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Bullpen Report: Late-Inning Changes and Long Relievers to Stream

The only constant in life is change. Those are wise words by a Greek philosopher named Heraclitus. What not enough people realize is, that quote was said about bullpen usage and trying to figure them out for fantasy purposes. Ok, maybe it wasn’t, but it should be given all the changes that occur in major league pens. 

This week was no different as we have more pens that have changed their late-inning usage and even more that we are still trying to figure out. Those are the situations where you can grab a closer for cheap off the fantasy baseball waiver wire. For all the talk about paying for early saves in drafts, there has sure been a lot of cheap save fliers to grab off the waiver wire and we are not even a month into the season. 

Every week, this article gives you the latest on the pens with late inning changes, as well as some potential closers in waiting you can take a flier off of, as well as those elite relievers who will give you innings, strikeouts and ratios, but not saves. Those relievers are becoming more and more valuable as more teams go to full blown committees. Along with our fantasy baseball closers and saves depth charts, his is your one-stop shop for all your bullpen information!

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including Best MLB Series, NFL Series, NBA Writer, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


Changing Pens for Fantasy Baseball

There has been a lot of speculation on who the Orioles closer would be this season, but it seems like that can be put to bed. Jorge Lopez is their closer, at least until he pitches poorly enough to lose the job. At this point, he has probably earned some trust and I would not imagine there would be a quick change even if he  had a bad outing or two. Lopez has picked up all four of the Orioles saves this season, including one in each of his last three outings. He has been by far their best arm out of the pen pitching to a 2.00 ERA, 1.57 xERA, 2.23 xFIP with a 35 percent strikeout rate and a 1.11 WHIP. Meanwhile, other closer candidates Paul Fry and Dillon Tate continue to struggle. If you added Lopez, you should feel very good about it moving forward. 

It was a fun week trying to figure out who would get the saves for the Astros in Ryan Pressly’s absence, but he has looked good throwing live BP and is expected to be activated off the IL and immediately step back into the closer role in Houston. He remains a must-start option when healthy. No one got a save chance in his absence. 

Update: Pressly's activation is not imminent after all. The Astros may have him throw another bullpen session. For now, we have to proceed without him. We saw the Astros get a save chance on Wednesday night, and it went to Ryne Stanek with Hector Neris pitching the eighth. Stanek can be added as a speculative save arm, but do not spend much with Pressly looming.

The A’s had to make a change in their late inning approach after Lou Trivino landed on the Covid-IL. In his absence Dany Jimenez has picked up three saves, more than Trivino now has on the year (two). Jimenez has pitched to a 0.00 ERA, 3.54 xERA, 2.83 xFIP with a 1.14 WHIP and 31 percent strikeout rate. Every single number mentioned is better than Trivino has posted this year. When Trivino returns, the expectation is he will retake his ninth inning role, if for no other reason than to build up trade value, but Jimenez could push to make it more of a committee like we saw in Oakland last year. He also could take over if and when Trivino is dealt. He is worth holding onto, for ratios alone, if you nabbed him off the waiver wire. 

The Rangers finally picked up their first save of the season and it went to Matt Bush, who was a popular streamer for saves in this bullpen. However, he is not the closer moving forward. Manager Chris Woodward has named Joe Barlow as the Rangers closer moving forward. Barlow has pitched to a 3.38 ERA with a 7.26 xERA, 2.65 xFIP, 1.13 WHIP and a 35 percent strikeout rate. Barlow is worth rostering solely for the save chances, but the strikeout rate and ratios do not hurt. The hope is that the Rangers can actually get his some opportunities moving forward. Bush is next in line and a speculative stash in 15-team or AL-only formats. 

The Giants may not like to name one official closer, but their actions indicate otherwise. While Jake MeGee has two saves and Dominic Leone added one of his own, the bulk of the opportunities have gone to Camilo Doval. He has picked up the last two Giants save chances and consistently remains the most trustworthy option in this bullpen. It is always risky to trust Gabe Kapler, so things can certainly change here, but for the time being, I have seen enough to say trust Doval moving forward. MeGee is a deep league streamer who can add a save here and there. 


Speculative Save Situations for Fantasy Baseball

The Red Sox have had four different pitchers pick up a save this year with none having more than one. So yeah, you can say this has been a big headache to start the season. But, there have been context clues to read into the usage. Matt Barnes picked up a save last week but his next outing he was used in the seventh and could not get out of it. He is pitching with diminished velocity, so he does not have full trust yet, but it seems like in a perfect world he would be the Red Sox closer.

