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Bullpen Report: What We Learned Early in the Season

Devin Williams - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Relief Pitchers, Draft Sleepers, MLB Injury News Updates

All throughout fantasy baseball draft season there was a ton of talk about saves and how there are so few known sources of them. Heading into the season it felt like two-thirds of the teams around the league did not have a set closer. At least half of those had more than two options they could turn to on a given night. It made drafting saves a nightmare if you didn't get one of the early relievers. 

Saves are still in demand during the season, but if you stay up to date and read bullpens correctly, you can find saves for cheap on the waiver wire. Typically, I will draft one set closer and then I just take cheap shots on a bullpen arms. If something sticks, great. If not, I continue to use that roster spot(s) on cheap speculative save arms. But that is not the only way you can utilize bullpen arms. There are a ton of great relievers that put up elite strikeouts and ratios, without picking up saves. Those pitchers tend to be overlooked in fantasy. That means you can find some of the best arms in baseball off the waiver wire.

Every week this article will look into three things: changing bullpens around the league, speculative shots you can take for cheap on a potential closer in waiting and relievers who are seeing high usage and giving elite strikeout and ratios. All three of these are useful fantasy pieces in different ways! 

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including Best MLB Series, NFL Series, NBA Writer, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

 

Changing Bullpens 

The Padres were one of those teams that had a number of different options for the ninth inning. But so far there has only been one option for the Padres - Taylor Rogers. The Padres swung a trade to land the former Twins closer right before the season and the lefty has made it pay off for them so far. He looks like the safe closer option here moving forward and him finishing inside the Top 10 closers is very much so in play. 

The Cubs had a couple different options leading into the season, but so far there lone save opportunity has gone to David Robertson. And yes, I do mean that David Robertson. This is the guy who has picked up over 30 saves multiple times in his career with the Yankees and White Sox. Having thrown only 18 innings the past two seasons he was a forgotten man, but he is still averaging over a strikeout per inning. While he has only had the one chance, all signs in the Cubs pen point to him being the full time closer. If that is the case, he has the potential of securing over 30 saves this season. I nabbed him for $69 out of $1000 in a league this weekend and if he is still out there on waivers - nab him up! 

Tuesday Night Update: David Robertson received and converted his second save chance of the season, further cementing himself as the Cubs closer. 

The Rockies were a team that fantasy players thought they had a read on - as Alex Colome was drafted as the first Rockies reliever off the board in many drafts. But that has not been the case as all the save chances have gone to Daniel Bard so far. Bard picked up the first save of the season for the Rockies over the weekend - with Colome and Carlos Estevez, his biggest competition for saves, pitching in setup roles. Bard then received the second save opportunity on Monday but gave up a solo home run to tie the game. Look, that is part of the Daniel Bard experience, especially when pitching in Coors, but he sure seems like the closer here. Whichever pitcher is getting the save chances is the only Rockies reliever worth rostering. 

The Red Sox have a couple of different options they can turn too, but Jake Diekman clearly seems like the guy in this pen. That was evident when the Sox turned to him against the heart of the Yankees lineup on Sunday Night Baseball after dropping the first two games of that series. Even before he got that save, he seemed like the guy. Garrett Whitlock has operated in a multi-inning role, Robles has been used when trailing and in set up roles and Matt Barnes was not used in that series at all due to injury. The best part is Diekman got his save late Sunday night, so waivers may have ran and he may still be sitting out there now. That needs to change the next time waivers run. 

Update: This looked like we had the answer but things got murkier on Wednesday. Diekman came out for the eighth and recorded two strikeouts before allowing two runners to get on. Hansel Robles came in for the four out save. This could be a committee and both of these pitchers should be rostered. Diekman is the preferred option, but we certainly need to monitor this situation for more clarity. 

The Phillies have been no stranger to bullpen struggles. The first save of the year for the Phillies went to Corey Knebel, who manager Joe Girardi named the closer before the season. But then on Monday night, the Phillies turned to Brad Hand to pick up the save. While this originally seemed like an uncertain situation, we learned on Tuesday that Knebel has been placed on the Covid-19 reserve list. That is likely why he was not used on Monday night. For now, I feel confident saying Knebel is the closer moving forward and Hand is the next man in line. Familia was warming up while Hand pitched, likely indicating he is third in line for saves in this pecking order. 

