The search for saves is never ending in Fantasy Baseball, and you'll need to chase them even more aggressively this season if early returns are any indication -- 51 different players had a save heading into play Thursday, including just 21 with multiple saves. And, of those 21 with multiple saves, at least five look like they may not get their team's next save. We knew closers were going to be tough to trust coming into the season, and they've so far lived down to expectations as a group.
Which means closers are always going to feature prominently into any look at the waiver wire -- especially coming off a day like Thursday that didn't feature too many performances by widely available players worth chasing. That's not to say there weren't any, obviously, but the biggest names you should be looking for on waivers heading into the weekend are a trio of relievers who look like they've got the opportunity to be solid contributors.
At least as long as they are able to hold on to the job. These days, there are very few guarantees.
CLE Cleveland • #48 • Age: 23
I suppose I can see why some Fantasy players might be hesitant to buy in fully to Clase, because he's got some pretty stiff competition for saves if he does falter, what with James Karinchak setting him up and the likes of Nick Wittgren and Bryan Shaw around if the team wants to stick with Karinchak in his stopper role. However, that's only a concern if Clase falters, and I just don't think he will. He's incredibly difficult to square up -- he has a career 32.9% hard-hit rate in the majors and just a .101 expected ISO allowed, per Statcast data -- and is even getting more whiffs and strikeouts in the early going than expected. His stuff is ridiculous -- his cutter averages 100.1 mph with a 91.4 mph slider -- and Cleveland settled on him as the primary ninth-inning guy pretty early. He's not universally available, but I can't imagine there are any leagues where he shouldn't be rostered.
SEA Seattle • #49 • Age: 30
Keynan Middleton also got his second save for the Mariners Thursday, but this seems like it's Graveman's job in light of Rafael Montero's three blown saves. Graveman got the save in the first game of Thursday's doubleheader, sitting the Orioles down in order with a strikeout on just nine pitches. The former starter has reinvented himself as a hard-throwing late-inning reliever, and he's re-introduced a slider into his repertoire this season that has been a very effective weapon for him to date. I'm not saying he'll be a lights-out closer, but he's worth pursuing as part of your hunt for saves.
Rafael Dolis RP
TOR Toronto • #41 • Age: 33
Plenty of FAB dollars have already been spilt on the Blue Jays bullpen, first on Jordan Romero when Kirby Yates suffered his season-ending injury, then on Julian Merryweather when it appeared as if he had usurped Romano as the closer in the first week. However, Merryweather went on the IL with a left oblique strain Wednesday, and he was followed by Romano on Thursday with a right ulnar neuritis -- a nerve issue in his throwing elbow. It's not clear how long Merryweather and Romano will be out, but the expectation should be that Dolis will be the closer at least for the next few weeks, and he could be pretty good in the role. He was last season, saving four games in September with 14 strikeouts in eight innings of work. Command has been an issue for him in the past, and given that it's not clear how long he will likely have the job, he's below both Clase and Graveman if all three are available. But, he could be a nice source of saves over the next few weeks at least.
ARI Arizona • #18 • Age: 26
Kelly has been splitting time with Stephen Vogt a bit more than we'd like to see in the early going, but maybe that's going to change with how well he's swinging the bat -- he's hitting .440/.531/.760 and was batting second in the lineup Thursday against Patrick Corbin. He's crushing the ball early on, with batted-ball numbers that mostly back up his incredible production so far, and if he's going to hit higher in the lineup as the Diamondbacks search for a solution in Ketel Marte's absence, that could be good for his counting stats, too. I thought Kelly might be droppable last week given how much time he was ceding to Vogt, but he's making it tough to take him out of the lineup now.
KC Kansas City • Age: 26
Benintendi is another player I thought was droppable earlier this week, but the Royals seem to have given him a green light on the bases recently, as he has three steals and five attempts over his last five games. Benintendi still doesn't look right at the plate and he doesn't have the footspeed he did even a few years ago, but if the Royals are going to keep batting him second and letting him run, he's going to have value for Roto leagues, at least.
Jake Junis RP
KC Kansas City • #24 • Age: 28
Junis hasn't been Fantasy relevant since at least 2018, but he's shown some really impressive signs early on this season. After Thursday's solid start against a tough Blue Jays lineup, Junis now has a 1.50 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 12 innings across four appearances despite not being stretched out to start in spring training. Junis has introduced a new cutter into hit arsenal, and he picked up seven of his 11 swinging strikes Thursday on just 25 of them, and he's been racking up very healthy swinging strike numbers with that pitch so far. Maybe that's the key to unlocking another level for Junis that can make him Fantasy relevant in 2021. He's not a must-add outside of deeper formats, but he could be worth taking a flier on moving forward.