves were used 41 times in the playoffs, and 35 of those times were in the 9th inning or save situations that began in the 8th inning. Nine of those times, a team's saves leader was used in the 9th inning despite it not being a save situation or even a tie game. While that may not seem significant, it seems to imply that, even if a team is losing, the manager is more inclined to save his most trusted (or best) reliever for the 9th inning.

This is important because I've been reading a lot of speculation that a manager might decide to use his best reliever or most trusted reliever early in games when the team is ahead and thus leave a save situation for another pitcher. However, there is nothing in last year's playoffs that would indicate this is how a manager chooses to manage in a must-win situation.

In fact, last year's playoffs would seem to imply the opposite. Based on specific usage, it would seem that Dave Roberts isn't going to use Kenley Jansen to stop a rally in the 7th and save a potential save situation for Pedro Baez or Blake Treinen. If it's the 8th inning, it's more likely than Jansen would be brought in but that would likely also lead to him being used for the 9th as well to close the game.

As a result, I don't think we have to worry about closers losing save opportunities to teammates unless they are already on shaky ground (Edwin Diaz), have a natural tandem option to pair with them, or have a limited track record of success and begin to struggled (i.e. if Brandon Workman has a rough first two weeks, the Red Sox would likely go to Matt Barnes).

 

Saves leaders are used earlier when their team loses

Of the six times that a team's saves leader was used before the 9th inning (or a save situation that began in the 8th), five of those times the pitcher's team was losing and would go on to lose. In these instances, a manager turned to his best high-leverage reliever to stop a rally earlier in the game (often the 7th but twice in the 6th). However, since the team went on to lose 83% of the time, that early usage didn't cost the pitcher a save.

In the one instance that a saves leader was used earlier and his team went on to win, there was not a save situation later in the game, so the early usage did not cost the pitcher a save opportunity. Meaning, not once in the playoffs was a closer used earlier in the game to stop a rally, thus removing him from save consideration later in the game.

As a result, this seems to indicate added fantasy value for the 2020 season since a saves leader could be used for more innings than he would have been in a normal season had he just been held back for save opportunities.

 

Saves leaders are often used for more than one inning

Of the times when a team's save leader was brought on in the 8th inning, 75% of the time it was during a save situation that was extended into the 9th inning. When I say extended into the 9th inning, I don't mean that he pitcher went on to close the game in the 9th; I simply mean that this was a clear intention. Sometimes the pitcher blew the save or his offense went on to score a bunch of runs and the pitcher was removed from the game. However, what this suggests is that managers will not limit their saves leader to just one inning if they see a situation that requires their best high-leverage pitcher.

This is important because many of these teams used multiple players to close games in the regular season; however, they seem to favor one main arm in the playoffs, even if that meant multiple innings. The Astros used Roberto Osuna for a few outs in the 8th multiple times in the playoffs despite having a strong bullpen, and the Rays, who used more pitchers to close games in the regular season than any other team, used Emilio Pagan twice in the 8th inning and attempted to have him pitch into the 9th. He simply blew both of those opportunities.

 

Tandem closers become more firmly entrenched

Admittedly, this section is focused on one team since the Washington Nationals were the only team in the 2019 postseason that really featured a clear left-right tandem to close out games. What is clear, based on last year's playoffs, is that those roles became even more firmly entrenched when every game mattered. In seven games, one of either Daniel Hudson or Sean Doolittle was used prior to the 9th inning, and three of those times they were brought in in the 7th inning for at least a few outs. Obviously, in either case, it was because of the handedness of the batters scheduled to hit.

What this says to me is that teams that have a natural left-right closer tandem could be harder to predict saves for this season. That's potentially bad news for Taylor Rogers with Trevor May and Tyler Duffey in town. It could also mean problems for Josh Hader if Corey Knebel proves that he's healthy or Alex Colome if the White Sox want to use Aaron Bummer against a lefty-heavy section of the order. Other natural tandems could be Ryan Helsley and Andrew Miller, Nick Anderson and Jose Alvarado, Will Smith and Mark Melancon, Tony Watson and Tyler Rogers, Brad Hand and James Karinchak, and Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino (until Chapman returns).

This cuts closer committees down to two people, as I suggested in an earlier article, but does ensure that each pitcher should be used often, which provides a good opportunity for innings and ratios. However, it does cut into the potential ceiling for closers like Taylor Rogers and Nick Anderson, who have been going early in drafts.

 

Closing tandems may favor right-handed pitchers

This one is even more speculative, but at the end of the 2019 postseason, Hudson finished with four saves and Doolittle had two. This seems to be a natural conclusion when understanding that there are more right-handed hitters in lineups, which would mean the 9th inning is statistically more likely to feature right-handed batters, and thus a manager is statistically more likely to save his right-handed closer in order to face them.

Now, I'm not suggesting you go out and draft Trevor May over Taylor Rodgers, but I do think this could be important when looking at pitchers like Mark Melancon, who is going after Jose Leclerc and un-reported Keone Kela, and only going 15 picks ahead of teammate Will Smith despite a potential platoon advantage on a team many think will be one of the best in baseball. Similarly, Sean Doolittle is currently being drafted 162 and Daniel Hudson is going 243 despite Hudson receiving twice as many saves in the playoffs last year.

 

Summary

Looking back at last year's playoffs has made me believe, even more, that the value of clear-cut closing options is even higher this year than in a normal season. A pitcher who has the clear trust of his manager and no obvious opposite-handed tandem in his bullpen becomes even more valuable for their likely reliability. This means I would prioritize coming out of a draft with at least one of Roberto Osuna, Ken Giles, Kenley Jansen, Hector Neris, Liam Hendricks, Raisel Iglesias, and Hansel Robles. Kirby Yates has a natural tandem partner in Drew Pomeranz and could be traded, but I still think he could be included in the above list, and Edwin Diaz's name could be added too if he starts the season looking like the 2018 version of himself since the Mets don't have a natural left-handed tandem partner for him.

