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Last week in this spot, I told you that Sean Doolittle was the only player worth keeping an eye on in the Athletics' bullpen. With the likes of Edward Mujica and Evan Scribner struggling to stand out in any way, Doolittle seemed like the only high-upside option of the bunch, even coming back from injury.
That may not have been the best advice ever. Doolittle returned from the DL earlier in the week and was understandably rusty after a three-month layoff. He was tagged for two runs in two-thirds of an inning in blowing a save in the seventh inning, and struggled to throw strikes, with just two of his 23 pitches either called for a strike or resulting in a swinging strike. Nearly half his pitches were called balls, a bad sign for a player who has historically exhibited excellent control.
That one outing isn't so worrying, though. It's the fact that his velocity was down three MPH from last season, another bad sign for someone coming back from a torn rotator cuff without surgery. He might end up fine, but you have to worry about how he'll be used coming back from this surgery. Especially since the A's might have stumbled onto a potential closer replacement they can rely on in recent days.
Drew Pomeranz has split time between the bullpen and the rotation over the last two seasons, but might be pitching himself into a full-time relief role lately. He has received the last two save opportunities for the A's, and sports a sparkling 2.05 ERA in 32 relief appearances this season after struggling as a starter. Pomeranz has had trouble sticking as a starter, but he wouldn't be the first pitcher to turn into a shutdown reliever despite being unable to hack it as a starter. With a 1.72 career ERA and more than a strikeout per in his 52 1/3 innings as a reliever overall, the chances look very good.
With his track record as a reliever in majors, Pomeranz has the potential to be an elite closer. With concerns about Doolittle's chances of returning to form, Pomeranz might be the best option for Fantasy owners looking at Oakland's ninth inning situation. And unlike some of the other guys who have been run out there in the ninth for this team, he might not just be the best of a bad bunch. He might end up a star in his own right.
Wade Davis, Royals
In Rotisserie scoring formats, Davis is worth owning no matter what role he is filling, as he already ranks 10th among relievers and top-105 overall despite spending much of the season as a setup man. When he's getting saves, he becomes a must-start option, and there's at least some reason to think he's going to continue to get opportunities to pitch the ninth for one of baseball's best teams. Greg Holland is dealing with a 'cranky' arm that has forced the team to back off him for the last few days, and that has given Davis the opportunity to snag the save in his two last appearances. He also got the save last Wednesday, and you have to wonder if Holland's continued struggles, combined with his arm issues could lead Davis to get more opportunities. At the very least, Davis is good enough to be worth taking a flier on with just the possibility he will get chances.
Last week's stats: 4 IP, 5 K, 3 H, 2 BB, 0 R, 3 S
Tom Wilhelmsen, Mariners
And in steps closer No. 3 for the Mariners, after Fernando Rodney and Carson Smith failed in the role in turn. Wilhelmsen has experience in the role, and has picked up the last two saves for the M's. If your league's deep enough, anyone who gets save opportunities is going to be valuable, so go out and get him if you need them. But I can't give a full-hearted endorsement of Wilhelmsen at this point in his career, regardless of role. He's got a decent 3.86 ERA on the season, but that comes along with an ugly 1.48 WHIP and a 3.51 FIP that doesn't exactly scream "Better days ahead." Wilhelmsen has been better in the past -- including posting a 2.27 ERA last season -- but he has long been inconsistent, with his ERA fluctuating more than a run and half in each of the last four seasons. If you need saves and can stand the hit to your WHIP and potentially ERA, Wilhelmsen can be helpful -- until he continues the pattern and costs himself the role.
Last week's stats: 2 IP, 1 K, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 R
J.J. Hoover, Reds
The Reds have no reason to remove Aroldis Chapman from the closer's role because the overpowering lefty remains one of the most untouchable relievers in the game. However, Hoover should at least be on your radar after Chapman was shut down for nearly a week with some shoulder soreness. At this point, the shoulder doesn't seem to be any kind of lingering concern, but the Reds are also in a place where they should be most interested in handling Chapman as delicately as possible; he's either a key part of their rebuild as a pitcher or a trade chip, and they won't want to jeopardize his health in any event. If you're looking to speculate in a deeper league, Hoover's not a bad option, with his 1.81 ERA. History -- and a reduced strikeout rate -- suggest he probably can't keep that up, but he does have an ERA under 3.00 in three of four major-league seasons, and could be a useful option if the Reds elect to shut Chapman down. If his shoulder barks again for any reason, that's just what they may do.
Last week's stats: 3 IP, 3 K, 0 BB, 3 H, 1 R, 1 H