Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Report: Is Raisel Iglesias or Michael Lorenzen the Reds closer?
The Reds have thrown everybody for a loop with their recent bullpen usage, and Luke Jackson again looks vulnerable for the Braves. Scott White attempts to sort it all out.
For a season in which narrowing down a single closer for each team has proven to be more difficult than ever, we're at a nice stable place right now.
The Royals have finally put together a successful enough stretch for us to confirm that, yes, Ian Kennedy is definitively the guy there. Hansel Robles continues to affirm his claim for the Angels, who recently designated Cody Allen for assignment. Roenis Elias, meanwhile, is the last reasonable option standing in the Mariners bullpen, at least until Hunter Strickland returns from a lat injury.
In all, more than two-thirds of the league right now has what most would consider to be a designated closer.
And then there are these seven teams ...
Note: "Pecking order" refers to rosterability in Fantasy and not necessarily who's first in line for saves, though it's usually one and the same.
Pop quiz: Who has recorded the Reds' past two saves? If you're a Raisel Iglesias owner, you know full well it's ... not him. Michael Lorenzen actually holds that honor and is in fact up to four saves on the season, which might be a pretty strong indication Iglesias isn't alone in the role. But you know, he wasn't last year either, only then Jared Hughes was the one pilfering every so often, accumulating seven saves in total.
True, Iglesias actually pitched in both of the games in which he didn't get a save, giving way to Lorenzen in the ninth, but according to The Cincinnati Enquirer, it was a combination of manager David Bell playing the matchups and limiting his best reliever's workload. Iglesias is still his go-to option in the ninth inning, but sometimes what's going on in the eighth is more critical. And sometimes when he enters in the eighth, Iglesias will get to pitch right on through the ninth, "but back-to-back nights to try to get five outs was too much," Bell said. In other words, Iglesias owners need not panic. It's a more modern approach Bell is taking, but he hasn't gone full-blown committee.
After seemingly solidifying the role in May, piling up strikeouts just like a real closer would and quieting speculation of a Craig Kimbrel reunion that was never meant to be, Luke Jackson has looked more like ... well, Luke Jackson here in June. His four blown saves in his past eight appearances give him six on the year — a passable number for a full season, but we're not even halfway there yet. It doesn't seem like manager Brian Snitker is particularly down on him — the last time Jackson was removed from a game prior to the ninth inning was in April, before he recorded his first save — and the 27-year-old struck out two in a perfect ninth inning last time out. He had a five-run lead, but still.
A lack of alternatives really helps Jackson's cause here. A.J. Minter and Jacob Webb have both gotten some closer-of-the-future buzz but haven't delivered acceptable ratios yet. Anthony Swarzak, who flopped in the role for Mariners earlier this year, has been the most reliable reliever since coming over in a trade, but the Braves could go any number of directions, including the dreaded by-committee route, if they were to move on from Jackson.
While the Reds' and Braves' bullpens have descended into madness, the Twins' is the most stable it's been all year. Blake Parker's pathetic ratios finally wrecked his ERA, which has opened the door to Taylor Rogers, who was always the better pitcher but had the misfortune of throwing left-handed, taking hold of ninth-inning duties. He's the author of four of the team's past five saves, and the one he didn't get went to Trevor May, his first.
Rogers had three saves in April and one in May, so he was never entirely out of the mix. The Twins just preferred to keep him flexible, more often working the eighth inning and frequently throwing multiple innings. It may be more of a Raisel Iglesias situation where sometimes the game requires his services earlier, but going forward, he should get a large enough percentage of the saves to satisfy most Fantasy players' needs.
Wade Davis is back off IL, which is certainly good news for those with an investment in him. They may want to keep Scott Oberg close, though, after the 29-year-old flourished in his absence. Though his ERA at the time Davis went down with a strained oblique made Oberg the obvious choice to replace him, I was among the skeptics, pointing to a substandard strikeout rate. It's like Oberg rose to the occasion, though, his K/9 going from 6.0 in 16 appearances before Davis' injury to 11.3 in 14 appearances since.
And there's no question who's the more stable of the two now. If Davis wasn't owed a combined $35 million this year and next, the Rockies might have already turned the page, seeing as he has allowed eight earned runs in 5 1/3 innings since coming back. As it is, their recent turnaround has them in a battle for a playoff spot that may prove to be more important than saving face financially.
The Cardinals' last save was recorded by Carlos Martinez, whose move to the bullpen following a lengthy IL stint a month ago was perceived as a threat to Jordan Hicks' job security. We still have no reason to suspect Hicks is vulnerable, though — he had a couple of bumpy appearances in May, yes, but has allowed a total of four baserunners in seven June appearances — and it's no question who has been the more effective of the two overall. What's more is it sounds like the Cardinals haven't completely ruled out the possibility of returning to Martinez to the starting rotation, even if manager Mike Shildt sounds less than convinced.
Honestly, though, if Hicks ever did run into trouble, John Gant would be the more logical choice to replace him. He's the one with the 1.54 ERA and 0.73 WHIP, after all, which is probably why he has already been the author of three saves.
Ryan Brasier recorded the Red Sox's most recent save Monday, which is why he's back up to second in the shown pecking order. It was his first save since April 21, though, which ties him for third place during that stretch, behind Matt Barnes' three and Brandon Workman's two. Marcus Walden also has one.
It's a total nightmare, in other words, and anyone who thinks they have a read on who'll get the next shot is in for some goose eggs in the saves category until they learn some humility. All four of these relievers are good enough to handle the role, and manager Alex Cora has already shown he'll turn to any of them. So what's the differentiator? If you play in the sort of league where Barnes' or Workman's ratios are valuable in their own right, then by all means, but saves are nothing more than a bonus from them. At least the Rays' closer committee is basically just two relievers, with an occasional contribution from Emilio Pagan. Whatever saves might emerge here simply aren't worth the pursuit.
Manager Chris Woodward has on more than one occasion expressed a desire to reintroduce Jose Leclerc to the closer role, and the 2018 sensation has more or less overcome the problems that cost the job in the first place, recording 31 strikeouts compared to just two walks in his past 17 2/3 innings. But he hasn't been able to sustain a long enough scoreless stretch to justify the removal of Shawn Kelley, who has done a serviceable enough job in the role. Judging by Kelley's high FIP, it's only a matter of time, but that's been the refrain for nearly two months now. Only those in the most desperate need of saves are still stashing Leclerc, but everyone should be keeping tabs on him.
Fantasy Baseball Today Newsletter
You're destined to gain an edge over your friends with advice from the award-winning FBT crew.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox for the latest sports news.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Asher Wojciechowski and Jose Urquidy were unlikely pitching successes this weekend, but Scott...
From a struggling Josh Bell and Austin Riley to a streaking Sonny Gray and Jose Ramirez to...
Heath Cummings has five under-owned players you need to add for the stretch run.
Advanced computer model that has outperformed experts tells you who to sit and start
Chris Towers addresses Austin Riley's recent downturn and offers up several names to target...
SportsLine's trade chart and evaluator grades every Fantasy baseball deal