Hansel Robles is another option, who has closer experience and is consistently used in the late innings. But the usage of the other two options make me think they are not the preferred options. Jake Diekman is a lefty, who has been used in the fireman role, coming in when the matchups are best or simply coming in to get out of a big jam. His lone save chance came against the heart of the Yankees lineup. Garrett Whitlock also picked up a save and may be the best arm of the bunch, but he can be used to go multiple innings and that is a valuable role. Boston is not likely to give that usage up just to save Whitlock for the ninth. Due to that, Barnes and Robles seem like the best bet to lead this bullpen in saves. I lean Robles as I think he is the better pitcher of the two at this bunch, but both are worth taking a flier on here. 

The Reds bullpen never stops changing. But we did see Lucas Sims return this past weekend and get a save immediately. Sims was the projected favorite to lead this pen in saves in the preseason but an injury sidelined him to start the year. In his absence, we saw Art Warren and Tony Santillan each get a save, but there was no rhyme or reason to how the Reds would deploy them on a given night. Sims remains the best bet to lead this team in saves moving forward and is the reliever to roster in Cincy. 

The Marlins were using Anthony Bender for save chances, but he was unavailable this weekend due to hip soreness. In his absence, the Marlins turned to Tanner Scott, who has been absolutely filthy and easily the best arm in their bullpen. But, before we get too excited about him, preseason favorite to lead this pen in saves, Dylan Floro should be returning this week. This is a bullpen that we will have to monitor closely, especially if all three options are available at the same time. While Floro seems like a good bet to get save chances, I would not drop Bender just yet. Also, Scott is the wild card here and is definitely a pitcher that can provide elite ratios and strikeouts, even if he is not getting the save chances. 

The Mariners may be the toughest bullpen to predict in the early part of the season. So far, three different pitchers have picked up a save for the Mariners, but no one has multiple. We have seen Drew Steckenrider saved for the ninth inning, which leads me to think he is the preferred option. But the Mariners have yet to use him on back-to-back days and when they had a save opportunity the day after he picked up his save, they turned to Diego Castillo. We have also seen Andres Munoz pick up a save, but we have seen him pitch in a set up role as well. He provides the most strikeouts and best ratios of the trio. We are definitely still figuring this bullpen out, but for now, I would rank them Drew Steckenrider, Diego Castillo, Andres Munoz in terms of likeliness to get the next save chance. 

The White Sox have a set closer in Liam Hendriks, but he has struggled a bit as of late and is now dealing with back tightness. I do not want to make a big deal about this just yet, but more so to point out that they have another elite, proven closer in their bullpen in Kendall Graveman. He is worth rostering for ratios and strikeouts alone, but the back tightness for Hendriks only adds to his value. 


Elite Ratio and Strikeout Relievers

Daniel Hudson has yet to allow a run and pitched to a 1.48 xERA, 1.16 xFIP with a 0.53 WHIP and a 38 percent strikeout rate. Not only does he provide elite numbers, but he is next in line for save chances on arguably the best team in baseball. 

Jalen Beeks has yet to allow a run this season while sporting a pretty 2.32 xERA, 1.59 xFIP with a 0.55 WHIP and a 44 percent strikeout rate. Also, he pitches for the Rays, meaning he could get some save chances at any point. The ratios alone are worth rostering, but that only adds to his value. 

Keegan Thompson leads all relievers with 13.2 innings pitched, while pitching to a 0.00 ERA, 1.37 xERA, 2.75 xFIP with a 0.66 WHIP and a 30 percent strikeout rate. Those are elite ratios and strikeouts and he pitches nearly as many innings a week as a starting pitcher. There is certainly value in a reliever of this caliber.

Will Crowe is very similar to Thompson. He has pitched 13.1 innings, while posting a 0.00 ERA, 1.67 xERA, 2.86 xFIP, 0.83 WHIP and a 31 percent strikeout rate. Again, relievers who give you starter innings with great strikeouts and ratios are especially useful in deeper formats. You can start them over fringe starting pitchers. 

Michael King is another reliever who fits this mold. He’s gone 10.2 innings and has pitched to a 0.84 ERA, 2.78 xERA, 0.62 xFIP with a 1.03 WHIP and a whopping 44 percent strikeout rate. He is a great source of strikeouts for those looking to stream. 

Make sure to follow Michael on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio

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