Save room for some speculative save candidates
Fantasy baseball owners are always thinking two steps ahead to try and find the next ninth-inning options for major-league managers. Here are eight relievers who could start racking up saves before long.
As long as saves are used as a standard category in Fantasy baseball leagues, Fantasy owners will be scouring the waiver wire for the next line of closers. I've ranked eight potential closing options for the speculators among you to consider snapping up where available.
San Diego Padres RP Joaquin Benoit - There's a pretty good chance Benoit isn't available in many competitive leagues even as a setup man, as he's turned in stellar numbers over the first half of the season. If he is available in any leagues, he shouldn't be. Closer Huston Street will have his name thrown about in trade rumors over the next month, and his departure would leave Benoit with a clear path to a closer role, where he should settle in as a top-15 RP overall. Speculate on the saves but enjoy the overall numbers while you wait.
Los Angeles Angels RP Joe Smith - Ernesto Frieri seems to have lost a grip on sole ownership of the closing role in Anaheim after giving up six earned runs in 1 1/3 innings over his last three appearances, and while the Angels will likely run with a closer-by-committee for now, Smith has the best shot at emerging with the steady gig, provided the team doesn't swing a trade. After a shaky start as intermin closer earlier in the season, Smith acquitted himself well in the role. He owns a 13:1 K:BB ratio in 8 2/3 innings this month while pitching exclusively in the eighth and ninth innings.
Chicago Cubs RP Neil Ramirez - Hector Rondon was walloped Monday, giving up five earned runs and a grand slam after entering a tied ninth inning. It could give the Cubs pause before throwing him back out in a key situation, especially when a secondary option as effective as Ramirez is available. Ramirez has posted a 0.95 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 27:8 K:BB ratio while giving up just eight hits in 19 innings, and he did a quality job filling in when Rondon was out earlier this month. For the most part, talent rises to the top in closer battles, and Ramirez has appeared the more talented of the two.
Tampa Bay Rays RP Joel Peralta - The Rays' last four saves have gone to four different pitchers, so good luck figuring out this mess. Peralta gets a slight leg up for recording the most recent save, and he's enjoyed an excellent June, posting a 13:1 K:BB ratio while turning in 8 2/3 scoreless innings. I'll take him as the leader of the pack moving forward, with Jake McGee chipping in saves here and there based on matchup considerations.
Chicago White Sox RP Zach Putnam - The White Sox have had trouble finding a feasible option to man the ninth inning, as Ronald Belisario owns a 5.50 ERA after giving up a walkoff, three-run home run Monday. Enter Putnam, who has pitched the eighth inning in seven straight appearances dating back to June 3. Javy Guerra is another option for the White Sox, with 8 2/3 scoreless innings to his credit in June. I give the slight edge to Putnam based on usage patterns, but speculators should think about adding either guy with Belisario on the ropes.
New York Mets RP Jeurys Familia - Jenrry Mejia has done a solid job since being moved to the bullpen, posting a 3.00 ERA and 17:7 K:BB ratio in 18 innings as a reliever while picking up seven saves. However, it does feel like Familia, 24, is destined to fill the closer role in the long-term for the Mets. Familia has picked up his game in June, giving up just one run in 9 1/3 innings while posting a 10:1 K:BB ratio. His last six appearances have all come in the eighth inning or later, and he's been able to keep the opposition off the scoreboard in all of his last five games. It wouldn't surprise me to see him earn more saves than Mejia in the second half.
Philadelphia Phillies RP Jake Diekman - Jonathan Papelbon isn't going to be usurped in his closer role based on performance, but Diekman could still be the guy earning saves for the Phillies in the final two months of the season. Why? They stink. Papelbon figures to be an excellent trade chip over the next month as the Phillies enter rebuilding mode, and Diekman is the most likely candidate to fill a closing vacancy. His overall ERA is medicore thanks mostly to an ugly April, but he's settled into the eighth-inning role for the Phillies and pitched well in June. He also owns a closer-worth 46:13 K:BB ratio in just 34 2/3 innings this season.
Detroit Tigers RP Joba Chamberlain - Normally one of the most reliable closers in baseball, Joe Nathan has come apart in June, posting a 9.00 ERA and 2.43 WHIP during this month. His May (5.40 ERA) and April (5.06 ERA) weren't exactly great either. The Tigers can't afford to give away games with the Royals playing well. If he continues to struggle much longer, Chamberlain could get into the saves mix. He owns a 35:9 K:BB ratio and has surrendered just one home run in 31 2/3 innings. He's also put a zero on the board in 17 of his last 18 appearances.
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