Once you get beyond the above list, there are reliability concerns for most other relievers in terms of saves. Obviously, Josh Hader and Taylor Rogers could still provide you tremendous value in ratios, K/9, and wins if they have to split closing duties, but from a pure saves perspective, they do come with some risk.

This also means that unquestioned closers on mediocre teams, like Joe Jimenez and Ian Kennedy, may provide more value, again from a strictly save perspective, than a potential committee closer on a better team, like Ryan Helsley or Mark Melancon.

Personally, I am trying to get one of the reliable guys from the aforementioned list and then waiting and taking relievers who will be part of a committee or help with my ratios and maybe chip in a few saves here or there. However, I think it would be a mistake to de-value saves as a category all together since it seems that we can identify a few players who should give us a clear advantage over our competition.



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

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

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

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

 

2020 NL Hitters (DHs) Who Will Gain At Bats

 Players discussed in this video include


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Closers and Saves Report: Summer Camp Edition 2 - Handcuffs

It's a whole new ball game. Literally. Baseball is going to be weird this season, folks. Only 60 games. (Almost?) all in the same time zone. Tons of games against the same teams. The DH everywhere. Empty stadiums. Cardboard cutouts. Artificial crowd noise. 30-man rosters for a while. Then 28-man rosters for another while. It's going to be different.

One of the positions that may experience the most difference this season, aside from the National League designated hitter of course, is closer. We've all seen how important one game can be in a regular 162-game season. Divisions and Wild Card spots come down to a difference of one game all the time, so imagine how much closer things might end up in a season with 102 fewer games. Closers are going to be called upon to lock down wins and their roles will become even more critical to a team's success than before. Teams won't have the time to let a closer "work on things" if he struggles, the hook will need to come a lot quicker for teams planning on winning.

So that leads us to a term more often discussed in fantasy football: the handcuff. A player's handcuff is basically the guy who will step into his role if he is injured (or, say, is forced to quarantine) or if the player struggles and loses his role. It can be very clear cut on some teams, and a bit murkier on others. Let's take a look at who these guys might be across the league.

 

AL East

The New York Yankees may already be looking toward their handcuff, as closer Aroldis Chapman tested positive for COVID-19 and has been away from the team. Zach Britton will be the primary closer if Chapman can't start the season on the mound, according to manager Aaron Boone. Britton doesn't get the strikeouts that Chapman does, but is an excellent reliever himself and should fare well closing out games until Chapman returns.

The Boston Red Sox will start the season with Brandon Workman in the closer's role. His top handcuff will be Matt Barnes, who can struggle with control sometimes, but misses plenty of bats. Barnes would step into the ninth inning and likely do a good job if called upon.

The Toronto Blue Jays will have Ken Giles trying to save their leads in the ninth inning to start the season. He's a prime trade candidate if the Blue Jays season doesn't start out as planned, and a trade would of course lead to a new closer in Toronto. Anthony Bass is next in line up north, and while he doesn't strike guys out at the same clip as Giles, he's a solid enough reliever to likely convert most of his save chances if given the role.

The Baltimore Orioles will reportedly start the season with Mychal Givens as closer. He's an obvious trade candidate if he does well, but also a risk to struggle and lose the job. In steps Hunter Harvey, the top handcuff in Baltimore. The rookie showed his upside in a brief 6 1/3 inning stint at the big league level last season. He has huge strikeout upside and could immediately become one of the better closers the Orioles have had in a while.

Rounding out the American League East are the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays don't really abide by the closer-handcuff model since their ninth inning is usually handled by a closer-by-committee type of setup. Still, Nick Anderson remains the top option in the Tampa Bay bullpen, so his handcuff would likely be Diego Castillo. However, as much as the Rays bullpen is likely to be a revolving door of strong-armed relievers, it'll certainly be even more of that if Anderson were to struggle or get hurt.

 

AL Central

The American League Central might be the most straightforward division in terms of how the bullpens are set up. The Detroit Tigers enter the season with Joe Jimenez as their closer, and Buck Farmer as his handcuff. Farmer has shown some swing-and-miss stuff, but the Tigers bullpen isn't very deep and would generally be in trouble if Jimenez went down.

The Chicago White Sox will have Alex Colome pitching their ninth innings. Working behind him as the primary setup man and likely handcuff is Aaron Bummer. The White Sox also have Steve Cishek and Kelvin Herrera, both who have plenty of closing experience. While Bummer seems like the logical choice to step in for Colome if necessary, manager Rick Renteria may choose to go with the experienced arms of Cishek or Herrera.

The Cleveland Indians have Brad Hand closing things out to start the season. He's a possible trade candidate and also a very streaky pitcher, so there's a chance his handcuff becomes necessary in 2020. The most exciting option in the Cleveland bullpen would be James Karinchak, but he's only logged a total of 5 1/3 MLB innings so far, so the closer's role might go to the more experienced Nick Wittgren if a change is necessary.

The Kansas City Royals go into the season with veteran Ian Kennedy as their closer. Kennedy completely refurbished his career last season and excelled in the closer's role. If he is ultimately traded or regresses, though, the Royals may choose to go back to Greg Holland or give Trevor Rosenthal another chance. Both Holland and Rosenthal have great track records with recent struggles, so if either of them can get back on track, the Royals may have a somewhat stronger bullpen than expected.

Finally in the AL Central, we have the Minnesota Twins. The Twins will send Taylor Rogers to the mound when they want to close out a win. Rogers is an excellent, sturdy closer whose handcuff will almost certainly only be needed in case of injury. In that case though, the Twins have veteran Sergio Romo ready to step in. It would be a downgrade from Rogers, but Romo would be able to hold his own and keep the Twins winning.

