Don't have an account?
Join the Best Live Fantasy Chat Community!

Lost password? [X]

Receive free daily analysis:

NFL    NBA    MLB

Already have an account? Log in here.

[X]

Forgot Password


[X]

2018 Bullpen Outlooks - National League Central


The National League Central continues our series of National League bullpen outlooks. Check out all of the American League divisions here: AL East, AL Central, AL West, and the first National League article here: NL East

The NL Central has several strong closers who could make some significant noise in fantasy leagues this season. Even with that being true, if you were to ask a casual baseball fan to name you the closers from the NL Central, they could easily go 0-for-5. Savvy baseball fans, fantasy players especially, need to make themselves familiar with guys like Raisel Iglesias and Corey Knebel, to name a few.

Let's take a look at the National League Central and see why these guys deserve much more recognition than they're currently receiving.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off. Exclusive access to our Draft Kit, premium rankings, projections, player outlooks, top prospects, dynasty rankings, 15 in-season lineup tools, and over 200 days of expert DFS research. Sign Up Now!

 

Chicago Cubs

Closer: Brandon Morrow

Volatility Rating: Questionable

Other Relevant RPs: Carl Edwards Jr., Steve Cishek

The Chicago Cubs saw one really good relief season from Brandon Morrow and believed in him enough to not go after more established closers like Greg Holland. Morrow was excellent for the Dodgers last season, tossing 43 2/3 innings while posting a 2.06 ERA, 10.31 K/9, and 1.85 BB/9. He was working in a setup role then, making him a strong fantasy piece in holds leagues but not much of anything in standard leagues. This season, it looks like he'll get the chance to lock down wins for the Cubs. He has the upside of a high-tier closer, but he has dealt with injuries throughout his entire career, making him a bit more of a risky pick than some of the others in his same tier. Still, fantasy owners who draft him after some of the top closers are off the board could end up with similar or even better production out of Morrow.

Sure to be nipping at his heels if Morrow falters or gets hurt, Steve Cishek enters the season as the Cubs pitcher with the most ninth-inning experience. Cishek split 2017 between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays. He totaled 44 2/3 innings, putting up a 2.01 ERA, 8.26 K/9, and 2.82 BB/9. It was a solid season for the unique right hander, even though his strikeout numbers were quite a bit lower than his career average (9.58 K/9). Still, Cishek has saved 121 games in his career, and he'd certainly be the next guy up if Morrow can't cut it.

Fantasy Must Own: Brandon Morrow (all formats- significant injury risk, but upper-tier upside), Steve Cishek (all holds leagues, good insurance for Morrow in deeper standard leagues)

 

Cincinnati Reds

Closer: Raisel Iglesias

Volatility Rating: Solid

Other Relevant RPs: Michael Lorenzen, David Hernandez

The Cincinnati Reds look like they will have a very top-heavy bullpen in 2018, with closer Raisel Iglesias set to make plenty of noise as an excellent closer and [pause for effect] basically no one else. Iglesias is unlikely to get as many save chances as the other established closers in this division, but he'll make the most of the innings he gets. Last season, he pitched 76 innings, saving 28 games and posting a 2.49 ERA. He posted a strong strikeout rate (10.89 K/9) and was okay with his control (3.20 BB/9.) Iglesias has the potential to be in the top few tiers of closers, but his team situation will knock him down a rung or two. Still, Iglesias still flies under the radar in drafts and would be excellent to pair with a higher-save potential arm from an earlier round.

Behind Iglesias the Reds have Michael Lorenzen and David Hernandez. Lorenzen had an up-and-down 2017, ending up with a 4.45 ERA, 8.67 K/9, and 3.69 BB/9 in 83 innings of work. He's not a flame thrower, nor is he a guy with excellent "stuff", but despite that, he's a high-leverage pitcher with a decent strikeout rate. That's someone worth knowing about in deeper leagues, NL-only, and holds leagues. Don't draft Lorenzen, but if he's around on the wire and you need to pick up a few Ks one week, you could do worse.

Fantasy Must Own: Raisel Iglesias (all formats- underrated closer, could likely be had in the later rounds), Michael Lorenzen (deep/NL-only holds leagues)

 

Milwaukee Brewers

Closer: Corey Knebel

Volatility Rating:Solid

Other Relevant RPs: Josh Hader, Jacob Barnes

The Milwaukee Brewers have the best closer in baseball that people are still learning about. Corey Knebel burst onto the scene last season with 39 saves, a 1.78 ERA, and an elite 14.92 K/9. His 4.74 BB/9 wasn't ideal, but it's almost forgivable when he's striking out almost 15 per nine. Knebel is an elite closer who should challenge for that top tier of fantasy closers in 2018, but could likely still be had at a discount in more casual leagues due to a lack of name recognition.

Elsewhere in the Milwaukee bullpen, Josh Hader also gets a lot of strikeouts. Hader pitched 47 2/3 innings in 2017, posting a 2.08 ERA, 12.84 K/9, and 4.15 BB/9. He'd be solid in the ninth inning if needed, but so would another hard throwing righty in the Brewers bullpen, Jacob Barnes. Barnes tossed 72 innings last season, posting an even 4.00 ERA, striking out 10.00 per nine, and walking 4.13 in that span. He doesn't have the upside of a Knebel or a Hader, but he throws more innings. That makes him potentially a more valuable piece than Hader in a deeper holds league since he'll rack up a few more strikeouts along the way. Still, Hader seems to be the own to own as Knebel insurance and the preferred choice for holds.

Fantasy Must Own: Corey Knebel (all formats, okay as one of the first closers off the board), Josh Hader (all holds leagues, some deeper standard/NL-only)

 

Pittsburgh Pirates

Closer: Felipe Rivero

Volatility Rating: Solid

Other Relevant RPs: Michael Feliz, George Kontos

The Pittsburgh Pirates are set for an interesting 2018. They're not quite rebuilding,but they're not quite competing either. The starting rotation has some question marks, but some nice upside as well. That could lead to a good number of save chances for lefty Felipe Rivero. Rivero has the upside to be one of the best closers in fantasy. He posted a sterling 1.67 ERA last season to go with 21 saves, a 10.51 K/9, and a 2.39 BB/9. He's likely to have a fairly long leash too, so even if he does struggle a bit, fantasy owners won't have to worry as much about him losing his job. He's an excellent fantasy asset and should be taken as one of the potential top-10 relievers in 2018.

Michael Feliz is an interesting reliever because he has all the strikeout upside in the world. With that though, comes a high walk rate, a huge home run rate, and a disappointing ERA. In 48 innings in 2017, Feliz came up with a 5.63 ERA. That went with a 13.13 K/9 and a 4.13 BB/9. He only induced ground balls in 31% of his outs, leading to a lot of fly balls and a 1.50 HR/9 rate. Feliz has upside, but has some legitimate blow-up-inning downside as well. He's worth keeping an eye on, but probably not worth drafting just yet. Also in the Pittsburgh pen is George Kontos. The former Giant is basically the definition of a solid late-inning reliever. He won't wow anyone with his 3.39 ERA, 9.50 K/9, or 2.71 BB/9, but he won't disappoint anyone either. He's worth consideration in holds leagues for fantasy owners who appreciate consistency and don't mind giving up a little bit of upside for it.

Fantasy Must Own: Felipe Rivero (all formats), George Kontos (holds leagues)

 

St. Louis Cardinals

Closer: Luke Gregerson

Volatility Rating:Questionable

Other Relevant RPs: Tyler Lyons, Brett Cecil

The St. Louis Cardinals have an interesting bullpen heading into 2018. Manager Mike Matheny still hasn't named a closer and very well might not do so before Opening Day. Luke Gregerson seems like the favorite for saves for now, but he's coming off an inconsistent season and the Cardinals have several other intriguing arms in that bullpen. Gregerson's 2017 featured a 4.57 ERA, 10.33 K/9, and 2.95 BB/9. All solid enough numbers to be a decent closer both in "real life" and in fantasy, but not numbers that are likely to lock him into the role if his competition starts performing well.

Speaking of Gregerson's competition, Tyler Lyons has been mentioned as a closer candidate by Matheny and by other members of the Cardinals brass. Lyons is a nice strikeout-upside pitcher who could develop legitimate fantasy value if Gregerson falters. Last season, Lyons pitched 54 innings, putting up a 2.83 ERA, 11.33 K/9, and 3.33 BB/9. The Cardinals would rather keep him in his familiar setup role, where he'll start the season, but he could be the most effective closer on the roster right now.

