While many celebrate the start of the NFL, this writer is still mining for vulture wins, saves and ratio controls as we head into the last two weeks of the abbreviated MLB season. While it’s been an odd ride, finish the season strongly. My fantasy football teams will likely be woeful; I paid little attention to drafts this year and it will likely show. I have been too busy following the Kevin Ginkels and Yimi Garcias of the world for the weekly “Closing Remarks” series @Roto_Fanatic.
Here are the happenings this week in MLB bullpens around the country:
- The St. Louis Cardinals lost Giovanny Gallegos to the IL this week with a groin strain. Also this week, they activated lefty Andrew Miller and the enigmatic Carlos Martinez. Who gets opportunities here this week? Read on; we may have a sleeper for you, too.
- In other big news, Toronto welcomes back closer Ken Giles, who only made two appearances this year before a forearm strain. If healthy he will definitely solidify the back end of their pen. They need him as they contend for a playoff spot.
- Sean Doolittle of the Washington Nationals heads back to the IL this week with an oblique strain, which may end his season, allowing Daniel Hudson to further cement himself into the ninth inning role. Doolittle had pitched well in a limited sample since returning from his knee injury two weeks ago,
- The San Francisco Giants are said to be considering a move of Jeff Samardzija to their beleaguered bullpen. Would he have any value there? We will look into it and tell you.
- Felix Pena appears to have entered a committee situation with Ty Buttrey for the Los Angeles Angels.
- Detroit looks to be full-blown committee right now too. Who to target, if anyone?
- Looks like a committee of mediocrity in Arizona as well. We thought Kevin GInkel last week, but Stephan Crichton earned a save on Friday night.
As a reminder, here is our rubric to grade the closers if you need to refresh your memory:
- Mastery: the best. Nothing else to be learned here. Move forward with confidence.
- Distinguished: just a notch below mastery, excellent work, but still some room for improvement.
- Proficient: is average. Think of this as a solid “C” on your term paper.
- Marginal: poorly constructed, issues with organization, and unclear what is happening.
- Unacceptable: failure due to lack of planning or execution.
Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers
Hader remains the best in the business. Hader is stuck on nine saves but earned a win this week while also maintaining a 14.2 K/9 rate. Deploy with total confidence. Hader was beaten on Saturday night, giving up four runs to the Chicago Cubs. Still, he would be my top choice and would use him in every league as my number one option.
Liam Hendriks, Oakland Athletics
Hendriks has upped his K/9 rate to an elite 13.3. Hendriks earned two more saves this week, to give him 12, to go with a 1.33 ERA and a .69 WHIP. He continues to be outstanding.
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Jansen is still at 10 saves with a 12.3 K/9 rate, He looked human against Arizona last week, giving up three hits and two earned runs while earning his third win in the process. You still need to use him regularly.
Brad Hand, Cleveland Indians
Hand has been great in 2020, with 12 saves, an 11.7 K/9 and a 2.45 ERA and .89 WHIP. He leads MLB in saves (along with Hendriks) and has been solid for Cleveland. James Karinchak is a great addition if you need holds (he has six now) and strikeouts (a staggering 42 in 21 innings), but will not get saves.
Alex Colome, Chicago White Sox
Colome quietly has 10 saves for the surging Chicago White Sox, who are 18-5 in the last three weeks. A low K/9 of 7.6 has not hut him much this year. Great ratios with a 1.08 ERA and a matching 1.08 WHIP.
Mark Melancon, Atlanta Braves: moving up
Melancon would have to qualify as a pleasant surprise in 2020. He has ten saves, a 2.16 ERA and .90 WHIP, with a paltry 4.9 K/9 percentage. He’s not going to give you anything with strikeouts, but he continues to nail down saves. The competition with Will Smith et al has just never materialized this year.
Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros: teetering
Pressly has chipped in with nine saves but took a tough loss to Oakland this past week. His ERA is 5.40 over the last seven days. I still love the arm but if you are looking for more consistency, you might want to look elsewhere. It’s not helping matters that the Astros are 22-23 and struggling to stay afloat in the AL West. Pressly did come out and earn his ninth save Saturday night. He should hold on to the job but it’s been a rocky road.
Trevor Rosenthal, San Diego Padres
Rosenthal continues to sparkle with nine saves, a 13.8 K/9 rate and a 2.55 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. Run him out there in all of your lineups.
Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
Chapman is still rounding into shape from his Covid-19 illness. He stuck out the side in his one outing this week, but still has a bloated 6.00 ERA, but a closer look shows him with a 2.25 ERA in September. Still only has one save. I’ve been wavering on deploying him based on the fact that the Yankees have struggled up to this last weekend, and he has not looked 100%. I am still starting him but have added depth to my bench.He has just one save. The stuff is still elite and he should be fine.
Jeremy Jeffress, Chicago Cubs
Jeffress hammered down the role and earned his seventh save this week. Jeffress has excelled with a .98 ERA and .80 WHIP. There is no reason for manager David Ross to use anyone else. The job is his as the Cubs continue to scrap to stay in first place in the NL Central. However, adding intrigue was the fact that Craig KImbrel closed the door on the Milwaukee Brewers Saturday night. Kimbrel, true to form this year, gave up two hits before earning his second save? Something to watch here?
Edwin Diaz, New York Mets: moving up
As @mattwi77iams pointed out this weekend, Diaz has 39 strikeouts in 19 innings. That is not a misprint. I know people love to hate on this guy, but he’s got the ERA down to 1.89 and has three saves. The talent is too good to pass up. Looks at these insane K percentages:
Rafael Montero, Texas Rangers
Montero quietly has eight saves for a poor Texas team. But he has only earned two in September as the season runs away from Texas. He has a 2.13 ERA and 0.77 WHIP, both very good numbers, but doesn’t help much with Ks, with only 14. He also only pitched once this last week as Texas sinks like a stone to the bottom of Moribund Ocean. I would pass on him right now based on the low volume of usage.
Taylor Rogers, Minnesota Twins
The roller coaster ride continues for the lefty. He threw well in a non-save situation midweek, striking out the side against Detroit. He then pitched in a save situation Friday night, and earned the save, but not before giving up a home run to Jose Ramirez. Chances are if you are using him you may not be in the running for your league title. If you are, consider someone else if you can, unless you have the stomach for the tightrope. He does have 19 strikeouts in 15 innings, but also sports a 4.11 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. That may hurt you more than it helps.
Brandon Kintzler/Yimi Garcia, Miami Marlins
Kintzler remains on nine saves after a tough week of two blemished outings. Miami used Yimi Garcia to get a save on Friday, which is intriguing since in that game, manager Don Mattingly used Kintzler in the sixth inning (only a seven inning game due to a doubleheader), allowing Garcia to earn the save despite giving up a run. What do we know about Yimi Garcia? Well he’s been nasty this year and hard to hit:
Diego Castillo/Nick Anderson, Tampa Bay Rays
I love Tampa Bay. I really do; I love how they go about their business, but as a fantasy owner, I hate how they run their bullpen. Have they no respect for my fantasy needs? Just being silly, but the question remains in week ten: who do we target to close? Ten relievers have earned at least one save for the Rays this year. This is a tough one. It should usually come down to matchups, which means Diego Castillo or Nick Anderson. Anderson has four saves and Castillo three. Neither has pitched this week until the weekend. John Curtiss has also been excellent, and could vulture a save or two. Oliver Drake is also throwing to live hitters and could be back shortly.
Who knows what to expect? I like Anderson the most but I am not in charge. If you are desperate for stats, you might want to look elsewhere. Anderson pitched the eighth and Castillo the ninth on Saturday. Both have value in deeper leagues.
Daniel Bard, Colorado Rockies
Who doesn’t love this story? Bard has been a revelation in Colorado. Bard now has six saves and has a 3.72 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 19 innings. Colorado has been middling all season, so do not expect a ton of chances for Bard down the stretch.
Committee, but Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
I think way too much about Kansas City’s bullpen. Greg Holland? Scott Barlow? What about Josh Staumont? It looks like Holland right now, earning his fifth save on Saturday night, but I would bet that Staumont has the job in 2021. That doesn’t help you right now. Staumont and Barlow have been in setup roles and could be next up; Jesse Hahn also lurks and could vulture one or two, especially on back ends of doubleheaders. Mike Matheny could mix-and-match down the stretch here.
Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds: stop doing this to yourself
Iglesias continues to underwhelm; six saves with a 4.11 ERA with an 11.2 K/9 rate, which is good. He’s also got three losses. I have learned my lesson with him; unfortunately you cannot win fantasy titles with him as one of your top two closers. Bench role only. Take my advice on this one to avoid feeling ill the last two weeks of the season.