Update: Knebel returned Wednesday and Hand was warming up in the middle innings of a game the Phillies were trailing. Knebel safely looks like the closer with Hand next in line. 

Nationals Update: We seem to have a clear cut closer in Washington as Tanner Rainey picked up his second save in as many chances for the Nationals. Kyle Finnegan, who was the preseason favorite to get saves here, pitched in the sixth as the first reliever out the bullpen. Rainey can be picked up and while I would like to use less, you can go between 10 to 15 percent if you are in need of saves. 

Cheap Speculative Saves

The Orioles have had one save opportunity this season and turned to Jorge Lopez. He is definitely the preferred option as of now, but there is Dillon Tate and Paul Fry who both could be in the mix as well. There is also Cionel Perez, who pitched the eighth inning when Lopez got the save. This is a team though where you only want to roster the arm getting the save chances and for now, that seems to be Lopez. 

The Reds were featured more in this article than any other team last year. And they do not seem to be shying away from that this year. The first save chance of the season went to Tony Santillan, but then on Sunday it was Art Warren making easy work of the save chance. Then there are other arms like Hunter Strickland, Justin Wilson and Luis Cessa who could be in the save picture. This currently looks to be between Santillan and Warren - with Warren being the preferred option. He throws gas and made light work of the Braves in his lone save chance. If he remains out there on your waiver wire you should be a little aggressive (5-8 percent) trying to land him. Santillan is worthy of taking a flier on in Roto formats as well - but he is more just a player to throw three to five percent on to land him. 

Tuesday Night Update: This one keeps getting trickier. Warren was brought into a 4-4 game in the seventh, while Santillan pitched the eighth. Strickland got the ninth and well... things did not go well as he allowed four runs and recorded one out. It's clear Warren and Santillan are the relievers they trust the most, but that may mean using them in high leverage situations and not saving them for the ninth. Both should be rostered, but do not overspend. 

The Rays are basically the AL version of the Reds - you just never know who will get the save chance on a given night. So far we have seen Brooks Raley and Andrew Kittredge pick up saves for the Rays. In both instances, J.P. Feyereisen pitched as the set up man. The Rays tend to save Kittredge for late inning usage, making him the preferred option for saves here. But Raley should also be rostered, as the Rays are tough to predict. Do not spend more than five percent on either of those arms given all the uncertainty. 

The Mariners have had multiple pitchers pick up saves - but I believe they have tipped their hand in doing so. The first save of the season went to Drew Steckenrider getting the first save and Diego Castillo the second. Steckenrider picked up the save on Friday, with Paul Sewald pitching as the setup man. Sewald was who many thought would get the save chances, so him pitching in setup for Steckenrider is telling. Castillo got the save on Saturday, with Steckenrider likely being unavailable. That day, Andres Munoz pitched in setup. My read on this situation is that Steckenrider is option 1A, and Castillo is option 1B, who will be used when Steckenrider in unavailable. Both should be rostered, but do not bid too aggressively on either. 

The Twins have yet to pick up a save this season, but Jhoan Duran did pitch the ninth when the Twins had a 4-0 lead on Monday night. That is the biggest clue we have received so far as to who will pick up their saves with Taylor Rogers now in San Diego. Duran has been filthy in his limited sample size, posting a strong strikeout rate and ratios. He is the top option to roster in this pen and you can grab him while he is still cheap. If he racks up a save or two, the price is going to shoot up. 

The Giants bullpen may be the toughest to predict right now. We saw the first save opportunity of the season went to Camilo Doval, but he was shelled. We saw Jake McGee pitch in a setup role that game and that was what he did on Sunday as well, pitching in the seventh. Doval pitched in the eighth that night and the save chance went to Dominic Leone. I think all three, as well as Tyler Rogers, who received save chances last year, are in in the picture to close. I would rank them Leone, Doval, McGee, Rogers, but this is the situation to have the least confidence in right now in the MLB. Leone you could go as high as five percent if you are desperate for saves, but each of these are more of a minimum bid add. 

