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Bullpen Report: Shaking Things Up in Week 3

We have already seen a lot of FAAB spent on pitchers that have been named the closer. It happens every year. Whenever a new closer is named, especially if it is one that can miss bats – fantasy players love a pitcher that can miss bats. And the logic behind spending up on a pitcher like that makes sense – saves are 20 percent of the pitcher stats we care about in Roto leagues and there are only a finite number of pitchers that can pick up saves.

But in recent seasons we have seen more and more pitchers picking up saves. Currently, there are 51 pitchers that have picked up a save this season, but only 21 have more than one, and only two – Mark Melancon and Jake McGee of all people – have over three. Oh and with all that, the Mets still do not have a save on the season.

With more and more teams using multiple options, there is less clarity than ever when it comes to saves. This is not your father’s fantasy baseball league, where basically every team had a set closer. So what does that mean for us? More than ever, you can find cheap speculative adds that could be in the saves picture. This is my approach, as I will routinely be bidding on players for less than 10 percent of my budget, speculating on situations where I believe a pitcher will be in line for saves. It doesn’t always work out, but it helps you be able to take more shots and hope something sticks – rather than going all in on one player. That’s exactly the point of this article -- to take a look at every team's bullpen and some options for cheap saves or great ratios that you can add for cheap now!

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:

 

Closers and Bullpens

Arizona Diamondbacks

This has been a tough bullpen to figure out, mostly because they have just one save on the season from Chris Devenski, but he is on the restricted list. We did see Kevin Ginkel get a save chance and then blow it, but he is putting up nearly 13 K/9 and has a 1.98 xFIP. He is my favorite option here for saves for the time being. Stefan Crichton was expected to be in the saves picture, but he has struggled this season, pitching to a 5.79 ERA, 5.26 xFIP and picking up just 5.79 K/9, the same amount of walks per nine he’s allowed. He will be in the saves picture here by default, making him worthy of rostering in 15-team leagues or deeper until we get some clarity. There are two other arms here to keep an eye on. Yoan Lopez in five appearances has a 1.80 ERA with a 3.38 xFIP and is picking up over 14 K/9. His biggest issue has been the walks. Caleb Smith is the other, who is averaging 12.0 K/9 in six innings with a 1.50 ERA and 4.99 xFIP. Those two could work their way into late inning situations if the pen struggles.

Atlanta Braves  

This pen is pretty straight forward. Will Smith is the closer, has picked up two of the three saves here, and has pitched well. I expect him to be out there for the Braves saves opportunities moving forward. But there are two other pitchers here though that can help your ratios. One is Sean Newcomb, who is the other Braves pitcher with a save this season. He is averaging an absurd 22.85 K/9 in 4.1 innings and has a 2.08 ERA and a team-low 1.23 xFIP. Tyler Matzek has a 14.29 K/9 in 5.2 innings without allowing a run so far and a 2.47 xFIP. Neither should be expected to provide saves, but in deeper roto leagues or NL only, they are in play due to the strikeouts and ratios they provide.

Baltimore Orioles

Cesar Valdez has two saves in his five appearances. Paul Fry is the other pitcher here that has picked up a save. Valdez is the pitcher I expect to get the save opportunities here, but Fry or Tanner Scott could be in the picture if he struggles. Scott has averaged 14.54 K/9 and has a 2.89 xFIP, while Fry is picking up 9.82 K/9 and 2.59 xFIP. I would rank them Valdez, Scott, Fry, but only Valdez needs to be rostered in anything shallower than 15-teams. The rest of this pen can be avoided for the time being.

Boston Red Sox

Matt Barnes is back and looks to have the closer job on lock, picking up two of the Red Sox three saves and looking really good doing so. He has not allowed a run and has a 0.74 xFIP, indicating that he has been as good as advertised. He is also averaging two strikeouts per inning right now. Adam Ottavino would likely be next up in line for saves and while his ERA is over eight at the moment, that is small sample size related. He is still picking up well over a strikeout per inning and is worthy of stashing in deeper formats. Tanner Houck is another name to watch if he rejoins this pen at some point.

Thursday Update: Adam Ottavino came in the ninth in a tie game and allowed a run and took the loss.

