With the MLB in full-swing, most bullpen hierarchies are becoming a lot more clear. While some managers may keep fantasy owners guessing, it is important to at least have an idea of who has a chance at a save, and who is most likely not even going to appear in a game today. Don’t sleep on saves! In a shortened season, they all count that much more.
Before the chart, let’s examine some notes from yesterday’s games.
- The Royals have had two wins that came with a save, and neither have gone to the same guy. This time, it was sneaky pre-season deep sleeper Trevor Rosenthal who came on for the save, but Greg Holland had already pitched the sixth and earned the win while Ian Kennedy picked up a hold by pitching 1.1 innings in the seventh and eighth. All three threw fewer than twenty pitches, but with Kennedy now having pitched back-to-back nights, I’d assume it’s Holland and Rosenthal who get the holds or saves in the series opener against the White Sox. It’s a messy back end of the bullpen for a team that may not have a whole lot of saves or holds to share.
- The Tigers gave Joe Jimenez and Buck Farmer the day off in their losing effort, so they’d be the two I’d count on for a save or hold against the Reds.
- It’s bad news for Jose Leclerc, who hit the 45-day IL with a shoulder injury after hurting it while warming up on Wednesday. Leclerc could very well be out for the remainder of the season, which is a major bummer as I’ve always liked his high-spin repertoire. We covered the next men up for the Rangers in yesterday’s piece, but to briefly summarize, Nick Goody got the call first and pitched well to earn the save, but Jonathan Hernandez and Jesse Chavez are likely still in the picture so don’t go blowing all that FAAB just yet.
- Things went exactly according to plan for the Braves, who brought on Luke Jackson, Shane Greene, then Mark Melancon in order to preserve Max Fried’s strong start, with the first two getting holds and Melancon getting a save. That’s two saves in a row for Melancon, so Greene is likely at the top of the list if needed for the ninth today. Things could get a bit muddied up soon with Will Smith throwing off a mound and seemingly close to his return from illness, though Melancon has been very effective in his two save opportunities so far. My best guess is that Smith and Greene become the two behind Melancon, with Smith potentially being a bit of a fireman, though he’d also be the first man up if Melancon is ineffective or unavailable for the ninth.
- Starter Ryan Yarbrough was quite efficient in this start, tossing 6.1 innings of two-run ball, and the Rays only used a single reliever (Jalen Beeks) to cover the final 1.2 innings. Virtually the entire crew is available for today outside of Beeks, who probably wasn’t someone you should be using for saves or holds in the first place. It has been Drake with the saves so far, but don’t get too comfortable.
- Washington’s bullpen got all the decisions in this one, grabbing a win, three holds, and a save. While the middle relievers for the Nats aren’t that intriguing for fantasy purposes, it was interesting to see Daniel Hudson get the call and notch another scoreless inning, including lefty Cavan Biggio for the final out. This isn’t quite enough to say Sean Doolittle is out of the saves picture, but for the near future I’d expect this to at least be a timeshare.
- Brandon Workman came on for the ninth again despite a pretty heavy workload the night before and struck out two Mets to earn the save while allowing just a single hit. Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree set the stage in the seventh and eighth. This is clearly Workman’s job to lose, but both he and Barnes are almost certainly unavailable tonight, leaving Hembree as the most likely to vulture a save. If I had to draw another name from the Boston hat, it’d be Ryan Brasier, who spent a little time as the closer last season.
- Edwin Diaz struggled again for the Mets, throwing 35 pitches that resulted in one strikeout but two walks, a hit batter, and a single that scored a run. He’s done little to help us believe he’s gotten over his inconsistency from 2019, and we’re slowly getting to a point where we’ve seen him be bad as much as we’ve seen him be good for fantasy purposes. He’s not going to be available tonight, leaving Dellin Betances and Seth Lugo as the primary vultures, with Justin Wilson possibly getting in the mix if a tough lefty Freddie Freeman is coming up at the end of an inning. I really think Diaz may be close to losing this job, as his spectacular 2018 seems more and more like a distant memory. I already thought Lugo deserved to be owned in lots of leagues (and to a lesser extent, Betances), and if he’s available in yours, I would look at dropping some FAAB on this pen. Lugo is my preferred target, as he’s a much more reliable and predictable commodity. While Betances was once the king of non-closers, early radar guns continue to clock him at about 94 mph, a full four ticks below his 2016-18 peak. Wilson also moves up the holds chart, but I think he’ll continue to be more of a lefty specialist in the higher leverage situations. Even in that role, though, he could pick off a save or two against teams like the Phillies and Red Sox, who feature prominent left-handed bats in the heart of their order.
- With Kenley Jansen and Blake Treinen both out, the Dodgers threw a bit of a curveball and used Brusdar Graterol and Joe Kelly in the seventh and eighth and gave the save opportunity to Pedro Baez. I’m not reading a whole lot into this one, and with Jansen and Treinen both available, I think all three guys the Dodgers used on Thursday will go back to their middle relief roles. If you’re using Kelly in holds leagues, keep watching his suspension status, which at time of writing is still undecided.