 

AL West

Our tour of the AL West starts off with the Texas Rangers, whose bullpen will be led by Jose Leclerc. He may not be pigeonholed into the ninth inning though. Instead, Leclerc may work in more of a fireman role, leading the Rangers bullpen into a committee. Still, he remains the preferred option in the Rangers bullpen, and he will be backed up by Rafael Montero and perhaps Cody Allen. Allen has struggled lately, but has plenty of closing experience and may jump into the ninth inning if he proves he's able to get guys out again.

The Los Angeles Angels could have a sneakily strong bullpen in 2020, led by closer Hansel Robles. Robles is a solid closer unlikely to lose his job for performance reasons, but in case of injury, he'll be handcuffed by Ty Buttrey. Buttrey may ultimately fare better in a fireman role, so look to Keynan Middleton or Cam Bedrosian as possible closer options if necessary.

The Oakland A's had some bullpen issues last year, but they all came to an end when Liam Hendriks stepped up and had an incredible season. Hendriks will continue to shut things down this season, but if he is forced to miss time, veterans Joakim Soria and Yusmeiro Petit will be around to back him up. Lefty Jake Diekman could mix in as well against lefty-heavy innings.

The Houston Astros bullpen will have Roberto Osuna returning to his ninth-inning role. Much like the other closers in this division, his job should be safe unless illness or injury strike. In that case, Ryan Pressly would be next up and would actually have more fantasy upside than Osuna. If the Astros decide to keep Pressly in a fireman role, then Chris Devenski or Josh James could be next to step into the ninth.

Wrapping up the American League are the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners seem like they will enter the season with a committee situation for their ninth inning. This seems like it could be a true committee with no set roles, so it's impossible to decide on a handcuff. All of Austin Adams, Matt Magill, Yoshihisa Hirano, Brandon Brennan, and Carl Edwards Jr. are possible ninth-inning options. Keep an eye on our Depth Charts to see if things change as the season goes on.

 

NL East

The National League East has a few solid bullpens and a couple of questionable ones. Let's start with one of the latter, the Atlanta Braves. The Braves finished last season and will enter this one with Mark Melancon as their closer. He was one of the only truly effective relievers in Atlanta last season, but the Braves went out and signed Will Smith, who was even better. It seems like for now the team plans on using Smith in a more versatile role, leaving Melancon to man the ninth. However, if Melancon falters or misses time, Smith is sure to be the one to step in.

The Miami Marlins bullpen has some question marks, but there's a chance it may end up being one of the team's strengths. Veteran Brandon Kintzler will close things out for the fish and while his strikeout numbers have never been particularly impressive, he has experience and knows how to get guys out. Ryne Stanek and Yimi Garcia are likely the next arms in line, although the Marlins do seem to like Drew Steckenrider and could give him a shot to close if he proves to be healthy and Kintzler is not an option.

Next, we have the New York Mets, who seemed to have Edwin Diaz locked in as closer, but manager Luis Rojas refused to name Diaz outright. So, at least for now, it looks like there may be a committee forming in Queens. Diaz is still the most likely pitcher to be called upon for saves, but Dellin Betances, Seth Lugo, and Jeurys Familia could all see some ninth inning action in what could be one of the unexpectedly best bullpens in the National League.

The Philadelphia Phillies had a bit of a scare when closer Hector Neris had to be placed on the 10-day injured list, but he has already been cleared to return and should be good to go for Opening Day. Neris should maintain the ninth inning, but if he unexpectedly struggles or ends up back on the IL, Adam Morgan would be the next guy up in the Phillies pen.

Wrapping up the NL East are the World Champion Washington Nationals. The Nats will kick off the season with lefty Sean Doolittle in the closer's role. This may be a more fluid situation than expected, as Daniel Hudson has proven he is capable of closing out the biggest games. So it'll be Doolittle most likely, but Hudson is one of the stronger and perhaps most likely handcuffs to remain relevant.

 

NL Central

Much like the AL Central, the National League Central is more or less solid in the bullpen department, although some recent news has changed that for two of the teams. Let's start with the solid teams, one of which is the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs didn't get much from Craig Kimbrel last season, but they are hoping that getting to spend time with the team and starting the season at the same time as everyone else will bring back the old Craig Kimbrel. He's locked in for the ninth-inning role, but if he struggles again, the Cubs aren't likely to have as long of a leash. Rowan Wick is the next in line, and Jeremy Jeffress brings some veteran experience that manager David Ross might like.

The Cincinnati Reds also feature a solid bullpen lineup, starting with closer Raisel Iglesias. Iglesias had some struggles last season, but was mostly solid and occasionally outstanding. If he were to have an extended period of struggles or be forced to miss time, Michael Lorenzen would likely step in, although a good start to the season from Pedro Strop could land him in the ninth inning so that Lorenzen's versatility can remain in play.

Next up are the Milwaukee Brewers. Josh Hader regressed a bit last season but was still incredible and will return as the top ninth-inning option in the division. If his struggles are amplified or if he misses time, Corey Knebel would likely take his place, assuming Knebel himself is healthy (he is returning from Tommy John Surgery). Otherwise, the Brewers could turn to David Phelps or Brent Suter in the ninth.

Now we get to one of the more uncertain bullpens in the NL Central. The Pittsburgh Pirates were expecting to enter the season with Keone Kela at closer and Kyle Crick as his top setup man and handcuff. Kela has yet to join the team, and Crick has yet to be able to throw live pitches, so both are far behind in their preparation for Opening Day. Exciting rookie Nick Burdi was expected to get some save chances later this season, but at this point he may end up entering the season as the top option in Pittsburgh. He'd be an excellent closing option if he earned the role.

The St. Louis Cardinals expected to have Giovanny Gallegos keeping the closer's seat warm for Jordan Hicks while Hicks finished up his recovery from Tommy John Surgery. But now Hicks has chosen to opt out of the 2020 season, and Gallegos found himself on the injured list. When asked about his bullpen, manager Mike Shildt immediately named fireballer Ryan Helsley as his closing option. It's a committee for now and might be a work in progress to start the season, but Helsley seems like the best bet, with veteran Andrew Miller lurking behind. Gallegos should still have a chance as well, as long as he can stay on the field.

 

NL West

The National League West wraps up our tour of the league's bullpens. The NL West has four pretty solid bullpens and one enormous (you might even call it giant) question mark. Let's start with the solid ones. The Arizona Diamondbacks will have Archie Bradley closing things out in the desert this season. He should be solid in the ninth, but he'll be handcuffed by higher-upside Kevin Ginkel and more experienced Hector Rondon.

Up in the mountains, the Colorado Rockies are going to give Wade Davis another chance. Davis was almost unbelievably awful last season, but the Rockies must have seen something they thought they could fix. They seem committed to him, so we can say his role is solid, but his leash likely won't be too long, given what he did last season. Backing up Davis will be Scott Oberg, who already showed an ability to close out games last season and may be one of the most likely handcuffs in a solid bullpen to take over the role.

Further out west, the Los Angeles Dodgers will have another season of closer Kenley Jansen shutting things down. He's not the same Kenley Jansen he used to be, but he's still a very solid, consistent closer. He has had some health concerns in the past, however, so his handcuff could be important. That'll likely be Pedro Baez at the beginning of the season, but could end up being Blake Treinen if Treinen can show that he's back to the pitcher he used to be.

Just south of there, the San Diego Padres bullpen will be anchored by the guy who is arguably the best closer in baseball, Kirby Yates. Yates seems as good a bet as any to keep his job all year, but injury and illness can hit anyone. His handcuff will be the newly acquired Emilio Pagan, who has plenty of upside himself, along with lefty Drew Pomeranz. The Padres somewhat quietly built what could be the best bullpen in the division.

Finally, we'll wrap things up with the biggest question mark in the division and maybe in the league: the San Francisco Giants bullpen. The career leader in saves in the Giants pen is Tony Watson, with 30. He's the best bet to close things out in San Francisco, but manager Gabe Kapler is very likely to use a committee approach that will also include Tyler Rogers, Trevor Gott, and Jarlin Garcia. This is a bullpen best avoided in fantasy, but Watson's primary competition could be in the form of Tyler Rogers.

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

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

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

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

 

Updated Saves+Holds Relief Pitcher Ranks - Mixed Leagues

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

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

Tier One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tier Two

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

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

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

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

 

Tier Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tier Four

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tier Five

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tier Six

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

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

 

Tier Seven

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tier Eight

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

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

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

 

Tier Nine

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

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

 

Tier 10

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

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

 

Tiers 11-15

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

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

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

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

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



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Why You Need Middle Relievers In 2020 - Top Draft Targets

Heading into the 2020 fantasy baseball season, much of the talk is focused on the randomness that we're likely to see unfold. With a 60-game season, it feels a bit like anything can happen. However, instead of that reality causing you to throw your hands in the air in dismay, I think it's the perfect opportunity to search for a leg up on your competition. The best place to find that is with middle relievers.

We already know that starters likely won't be fully stretched out until around their third start. We also discussed how managers will be treating every game as if it were a playoff game. That means talented middle relievers could be more of a strategic weapon, opening up the game against a difficult lineup, coming in early for a tiring starter, being used for multiple innings to get the ball into the hands of the closer, or perhaps even being forced to close a game out if the manager turns to his closer earlier in the game.

In addition to sneaking you some highly-coveted wins, and potentially a save here or there, a versatile and talented middle reliever will give you some much-needed ratio support. Without a full 162-game to settle down the ratio spikes from bad starts or closers getting tagged, having a couple of dynamic middle relievers on your squad will help to keep your ERA and WHIP in check and guard against the randomness and inconsistency that is likely to come with starting pitching in 2020.

 

Do's and Don'ts

In order to identify which middle relievers I wanted to target, I checked four things:

1. Which teams limit their starters the most or experiment the most?

If a team has been more prone to experimenting with their staff or pulling their starters early, then the middle relievers on those teams are more likely to find themselves in high leverage spots that can be useful in fantasy. Eno Sarris also covered this in a piece he did recently in The Athletic, but history tells us that the teams who toy with their staff the most are the: Angels, Rays, Yankees, Brewers, Rangers, Padres, and Pirates.

2. Which teams have the easiest schedule or are most likely to win games?

Middle relievers can't pick up wins if their teams don't win games. Groundbreaking theory, right? Since teams will be playing the majority of their schedule against their own division, it's a little bit easier to determine strength of schedule than it would be in recent years. Currently, the teams with the easiest schedules appear to be the Twins, Indians, White Sox, Dodgers, Astros, and then also the Yankees and Rays.

So far two teams (Yankees and Rays) have appeared on both lists.

3. Which pitchers have provided consistent ratios or innings, even if they don't get strikeouts

Strikeouts are not going to be as important from your relievers this year. Yes, it's always nice to get strikeouts, but if a reliever goes one or two innings, he's only going to give you perhaps two to four strikeouts. That would be great, but with only 60 games in the season, it's not enough to really add up to a major difference in your standings. You shouldn't ignore high strikeout relievers, but it's more important to focus on relievers who are consistently used for 50+ innings during a regular season and who have a history of ratio-suppression.