Chicago Cubs  

Craig Kimbrel is the closer and best pitcher in this pen. He has three saves, has not allowed a run while putting up a 15.00 K/9 ratio and a bullpen-low 1.17 xFIP. Brandon Workman is expected to be the next man up, but he is currently on the Covid list. Rex Brothers is a deeper or especially mono league arm to take notice too. In five appearances he is averaging 13.5 strikeouts per nine, with a 2.24 xFIP. He had some hype back in the day with the Rockies and while that didn’t pan out, he has pitched well so far this season. We will have to monitor this pen to try and find other deeper league options.

Chicago White Sox

Liam Hendriks has the ninth inning on lock here, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other arms to take notice too. First up is Aaron Bummer, who would likely take over the closer role if anything happens to Hendriks. But he is still useful because he can miss bats and provide strong ratios. He has picked up 14.54 K/9 with a 2.70 ERA and 4.04 xFIP. Another arm here that I like a lot is Michael Kopech. The gas throwing top prospect has thrown 6.1 innings in three appearances, while picking up 15.63 strikeouts per nine with a White Sox bullpen best 1.70 xFIP. He has yet to allow a run and is someone I would be willing to roster in a league where I need some pitching help. He is one of those relievers that is asked to go multiple innings when called upon, so if he makes multiple outing in a week, he is almost like a fringy starting pitcher.

Cincinnati Reds  

Amir Garrett has two saves for the Reds and has to be viewed as the favorite to get the next opportunity. But I will point out that he has not necessarily pitched well in his three outings. He has allowed more walks than strikeouts and has a team-high 15.00 ERA and 7.44 xFIP. I will say he came in a game the Reds had a huge lead and allowed a grand slam, which definitely inflates his numbers. But still, if he struggles, they have other options. Next in line is Lucas Sims, who has picked up a save and is putting up 14.54 K/9 with a 2.59 xFIP. Sean Doolittle and his added velocity is looking good, picking up a team-high 15.43 K/9 with a team low 2.48 xFIP. While we have not seen him in the ninth yet, he’s looked great and has a ton of closer experience. Tejay Antone is another name here to monitor. He had some hype leading into the season as fantasy players hoped he would be in the starting rotation. But in three pen appearances he has gone 6.2 innings (multi-inning reliever), with a 12.15 K/9, a 2.57 xFIP and he has yet to allow a run. He is more for NL only leagues for now, but he definitely has upside. I rank these arms: Garrett, Sims, Doolitte, Antone for fantasy purposes.

Cleveland Indians

The pen has been anything but predictable for Cleveland. They have had three different pitchers pick up saves, with Emmanuel Clase leading them with two, and James Karinchak and Nick Wittgren also each picking one up. I had joked that Karinchak was allergic to the ninth inning after being used in high leverage situations but never for a save. That kind of changed this week, as Karinchak picked up a save in the 10th inning, but it was on a day where Clase had pitched in three of the prior four days. Clase seems like the best bet for saves here, so he has to be rostered in all fantasy formats. Karinchak will always remain in the late inning picture here, and even if he isn’t getting the bulk of saves he could get a handful, and he provides great strikeouts and ratios. Wittgren is more so for deeper or AL only leagues. For now, the rest of this pen can be avoided for fantasy.

Thursday Update: Clase picked up his third save on Thursday. Wittgren went the seventh, Karinchak pitched the eighth and Clase finished it out. This seems to be the roadmap that they want to implement whenever possible.

Colorado Rockies  

This pen is anything but pretty. Daniel Bard has both the saves and is really the only pitcher here worth rostering in fantasy. He is averaging a team-high 13.50 K/9 and a team-low 3.82 xFIP. There are only two other relievers averaging over a strikeout per inning, while no one else has an xFIP below four. Plus, pitching in Coors Field makes them prone to blow up innings. Roster Bard, and stay away from the rest. Although I will note, Mychal Givens is likely next in line for saves if anything happens to Bard, and he has a 12.6 K/9 and 4.21 xFIP so far this season.

Detroit Tigers  

Gregory Soto was looking like the closer here, until earlier this week he was brought in the eighth inning to preserve a lead. It was against the heart of the Astros lineup, indicating he is the reliver they trust most, but makes him much tougher to roster in fantasy. He is in play in Roto formats, but the uncertainty makes him much less appealing in points leagues, where the bulk of the points from a reliever come from a save. Bryan Garcia picked up the save in that game, his second of the season, but it was Jose Cisnero who was brought in first. Garcia does have two saves, but we’ve also seen him brought in in the middle innings of games. I rank those three pitchers: Soto, Garcia, Cisnero for fantasy purposes. With Michael Fulmer now starting again, there is no one else here you need to roster just yet.

