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Florio's Bullpen Report - Figuring Out Early Season Closer Confusion (Week 4)

Daniel Bard - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, MLB DFS Picks, Betting Picks

The only thing consistent with early bullpen usage is change. There are still many teams that are figuring out which relievers they can trust in late-inning situations. While it is still essential to keep a close eye on those situations, it is also important not to overreact to one save opportunity. 

My favorite way to navigate early-season bullpens like this is to have a roster spot or two that I am okay churning and burning relievers with. I will not spend a ton on any one reliever, usually anywhere from one to five percent, and hope something sticks. This has worked out for me the past few years, as it helps you find a couple of closing options for cheap. 

Also, Ariel Cohen joined Scott Engel and me on Sirius XM this past Sunday (listen every week from 3-5 pm ET). He talked about how one of the best ways to manage early-season ratios is to use those elite relievers who are not full-time closers. These pitchers provide ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts similar to a back-end pitcher who will give you five innings in a week. Of course, I would agree, as I have been writing about these pitchers for years!

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Changing Bullpens for Fantasy Baseball

The biggest bullpen change this week is with the Rockies. Closer Daniel Bard had been away from the team as he dealt with anxiety, but he is back with the club and should quickly regain his spot in the ninth inning. Pierce Johnson has been serviceable outside of one bad outing, but he will surely return to a setup role once Bard is back. The good news is we know who is next in line should Bard miss more time. Check your waiver wire just in case for Bard, but this bullpen should be pretty linear in terms of save chances moving forward. 

The Mariners have settled on a closer in Paul Sewald. That was what I speculated last week in this article after Andres Munoz landed on the IL. Sewald has four saves on the season with a 3.00 ERA, 1.59 xERA, 0.89 WHIP, and a 31 percent strikeout rate. He should be rostered in all formats and you can spend over 10 percent of your FAAB to secure him. 

Coming into the season, it seemed that the Marlins would have a committee between A.J. Puk and Dylan Floro. That has not materialized. Instead, it has been Puk manning the ninth inning, while Floro has pitched in a setup role. Floro doesn’t have a save this season. Puk is the closer to trust here moving forward. If he is out there on the waiver wire, you can use between 10 and 15 percent of your FAAB to grab him. 

The Diamondbacks bullpen is a committee, but it's one of the better ones in the league. Why is that? Because there is a clear-cut top option in Andrew Chafin. He has already picked up three of the five saves for the Diamondbacks while not allowing a run through seven innings. He has struck out 44 percent of the batters he faced while pitching to a 0.57 WHIP. He is the clear arm to roster in this bullpen and I would have no problem going over 10 percent of my FAAB if he was still out there. 

The Mets bullpen went from one of the easiest to figure out with a healthy Edwin Diaz to a full-out committee without him. The good thing is the save chances will all go to either David Robertson or Adam Ottavino. They’ve had six chances so far and four have gone to Robertson, with two going to Ottavino. Robertson is the top option, as when they do not use him in the ninth, it is often because he faces the heart of the order in the eighth. Robertson should be rostered in all leagues, while Ottavino is a strong secondary option for those in roto leagues. 

The Dodgers do not have a set closer, which is rare after they have spoiled us for years. Evan Phillips has picked up two saves and has been their best reliever. He has a 32 percent strikeout rate and a 1.17 WHIP. Phillips is the top option in the bullpen and the only one I would roster in 12-team leagues or shallower as of now. In deeper leagues, you can take a flier on Brusdar Graterol or Andre Jackson -- in that order. 


Speculative Saves for Fantasy Baseball 

The Cubs have a closer committee between Brad Boxberger and Michael Fulmer. Each has picked up a save so far this season, while Fulmer has blown two. Boxberger has been the more effective pitcher. Despite that, Fulmer has received more opportunities and has a 38 percent strikeout rate. Due to that, Fulmer is the option I would prefer to roster at the moment. But both Fulmer and Boxberger should be rostered in roto formats. You can avoid this bullpen in head-to-head leagues where you only need to roster a couple of relievers.

