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Florio's Bullpen Report: Stick With Rafael Montero and Jhoan Duran

Jhoan Duran fantasy baseball rankings closers saves draft sleepers

I usually start this article by explaining just how volatile bullpens can be. Sometimes a change can happen with no indication prior, but more often than not, if you keep a close eye on bullpens you can see the tide start to turn. There is always a benefit to keeping a close eye on bullpens - but perhaps no one is a better example of how quickly things can change than Liam Hendriks

About a week or so ago, fantasy managers were starting to get worried about Hendriks. He had struggled a bit early on and we were hearing talk about his velocity. There were people wondering if Kendall Graveman would soon takeover. Then, Hendriks picked up five consecutive saves without letting up a hit. That all occurred in the last week and everyone who drafted Hendriks once again felt justified. Let's ignore the fact that he allowed a game-tying grand slam since, but focus on how quickly bullpens and the perception of closers can change. It is a lesson that if someone starts to get panicked about a high-end closer, it is not a bad idea to throw a cheap offer out. 

Of course, there are more to bullpens than just closers. There are those pitchers who could potentially get save opportunities down the road, that you can add now for cheap, and then there are those relievers who do not get any saves but give you elite ratios and strikeouts and some that can give you close to starter innings in a given week. Those pitchers are usually available off waivers for cheap, but can make an impact even if you stream them for just a couple of weeks. This article goes over all that and more!

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

 

Changing Bullpens for Fantasy Baseball

I’ve written about the Astros' late-inning situation for weeks as Ryan Pressly struggled to work his way back from a knee injury that certainly impacted his performance early on. He returned last week and blew his first save chance but picked up the win in that outing. He then secured another save since then. The ninth inning once again belongs to Pressly in Houston and he should be universally rostered and started. But, Rafael Montero, who picked up saves in his absence is worth holding onto as either a handcuff or just a stash in deeper formats. Montero got the bulk of save chances when Pressly was sidelined and that knee could continue to be an issue moving forward. 

The A’s have two options they can turn to in the ninth in Dany Jimenez and Lou Trivino. Trivino started off as the closer, but a trip to the IL opened the door for Jimenez, who has flat out been the better pitcher of the two early on. Jimenez was asked to pick up the save on Monday over Trivino and he converted. He now has five saves to Trivino’s two. This could be a situation where both get chances, especially as the A’s try to build up trade values. Both are worth rostering in Roto formats, but Jimenez is the preferred option as of now. 

The Cubs bullpen has to change after David Robertson has landed on the IL - with no indication of what the actual injury is. On the year, Robertson has five saves while Rowan Wick and Mychal Givens each have a save. Those are the top options to fill the void for however long Robertson is sidelined. Wick has pitched to a 0.93 ERA, 3.00 xERA, 1.34 WHIP with a 29 percent strikeout rate, compared to 2.53 ERA, 2.33 xERA, 1.41 WHIP with a 35 percent strikeout rate for Givens. While both have some closing experience, Givens has more which leads me to think he will get the first crack at saves. However, both are worth a flier moving forward until we get more clarity. There is also Keegan Thompson, who has been lights out and could get some multi-inning save chances. It just adds value to those already streaming him for the ratios and strikeouts he provides. 

The Diamondbacks' gameplan coming into the season was Mark Melancon as the closer and Ian Kennedy pitching in a setup role. But that changed when Melancon was sidelined and Kennedy pitched so well that people started wondering if they would make the change back. Well, despite struggling in his first outing off the IL, the D-Backs once again turned to Melancon in their last save chance and he converted. He is the closer for now moving forward, but if he struggles, a move to Kennedy can definitely be made. I would continue to hold onto each for now moving forward.

On the year, Melancon has pitched to a 3.60 ERA, 4.28 xERA, 1.70 WHIP with just a nine percent strikeout rate, compared to 3.21 ERA, 4.17 xERA, 1.43 WHIP and 13 percent strikeout rate for Kennedy. Neither is pretty, but Kennedy is the slightly worse option right now. 

The Twins bullpen has been anything but boring this season. Jhoan Duran, who fantasy players everywhere want to see close, picked up not one, but two saves last week. He has been great pitching to a 3.68 ERA, 2.49 xERA, 1.10 SIERA, 0.89 WHIP with a 42 percent strikeout rate. Emilio Pagan is also in the mix and leads this bullpen with four saves in five chances. He has pitched to a 2.08 ERA, 2.90 xERA, 5.22 SIERA, 1.73 WHIP with a 29 percent strikeout rate. As you can see, besides the ERA, Duran has been better in every category. But, Pagan has double the amount of saves and remains in the ninth inning picture here. For now, both of those closer options for the Twins should be rostered in all formats. 

 

Speculative Save Situations for Fantasy Baseball

The Red Sox are the AL team that has been featured in this article the most. They still do not have a reliever with more than one save this season. Hansel Robles did get the latest shot, but he blew it, his second blown save of the season. Jake Diekman and Matt Barnes remain other options here and then there is Matt Strahm who does have a save this season. Ryan Brasier is another deep option who has been pitching well. For now, I still believe Robles is the top option here, as he is at least getting opportunities and has closing experience. But this is quickly becoming a situation to just avoid until we get any sort of clarity. 

The Reds, picking up where they left off last year, are the NL team that has been featured the most in this article. And we should give Cincinnati a shout-out as they doubled their win total in the past week - from three to six. No one on this team has multiple saves though, while three different pitchers have at least one. This is a team that will not win many games and there is zero percent certainty who will get the save chance on a given night. That is best left as a situation to just wash your hands of and avoid in fantasy. But if you are desperate for saves I rank the closer options in this pen: Lucas Sims, Art Warren, Tony Santillan and then Hunter Strickland

Anthony Bender had been cruising picking up six saves already for the Marlins. But we saw him struggle and blow a save and the next opportunity went to Cole Sulser, who then blew the save himself. But, perhaps an even bigger risk to Bender is that Dylan Floro, who notched 15 saves last year and was the preseason favorite to serve as the team's closer, has been activated off the IL. It may take a little bit for him to regain that role, but he should be the favorite to lead this team in saves moving forward. Definitely grab him off the waiver wire if he remains out there (spend around 8-10 percent of budget if need saves). However, if you have Bender, I would hold onto him for the time being. 

The Mariners have been pretty unpredictable when it comes to save chances this season. There are three different pitchers who have picked up a save for the M’s (Scott Engel, aka Emerald City Engel, second favorite team), while none have multiple saves. However, Diego Castillo has been struggling and has an ERA near 10, while Paul Sewald does not have a save and continues to be used in high leverage situations. That leaves Andres Munoz and Drew Steckenrider as the top options here. Munoz is the far more effective pitcher and is the top option to take a shot on in this bullpen, however, Steckenrider remains worth rostering in 12-team or deeper Roto formats. 

 

Elite Ratio and Strikeout Options for Fantasy Baseball

Keegan Thompson was mentioned in the Cubs section but he deserves some love here too. He leads all relievers with 23 innings - no one else has topped 20 yet. But he gives more than just innings as he has pitched to a 1.17 ERA, 2.10 xERA, 0.96 WHIP and a 24 percent strikeout rate. With David Robertson sidelined, perhaps he can see some multi-inning save chances as well, which only makes him more valuable. 

Wil Crowe and Michael King are in the same mold of Thompson and have each thrown 19 innings this year. Crowe, in 19.1 innings, has pitched to a 2.33 ERA, 2.05 xERA, 0.98 WHIP and a 23 percent strikeout rate. King, in 19 innings, pitched to a 1.42 ERA, 2.44 xERA, 0.84 WHIP and a whopping 40 percent strikeout rate. I would go with King as the top option, but both are pitchers that can give you fringe starter pitcher innings with better strikeouts and ratios. There is value here! 

Ryan Helsley has thrown 10 innings this season and still sports a 0.00 ERA and a mind-blowingly low 0.10 WHIP with an insanely high 65 percent strikeout rate. He is as elite as elite can get at the moment. Who cares if he is not getting save chances, roster this guy if he is still out there! 

Cristian Javier has jumped from the rotation and the bullpen this season but has pitched to a 0.00 ERA, 0.62 WHIP and a 42 percent strikeout rate as a reliever this season. That is elite and if you roster him there is always the chance that he sticks in the starting rotation, which will only add value. 

If you are looking for deeper options, Sam Hentges of the Guardians and Brock Burke of the Rangers are names for you. Henteges has pitched to a 0.75 ERA, 1.80 xERA, 0.67 WHIP and a 40 percent strikeout rate in 12 innings. Burke has pitched to a 1.62 ERA, 3.19 xERA, 1.08 WHIP with a 39 percent strikeout rate in 16.2 innings pitched. If you are in need of innings and ratios in a deep (15-plus teams) Roto or an AL-only league, these arms can help. 

Make sure to follow Michael on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio



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