4. Avoid players at the back of rosters who might be impacted by the taxi squad

If relievers are being used more, then organizations are going to want to keep them fresh. Try to avoid pitchers who have lots of minor league options left or could conceivably be moved on and off the taxi squad during the season in order to give the team a strategic advantage.

So, with all of that said, which middle relievers, or non-closers, should you target?

 

RP Targets for 2020

Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros - Pressly has thrown at least 60 innings in three of the last four years. His ratios since coming to Houston have been elite, and the team has shown that it will turn to him in high leverage situations. That should put him in line for a good amount of wins this year, and I could see him pushing 30 innings. He's likely the top middle reliever target for me in most drafts.

Drew Pomeranz, San Diego Padres - Pomeranz is a former starter who found a new level in the bullpen and is now inching into Pressly territory in regards to relief pitching value. The Padres were on the list for teams that experiment with their staff more than most, and Pomeranz's former life as a starter means that he could open some games or be used in a multi-inning role to get the ball to Craig Stammen and Kirby Yates late. Pomeranz had a 1.88 ERA in 28.2 innings out of the bullpen last year, with all the K% metrics cited below, so I'm buying into him as a great relief option.

Seth Lugo, New York Mets - Lugo has emerged as a multi-inning magician for the Mets out of the bullpen. As another former starter, Lugo has elite stamina for a reliever and threw 80 innings last year, so the Mets will likely be using him often in 2020. Yes, he took over the closer's role briefly when Edwin Diaz struggled last year, which means he could earn a few saves, but I think he'll be far more valuable for the Mets as an opener or a multi-inning follower after some older/average starters like Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello.

Emilio Pagan, San Diego Padres - If you don't buy into Pomeranz, maybe you'd like to take a shot on his teammate. Pagan was tremendous as the Rays' closer last year, but he also threw 70 innings, which suggests that he could be used more often out of the pen for the Padres since they have Yates entrenched in the 9th inning. Pagan came out of nowhere a bit last year, but he has never had a high BB%, so he's a near-lock to keep the WHIP low. In fact, he and Lugo were two pitchers that induced the softest contact in all of baseball last year.

Tyler Duffey, Minnesota Twins - The Twins have one of the easiest schedules and also a lot of question marks in their rotation. Jake Odorizzi rarely faces a lineup more than twice, Homer Bailey is a reclamation project, and Jhoulys Chacin is currently penciled in as their number five starter. That could lead to a lot of early entrances into games for Duffey, who, as a former starter, has proven that he can be dangerous for multi-inning stints. He also finished in the 94th-percentile in xwOBA and K% and the 91-st percentile in xBA, so he limits hard contact and can get you some strikeouts ott.

Andrew Miller, St. Louis Cardinals - The Cardinals have a lot of questions about how they're going to use their bullpen. How healthy is Jordan Hicks? Will Giovanny Gallegos be the closer? Is Junior Fernandez ready? Amidst all of that uncertainty, Andrew Miller stands out as a safe and experienced option. As the best lefty in the bullpen, Miller could be used often to put down the opponent's best left-handed bats, which could lead to a good number of innings and a mix of wins and saves that should make him useful in fantasy leagues. For as much as the narrative has been about his struggles, he still finished in the 84th-percentile in xBA and 82nd-percentile in Whiff% last year, so the talent hasn't vanished.

James Karinchak, Cleveland Indians - Earlier in the year, I expected Karinchak to take over the closer role from Brad Hand. The Indians now seem more likely to keep the left-handed veteran pitching at the end of games, but Karinchak has the ability to be a dynamic option in high leverage situations for a team with one of the easiest schedules in baseball. That could lead to a lot of wins.

Chad Green, New York Yankees - As mentioned above, the Yankees are more than happy to go to their bullpen early, and they also have one of the easiest schedules in the 2020 season. That could lead to a lot of wins for Green, who is their best multi-inning option out of the pen. The 29-year-old has thrown at least 69 innings in each of his last three seasons, and his inflated ERA last year may have had more to do with bad luck since he registered a .346 BABIP.

Adam Ottavino, New York Yankees - Ottavino is another arm that could benefit from the Yankees' reliance on their bullpen. If Aroldis Chapman is likely going to be saved for the ninth innings, and I believe he is, then the Bronx Bombers need one or two guys to consistently handle the high leverage innings leading up to him. Again, with every game having playoff stakes, I think teams won't spread that responsibility out over a few arms, so bank on the Yankees turning the ball over to Ottavino a lot during the year. If they do, the red in his Statcast profile is really all you need to know.

Colin Poche, Tampa Bay Rays - The Rays were the first to use the opener, so you know they're not afraid to experiment with their pitching staff. They've used Poche to open games, close games, and everything in between. He's earned the trust of the organization and is their best left-handed pitcher aside from Jose Alvarado, who is expected to serve as part of a closer committee, so expect Poche to be a consistent part of a bullpen that faces a relatively easy schedule.

Yusmeiro Petit, Oakland Athletics - The A's are always open to doing the unconventional, so we have to plan for them to use their bullpen in unique ways. If there is one guy who could benefit from that, it's Petit. The veteran has been used in a number of ways since coming to Oakland, throwing 83 and 93 innings and picking up five and seven wins over those two years. As the graphic below shows, he's not a high K% pitcher, but that shouldn't worry you this year since he suppresses quality contact at such a tremendous rate.

Ross Stripling, Los Angeles Dodgers - We know the Dodgers are going to do some crazy things to manage the innings of their pitchers, so even though Stripling is currently listed as a reliever, he could easily start games. He may not be used often enough to be fantasy-viable, but he's a name to keep an eye on because he's the exact type of pitcher who could start and relieve and end 2020 with eight wins and be among the most valuable fantasy arms in any league.