Houston Astros  

Ryan Pressly is the closer and best pitcher here, but he still does not have a save on the season. Brooks Raley has the only save so far for Houston. He has been pitching in the eighth inning and has a save. He will be in the closer picture if anything happens to Pressly. Another arm that could be in the mix if anything happens to Pressly is Ryne Stanek. He has picked up 12.86 strikeouts per nine, is limiting walks (1.29 BB/9), and has a 1.29 ERA with a 3.05 xFIP. While I prefer Stanek to Raley, both are worthy of rostering if you’re in need of a relief arm.

Kansas City Royals  

Good luck trying to figure out this pen! Greg Holland got his first save this week and he looks to be the safest bet for late inning use, but he has struggled so far this season. He’s allowed more walks than strikeouts, has a 4.15 ERA and 5.84 xFIP. Wade Davis also has a save for this team and he is used in late innings as well, but he is far from the Davis of old. Jesse Hahn and Kyle Zimmer also have saves for the Royals. While Scott Barlow does not have a save, he is averaging 12.79 K/9 in his 6.1 innings, with a 3.56 xFIP. Holland would be the top option to roster here, but know that its been a bumpy ride so far, and him losing the late inning role is definitely possible. After Holland I rank these arms: Zimmer, Barlow, Davis, Hahn for fantasy purposes.

Los Angeles Angels

Raisel Iglesias is the closer here and unless he gets injured, do not expect that to change. Mike Mayers does have the other save for the Angels. I anticipate he is the next man up should Iglesias miss time. Mayers has a 1.29 ERA, 3.87 xFIP and 10.29 K/9 in seven innings this season. He is an arm that can be had off waiver wires in 15-team and potentially in AL only leagues. He is worth taking a shot on there for any team looking to add a reliever to stabilize ratios, but I would not expect many saves.

Los Angeles Dodgers 

This bullpen has been anything but boring. Kenley Jansen has three saves, while Corey Knebel has two. Jansen has picked up the last two, but we did see them turn to Knebel in a game where Jansen was likely available, although they say they did not want to overwork him. Knebel is likely rostered after being a big waiver target this past week. But if he is still out there, he is worthy of adding in all Roto formats, as he has looked like his old self again. He has pitched great and we have all the indication we need that he is next in line for saves. The other arm here to monitor is Blake Treinen, who in five innings is averaging 12.6 K/9, with a 3.60 ERA and 3.87 xFIP. He is the third option for saves here, but can get strikeouts and help your ratios.

Miami Marlins

We have already had a closer change with the Marlins. Anthony Bass opened the year as the closer, blew both his saves, and then the Marlins have gone to Yimi Garcia for the last two, and he converted both of them. He is the only must roster arm in this bullpen. Dylan Floro had been great and with Garcia unavailable Thursday the Marlins turned to him for the save. It couldn’t have gone worse as he gave up two runs on three hits and two walks, picking up a blown save and taking the loss. But, it is his first bad outing of the season and against a tough Braves lineup. He is the only other fantasy viable arm in this pen right now.

Milwaukee Brewers

Look, this pen is pretty straight forward for fantasy. Josh Hader is a must own arm, as he is averaging an absurd 20.25 K/9 this season and has one save. Brad Boxberger also has a save for Milwaukee, but if anything was to happen to Hader, I would anticipate Devin Williams to fill that role. Williams has struggled in his three outing this season, but do not worry. He is still awesome and should be rostered in fantasy. Brent Suter has pitched well in his 7.2 innings, and could be in the save picture if anything happens to Hader, but he does not miss enough bats to roster right now. Hader and Williams are the two to roster here.

Minnesota Twins

This is a really interesting bullpen right now. Alex Colome blew another save this week, his second in five chances. He has pitched fairly well, but if he struggles again the Twins may look to get someone else involved, especially considering the options they have. Hansel Robles, who has a good amount of closing experience, is pitching to a 2.69 xFIP with a 11.57 K/9 and has not yet allowed a run. Taylor Rogers, who also has closing experience, is putting up a strikeout per inning and has a 2.18 xFIP, and he too has not allowed a run. They also have a deeper options like Cody Stashak, who is putting up an absurd 21.6 K/9 with a 1.18 xFIP and Caleb Thielbar, who has a -0.02 xFIP and 18.9 K/9. Colome needs to still be rosted, but after him Robles is my favorite option here and should definitely be picked up wherever he is out there. Rogers would be second, followed by Thielbar and Stashak.

