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Saves are always at a premium in Fantasy, which is why we tend to overreact to every small shift in a team's bullpen usage. With relievers in Fantasy, opportunity is just as important as skill -- perhaps even more so -- so every time a player even looks like he's going to get an opportunity, Fantasy players need to be on guard.
Those of you playing the waiver wire need to be on guard for save chances, obviously, so let's take a look at some relievers who are either already thriving in a ninth-inning role, or who may get a chance shortly:
- An injury to Brad Boxberger has opened up an opportunity for Alex Colome in Tampa Bay, and he is running away with it right now. Colome has struck out nine batters in 8 1/3 innings, while allowing just one run en route to five saves in the early going. His career numbers aren't super promising (mid-3.00's ERA, 7.0 K/9), but they're a bit better since he made the tranisition to the bullpen last season. Colome's ERA isn't much improved out of the 'pen overall, but his strikeout rate jumps to 8.7 per nine, and his walk rate shrinks to 2.17 per nine, solid marks that have already led to even better run prevention so far this season. Colome should have the job for a while longer with Boxberger still out, and should be owned in well more than 49 percent of CBSSports.com leagues at this point.
- Jeanmar Gomez isn't the most intrguing closer out there. He pitches for what is expected to be a pretty bad team, and has never been much of a strikeout pitcher. That strikeout rate is up a bit to open this season, though it's early enough that you probably shouldn't get excited about it. Still, he faces little competition for the job and has posted ERA's in the low-3.00's for the last three years, and is a solid source of saves for the time being.
- If you want to get a bit speculative, Trevor May could be a great choice right now. Owned in just 10 percent of CBSSports.com leagues, the former top pitching prospect has been downright dominant out of the 'pen so far this season, with 18 strikeouts on 50 batters faced. The control hasn't been great, and he isn't yet working in the ninth inning, but it might not be long until he gets his chance of Kevin Jepsen's issues with the long ball continue. May could be frustrating as a ninth-inning option with the control issues, but his huge strikeout rate might be enough to make you forget that.
- Another speculative add you could look at is Reds' reliever Caleb Cotham, who sports a 1.54 ERA in 11 appearances so far this season. J.J. Hoover lost the closer's job last week, and nobody else has really been able to step up to take it so far. Tony Cingrani is another option for the role, but his iffy control and status as the lone southpaw in the bullpen might make him a long shot. Cotham isn't racking up strikeouts at a huge rate and wasn't great in that regard in the minors, but he's doing a good job keeping runs off the board so far, and might be the best option in Cincinnati right now.
Kevin Plawecki, C, Mets (6 percent owned)
We're not that far removed from Plawecki being a pretty well thought of prospect. He was never a can't-miss stud, but Plawecki worked his way into Baseball America's Top-100 last season with a a strong 2014 season that saw him hit .309/.365/.460 between Double-A and Triple-A. Plawecki struggled in his time in the majors last season, but always put up solid numbers in the minors. He doesn't have big power, but Plawecki showed a terrific eye at the plate in the minors, striking out just 137 times in 309 games, and that contact skill is what is likely to make him a contributor, if he ever is. With Travis d'Arnaud on the DL again, Plawecki is going to get another chance here, and it's not crazy to think he can contribute in two-catcher leagues.
Nate Karns, SP, Mariners (32 percent owned)
Karns has had trouble going deep into games dating back to last season, but that wasn't an issue for him Tuesday, as he held the Astros' big bats scoreless over seven innings of work. His control was and remains shaky, as he now has 12 walks in 22 1/3 innings of work for the season, however he has also struck out better than a batter per inning, and now sits at a 3.67 ERA with 169 strikeouts in 169 innings dating back to last season. Those are solid numbers, especially for a pitcher who spends half of his time in a pretty good ballpark. He isn't a must-own player, but Karns certainly has value, especially with starts against the Athletics and Astros on the way for Week 5 (May 2-8).
Ricky Nolasco, SP, Twins (14 percent owned)
Ricky Nolasco's peripherals always seem to indicate he should be a better pitcher than he actually has been, so it's hard to buy into a quick start too much. For his career, Nolasco sports a 3.80 FIP, but a 4.52 ERA, the largest gap of any active starting pitcher. There was a time I thought Nolasco might be able to develop into an ace, but he just never could overcome his issues with the long ball or runners on base, and it's hard to believe he will now. However, he can be useful when things are going well, and they are right now, as he sports a 3.25 ERA and 3.10 FIP through 27 2/ 3 innings. The problem is, he's a control artist with mediocre stuff who has to pitch close to the zone to be effective, which makes his margin for error extremely small. Nolasco is going to melt down at some point, but he is pitching well enough right now to at least consider, especially with two starts on the way next week. He might just be worth the gamble.