Freddy Peralta, Milwaukee Brewers - Peralta, like Stripling, is another pitcher who could be used in multiple ways by an organization that has no problem going to the bullpen early. He has not been a consistent ratio contributor, so keep him on a short leash, but he could pitch enough to be an impactable fantasy option this year.

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

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

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

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

 

Players Benefiting From 2020 Delayed Start

 Players discussed in this video include:


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

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Relief Pitchers Set to Break Out in 2020

We continue to wait on a start date for the 2020 MLB season. The extra time we have allows us to dig deeper into the player pool, looking for breakout players. We have seen the relief pitching position evolve over recent seasons, allowing for more and more draftable players. In this article, we will take a look at three late-round relief pitchers to target in your fantasy drafts. 

Last season, there was only one closer that saved over 40 games (Kirby Yates). Despite that, there were still some top-end closers as 11 posted 30 or more saves; there were 22 relievers with at least 20 saves; 37 relievers had at least 10 saves, and 52 relievers with at least five saves.

Seeing all the saves that can be had later in drafts is a great thing as it allows for some different draft strategies. You can go with our own, JB Branson’s Bullpen Method as one way to draft. You can even just load up on some “closers in waiting” later in drafts, especially in best-ball or draft champions formats. With a shortened season, there is a great chance we will see a lot of extra bullpen use. Not to mention the new minimum batter rule that may result in more save situations. There are so many ways to attack relief pitchers, so let’s take a look at three late-round targets that have major breakout potential.

 

Hunter Harvey, Baltimore Orioles (ADP 278)

The Orioles enter the 2020 season with a crowded back-end of their bullpen. According to Roster Resource, they will deploy a three-headed committee. Mychal Givens is likely the reliever that many will target as the O’s closer, as he has some previous experience closing games. Givens is solid and all, but the real target should be the 25-year-old Harvey.

Harvey is one of the Orioles’ top pitching prospects. He had his first taste of big-league action at the end of the 2019 season and was outstanding. It was a small sample of only 6.1 innings, but it resulted in a solid 1.42 ERA with a 42.3% K rate.

His short success in the bigs was encouraging after an up-and-down season between Double-A and Triple-A. His time in Triple-A was his first transition to a being full-time reliever and that continued with the Orioles.

Sure, the numbers with the Orioles are outstanding and likely not sustainable, but there is still reason for optimism. First, let’s look at his pitch mix:

Being a former starter, Harvey has three pitches that he likes to utilize. That can be optimal for a closer, as most closers tend to dominate with just two main pitches.

Harvey throws his fastball almost 70% of the time, while he throws his changeup and curveball each 15-16% of the time. When looking at the effectiveness of those pitches, there are some things that really stand out: His fastball averaged over 98 mph and carried a batting average against of only .118, with a 42% K rate and a 44.4% ground ball rate.

While the fastball was dominant, the changeup was just average. But the curveball was literally unhittable. The curve was only thrown 20 times, but had a 100% K rate and was never touched. If Harvey can continue to dominate with a hard fastball and a filthy curveball, then watch out.

Lastly, let’s look at the quality of contact that Harvey allowed. The stats show he was barreled over 9.1% of the time, but when looking at the xStats, his deserved barrels were only 2.6%; that’s quite a difference. A ground ball rate of 54.5% will play really well in Camden Yards, a park in which the ball flies out of easily.

These stats were a very small sample. We do however know the pedigree Harvey has and his talent may be ready to breakout. Being drafted at pick 278 in NFBC Draft Champions since March 15 is quite a value for a reliever that could take over the Orioles' closing role.

 

Yoshihisa Hirano, Seattle Mariners (ADP 381)

Similar to the Orioles, the Mariners have a potential closer battle on their hands. Many are targeting Matt Magill as the Mariners' closer, but the value lies in Hirano.

Hirano was signed by the Mariners in the offseason and will look to finally become the closer many thought he would be when the D-backs signed him from Japan in 2018. 

Hirano was a lights-out closer in Japan, collecting 143 saves over 272.1 innings from 2013-17. Over that stretch, he also had a 2.64 ERA and averaged over a strikeout per inning. He never settled into the closer’s role in the U.S. and was usually used as a late-inning fireman or setup man.

Over his two seasons with the D-backs, he posted four saves over his 137 appearances. His numbers dipped as well with a 3.47 ERA and a 4.11 xFIP. 

The biggest challenge for Hirano is properly utilizing his pitch mix. The stats say Hirano uses three pitches, but in reality, it's only two. He uses his fastball 48% of the time, his splitter 51.7% and his slider 0.3% of the time. I reached out to a few D-backs beat reporters about his slider usage and there was no clear reason for abandoning the pitch, besides possible lack of confidence.

When we dig into his pitch mix some more we can see the fastball and splitter success. Last season, his splitter was the major strikeout pitch with a whiff rate of almost 40% and a near 33% K rate. The splitter gets groundballs over 57% of the time and has a batting average against of only .203.

While the splitter was great, the fastball was up and down. The fastball had a strikeout rate of only 18.4% and a batting average against of .310. It hovers around 91 mph, so when it catches too much of the plate, it will get hit hard.

Hirano has the stuff to be a closer. The Mariners are a team in need of some leadership in the back end of their bullpen, which would be a perfect fit for Hirano. He was brought in on a one-year deal and they may want to showcase the right-hander as a closer to possibly trade later in the season. Going at pick 381 in NFBC DC allows for some major upside and saves. 

 

Tyler Rogers, San Francisco Giants (ADP 654)

Rogers, the brother of Twins closer Taylor Rogers, will get his time in 2020 to save games for the Giants. Rogers has shown the ability to close out games throughout the Giants' farm system, so the ability to finish games has already been established.