Thursday Update: After I gushed about Robles, he allowed three runs in just two thirds of an inning, pitching in the eighth. He walked the bases loaded and was pulled for Rogers, who was actually the pitcher that allowed the runs, although they were charged to Robles. Taylor took the blown save. Colome pitched a clean ninth and picked up the save.  

New York Mets

The lone team that has yet to pick up a save in the 2021 season. Edwin Diaz has been given the ninth inning though in multiple non-save situations and he is clearly the closer to roster here. The only other arm that could be useful for fantasy right now is Trevor May, who is pitching to a 2.89 xFIP with 16.20 K/9. In NL only leagues you can give Miguel Castro a look, as he has a 2.69 xFIP and is picking up 11.57 K/9.

New York Yankees

Aroldis Chapman and his ridiculous 24.75 K/9 and -1.18 xFIP is clearly the closer here. Outside of him, there are not as many useful fantasy arms in this pen as there has been in years past for the Yankees. Chad Green is clearly the next man up for saves, as he picked one up when Chapman was suspended, but he is picking up just 7.04 K/9 currently and has a 4.67 xFIP. He really is not worth rostering with those numbers, as long as Chapman is healthy. Nick Nelson is a name for AL-only players to pick up. His 9.00 ERA is deceiving as he has a 1.50 xFIP and is averaging two strikeouts per inning.

Oakland A’s

This bullpen has been turned on its head with Trevor Rosenthal being out for a long time. The belief was that Jake Diekman would get the save opportunities, but Lou Trivino actually got the first crack and converted. On the year Trivino has a 1.04 ERA, 3.24 xFIP and is picking up 9.35 K/9. Diekman on the other hand has pitched to a 5.06 ERA, 4.33 xFIP and 8.44 K/9. So for lack of a better word, Trivino has been better. Both are worthy of being rostered in fantasy, as this could be a mix and match scenario, but if I had to chose, I would go Trivino then Diekman. Sergio Romo, and his years and years of closer experience, is another option here who always seems to work his way into the saves picture. He is best for 15-plus team leagues or in AL only. For those in AL only leagues, Deolis Guerra has a 1.80 ERA, a team-low 2.41 xFIP and is picking up 12.6 K/9 while not allowing a walk on the season.

Philadelphia Phillies

Hector Neris is the closer here, but we did see him blow his first save this week. If anything was to happen to him, I would anticipate one of Jose Alvarado or Connor Brogdon is the next man up here. Alvarado is filthy, as he has averaged 15.88 K/9, with a 1.59 ERA and 3.25 xFIP. But with him being a lefty that can hit triple-digits routinely, its possible they want to pick their spots with him, and not save him for the ninth. Brogdon is averaging a strikeout per inning with a 3.83 xFIP and he has yet to allow a run. He also has three wins already. Alvarado is more useful in their current roles, but Brogdon should be stashed as I think he could be next in line. Either way, all three of these relievers should be rostered in deeper leagues. The rest of this pen can be left for now.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Coming into the season we thought this would be a bullpen with multiple pitchers picking up saves. But so far, it looks like Richard Rodriguez is the set guy. He has their lone save and routinely pitches in the ninth. Kyle Crick is likely the next man up, but he hasn’t pitched great and is not worth rostering if he is not in the saves picture currently. Duane Underwood Jr. is an arm for NL only leagues, as he is picking up 14.04 K/9 with a 3.24 ERA and 2.70 xFIP.

San Diego Padres

Mark Melancon has five saves and has not yet allowed a run this season. He is also sporting a 2.34 xFIP. He is a must roster pitcher right now. There are a lot of good arms in this pen. In fact here are all of their pitchers with a sub-4.00 xFIP and at least averaging a strikeout per inning (with multiple appearances): Drew Pomeranz, Keone Kela, Ryan Weathers, Tim Hill, Craig Stammen and Nabil Crismatt. Notice I did not say Emilio Pagan. All of those arms are useful in an NL only format, but in mixed leagues the top three are: Pomeranz, Pagan, Kela in that order.

Seattle Mariners

Rafael Montero was the closer coming into the season but it appears that did not last long. On Thursday, Montero pitched the sixth and Kendall Graveman pitched the seventh and picked up the save in the first game of a double header. In the second game, with those two arms not available, Kenyan Middleton picked up the save. Thursday helped give us insight into the Mariners pen and it appears the pecking order currently is: Graveman, Montero, Middleton. Graveman should be picked up in roto formats of 12-teams or deeper, while Montero should be held onto until we get more clarity. Middleton is more an AL only stash.

