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Florio's Bullpen Report: Figuring Out Early-Season Usage

Jason Foley - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

We are back! For those who have read this article in the past, you know the deal. For those new, welcome.

Every week, I write about bullpens that are changing their late-inning usage, and give some relievers you can speculate on that are trending toward save opportunities and elite strikeout and ratio relievers in fantasy baseball. This will allow you to not only stay up to date with current bullpen usage but to get ahead of closer changes before they happen. 

The elite ratio and strikeout arms are options you can roster to get a couple of elite innings each week. These are pitchers that you can use instead of back-end starters with tough matchups. The idea is three to four elite innings from one of these relievers is better than a potential blow-up outing by a shaky starter that could be even fewer innings. It is a way to manage your ratios throughout the season. Now, onto the bullpens!

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball waiver wire pickups and weekly lineup resources:


Changing Bullpens for Fantasy Baseball

The Brewers' late-inning bullpen usage was all the talk during the first weekend of the fantasy baseball season. With Devin Williams on the IL for the foreseeable future, there was a lot of speculation as to who would get the save opportunities in his absence.

Well, it didn’t take long to get the answer as Abner Uribe picked up consecutive saves in the first two games of the season. He was unavailable in the third game, which saw Joel Payamps close it out. The Brewers gave us the pecking order right away as it appears Uribe will be the primary closer, while Payamps will be the secondary option, meaning he could get save chances here and there.

Uribe was a popular waiver wire target this past weekend, but if he is available, he is worth up to 20 percent of your FAAB budget. Payamps should be rostered in deeper roto leagues if you are a save-needy team. He can be had for up to 3 percent of your budget. 

Sorry to those who paid up for Alex Lange in fantasy baseball drafts. So far, the Tigers' save chances have gone to anyone but last year's closer. If you read my bullpen articles coming into the year, I identified Jason Foley as a reliever who should outlive his draft cost.

While we are only a week in, that is looking good so far as he has picked up both of the Tigers' save chances so far. On Monday, he pitched a clean ninth. After the Tigers jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the 10th, it was Shelby Miller closing things out and giving Foley the win. He is a must-roster reliever, and if he wasn’t already picked up in your league, you can spend up to 20 percent -- perhaps more if you are desperate for saves. 

The Diamondbacks do not have an official save yet this season, but we did see Kevin Ginkel close out the game with a four-run lead. With Paul Sewald landing on the IR, Ginkel is the presumed closer for the D-backs. The expectation is that Sewald will regain that job when he returns, but oblique strains can be tricky. Ginkel is worth up to 10 percent of your FAAB budget if you need saves.

The Mariners may have an official closer in Andres Munoz, but it does not mean they are always going to save him for the ninth. On Monday, we saw Munoz enter the eighth inning against the heart of the Guardians lineup. He did allow a run but ultimately held onto the lead. It was Ryne Stanek who pitched the ninth and recorded his first save. While Munoz is the top option to roster here, we will see him used in non-save chances at times. It dings his fantasy value for sure. Stanek is a deep league option who could get a handful of save chances. 

The Pirates bullpen has been the most frustrating for fantasy purposes so far. David Bednar cost a bunch in drafts, but after dealing with a lat injury this spring, he has only pitched two innings and has not been given a save chance yet. The Pirates already have four relievers who have picked up a save -- Aroldis Chapman, Hunter Stratton, Josh Fleming, and Jose Hernandez. We know Bednar will get all the chances once he is fully ready, but until then you can take a flier on Chapman due to his history as a closer. The others after him are more of a guessing game and I am not interested in that this early on in the season. 


Speculative Saves for Fantasy Baseball 

The Phillies will go with Jose Alvarado as their closer for the time being. So far in three outings, we have had the full Alvarado experience. He has picked up a save and is missing plenty of bats, but had a blow-up outing and currently sports a 16.87 ERA.

Yes, the ratios hurt, but that is life with Alvarado. He will look dominant at times and get completely shelled at others. But, as long as he is getting the save chances on one of the better teams in baseball, you have to live with it. This also could become a committee and we have seen Philly shy away from Alvarado when he struggled in the past.

