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Florio's Bullpen Report: Changes in Kansas City, Colorado, and Philly?

James McArthur- Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

It’s awesome having fantasy baseball back in our lives. Checking lineups, box scores, and more importantly -- fantasy live scoring. But with the excitement of fantasy baseball being back, there tends to be some overreactions this time of year. 

It is important to remember that we are just two weeks into this marathon of a season. If a player has a bad week or two stretch to open the season, it gets put under a microscope, but if it happens in June, it may just be a blip on the radar. The same can be said about early-season bullpen usage. 

Teams often opt to not push their closers too much this early on, so you could see them getting some rest days and other relievers picking up a save. Do not panic. You also will see teams mixing and matching as they try to figure out who they can trust in late-inning situations. Staying up to date is huge, but so is not overreacting and blowing a bunch of FAAB after one save. This article should help you make sense of what is real and what we are still figuring out. 

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


Changing Bullpens for Fantasy Baseball

The Royals' late-inning bullpen usage has certainly changed a lot in just a week. James McArthur picked up his first save of the season last Friday. He entered the game in the ninth with one out after Will Smith started the inning and worked his way into trouble. McArthur came in, picked up a double play, and recorded the save.

Afterward, fantasy players were looking to spend big FAAB on him but I was not sold. It seemed more matchup dependent with Smith struggling. I changed my tune, though, after McArthur picked up his second save of the season on Sunday, with Smith pitching in the eighth.

I am still not fully sold as McArthur sports a 7.71 ERA, 7.24 xERA, and 1.93 WHIP through five outings. But if he is getting the save chances, he needs to be rostered. I would spend between 5 and 10 percent of your FAAB, depending on how badly you need saves. If you can hole onto Smith still, I would, as he could work his way back into save situations. John Schreiber and Chris Stratton are deep-league fliers in a bullpen that could see a lot of changes this season. 

The Twins only have one save on the season so far and it has gone to Griffin Jax. He has yet to allow a run in four innings, pitching to a 1.69 xERA with a 1.00 WHIP and a 27 percent strikeout rate. Jax was projected to be the setup man coming into the year, but with Jhoan Duran sidelined with an oblique injury -- and still no timetable for his return -- Jax has quickly become a strong fantasy asset that should be rostered in all formats until Duran returns. If anything was to happen to Jax before Duran returned, Brock Stewart would be next in line. But he is purely a flier in very deep formats. 

The Phillies appeared in this article weekly last season and they have seemingly carried that trend into 2024. Last week, I wrote that Jose Alvarado was the lead closer but that he was still shaky at times. So far, he has picked up two saves, but we saw Ricardo Pinto pick one up and on Monday, Gregory Soto notched the save. To make matters worse, Alvarado pitched the eighth inning in that game. While I still believe Alvarado and his swing-and-miss arsenal make him the top option here, a committee seems very likely. Alvarado and Soto can both be rostered and started if you need saves until one pulls away -- if that even happens. 

The Rockies finally recorded a save on Monday! It went to Jake Bird, who you would have no interest in rostering if he didn’t pick up a save. So far in seven innings this season, he has pitched to a 5.14 ERA, 4.84 xERA, and 1.57 WHIP with just a 10 percent strikeout rate. This is one of those do not overreact situations. Justin Lawrence, who I had picked to be the closer coming into the season, pitched the eighth against the heart of the D-backs lineup. I would continue to roster Lawrence if you have him but understand that this could be a murky situation on a team that will not win a lot of games. If you are desperate for saves, you can take a flier on Bird, but do not spend more than a couple of bucks FAAB to get him. 

The Pirates have been one of the most interesting bullpens through the first couple of weeks of the season. Already, five different pitchers have notched a save for them. That was with closer David Bednar dealing with a lat injury. The good news is that Bednar is back as the Pirates' ninth-inning arm. He picked up his first save of the season last Thursday, and while he blew a save on Saturday, the opportunity is all we want to see. We know the production is coming from a healthy Bednar, who remains a must-start fantasy option. However, if he deals with injury again, we have already seen a peak in how the Pirates would handle the pen. Aroldis Chapman is the handcuff, but we would likely be looking at a committee. 