San Francisco Giants

This bullpen is pretty straight forward currently. Jake McGee is the clear closer as he has six saves, is picking up 12.27 K/9, with a 3.29 xFIP. He has not yet allowed a run either. Outside of McGee, the only pitcher I would advise for fantasy is Wandy Peralta. He has the lone save that wasn’t picked up by McGee and is pitching to a 3.78 xFIP with a 1.80 ERA.

St. Louis Cardinals

Alex Reyes is the closer here as he has all three of the Cards saves, but he is picking up just 6.75 K/9 and while he has not allowed a run, he has a 5.59 xFIP. If he loses the gig, Giovanny Gallegos has to be next up. He is dominating with a 12.38 K/9, with a 2.25 ERA and 2.49 xFIP. He should be rostered in 12-team Roto leagues or deeper. Jordan Hicks is not quiet back to being Jordan Hicks, but he could work his way into the saves picture here. But really, outside of Reyes for the saves, and Gallegos for everything else, there isn’t anyone that has to be rostered in this format.

Tampa Bay Rays

Remember when the Rays pen was one we couldn’t trust for saves? Not anymore. Diego Castillo has picked up all three save opportunities for the Rays. He should be rostered everywhere. He is actually the only reliever I would advocate rostering from this pen at the moment, but Pete Fairbanks could see some save opportunities despite his slow start. Hunter Strickland has also pitched very effectively, but it is only two outings so far.

Texas Rangers

Ian Kennedy has both the saves for the Rangers and is clearly their best reliever. With Matt Bush on the IL, there is no obvious fall back option if Kennedy should struggle or suffer an injury. But there is one other arm I like here. John King has averaged a strikeout per inning, with a 1.50 ERA and a 2.21 xFIP in his six innings. He is an AL only arm you can consider.

Toronto Blue Jays

Julian Merryweather cost a ton of FAAB after Week 1 and already landed on the IL with an oblique injury that could sideline him over a month. With him out, expect Jordan Romano to pick up the saves here. He should be rostered everywhere. Outside of Romano, Rafael Dolis is another late inning option here. He should be rostered in 15-team or AL only leagues if you are a save needy team. He is a good arm to stash now and monitor if he gets any work in the ninth with Merryweather out.

Thursday Update: Forget everything I wrote above. Jordan Romano went on the IL with right ulnar neuritis on Thursday, which sounds scary. Rafael Dolis has late inning experience and should be the next man up. Get the FAAB dollars ready! I would be winning to spend around 8-10 percent to get him, but that may not be enough. But this could be a mix and match scenario, or they could just prefer someone else. Other options I like in this pen (in this order): David Phelps, Ryan Borucki, Tim Mayza and Anthony Castro

Washington Nationals

Brad Hand is back from the Covid list and was immediately back as their closer, picking up their lone save. The other reliever to take note of here is Daniel Hudson, who has closed for the Nats before. In his two outings he is averaging 13.5 K/9, with a 2.50 xFIP and has yet to allow a run. He is purely a deeper league option or a save stash candidate.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.



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Davante Adams4 days ago

Believes Aidan O'Connell Is The Starter
Tennessee Titans4 days ago

Jamal Adams Signing With Titans
Viktor Hovland5 days ago

Multiple Chips Off The Old Block
PGA5 days ago

Byeong Hun An Seeking First PGA Tour Win At Scottish Open
Si Woo Kim5 days ago

Looking To Contend At Scottish Open
Corey Conners5 days ago

In Top Form Heading To The Renaissance Club
Mackenzie Hughes5 days ago

Needs The Scottish Winds To Blow
Aaron Rai5 days ago

Has Found His Putter
Nicolai Hojgaard5 days ago

Looking To Break Poor Form Back In Europe
Matt Fitzpatrick5 days ago

A Volatile Option
Jordan Spieth5 days ago

A Risky Play Despite Links History
Ludvig Aberg5 days ago

Seeking Second Tour Victory At Scottish Open
Max Homa5 days ago

Seeking A Return To Form In North Berwick
Adam Scott5 days ago

A Safe Option At The Scottish Open
Cam Davis5 days ago

Tough To Trust At Scottish Open
Dak Prescott5 days ago

Cowboys Have Had Extension Talks
RANKINGS
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1B
2B
3B
SS
OF
SP
RP

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