He made his MLB debut in 2019, throwing 17.2 innings. Over those innings, he had a ridiculous 1.02 ERA with a 2.87 xFIP. 

The thing many will mention and get attracted to regarding Rogers is his crazy sidearm delivery.

The delivery and a filthy sinker help Rogers get a ton of groundballs and keep him quite deceptive. He had a 70% groundball rate and a 22.5% K rate with the Giants. The delivery and the pitch mix has led to some serious success throughout Rogers career. He uses his sinker 58% of the time, while he uses his curveball 32.9% and his fastball 9%. He’s essentially a two-pitch pitcher, and it works with that delivery. 

His sinker allows a batting average against of .257 and a wild ground ball rate of 77.8%. Getting groundballs at rates like that will allow for a few extra hits, for a higher average than most. The sinker can allow a few extra hits when the xwOBAcon against is only .250 and a 0% barrel against.

The curveball has been just as good and is used as Rogers’s strikeout pitch. The curve has a CSW of 40% and a batting average against of .083. 

Rogers gave up 0 barrels last season, which is vital in this era of the home run. He will get a solid shot to close some games with the Giants as new manager Gabe Kapler likes to play matchups quite a bit. The new minimum batter rule will also allow Rogers to get some save chances in a platoon with Tony Watson. Rogers is free in drafts and can rack up some saves, or at worst, get you some great ratios if you are building a Franken-Ace a la JB's Bullpen Method!

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Relief Pitcher ADP Debates: Fantasy Baseball 2020 ADP Analysis

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

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

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

 

Relief Pitcher ADPs - Fantasy Baseball Debates

Players discussed in this video include:

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

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Breakout Relievers Who Will Keep Improving in 2020

The closer role is one of the most volatile positions in fantasy baseball. They can lose their fantasy value with a couple of blow-up performances. Teams are also electing to utilize a committee approach, often using their best reliever in high-leverage situations rather than cementing them to the ninth inning. 

This makes it imperative to navigate the closing scene by identifying breakout relievers poised to sustain or improve on their production. Hitting on a reliever who follows up a breakout season with continued development is huge for your championship prospects.

The following relievers have demonstrated high-level skill sets typical in elite closers, with strong strikeout rates, home run suppression, and in-season improvement. Draft these relievers with confidence.

 

Giovanny GallegosSt. Louis Cardinals

Year ERA WHIP SV BB% K% xFIP SIERA HR/9 SwStr%
2018 3.97 1.24 1 6.7 26.7 3.59 3.23 1.59 8.8
2019 2.31 0.81 1 5.7 33.3 3.59 2.89 1.09 16.3

Gallegos improved across the board in 2019, striking out opposing hitters at a much higher rate. This was because his slider was much more effective - .303 xwOBAcon, 24.6 SwStr%, and 13.9 pitchVAL in 2019, compared to .323 xwOBAcon, 12.3 SwStr%, and -2.1 pitchVAL in 2018. Simply put, this was a dominant pitch that really helped Gallegos burst onto the scene. It was also encouraging to see how the young right-hander was able to trim his walk rate from 6.7 BB% to 5.7 BB%.

This is a player with tremendous upside - his 27.6 K-BB% ranked 15th among all relievers. The only closers with better K-BB% ratios were Josh Hader, Kirby Yates, Liam Hendriks, Ken Giles, Emilio Pagan, Edwin Diaz, Will Smith, and Taylor Rogers. Gallegos has a great opportunity to seize control of the closing role in St. Louis this season, with Carlos Martinez returning to the starting rotation and Jordan Hicks recovering from Tommy John surgery. 

 

Brandon WorkmanBoston Red Sox

Year ERA WHIP SV BB% K% xFIP SIERA HR/9 SwStr%
2018 3.27 1.21 0 9.6 22.2 4.25 4.00 1.31 10.2
2019 1.88 1.03 16 15.7 36.4 3.33 3.78 0.13 12.7

Workman has a cringe-inducing walk rate at 15.7 BB%, but his ability to consistently generate weak contact makes him a player to target. His 0.7% Brls/BBE ranked first in all of baseball. This elite barrel rate resulted in significant home run suppression, as Workman’s 0.13 HR/9 also was the best in MLB. We also saw substantial improvement in Workman’s strikeout rate, buoyed by his cutter (.341 xwOBAcon, 15.6 SwStr%, 6.8 pitchVAL) and knuckle curve (.288 xwOBAcon, 10.9 SwStr%, 12.4 pitchVAL).

Workman established himself as the Red Sox closer later in the season - his first save came on May 19th, as the Red Sox shuffled through Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier before committing to Workman. Now entering the 2020 season firmly entrenched as the team’s closer, Workman has a great chance at 30 saves. 

 

Nick AndersonTampa Bay Rays

Year ERA WHIP SV BB% K% xFIP SIERA HR/9 SwStr%
Marlins 3.92 1.28 1 8.6 37.1 3.04 2.81 1.03 17.4
Rays 2.11 0.66 0 2.6 52.6 1.19 1.03 1.27 24.5

Anderson went from a solid reliever in Miami to quite possibly the most dominant reliever in baseball in Tampa Bay. His insane 50 K-BB% as a Ray leaves fantasy owners drooling over his upside should he secure the ninth-inning role. The Rays tinkered with Anderson’s pitch mix, increasing the use of his four-seamer by 13% while decreasing his curveball usage by nine percent and scrapping his slider.

Anderson generated more horizontal movement on his curveball in Tampa Bay, as his 1.0 H-Mov increased to 2.5 as a Ray. This made it a much more effective pitch (.105 xwOBAcon, 30.2 SwStr%, improving from .419 xwOBAcon and 24.0 SwStr%). It’s clear that the coaching staff in Tampa Bay knows what they’re doing, so I’m betting on sustained production from Anderson. Anderson has the upside to join the elite tier of closers if the Rays allow him to take over as closer without splitting time with Diego Castillo or Jose Alvarado. I would bet on this happening, so target him with confidence.

