My first thought was to title this piece “Joe Jimenez and the Long Shots,” which is very accurate in terms of what the Detroit Tigers bullpen can provide your fantasy team in 2020. Even Jimenez might be a long shot, if we are being honest.
Either way, let’s jump in to the club’s 2020 relief outlook.
The Tigers’ most valuable fantasy relievers are probably not on the team yet; they will likely come via free agency or trades too small to notice. There are also a lot of variables that could push starting pitchers into the bullpen in 2020.
Because of that, I will jump into a few different scenarios, using only players currently in the organization. A free-agent signing or the right pick in the Rule 5 draft could change these rankings instantly. That is the unfortunate truth with the current state of this bullpen.
|Joe Jimenez||Buck Farmer||Jose Cisnero||David McKay||Bryan Garcia||John Schreiber|
Closer – Joe Jimenez
Jimenez is the only name that should ring any fantasy-relevant bells. His 2019 season saw 59.2 innings of work in which he posted a 12.37 K/9 and 0.3 WAR. He was snake-bitten by the long ball with a 1.96 HR/9 mark. At the end of the year, he had a 4.37 ERA and a 4.19 xFIP. He is the best the Tigers have and will be the likely candidate for both of the save opportunities for the club this year.
Detroit will not be good in 2020. If you were to look to the Tigers for a fantasy bullpen arm, the buck stops with Jimenez. But take a trip to his Baseball Savant page, and there’s quite a bit of red there. He is a low-end saves guy and a reliable one when he is on.
Setup – Buck Farmer
Talk about guys who seem like they have been around forever. Buck Farmer really proved valuable to the Tigers in 2019, appearing in 73 games with a 9.71 K/9 and 3.19 BB/9. He was worth 0.9 fWAR, which seems like an accomplishment from a 2019 Tiger. The numbers are all around pretty solid, as he was worth 3.88 FIP.
Amazingly, Farmer still has two arbitration years left. So he figures to continue to eat innings for the Tigers for a couple of seasons. There will be a lot of turnover on the team in the coming years, but if Farmer continues to pitch like he did in 2019, he will continue to get innings.
Setup – Jose Cisnero
On any other team, Jose Cisnero might not even be in the conversation. On the Tigers, his 10.19 K/9 is enough to make him a piece of the puzzle. He’s not a guy I would recommend to own any shares of in fantasy, though. The 30 year-old walked nearly five batters per nine with a FIP of 4.66.
Outside strikeouts, there isn’t a ton of value from Cisnero. If you count his Triple-A time, he blew five saves and recorded four holds.
Middle – David McKay
I’ve been making a lot of jokes about the talent on the Tigers, and they are warranted, but there is one guy who intrigues me: David McKay. On the surface, his 4.16 FIP and 5.47 ERA might not scream “watch out for this guy,” and that makes sense. Still, he did have one dominant stretch at the end of the year, as pointed out in the tweet below:
Pitcher A is Ken Giles.
Pitcher C is Roberto Osuna.
Any guesses on Pitcher B? https://t.co/ZaUaSUprJ3
— Jay Markle (@jaymarkle_mcb) September 30, 2019
Two things about this: Pitcher B is McKay, and the K/9 is actually 12.98. I know that because I was in an elaborate guessing game with Jay trying to figure it out. Those are very interesting numbers, especially for a guy the Tigers got off waivers in early August. For fantasy purposes, his strikeout rate might be helpful, but outside that, there’s nothing. Just a name I like and someone who could turn into a late-inning guy on a bad team.
Middle – Bryan Garcia
Missing 2018 due to Tommy John surgery did not deter the bullpen upside of Bryan Garcia. He’s got a good fastball and an above-average slider. He should be able to use those to pile up some strikeouts. In 6.2 innings in 2019, he posted a 9.45 K/9. Not to be outdone, of course, by his small-sample-size 12.15 ERA.
Garcia could easily find a path into this bullpen with some solid play. He’s had questions about his control, but that looked better in Toledo last season with a 3.78 BB/9. In his second year away from surgery, he should take another step forward. He still likely won’t factor into a fantasy lineup.
Middle – John Schreiber
Another guy who interests me is a fan favorite: John Schreiber. He appeared in 13 games with an ERA north of six, an xFIP of 3.13 and a K/9 over 13.15. There is also good control numbers with a BB/9 of 2.77.
Schreiber has a different delivery, classified as side-arm or low three-quarter arm slot, and that can be a good thing. His stuff is good, and he might turn into something as well. Once again, he is just another guy to keep an eye on—which is essentially all Detroit has on its roster at this point. Schreiber is an awesome dude.
There are prospects who could easily take a spot in the rotation and move others out. But that depends on what the rebuilding front office decides to do with its youth.
Because of the uncertainty, if there is any news of Spencer Turnbull heading to the bullpen, I’m picking all of the shares of that. Turnbull has shown his strikeout potential on so many different occasions, and as a starter he sat with a K/9 of 8.86. If he were to move to the bullpen where everything ticks up just a bit, oh boy, there is some potential there. Closer potential.
The other starter worth mentioning is Daniel Norris. Now, Norris is more likely to be moved out of the rotation first, especially considering his role as an opener at times during 2019. Not only that, but there was also a relatively high degree of success there. If not for surgery that slowed him down, Norris would be a hard-throwing southpaw near the top of the rotation.
Heading into 2020, he is a guy who could have his velocity back, but either way could be a sleeper option to productivity if moved to the bullpen. At least in deep leagues.
The only Tiger reliever with any kind of future, at least right now, is Jimenez. There is also no telling who comes into the organization. The Tigers have a bullpen to build. Take this as your warning against their relievers.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm)