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Florio's Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Report - Rays, Cardinals, White Sox Bullpens Changing?

liam hendriks fantasy baseball closers saves relief pitchers draft sleepers

We are now officially past Memorial Day, meaning we are two months into the fantasy baseball season. It may be going by fast, but you still have about two-thirds of the season to right the ship. Now is a crucial time to take a hard look at your team (and the standings) and see what areas you need to improve upon. 

If one of the categories you need help in is saves, then rejoice, because there is still plenty of time to change that. Not only have we seen several bullpens make changes, but there are always some on the verge of doing so. Plus, we have yet to hit the trade deadline, which is the time of year that greatly mixes up the saves landscape. 

If you are struggling in ERA, WHIP, or strikeouts, a change in approach may do well. Instead of streaming questionable starters, you can replace your SP5 or SP6 with an elite reliever who does not get saves. Better yet if they are next in line for saves on their team or a trade candidate. These relievers provide elite ratios and strikeouts and are just a role change away from providing saves. What I am trying to say -- there is still time to salvage your season and this article will help! 

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


Changing Bullpens for Fantasy Baseball

The Rays have placed Pete Fairbanks on the injured list with left hip inflammation. That takes what has been a committee in Tampa between him and Jason Adam and may make it more manageable. While Fairbanks was sidelined earlier this season, nearly all of the save chances went Adam’s way. He is the top arm to roster in this bullpen and should be universally started moving forward. If you are in deeper leagues looking for saves here, Colin Poche and Kevin Kelly are options to take a flier on. 

The moment of the week, if not the year, in the MLB happened this week when White Sox closer Liam Hendriks returned after a bout with cancer. While he did allow two runs and three hits, just his returning to the mound was enough to steal the show. The expectation is that the White Sox will give Hendriks time to reacclimate but ultimately regain the closer role.

He should be stashed in all leagues. While he works back to form, expect Kendall Graveman to get the bulk of save chances. He should continue to be rostered and started. Reynaldo Lopez and Joe Kelly are deep-league fallback options here. 

The Diamondbacks have a committee with Andrew Chafin picking up eight saves this season and Miguel Castro having five. Castro has the only save of the two in the last week and in the last two weeks, he has three to Chafin’s two. They each have four in the last month.

Neither has allowed a run in that span, and both continue to provide strong ratios while each striking out over 30 percent of the batters they have faced. This is a full-out committee between the two and both should be rostered and started for the time being. Chafin is largely rostered, but Castro could still be lingering on some waiver wires. 

The Yankees have four relievers who have picked up a save in the last two weeks. The issue? None have multiple in that span. This is an all-out committee, which is pretty terrible for fantasy purposes. And of the four, none are named Michael King, who is the pitcher that many would claim is the best in the Yankees bullpen.

Include me amongst that bunch. But until we see this situation work itself out, you can take a flier on several arms in this bullpen. King and Clay Holmes are the top two here, followed by Wandy Peralta, Ron Marinaccio, and Ryan Weber, in that order. They are in play in deeper leagues. 


Speculative Saves for Fantasy Baseball 

Ryan Helsley was untouchable last season for the Cardinals. This season, he has a 3.52 ERA and 1.26 WHIP with four blown saves. On the year, both he and Giovanny Gallegos have six saves each. Gallegos has three saves to Helsley’s two in the last two weeks.

Gallegos is a pitcher that has long been recommended in this article and now he is not only a pitcher you should roster, but start. Both he and Helsley can be started moving forward, at least until one overtakes the closer role. Genesis Cabrera and Jordan Hicks remain fallback options if the other two struggle in the late innings.

The Nationals have given the large bulk of their save opportunities to Kyle Finnegan. He has rewarded fantasy managers who took a shot on him with 11 saves already this season. However, in the last two weeks, he has had three saves while both Hunter Harvey and Chad Kuhl have a save each.

We have also seen Carl Edwards Jr. used in key late-inning situations. There is no reason to panic about Finnegan yet, but this is a good insight to have if he was to miss time or get traded near the deadline. Harvey is the next best option and one you can roster in deeper leagues. Kuhl and Edwards could see a boost if and when trades impact this bullpen. 

The Rockies continue to give all of their save chances to Pierce Johnson. On the year, he has picked up 11 saves but has a 6.23 ERA, 4.25 xERA, and a 1.80 WHIP. So, he has been crushing ratios to get those saves. Either way, he is worth using in fantasy as long as he is getting the chance. But those ugly ratios may catch up to him sooner than later. Daniel Bard remains an option here and can be viewed as either a stash candidate or a direct handcuff to Johnson. 

The A’s have four saves all season and their team leader Jeurys Familia was DFA weeks ago. This independent league team that moonlights as a big league club is just not a source of saves this season. There is likely more harm than good you can do for your fantasy team by chasing saves here. Have I made it very clear that this is an absolute dumpster fire? Good.

But I wouldn’t be doing my job if I just ignored this bullpen. But given the fact that Zach Jackson went on the IL nearly two weeks ago and we still have no clarity on who will get the next save -- you get the point. If you take a shot on anyone, I would recommend Richard Lovelady. Trevor May remains an option because, well, they paid him. But this is purely a situation for those desperate for saves in deeper leagues. 

The Cubs have been a pretty rough bullpen for fantasy purposes in their own right. The only Cubs reliever I have talked up this year is Mark Lieter Jr. He currently leads this bullpen with two saves while pitching to a 1.69 ERA, 2.90 xERA, and 0.84 WHIP with a 38 percent strikeout rate. He should be rostered for ratios alone, the save chances are just an added cherry on top. Besides him, leave this bullpen alone for fantasy purposes. 


Elite Strikeouts and Ratios 

Yennier Cano has pitched to a 0.98 ERA, 2.00 xERA, and 0.54 WHIP with a 31 percent strikeout rate. Those are elite numbers from a reliever, meaning he could be rostered for ratios and strikeouts alone. Add in that he receives the occasional save chance -- picking up four already and being next in line behind Felix Bautista in the Orioles bullpen -- and it makes him as close to a must-roster as a non-closer reliever can be for fantasy purposes. 

Aroldis Chapman has struck out 38 percent of the batters he has faced this season, the ninth-highest among relievers with at least 10 innings pitched. He also has a 2.75 ERA and 2.62 xERA with a 1.37 WHIP. He has looked like his old self at times and remains a prominent trade candidate. He provides strong ratios and could see a bump in value when he is traded. I write about him all the time -- pick him up already! 

Jorge Lopez has posted a 3.52 ERA, 3.94 xERA, and 1.13 WHIP with a 19 percent strikeout rate in his first 25 appearances this season. It is a falloff from the once-elite numbers he has previously posted. However, they are solid, especially considering he gets the occasional save chance for the Twins. On the year, he has picked up three saves and is the next man up should anything happen to Jhoan Duran. That makes him worth rostering in fantasy baseball. 

Matt Brash has struck out 41 percent of the batters he has faced, the fifth-highest among relievers. That is more than Josh Hader, Devin Williams, and David Bednar, to name a few. He has pitched to a 4.57 ERA and 3.27 xERA with a 1.62 WHIP. The ratios aren’t elite, but there’s reason to believe they could improve. Plus, the strikeouts are elite and he pitches in a bullpen where there is not a locked-in closer. He is in play for those in deeper leagues.

Make sure to follow Michael on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio. 

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