The Royals don’t get many save chances, which makes this bullpen tough to figure out. Each of Aroldis Chapman and Scott Barlow has picked up a save for Kansas City so far. But Chapman has pitched to a 0.00 ERA, 1.65 xERA, and 0.67 WHIP with a 55 percent strikeout rate. Barlow has pitched to a 6.35 ERA, 4.43 xERA, 1.59 WHIP, and a 24 percent strikeout rate.

Clearly, Chapman has been the more effective arm of the two early on. The Royals also have an incentive to build up Chapman’s trade value, especially if he continues to look like his old self. Chapman remains the reliever I most want to roster here and I would recommend adding him now before he gets more save chances. 

The Angels have already had three different pitchers pick up a save this season. Jose Quijada and Carlos Estevez lead the way with two each. Estevez has pitched to a 2.57 ERA, 3.39 xERA, 1.71 WHIP, and a 27 percent strikeout rate. Quijada has a 0.00 ERA, 2.58 xERA, 0.50 WHIP, and a 19 percent strikeout rate. Estevez is the pitcher that the Angels seem to trust most, using him in high-leverage situations, but that leads to save chances going to Quijada. Right now, both are rosterable in roto formats. Both also fit my strategy of grabbing for cheap off the waiver wire and hoping for one to stick. 

The A’s have picked up just one save this season. It went to Dany Jimenez, who blew a save this past Sunday. On the year, he has a 5.40 ERA, 6.59 xERA, 1.50 WHIP, and a 13 percent strikeout rate. It's been a rough start to the season for Jimenez, who looked like he could be a bright spot on a team with an independent league roster. The hope is he can turn it around. At the very least, he is getting save opportunities. Jimenez is the only reliever I can recommend here in good faith. 

The Rangers have two options here with William Smith and Jose Leclerc picking up a save. Smith has pitched to a 1.35 ERA, 1.35 xERA, and 0.75 WHIP with a 38 percent strikeout rate. Meanwhile, Leclerc has a 0.00 ERA, 1.93 xERA, 0.83 WHIP, and an 18 percent strikeout rate. I trust Smith more because he is simply missing more bats. However, both are pitching very well as of now and providing ratios while also getting the occasional save chance. Both can be rostered in roto formats. 


Elite Strikeouts and Ratios 

Giovanny Gallegos has been outstanding so far this season. He has yet to allow a run while pitching to a 1.46 xERA and 0.20 WHIP with a 50 percent strikeout rate. He has also already picked up a save. While he is not the closer for the Cards, he will get the occasional save. Plus, he is next in line if Ryan Helsley was to miss time. Add in the amazing strikeouts and ratios he has been providing, and Gallegos would be the top non-closer reliever to roster right now. 

Jose Alvarado leads all relievers with a 70 percent strikeout rate so far this season. He has pitched to a 1.42 ERA and 1.55 xERA with a 0.63 WHIP. Simply put, he has been outstanding through his first six appearances. Plus, with Philly having a shaky bullpen, it is possible he could see himself getting some save chances at some point. If you are looking for a reliever to balance out your ratios, Alvarado is a great option. 

Mark Leiter Jr. has not allowed a run in his first seven outings. He has pitched to a 0.00 ERA, 2.92 xERA, and 0.95 WHIP to go with a 46 percent strikeout rate. The fact that the Cubs currently do not have a set closer only increases his chances of potentially seeing the occasional save opportunity. Leiter is an alternative to a shaky start for managers looking to stabilize their early season ratios. 

Ron Marinaccio has pitched to a 1.50 ERA, 1.93 xERA, and 0.83 WHIP with a 48 percent strikeout rate in six innings so far this season. He is also on the short list of potential closer replacements should Clay Holmes miss time. Marinaccio can help the ratios of those in deeper leagues. 

Make sure to follow Michael on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.

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