 

Hansel RoblesLos Angeles Angels

Year ERA WHIP SV BB% K% xFIP SIERA HR/9 SwStr%
2018 3.70 1.39 2 10.3 24.4 4.36 3.91 1.45 10.5
2019 2.48 1.02 23 5.7 26.5 3.89 3.54 0.74 12.2

Robles supplanted incumbent Cody Allen as closer on April 30th and never looked back, turning in a solid season with decent strikeout numbers and strong home run suppression. Robles combines a 97 MPH four-seamer (.339 xwOBAcon, 10.9 SwStr%, 9.7 pitchVAL) with a great changeup (.273 xwOBAcon, 19.1 SwStr%, 6.7 pitchVAL).

It’s encouraging to see the way Robles rectified his control issues, improving his walk rate by 4.6%. Manager Joe Maddon has already confirmed that Robles will be the team’s closer, so it’s likely that he eclipses his save totals from 2019 since the Angels have made significant improvements in the offseason. While he was a bit lucky on batted balls last year (.280 BABIP, 82.3 LOB%), I’m bullish on Robles due to a profile that includes strikeout stuff, strong control, and home run suppression. 

 

Drew PomeranzSan Diego Padres

Year ERA WHIP SV BB% K% xFIP SIERA HR/9 SwStr%
Giants (SP) 5.68 1.61 0 10.1 25.9 4.46 4.45 1.97 9.5
Brewers (RP) 2.39 0.91 2 8.0 45.0 2.14 2.11 1.37 16.7

After being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers at the deadline, Pomeranz transformed from a borderline fifth starter into an absolutely dominant reliever. In transitioning to the bullpen, Pomeranz scrapped his two-seamer and cutter, emphasizing his four-seamer and knuckle curve to become a two-pitch reliever. His velocity increased on both his four-seamer (94.3 MPH, up 2.1%) and knuckle curve (82.6 MPH, up 1.7%), which made them much more effective - four-seamer (.385 xwOBAcon, 18.2 SwStr%) and knuckle curve (.279 xwOBAcon, 13.7 SwStr%).

Pomeranz signed with the San Diego Padres this offseason, joining a slew of dominant relievers like Kirby Yates, Emilio Pagan, and Andres Munoz. It’s unlikely that he’ll receive any save opportunities due to the strong depth of this unit, but Pomeranz will be able to provide a boost to your ratios along with a great strikeout rate. Fantasy owners in holds league would be wise to pursue Pomeranz as a late-round option. 

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Relief Pitchers to Target for Holds

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

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

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

 

Ryan Pressly (RHP, Houston Astros)

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

 

Adam Ottavino (RHP, New York Yankees)

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

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

 

Will Smith (LHP, Braves)

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

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

 

Giovanny Gallegos (RHP, St. Louis Cardinals)

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

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

 

Craig Stammen (RHP, San Diego Padres)

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

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

 

Luke Jackson (RHP, Atlanta Braves)

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

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

 

Seth Lugo (RHP, New York Mets)

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

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

 

Tommy Kahnle (RHP, New York Yankees)

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

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

 

James Karinchak (RHP, Cleveland Indians)

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

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

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How to Attack RP in SV+HLD Leagues

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

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

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

 

Target Good Pitchers

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

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

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

 

Don't Overcorrect

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

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

 

Pick Pitchers On Good Teams

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

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

 

Embrace the Change

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

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2020 Relief Pitcher Rankings - H2H Points Leagues

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

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

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

 

Relief Pitcher H2H Points League Rankings

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

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

 

Tier One

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

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

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

 

Tier Two

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

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

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

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

 

Tier Three

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

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

 

Tier Four

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

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

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

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

 

Tier Five

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

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

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

 

Tier Six and Lower

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

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

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

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

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2020 Early Bullpen Outlooks - N.L. West

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

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

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

 

Arizona Diamondbacks

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

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

 

Colorado Rockies

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

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

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

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

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

 

San Diego Padres

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

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

 

San Francisco Giants

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

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

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2020 Early Bullpen Outlooks - N.L. Central

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

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

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

 

Updates

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

 

Chicago Cubs

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

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

 

Cincinnati Reds

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

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

 

Milwaukee Brewers

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

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

 

Pittsburgh Pirates

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

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

 

St. Louis Cardinals

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

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

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2020 Early Bullpen Outlooks - N.L. East

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

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

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

 

Updates

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

 

Atlanta Braves

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

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

 

Miami Marlins

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

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

 

New York Mets

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

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

 

Philadelphia Phillies

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

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

 

Washington Nationals

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

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

 

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2020 Saves+Holds Rankings - Fantasy Baseball Mixed Leagues

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


Tier One

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tier Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tier Three

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

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

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

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

 

Tier Four

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

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

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

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

 

Tier Five

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

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

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

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

 

Tier Six

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

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

 

Tier Seven

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tier Eight

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

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

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

 

Tiers Nine and Lower

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

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

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

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2020 Early Bullpen Outlooks - A.L. West

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

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

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

 

Updates

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

 

Texas Rangers

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

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

 

Los Angeles Angels

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

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

 

Oakland Athletics

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

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

 

Houston Astros

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

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

 

Seattle Mariners

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

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

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2020 Early Bullpen Outlooks - A.L. Central

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

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

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

 

Updates

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

 

Detroit Tigers

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

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

 

Chicago White Sox

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

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

 

Cleveland Indians

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

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

 

Kansas City Royals

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

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

 

Minnesota Twins

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

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

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