Update: Camilo Doval picked up the save on Wednesday allowing one hit and walk while striking out two in a one run game. He leads the team in save chances and is seeming like the safest bet to trust in this pen. He may not get every opportunity, but he should get the majority of them. Doval is the reliever to roster here and if he is available on the waiver wire I would recommend using up to 10 percent, perhaps a bit more if you really need saves. Leone is looking like the second option here. McGee was the favorite to get save chances coming into the season, but he has yet to get one this season. He can be dropped. 

Elite Relievers Who Are Not Closers 

Devin Williams is the face of elite relievers who do not get save chances. Unfortunately, the chances got to Josh Hader, but Williams is just as nasty. He has not allowed a run or baserunner this season and currently has a -0.89 xFIP and a 67 percent strikeout rate. He has a long track record of being an elite option out of the pen. While it likely takes an injury to Hader for him to get saves, Williams will always provide elite strikeouts and ratios. 

Daniel Hudson currently sports a -1.49 xFIP, the lowest of any reliever who has thrown an inning this season. He also has struck out 75 percent of the batters he has faced so far and has not allowed an earned run. He currently sports a -1.49 xFIP and a 1.00 WHIP. Numbers like these do not matter much because we are dealing with a small sample size, but there are multiple seasons that back Hudson up as an elite reliever. Also, he would likely see save chances if Craig Kimbrel misses time at any point. 

Emilio Pagan was always viewed as one of the best relievers in baseball until everything went wrong last year. Perhaps a change of scenery was all he needed as he has looked like his old self in a very small sample size. He has not allowed a run or baserunner this season, has a -0.89 xFIP, a 67 percent strikeout rate. Plus, the Twins are one of those bullpens that we are still figuring out how they will distribute the save chances and Pagan is very much so in play there. He can be added for very cheap. 

Michael Fulmer has seen the save chances go to Gregory Soto early on, but there has been mixed results. He converted his lone save chance, but allowed the go ahead run to score in his other outing. Fulmer has pitched to a 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, with a 0.11 xFIP and a 43 percent strikeout rate. Again, this is such a small sample size it is hard to make anything of these numbers, but he is pitching well like he did last season. He can provide ratios and is next in line for saves. 

All stats and situations entering Tuesday, April 12th, unless stated otherwise. 

Make sure to follow Michael on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio



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Joey and Dave reveal their must-have running backs for 2022 fantasy football drafts - players who are potential league-winners. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM (channel Sirius 210,... Read More


Desmond Ridder fantasy football rankings sleepers NFL draft quarterback

Is Desmond Ridder Going to Start for the Falcons?

The Atlanta Falcons selected former Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder with the 74th pick in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Atlanta chose him over Malik Willis and Matt Corral as the second quarterback off the board behind Kenny Pickett. We can assume the Falcons' front office believes Ridder has real upside, but it’s... Read More


Fantasy Football Busts: Ep. 95 of The Operating Room

Kev Mahserejian (@RotoSurgeon) is joined by high-stakes fantasy player Sammy Reid (@SammyReidFI) to discuss fantasy football busts in 2022. Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM (channel SiriusXM 87) - every weekday morning between 6-7 AM ET, Saturdays from 3-5 PM, and Sundays from 3-5 PM. You can also find new weekly shows on YouTube, Spreaker, Spotify, iTunes, and on the... Read More


Is Jameis Winston Healthy? Is He The Saints Starting QB?

Jameis Winston entered last season as the heir to Hall-of-Fame quarterback Drew Brees. Winston was on track for a nice season, until suffering a torn ACL (knee) in Week 7. The Saints were forced to patchwork together starters, utilizing Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian, and even rookie Ian Book in Week 15. This experiment was very... Read More


Elijah Mitchell - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Running Back Rankings for Fantasy Football PPR Drafts: Isiah Pacheco, Dameon Pierce, Kareem Hunt, J.K. Dobbins, Josh Jacobs

Welcome back RotoBallers to our fantasy football draft rankings series! The NFL season is creeping up on us, and we're back with our updated 2022 fantasy football running back rankings for PPR leagues. Our running back fantasy football rankings are put together by Nick Mariano, Pierre Camus, Scott Engel and Brandon Murchison. Below you will also see... Read More