- After Dinelson Lamet threw five effective-but-inefficient innings, the Padres first turned to Luis Perdomo, who promptly gave up a couple runs. Drew Pomeranz continued his stellar start to 2020 and locked down a hold, but Emilio Pagan labored through 28 pitches to record just two outs and gave up two runs before Pierce Johnson and David Bednar cleaned it up with the former also grabbing the win. It looks like Pomeranz is being used in whatever inning the manager thinks is most critical prior to the ninth, but Pagan’s struggles (he’s given up runs in three of four outings on the season) are worth watching. There’s enough depth in this bullpen to give Pagan some time to clear his head in mop up duty, which would move Matt Strahm and Cal Quantrill up in the pecking order for holds and vulture saves behind Yates.
- The real story for Cleveland was obviously Shane Bieber’s eight shutout innings with 13 strikeouts, but a mild surprise came by way of James Karinchak nailing down the first save of his career instead of Nick Wittgren, who has been solid in the setup role. If Hand were to lose the job in Cleveland (he hasn’t yet—he was simply unavailable for this one), the guy I’d want is probably Karinchak. The 24-year-old doesn’t have a long track record in either the majors or minors, but what we’ve seen from him so far is a fastball in the upper-90s that he likes to keep up in the zone due to its rising action and a nasty 12-6 curve that he throws surprisingly hard. The curve is the secret sauce for Karinchak, and it’d be easy to envision a future where he’s an above-average to elite strikeout reliever at the back end of that pen. Wittgren, to his credit, has posted back-to-back sub-3.00 seasons for Cleveland after giving up his sinker and going with a classic arsenal of fastballs, changeups, and sliders. He’s a capable back-end reliever, but Karinchak’s upside is much higher and is more worth a fantasy manager’s precious FAAB.
- J.A. Happ only lasted through the fourth for the Yankees, so they used Adam Ottavino for three outs before bringing on Jonathan Loaisiga for three innings. He wasn’t particularly impressive, but he did grab a win before giving way to Zach Britton in the ninth, who racked up two strikeouts and a clean ninth in just 12 pitches. Ottavino didn’t throw all that many pitches either, so everyone in the pen (besides Loaisiga) should be on hand if needed. We still don’t have much in the way of updates on a potential return for Aroldis Chapman, so you can keep rolling with Britton as a high-end closer until further notice.
- Mychal Givens, Richard Bleier, and Cole Sulser all faced some Yankees towards the end of the game, and while Givens and Bleier performed admirably, Sulser came on for a save chance in the ninth with the O’s up by a run and gave up a hit, a walk, and then a three-run shot by Aaron Judge to earn the loss. None of these three arms are super appealing due to the fact that the O’s won’t have tons of save or hold opportunities. Bleier is the guy to have against more left-handed lineups, though he hasn’t historically been someone who strikes batters out, while the hotter hand will probably prevail on a short term basis between Givens and Sulser. None of the three have pitched on consecutive days, so all three are theoretically available, though a save chance would almost certainly go to Givens or Bleier if one were to appear.
- The Giants didn’t need Trevor Gott or Tony Watson in the loss, but did use middle relievers Sam Conrood and Tyler Johnson. Conrood pitched fine, but Johnson was blown up for six runs (five earned). Quite frankly, I’d probably avoid everyone in this pen outside of Watson and Gott. There are precious few saves and holds to be had here, and even fewer quality options to pick them up.
- The Diamondbacks did not use any relievers you were probably using for fantasy, apart from maybe former Brewers starter Junior Guerra. While he did throw 1.1 innings, he needed just 14 pitches to do it. Both he and closer Archie Bradley should be available if called upon tonight.
- The Angels and Mariners had a wild ninth, with a total of eight runs scored between them. A quiet seventh and eight allowed Carl Edwards Jr. and Matt Magill to pick up holds for the Mariners, but Dan Altavilla coughed up three runs in the ninth (but managed to avoid a loss or blown save as they were up six due to scoring five runs in the top half of the inning). He tossed 28 pitches and less-than-stellar results, so I’d imagine that Taylor Williams will get the call in the ninth if needed, though it’s worth noting that when Altavilla started warming up, it was because it looked like they would have a save chance. For the Angels, Hansel Robles gave up two walks and two hits (including a home run to Shed Long Jr.) in just 16 pitches while recording one measly out. That’s the second crooked outing for Robles in three chances, so it might be time to take a long hard look at Ty Buttrey. Apart from Robles, none of the notable bullpen pieces were used in this one, and while all are likely available for the Angels, I wouldn’t be shocked if Robles got the day off.
- The Twins had nothing going all game due to Bieber’s brilliance, so the back-end of the pen is available on demand.
- The Reds and Cubs were postponed, meaning their bullpens are fully rested and ready to go for today’s action. On that same note, the White Sox, Astros, A’s, Brewers, Pirates, and Rockies had a travel day and should be ready to go.
- Toronto didn’t use any interesting bullpen names in the loss and won’t be playing again until Saturday, meaning the entire pen will be available when they play the Phillies, who are also obviously off until Saturday.
- Philadelphia is still looking at a Saturday doubleheader with the Jays as their return to action, while the Marlins remain unable to play until Monday at the earliest. The Cardinals, who recently had a few players test positive for COVID-19, will also get at least one day off. It looks as though they are trying to pull off a shortened doubleheader on Saturday, but the situation is pretty fluid.