Fantasy Must Own: Luke Gregerson (if named closer: all formats; if leading committee: NL-only and deeper mixed), Tyler Lyons (all holds leagues)

 

More 2018 Player Outlooks




More Recent Articles

 

2020 Starting Pitcher Rankings - H2H Points Leagues

Points leagues may seem like a slight variation from traditional 5x5 category scoring leagues but you must approach draft day with a very different strategy if you wish to truly compete. All preseason long, RotoBaller has you covered with the latest rankings for all fantasy baseball league types. Here we present our points league rankings... Read More


Second-Half Improvements: Buy Into These Starting Pitchers

The second half of the season is always put under a microscope for starting pitchers. Fantasy players have a love for the second half of the season, as the belief is that pitchers who take a step forward could carry over that success the next season and perhaps even build upon it. But, as we... Read More


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... Read More


Using Sabermetrics for Fantasy Baseball: Pitch Info

One of the most fundamental questions in fantasy sports is if a player's current performance is sustainable. More than any other sport, baseball has a slew of statistical measures that can be dissected in numerous ways to analyze player performance. Pitch Info is a publicly-available pitch tracking system that provides a lot of different data to... Read More


2020 Fantasy Baseball Staff Rankings

Below you will find RotoBaller's 2020 fantasy baseball rankings, tiers and auction dollar values for the 2020 MLB season. Our Ranking Wizard displays our staff's rankings for various league formats, all in one easy place. Here's what you'll find: Mixed, Head-to-Head, Points, AL/NL Only, Two-Catcher Top 2020 prospects, Dynasty leagues, Keeper values Export the rankings easily... Read More


Mock Draft Review: Best Late-Round Targets

Last week, some members of the RotoBaller staff completed a 12-team mock draft for standard 5x5 format. After the draft, we each broke down our strategy and some of our favorite picks, which can be found here. However, I want to take a closer look at one portion of the draft in particular. Since we know that... Read More


Faster and Furious: Pitchers with Rising Velocity/Performance

Welcome fantasy baseball players! I’m sure that you, like me, are anxiously counting down the days until your drafts and Opening Day. While the fantasy season may not start for several weeks, there are plenty of things we can do to start preparing for a successful season. One of those things is to take a good... Read More


James Karinchak Is A Relief Pitcher To Know in 2020

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


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... Read More


2019 Barrel Breakouts: Who's For Real and Who's Next?

As pitchers and catchers get even closer to reporting and most fantasy leagues prepare for their drafts, everybody is looking for a leg up on the competition - a way to get in on a guy before everybody else does. In this article, we're going to look for a way to identify hitters who improved... Read More


Using Sabermetrics for Fantasy Baseball: Pitcher BABIP

While FIP is a useful tool to predict a pitcher's future ERA performance, fantasy owners should remember that ERA, not FIP, is what really matters in most formats. This means that we are interested in the "luck" that separates the two statistics. While some of this luck is unpredictable, we can and should predict some... Read More


Second Year Player Preview: 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 Be sure to tune into RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM (channel Sirius 210, XM 87) - every weekday morning between 6-7 AM ET, every weekday afternoon from 1-2 PM ET, Saturday nights from 9-11 PM ET... Read More


2020 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers - Jorge Alfaro

Miami Marlins catcher Jorge Alfaro was a key piece in the J.T. Realmuto trade that was executed before the 2019 season. The Marlins have high hopes for Alfaro and he continued his development in 2019 by slashing .262/.312/.425 with 18 HR, 57 RBI, 44 R, and 22 BB. The overall numbers may not seem all that... Read More


2020 Shortstop Rankings - H2H Points Leagues

Points leagues may seem like a slight variation from traditional 5x5 category scoring leagues but you must approach draft day with a different strategy if you wish to truly compete. Rankings themselves are a different beast altogether, as category specialists like Mallex Smith and Dee Gordon (stolen bases), Kyle Schwarber and Franmil Reyes (home runs),... Read More


2020 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers – Victor Reyes

With a 457 ADP in 2020 NFBC leagues, Detroit Tigers outfielder Victor Reyes is an afterthought in all but the deepest leagues.  Perhaps the 25-year-old shouldn't be, though, as Reyes was quietly solid in 2019, slashing .304/.336/.431 in 292 plate-appearances, with three home runs and nine stolen bases. Having made stops in Arizona and the... Read More