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Florio's Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Report - Making Sense of the Many Bullpen Injuries!

Michael King - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB Injury News

There is a saying in fantasy baseball that you have to pay for saves -- you just get to decide if you pay in draft capital or FAAB. My approach typically is to split the difference, take one premium closer in the draft, take some deeper shots in the draft, and find the rest off the waiver wire. It is something I talk about all the time in this article. Have a spot or two on your roster dedicated to small FAAB bids on potential closers until something sticks. 

However, this season, it seems like the bullpen changes have been put into hyperspeed. Every week, it feels like there is at least a team or two that has made a significant change to their late-inning management. It makes it easier to find saves off the waiver wire. 

The theme this week is injuries. It stinks for those of you who have lost a closer but it means saves can be found on the wire once again. 


Changing Bullpens for Fantasy Baseball

Clay Holmes entered the season as the Yankees' closer but it has been an all-out committee as of late. Holmes does not have a save in the last week, but Wandy Peralta has two, Deivi Garcia has one, and so does Michael King. With Peralta getting the most chances as of late, it may look like he is the top arm to roster.

But I lean King. Peralta is the only lefty in this bullpen, which makes it much less likely that they will save him exclusively for the ninth and instead choose to play matchups. Both have been very solid this season. King has pitched to a 2.38 ERA and 3.26 xERA with a 26 percent strikeout rate and a 1.10 WHIP. Peralta has a 1.76 ERA, 4.57 xERA, 1.37 WHIP, and a 25 percent strikeout rate. It's worth taking a flier on both, and even Holmes as the Yankees use a committee. For fantasy, I rank them King, Peralta, and Holmes.

The Rays have reactivated Pete Fairbanks from the IL. He has three saves this season and was the Rays' lead closer option, although Tampa always tends to use a committee. In Fairbanks' absence, Jason Adam stepped up and picked up five saves. Fairbanks just returned, so we have yet to see how they will manage the bullpen with him back. Adam needs to continue to be rostered and started until we see otherwise. Fairbanks is worth rostering and you should check the waiver wire just in case he was thrown back while he was sidelined. 

The Marlins placed closer A.J. Puk on the IL with left elbow nerve irritation earlier this week. They have had just one save opportunity since and it went to Dylan Floro. He has pitched in a setup role and has closer experience in the past. He was my pick to lead this bullpen in saves this season -- so better late than never. Floro should be picked up and you can use up to 10 percent of your FAAB to get him. 

The Phillies' bullpen has been a mess all season long. It looked like Jose Alvarado was going to be their closer for about a week, but then it looked like he would lead a committee. But with Alvarado now on the IL with a wrist injury, they are back to being an all-out committee.

In the last week, Craig Kimbrel and Gregory Soto have each picked up a save. Kimbrel now has four saves on the season but has a 6.60 ERA, 3.71 xERA, and 1.47 WHIP with a 38 percent strikeout rate. Soto, who has just the lone save, has pitched to a 4.00 ERA, 2.78 xERA, and 1.00 WHIP with a 29 percent strikeout rate. He also has plenty of closing experience. I expect to see a committee between these two until Alvarado returns, with Matt Strahm as another potential option. While I lean toward Kimbrel just because he seems to be the preferred option for Philly, Soto is certainly worth a flier for teams in need of saves. 

The Cubs have not picked up a save in the last week. In the last two weeks, they have had two, with one going to Mark Leiter Jr. and the other to Adbert Alzolay. The Cubs have been featured in this article weekly as their bullpen has been very tough to figure out.

With Michael Fulmer and Brad Boxberger pitching themselves out of the saves picture, that leaves Lieter and Alzolay as the top options. Leiter is the preferred option as he has been the best pitcher in this bullpen all season. He has pitched to a 1.06 ERA, 3.43 xERA, and 0.88 WHIP with a 37 percent strikeout rate. Alzolay is the fallback option but he is best suited in deeper leagues as the Cubs just have not had many save chances. 