Gallegos was looking great with four saves over the last two weeks before a strained groin shut him down for the Cards. Luckily for the Cardinals, Andrew Miller is back and so is Carlos Martinez, who will start for now. The nod should go to Miller, but with his fragility and injury history, others may get opportunities. I would not be surprised if John Gant received an opportunity or two. Some analysts might lean Genesis Cabrera or Alex Reyes too, but I am not one of them. Let’s take a quick look at Gant:
Gant is throwing well this year despite diminished velocity. The K percentage is up on all of his pitches with the exception of his four-seamer. Gant has 18 strikeouts in 14 innings. Maybe stash him on your bench if you have room, and see what happens.
Daniel Hudson, Washington Nationals: moving down
Hudson is tied for fifth in MLB with nine saves, but at what cost to your team? The 11.9 K/9 is great, but the 7.02 ERA and 1.20 WHIP are worse stats than the Batavia Youth Baseball Mets team I help coach. Saves are not worth the potential implosions to your roster. He got one save this week but then got shellacked on Friday night. Pass.
Workman is stuck on nine saves this week with a 4.24 ERA and a nightmarish 2.2 WHIP. He has surrendered 24 hits and 12 walks this year. My stomach hurts. Move on. Word on the street this week is that manager Joe Girardi was mulling a flip of Workman and former closer Hector Neris. In a game against Boston midweek, Neris got the save. In another game against the Mets, Workman worked the ninth in a tie game and Neris earned the save in the tenth. Could we have a changing of the guard here? Watch and see; the Phillies are battling for a playoff spot, and Girardi will play the hot hand. Neris appears to be hitting his stride with a 1.69 ERA and two saves in September. The following shows the uptick in velocity the past few weeks:
Yohan Ramirez, Seattle Mariners
Ramirez has converted three saves, Yoshi Hirano one. This situation appears fluid, but Ramirez is 25 and should get the opportunity ahead of the veteran Hirano. Hirano has not pitched in a week. Read the tea leaves; go Ramirez if you need relief help.
Stefan Crichton, Arizona Diamondbacks
Kevin Ginkel got the first opportunity after the Archie Bradley trade, but was sent down Friday after struggling with his fastball command. Manager Torey Lovullo went with Stefan Crichton on Friday night. Lefty Travis Bergen and veteran Junior Guerra could also be used, but I would guide you to avoid this bullpen. This swing-and-miss percentage does not bode well for continued success friends:
Yikes. Move along.
Committee, leaning Bryan Garcia, Detroit Tigers
This is awful especially for the diehard Tigers fans that I know and respect, but Bryan Garcia provided a glimmer of hope with two saves this week.
Garcia is essentially a two-pitch guy, with a sinker and a slider, mixing in a change-up at times as well. He’s 25 and considered a prospect, so he should get some chances for the Tigers. Interestingly, analysts are split on whether the sinker (listed as such here) is actually a fastball or a sinker. Regardless, he is getting results thus far with this mix, getting groundouts and popups. He is not a strikeout artist but rather relies on his defense to help him out. He may be intriguing but I am tentative right now. Detroit eats closers in 2020.
Matt Barnes, Boston Red Sox
Barnes is adequate for a moribund Boston team, but he should not be on your team right now if you are contending.
Ty Buttrey, Felix Pena Los Angeles Angels
Buttrey was annihilated on Friday night. He is stuck on five saves with an ERA over 6.00. Say no.
Meanwhile Felix Pena has not been much better and only pitched once this week. This team continues to waste the talents of Mike Trout and also Anthony Rendon now. You want none of this. Journeyman Matt Andriese earned the save Saturday night.
Committee, but leaning Hunter Harvey, Baltimore Orioles
Harvey took the loss against the Yankees on Saturday in a tight 2-1 game. He also lost on Wednesday against the Mets. Yet Harvey is their best option and Baltimore may take these last two weeks to see what they really have in him. I would pick Harvey of this bunch of relievers in Baltimore. Harvey throws a hard four-seamer an astounding 79% of the time:
Richard Rodriguez, Pittsburgh Pirates
Rodriguez has the role for a team that is 14-28. Pass.
Committee, San Francisco Giants
Tyler Rogers has three saves this season but an ERA of 5.73. If you are looking for anything here, my advice is to look elsewhere. Many will smirk at this, but there is rumor that Jeff Samardzija could move to the bullpen when he comes back in the coming days. Could he reinvent himself there? Time will tell.
Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays
Giles is back. Can he be effective? The Blue Jays desperately need him to recapture his 2019 form in a hurry. The velocity is down; can he regain it? See below. Here is hoping for health and a return to dominance. Rafael Dolis has chipped in with four saves and kept the bullpen afloat, but this job belongs to Giles provided he is healthy.