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Real or Not? Misleading Stats from Centers - 2021-22 NBA Season Review: Robert Williams, Mo Bamba, Bobby Portis

We're still weeks away from the regular-season tip-off, and while there is a ton of hype about the incoming rookies we still need to reflect on the 2021-2022 campaign and what happened just a few weeks and months ago. Things have finally settled when it comes to the NBA offseason timeline so it's time to... Read More


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Fantasy Basketball - Veteran Free Agency Losers (Part 2): Nicolas Batum, Robin Lopez, Otto Porter Jr.

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who find themselves in a bad situation. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. On the other hand, rostering players in perfect situations can be the ultimately league-winning move for savvy fantasy GMs. Today, let's talk about some veterans that entered Unrestricted Free... Read More


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Fantasy Basketball - Veteran Free Agency Losers (Part 1): P.J. Tucker, Danilo Gallinari, Gary Payton II

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who find themselves in a bad situation. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. On the other hand, rostering players in perfect situations can be the ultimately league-winning move for savvy fantasy GMs. Today, let's talk about some veterans that entered Unrestricted Free... Read More


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Fantasy Basketball - Veteran Free Agency Winners (Part 2): James Harden, T.J. Warren, JaVale McGee

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who find themselves in a bad situation. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. On the other hand, rostering players in perfect situations can be the ultimately league-winning move for savvy fantasy GMs. Today, let's talk about some veterans that entered Unrestricted Free... Read More


fantasy basketball offseason trades free agents NBA sleepers

Fantasy Basketball - Veteran Free Agency Winners (Part 1): Patty Mills, John Wall, Ricky Rubio

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who find themselves in a bad situation. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. On the other hand, rostering players in perfect situations can be the ultimately league-winning move for savvy fantasy GMs. Today, let's talk about some veterans that entered Unrestricted Free... Read More


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NBA Summer League Losers - Forwards: Nikola Jovic, Trevelin Queen, Caleb Houstan

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who find themselves in a bad situation. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. On the other hand, rostering players in perfect situations can be the ultimately league-winning move for savvy fantasy GMs. Today, let's talk about some potential busts and sleepers that... Read More


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NBA Summer League Winners - Forwards: Keegan Murray, Quentin Grimes, Moses Moody

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who find themselves in a bad situation. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. On the other hand, rostering players in perfect situations can be the ultimately league-winning move for savvy fantasy GMs. Today, let's talk about some potential busts and sleepers that... Read More


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NBA Summer League Winners - Centers: Chet Holmgren, Day'Ron Sharpe, James Wiseman

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who find themselves in a bad situation. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. On the other hand, rostering players in perfect situations can be the ultimately league-winning move for savvy fantasy GMs. Today, let's talk about some potential busts and sleepers that... Read More


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NBA Summer League Losers - Centers: Charles Bassey, Luka Garza, Santi Aldama

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who find themselves in a bad situation. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. On the other hand, rostering players in perfect situations can be the ultimately league-winning move for savvy fantasy GMs. Today, let's talk about some potential busts and sleepers that... Read More


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NBA Summer League Winners - Guards: Josh Giddey, Cam Thomas, Bennedict Mathurin

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who find themselves in a bad situation. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. On the other hand, rostering players in perfect situations can be the ultimately league-winning move for savvy fantasy GMs. Today, let's talk about some potential busts and sleepers that... Read More


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NBA Summer League Losers - Guards: Johnny Davis, R.J. Hampton, Shaedon Sharpe

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who find themselves in a bad situation. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. On the other hand, rostering players in perfect situations can be the ultimately league-winning move for savvy fantasy GMs. Today, let's talk about some potential busts and sleepers that... Read More


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NBA Summer League Risers and Fallers

With the NBA Summer League over, it's time to take a look at some numbers and see if anything from Summer League will end up mattering for this upcoming NBA season. Warning: don't read too much into Summer League. For every Damian Lillard and Blake Griffin that win Summer League MVP, there's a Josh Selby... Read More