Speculative Saves for Fantasy Baseball 

The Orioles have a set closer with Felix Bautista. But there is a clear backup option when Bautista is unavailable. Yennier Cano has picked up three saves this season while pitching to a 0.00 ERA, 1.16 xERA, and 0.20 WHIP with a 36 percent strikeout rate. Those numbers are elite as can be, plus he gets you the occasional save. If you are looking to roster a non-closer reliever, he is the top pick. Plus, if you have Bautista, you know who the direct handcuff is so you can consider rostering him now, especially as we see bullpen injuries pile up. 

The White Sox bullpen has seen three different pitchers pick up a save already this season. Reynaldo Lopez has been the lead candidate when healthy, picking up four saves. However, Kendall Graveman has two, and Kenyan Middleton picked up one. In the last week, Graveman has the lone two saves. He is worth a flier in fantasy right now; however, do not be too aggressive as Liam Hendriks continues to work his way back.

It is possible that by this time next week, he is already back. And while they may give him some time to reacclimate himself, it should not take too long for him to be back closing out games. He is a top stash right now. 

The A’s are just a mess. I wrote last week that Zach Jackson is the pitcher to roster in this bullpen after they cut Jeurys Familia. However, I advocated not to spend much of your FAAB as the A’s just don’t get many opportunities and have seemingly had a short leash this season. Well, Jackson or any A’s pitcher has not picked up a save in over a week. He remains the top option to roster here, but you do not have to like it. If he is out there on the waiver wire, spend between two and five percent of your budget. 

The Rockies have been heavily featured in this article and will continue to be at least for the time being. Pierce Johnson remains the closer for Colorado and has picked up all seven of their saves this season. However, Daniel Bard continues to work back into form and has looked more like his old self. He even picked up a win in his last outing. Bard remains a stash candidate. Johnson is the option to start until we see otherwise. 

The Dodgers have had five pitchers already pick up a save this season. That screams committee but this bullpen has been more straightforward as of late. In the last two weeks, four of the five Dodgers saves have gone to Evan Phillips. He is clearly the top option and has blossomed into a must-start moving forward. The issue here is if he was to miss time, there are multiple backup options and there is little clarity on who they would trust next. But that is a problem to worry about if it arises. For now, just continue to roll out with Phillips. 


Elite Strikeouts and Ratios 

Bryan Abreu is no stranger to this section but it helps to show how good he has been this season. He has a 44 percent strikeout rate, the fourth-highest among relievers. He has pitched to a 1.33 ERA, 2.39 xERA, 0.84 WHIP, and has two saves this season. He would likely get the bulk of save chances should anything happen to Ryan Pressly. Abreu is one of, if not the top, non-closer relievers to roster in fantasy. 

Matt Brash has struck out 40 percent of the batters he has faced, the fifth-best among qualified relievers. His 5.00 ERA and 1.61 WHIP look rough, but the ERA indicators are all significantly lower, showing better days should be on the horizon. Brash also already has a save and could be in the saves mix in Seattle if anything happens to Paul Sewald

Genesis Cabrera has pitched to a 3.45 ERA, 3.07 xERA, and 1.47 WHIP with a 35 percent strikeout rate. The ratios could certainly be better, but if you need strikeouts, he is an option for you. Plus, he would be in the mix for save chances for the Cardinals if anything happened to Ryan Helsley

Brad Hand has struck out 37 percent of the batters he faced this season, which ranks eighth amongst qualified relievers. He has pitched to a 3.31 ERA, 2.89 xERA, and 1.16 WHIP this season. While he does not have a save, he does bring a lot of closer experience, closing games as recently as last year. He is a deeper league add for those in need of ratios and strikeouts. 

John Brebbia has a 6.57 ERA, which is rough, but all the ERA indicators are significantly lower. He also has struck out 36 percent of the batters he has faced. Once his bad luck corrects a bit, he will provide much better ratios, and his strikeout rate is the 14th-best among relievers. 

Make sure to follow Michael on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.

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