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“On Bzdek” Bullpen Briefing: Week 3

Another busy weak for bullpens around Major League Baseball. Many of the usual suspects from the first two weeks still pose questions here in week three, along with a couple fresh faces. Today we’ll take a little deeper dive into these bullpens, and finish with a few highlights from around the league.

Baltimore Orioles

I wanted to start this week with a tip of the cap to Zach Britton. He accomplished the feat of recording 54 consecutive save chances last week, tying Tom Gordon for the American League Record. Unfortunately, it’s tough to celebrate such an ordeal because Britton hit the DL with forearm soreness the next day. The O’s are downplaying the forearm injury, an injury which is often a precursor to Tommy Johns. In fact, Britton was originally not even going to have an MRI on the arm, which I thought was odd because that seems like a reasonable thing to do – it’s not like Britton will be busy pitching the next 10 days anyway. They must have heard me, because Britton is now scheduled for an MRI today. One can only wonder if the injury was partly to cause for Britton’s 1.86 WHIP this year.

In Britton’s stead, Brad Brach and Darren O’Day will share save opportunities. If Britton is out the minimum 10 days, it won’t matter much from the perspective of gathering saves. However, if Britton’s MRI brings bad news, Brad Brach is the clear frontrunner for the closer gig. Brach has yet to allow a run this year and has posted strikeout per 9 rates above 10 for the last two seasons as a reliever. He’s been one of the MLB’s best relievers over the past two seasons, and will become a top 10 closer if given the chance. He’s a must add until we hear Britton’s MRI update.


Texas Rangers

Last week, the Rangers announced a closer-by-committee after Sam Dyson proved highly ineffective to start the year. Dyson pitched a clean inning against the Mariners on Saturday, and the Rangers went back to the well giving Dyson a save chance on Sunday. He blew the save, and subsequently landed on the DL with a right-hand contusion, how convenient. Matt Bush is clearly the best reliever in the Rangers pen. He can miss bats (15.43 K/9 ratio at the moment, but historically closer to 9) and has the sub 1 WHIP that suits a dominant late inning reliever. The only thing lacking is experience, which is the only reason Jeremy Jeffress gets any consideration for the role. Jeffress has an uninspiring K/9 of 4.5 this year, a couple of ticks below the 6.52 K/9 he posted in 2016. Jeffress doesn’t walk a ton of guys, but with a 1.26 WHIP in 2016, he isn’t elite either. He’s rather ordinary. If you’re speculating saves, Bush is a no brainer. If Jeffress gets the nod, he either won’t last long or won’t put up the other stats to make those saves all that valuable. Meanwhile Bush, like Brach, could jump to a top 10 closer if given closing duties.

With Dyson hitting the DL, the Rangers called up reliever Keone Kela. Kela pitched 34 innings for the Rangers in 2016 and figured to be a key bullpen piece for 2017, but due to attitude problems in spring training, Kela started 2017 in triple-A. I guess he has matured, or more likely the Rangers are very desperate for an arm to help their pen. Kela can strike guys out (11.91 K/9 last year), but has issues with walks (4.50 K/BB last year). Considering this, and the spring training issues, I don’t think Kela will see a significant bullpen role off the bat. If he can improve his command and his attitude however, he should move up the depth chart quickly. He’s worth a speculative add in holds leagues.


Washington Nationals

Blake Treinen was removed from the closer role on Wednesday as the Nationals will move to a committee for the time being. Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover will share save opportunities while Treinen takes a backseat. Neither Kelley nor Glover have been lights out on the year, but Kelly has allowed just 1 baserunner in his last 4 innings pitched and did a respectable job in his brief closing stint for the National’s last year accumulating 7 saves. He gets my nod as chairman of the committee.

What about Treinen though – is he worth holding onto? Well, right now he is having serious control issues. His BB/9 sits at 8.53, which is more than double his already high 4.16 BB/9 of 2016. Control was never his strong point, and it seems to have gotten worse. According to Fangraphs pitch type data, Treinen introduced a changeup into his repertoire this year which he is throwing 7.4% of the time. His fastball usage is up from 68.8% to 77.0%, and his slider usage is down from 30.4% to 15.6%. Seems like adding the changeup is causing more harm than its worth. His BABIP-against sits at an elevated .450, so there must be some bad luck baked in there somewhere too. In a holds league I wouldn’t bail on Treinen just yet, but I’ll sit him on my bench for the time being. A three-pitch reliever is nice, but most of the great ones rely on two and the best reliever of them all used mainly one pitch. I’ll be interested to see if he scraps the changeup to go back to the fastball slider combo that gave him success in the past.

