Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Update: Matt Barnes looks legit, while Cubs look ugly

We are well past the quarter pole mark of the 2019 season, so it's as good a time as any to look at the initial results of my reliever model. For a brief refresher, the model incorporates the underlying skills I believe to be most impactful for being a successful high-leverage reliever, and combines them into a regression model. Since the samples are already small, I will only be commenting on relievers who have at least 10 innings so far in 2019.


Using the 10 innings pitched mark as a baseline, the Astros have the two highest rated relievers by my model in Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna. Both have combined impeccable control (one walk total) with tons of Ks and have managed to keep the ball in the yard. Pressly has just been insane and continuing the success he had in the second half after coming over in a trade. Both are elite options in Fantasy, but likely are not available in any leagues you play.

Red Sox

While I expressed some skepticism going into the season and preferred Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes has been the better of the two,  and the model is loving his insane swing-and-miss numbers. Brasier is still getting the save chances, making him the better play right now, but if any owner holding Barnes decides to part ways for a more secure save source, you should be targeting him everywhere. The model is also a big fan of Marcus Walden, and he may be a guy to keep on eye on if Brasier struggles.


The Rays pen has been a huge question mark with Emilio Pagan, Diego Castillo and Jose Alvarado all having multiple saves. The issue is all three have graded out as well above average and find themselves in the top 50 among all relievers with over 10 innings. Pagan actually grades the highest, but based on usage to this point, Castillo seems to be the guy to own for saves.


Unsurprisingly, the Yankees have again built a super pen. Despite missing Dellin Betances and Chad Green's struggles, the Yankees have three pitchers in the top 20, according to the model -- Tommy Kahnle, Aroldis Chapman and Zack Britton. If Green can return to his former elite level and Betances comes back healthy, this pen could wreak havoc on the rest of the league.


My model is in love with Ty Buttrey, placing him just inside the top 20 and rating him as the best reliever in that pen. Frustratingly for Fantasy owners, he is not getting the saves because he is being used in fireman role of sorts. The model is not as fond of Hansel Robles although the comparison-based model actually views him fairly well as essentially an average high leverage reliever. The model also loves Taylor Cole, who has been riding the AAA shuttle so far this season. He was a favorite of the model based off his 2018 sample, and the love remains. If Robles struggles and the team starts to have more faith in Cole, he could run away with the job.


While the pen thus far has been a dumpster fire, the Braves seem to have found their man with Luke Jackson. The model largely supports this choice, ranking him 21 thus far and seeing him display the skills needed to be an above-average reliever. While I still think this is a likely Craig Kimbrel landing spot, Jackson is the guy to own here.


The Rangers pen has mainly been a disaster due to the horrific start from Jose Leclerc. The flame-throwing former closer had control issues early in the season and it led to his removal from the role. Since then though, Leclerc has been lights out. Upon his removal, Shawn Kelley and Chris Martin have handled the job. Kelley was having a significant success before going on the IL with an infection, but the model was not sold on his success. Martin has been decent since taking over fully, but the model also is pessimistic about his long-term value. The model also believes Leclerc has deserved his fate to this point, but he has slowly been making his way back toward positive values and should be the one to own still in this pen. On a quick side note, the model is a big fan of Ariel Jurado, whose low walk rates and above average ground-ball tendencies have grabbed the model's attention. Jurado may become a starter anyway, but if he remains in the pen there is not a ton of swing and miss, and that makes his entire profile extremely volatile.


With the Brandon Morrow and Pedro Strop injuries, the Cubs pen has been left pretty thin and weak. No one out of the remaining options has really stood out with both Steve Cishek and Brandon Kintzler grading as below average. The interesting name, according to the model, is Kyle Ryan, but the chances the lefty gets handed the closer role are slim. Cishek is the guy to own here,  but if Strop and Morrow remain out for awhile, the Cubs could be early bidders on the various available closer options.


I will end with the ugliest situation of them all, because this Mariners pen has been just terrible to watch. Anthony Swarzak has been terrible, and the model actually thinks he has deserved to be that bad. Roenis Elias has been performing well and getting his share of the saves, but the model's favorite pitcher in this pen is Rule 5 pick Brandon Brennan. While it does not view him as elite, it does see an above-average reliever, and he could end up getting more saves as the year progresses. 

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