If you have a roster spot and want to speculate on saves -- this is a good bullpen to do so. Fallback options here if Alvarado struggles are Seranthony Dominguez, Jeff Hoffman, and Yunior Marte

The Nationals have had one save chance this season and it went to veteran Kyle Finnegan, with Hunter Harvey pitching the eighth and picking up the win. That is the formula we saw for much of last year with Washington and it seems they are opting to keep it the same. Perhaps they are trying to build up trade value on Finnegan, or maybe they just trust him more. Either way, he is worth rostering in all leagues right now. Harvey is a great speculative add who could be used in the ninth when Finnegan is unavailable or if he struggles. 

The Cardinals' lone save this season went to Giovanny Gallegos. But this is an important example of why you can’t just box score scout. He picked up the save in the 10th after Ryan Helsley blew it in the ninth, allowing the tying run to score and ultimately picking up the win. That is an important caveat because the actual real ninth-inning save chance went to Helsley. He is the presumed closer and one that should be rostered everywhere. But, I wanted to point this out because Gallegos has a ton of closing experience and is clearly next in line should anything happen to Helsley. 

The Marlins' late-inning usage has been very frustrating and they don’t even have a recorded save yet this season. Tanner Scott came in Monday in the eighth inning of a tied game and got hit around a bit, allowing the go-ahead run to score and ultimately picking up his second loss of the season. While the ratios could certainly be better this early and the walks are an issue, Scott still has swing-and-miss stuff and still appears to be the option they trust most late in games. Nevertheless, this is a bullpen we have to monitor very closely early on. If you play in deep leagues and want to speculate, then Anthony Bender would be next in line. Although Sixto Sanchez has pitched well and could quickly become a multi-inning, elite ratio type of reliever. 

The Orioles have a set closer in Craig Kimbrel. But he did blow the save on Monday, ultimately picking up the win. Kimbrel is still a must-start reliever every week, but if he struggles, the Orioles have another excellent option in Yennier Cano. He can provide elite strikeouts and ratios and is one injury away from closing on one of the best teams in baseball. He is a tremendous speculative add. 


Elite Strikeouts and Ratios

The Blue Jays bullpen currently has a number of different streaming options -- all of which could be in play for saves as well. Chad Green, the longtime Yankee, has a history of averaging over a strikeout per inning and providing strong ERA and WHIP, even if he did not do so last year. Yimi Garcia is another strong source for strikeouts and WHIP, even if his ERA has fluctuated in the past. Genesis Cabrera was frequently included in this article last year but did not pan out. I rank him third of this bunch, behind Green and Garcia (in that order). If you are in a deep league, he is worth a speculative flier if you need saves. 

Kyle Muller is a name to keep an eye on. I know you’re reading this like “who?!?” as not many people watch the middle innings of Oakland A’s games. But, Muller has thrown eight innings already in his two appearances and has struck out a batter per inning while pitching to a 1.13 ERA and 0.50 WHIP. Obviously, this is still a very small sample size, but a reliever like this could be far better than trusting a back-end starter who may only give you four or five innings and is a risk of blowing up your ratios. 

Ryan Pressly is awesome. If you have played fantasy baseball in the past, then you already know this. He routinely strikes out over 30 percent of the batters he faces while posting very strong ERA and WHIP. In the past, he also provided saves, but with Josh Hader now in Houston, he has been pushed to the setup role. Still, he is an elite arm that can provide great strikeouts and ratios and is next in line to close on one of the best teams in baseball. He is perhaps the best reliever stash in all of fantasy right now. 

David Robertson is another strong stash. Not only does he have a long history as a closer, but we know he can miss bats and provide strong ratios. While Jose Leclerc is the closer for the Rangers, we have already seen him get shelled once this season. And if last year in any indication, the Rangers will not shy away from mixing things up late in the bullpen. Robertson is likely next in line should anything happen. Kirby Yates, who has been pitching the eighth, could be in the mix as well. Although my best guess is he remains in that role and Robertson would get the first crack if they made a change.

Make sure to follow Michael on X, @MichaelFFlorio. 

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