The Padres are not so much a change, but a reaffirming of what we speculated coming into the season. There were questions about the Padres bullpen coming into the season, but Robert Suarez was a pitcher I recommended taking a shot on in the preseason. Boy, am I happy I took my own advice. Suarez already has picked up a league-high four saves. He has pitched to a 1.50 ERA (4.97 xERA) with a 1.00 WHIP and a 35 percent strikeout rate. He can alternate the look of teams that waited on closers if this keeps up. Suarez is a must-start fantasy baseball closer. Wandy Peralta is next in line should anything happen. 


Speculative Saves for Fantasy Baseball 

Last week, I recommended Chad Green as a flier worth taking in the Blue Jays bullpen. That worked out so far as he has picked up the lone save for the Bluebirds this season. Green is worth picking up and starting as long as he is in play for saves with Toronto, but do not spend more than a couple of bucks. Jays closer Jordan Romano, who is working his way back from an elbow injury, threw live batting practice on Sunday. He is expected to begin a rehab assignment with Buffalo this week. Reliever rehab assignments sometimes could just be a couple of outings, so we may see Romano return in the next week or so. Green is a band-aid that can pick you up a couple of saves in his absence. 

The White Sox have just one save on the season and it went to Michael Kopech. The flame-thrower has pitched to a 3.38 ERA, 4.59 xERA, and 1.69 WHIP with a 32 percent strikeout rate in just over five innings this season. Kopech has also picked up a loss on the season. There will be ups and downs with the former starter, but he currently looks like the favorite to get save chances and can rack up strikeouts in bunches. He should be rostered in all formats right now. If he struggles, Steven Wilson and Tanner Banks are sleeper options. Banks is a pitcher who can provide elite ratios and can match Kopech when it comes to strikeouts. He is worthy of rostering in roto leagues if you need a reliever to stabilize things in place of a shaky starter. 

The A’s do not have much going for them right now. But one thing they do have is the exciting Mason Miller. The A’s have yet to pick up a save, but Miller has looked electric in his three outings. He has pitched to a 3.60 ERA, 1.89 xERA, 1.80 WHIP, and a whopping 33 percent strikeout rate. The save chances should go to him or Dany Jimenez, who has pitched well statistically speaking, but is not missing many bats early on. Both should be rostered in fantasy. Even if Jimenez gets more, or most, of the save chances, the ratios and strikeouts that Miller can provide should be elite. 


Elite Strikeouts and Ratios

Fernando Cruz has struck out nearly half the batters he has faced this season. He has a 48 percent strikeout rate to go along with a 3.38 ERA, 1.80 xERA, and a 0.75 WHIP. It is still a small sample size, but if those are not elite ratios and strikeouts, then I am not sure what is. Batters are hitting just .056 against him in his first five outings. He also could be in line for saves should anything happen to Alexis Diaz. He is a top non-closer reliever right now. 

Hunter Harvey is a pitcher I always like to roster if I can. Now, he has pitched to a 3.86 ERA and 0.86 WHIP with a 44 percent strikeout rate -- pretty elite in two of the three categories and the ERA indicators are all significantly lower than the ERA. He has a 2.11 xERA, 0.45 FIP, 0.76 xFIP, and a 1.09 SIERA. Not only does he provide elite strikeouts and ratios, but he is next in line for save chances in Washington. He is a great reliever to roster in roto formats. 

Cade Smith has pitched to a 0.00 ERA, 1.99 xERA, and 0.60 WHIP with a .048 average against and a 44 percent strikeout rate. He has always been a huge swing-and-miss pitcher in the minors and it has quickly translated to his major league career. Smith, who is likely being overlooked as a small sample size by many, can be had for nothing and provides elite strikeouts and ratios. Plus, I wouldn’t rule out him seeing high-leverage usage should anything happen to Emmanuel Clase.

Make sure to follow Michael on X, @MichaelFFlorio. 

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