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]

2020 Early Bullpen Outlooks - N.L. Central


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

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!

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!

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

 

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.

More 2020 Fantasy Baseball Advice




More Recent Articles

 

Bases Loaded Podcast - Relief Pitchers Preview

Mike Kurland (@Mike_Kurland) is joined by Jorge Montanez, Zach Braff and Mike Simione as they jump into their relief pitcher preview! Subscribe to the Bases Loaded podcast, part of RotoBaller Radio's Podcast Network. Like and Subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well!... Read More


2020 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers - Jose Urquidy

It's been a tumultuous winter for the Houston Astros. Not only were they embroiled in a sign-stealing scandal (which has, naturally, progressed apace to unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about ever more sophisticated methods of cheating), but they watched staff ace Gerrit Cole sign a mammoth free-agent deal with the Yankees. Plenty of virtual ink has been... Read More


2020 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers - Mark Canha

Mark Canha had a solid 2019 campaign and is one player that probably deserves more attention heading into 2020 than he is currently receiving. He finished the season hitting .273/.396/.517 with 26 HR, 58 RBI, 80 R, and 67 BB in 410 at-bats. It was a very productive line for a guy that played in... Read More


Four Prospect Sleepers for 2020 Redraft Leagues

Recently, Rotoballer launched a list of the Top 50 MLB prospects for the coming year. The top of the list was populated by names such as Gavin Lux, Luis Robert, and Brendan McKay. These players, among others, feature a promising combination of talent and favorable playing time projections to suggest they’ll be the cream-of-the-crop among... Read More


ADP Cost Analysis – Robbie Ray vs Trevor Bauer

With fantasy baseball draft season in full swing, those of us who partake in this joyous game are now looking through as much draft data as possible in a bid to find players we love who have lower average draft positions (ADP) than we believe they should. All this to eke out as much draft... Read More


2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Second Base

Keeper Value Rankings are intended for Keeper Leagues in which a fantasy owner must forfeit a designated draft pick in order to keep a player into the upcoming season. These rankings are based on Keeper "Values". In the marketing world, Value can be defined as "the extent to which a good or service (player) is... Read More


2020 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers – C.J. Cron

As another fantasy baseball season approaches, we once again have the chance to discuss C.J. Cron as a fantasy sleeper. Cron will be playing for his third team in three seasons. It is tough to wrap one's head around the idea that a player of Cron's talent continues to be undervalued by professional and fantasy... Read More


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