St. Louis Cardinals

The watch is on for Seung Hwan Oh, who seems to get into trouble every appearance he makes. His WHIP sits at 1.95 and his swinging strike percentage is down to 11.1% from 18% in 2016. This is likely the reason his K/9 is just 4.05, down from 11.64 in 2016. The struggle is real and with such a sharp decline I suspect an injury may be at play here.

So, who’s the best bet to replace Oh?  None other than Trevor Rosenthal. I know his 2016 wasn’t the best and you may have been burned by him a time or two, but hear me out. Rosenthal was stretched out during spring for a potential rotation spot. In building his arm strength, he seems to have gained a couple of ticks on his fastball. His average fastball velocity for 2017 sits at 98.8 MPH, up from 96.8 MPH in 2016, and in line with the 98.3 MPH average of a more successful 2015 season. Through Wednesday, Rosenthal has only pitched 3.1 innings and recorded 7 Ks, allowing only 1 earned run. Let’s not forget he was a very reliable closer for the Cards in 2014 and 2015 and only surrendered closing duties to Oh last year. At age 26, I see no reason Rosenthal can’t regain form. I think he’s a great add in all league types whether you are gunning for holds or speculating for saves.

Another guy in the Cards’ pen I want to touch on is Matt Bowman, who in 7.2 innings pitched has yet to allow a run. He’s also recorded 4 holds – tops in the Cards pen. With late inning reliever Kevin Siegrist also struggling for the Cards this year (8.44 ERA, 2.44 WHIP), Bowman should see continued opportunities for holds in the short-term. Bowman’s K/9 currently sits at 8.22, up from 6.92 last year. His swinging strike rate is just 7.4% though, slightly down from 9.3% last year, and with no significant changes to his pitch use profile I don’t think the strikeouts will last. Nonetheless, Bowman put up a respectable 3.46 ERA last year and I think we can expect something similar this year. While he won’t dominate, he could still be a source of holds while the rest of the Cards’ pen continues to struggle.


Quick Pitches

New York Mets – Jeurys Familia returned from suspension last night. He came into the 9th inning when the Mets trailed 6-4 and allowed no runs, walking to and striking out two. Addison Reed has done an excellent job filling in as the team’s closer, but it won’t last much longer. Terry Collins may ease Familia back into the closer role, but the role will undoubtedly be his very shortly.

Philadelphia Phillies – Joaquin Benoit blew his first save since being named closer, but he rebounded the next game pitching the 9th inning of a 4-run game and allowing only a walk. However, last night Benoit came into the 8th inning to secure a 2 run lead against the Mets, and Neris pitched the 9th for his first save of the season. Looks like the two will share closing duties for the time being. The smart money is on Neris to take over the role full time based on performance. Grab him now if he is still available in your league.

De La Rosa

Colorado Rockies – The bullpen’s hot start continues. Ottavino and Dunn both recorded two holds during the last 7 days with Holland additionally recording 3 saves.

Chris Devenski, HOU, RHP – After two 4-inning 7 K performances, Devenski added 7 more Ks this week for a total of 21 strikeouts in 11 innings. He also picked up his first hold.
The way he’s going, he’s certain to bring value in any league format. I expect the holds opportunities to only increase, so buy in while you still can.

Jorge De La Rosa, AZ, LHP – De La Rosa is a lefty starter converted reliever. He features a fastball and a change out of the pen, with an occasional curve. In a small sample thus far, De La Rosa owns an exceptional 21.3% swinging strike rate through Wednesday. For holds speculators, the opportunity for De La Rosa is wide open in AZ. I always liked him as a starter in his early days with the Rockies and I recommend taking a chance on him as a reliever.


That wraps up this week’s Bullpen Briefing. Be back next week for week 4.





(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday April 16th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #83 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will be previewing the coming week’s key matchups and discussing key fantasy information.

Our guests this week are Lenny Melnick and Kyle Klinker. Kyle is an MLFB champion and a veteran of MLFS leagues. Lenny is an FSWA Hall of Famer, the co-host of the Sunday morning fantasy sports show from 7-10am EST with Craig Mish on Sirius, and the owner of Check his shows out on his site every morning through out the week at 9am EST.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”


(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday April 23rd, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #84 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will be previewing the coming week’s key matchups and discussing key fantasy information.

Our guests this week are Andy Macuga and Ron Shandler. Andy is the head football and baseball coach for Borrego Springs H.S. in southern California. Ron is a FSTA Hall of Famer and a fantasy baseball pioneer.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

I've been playing fantasy baseball for 14 years. I am also an auditor and CPA, where I analyze information on a daily basis. Combined, my passion for fantasy baseball and analytical background create a unique perspective for analyzing and writing about fantasy baseball.

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