As the fantasy season is nearing the end, I decided to change up the approach for this week’s Bullpen Briefing. Rather than discuss teams, I am focusing on various players who I believe are candidates for saves and holds over the last month of the season. If your team is heading to the playoffs, or you need to pick up a few points in a roto league, my goal is to give you a few names that might help. I’ve focused on the lower owned players per Fantrax to drill down on guys who are more likely to be available in your leagues. With that said, let’s begin.
Blake Treinen, Oak (40% owned)
The Oakland bullpen has been a ‘committee’ all year, but Santiago Casilla saw the bulk of the save chances. Since the A’s swapped relievers with the National’s in late July, Casilla has been used less and less for saves in favor of Blake Treinen. If you picked up Treinen earlier this season, you probably have a bad taste in your mouth, but Treinen has been pitching much better of late. Since August 1st, Treinen has an 9.88 K/9 and a 5 K/BB, both above average. He’s also got 5 saves, compared to Casilla’s zero. Relievers can be very fickle, and sometimes a change of scenery is all they need to turn the corner. Just look at what Sam Dyson is doing in San Francisco after pitching his way out of Texas. Treinen can get you saves now, so if you need them go pick him up.
Jake McGee, Col (19% owned)
I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that current Rockies’ closer Greg Holland is going through a rough month, including 3 blown saves and an ERA over 15. Holland did not pitch at all in 2016 as he recovered from injury, so it seems that the dog days of August may have worn him down. The Rockies are likely to back off using Holland so much, at least for now, and instead go to Jake McGee for saves.
Jeurys Familia, NYM (66% owned)
Familia was reinstated from the DL last Friday. The Mets’ have been open about their plan with Familia, which is to ease him back into the closer role starting with a couple low leverage situations. The Mets’ were true to their word, bringing in Familia in a game the Mets’ trailed 6-4 on Saturday night. In his first appearance back, Familia gave up 3 earned runs in the inning. He’s got a lot of rust to knock off, but if you’re patient the payoff is potentially a few saves in September.
Brad Brach, Bal (62% owned)
This pick hinges highly on speculation. Zach Britton is the Orioles closer, but he’s been on the DL twice this season. After blowing his first save in over a year last week, Britton got an MRI on his knee. The results came back clean and Britton is considered day to day, but I wonder if he is generally more banged up than we are led to believe. With the Orioles 2 games back on the wild card, if they fall further back they might want to consider shutting Britton down early to allow him extra time to heal up as the Orioles regroup for next season, in which case Brach is the closer again.
Keynan Middleton, LAA (11% owned)
Keynan Middleton is a 23-year-old rookie. He’s got a 4.03 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 44.2 innings this season, to go along with 48 strikeouts. While not bad for a rookie, this stat line doesn’t really jump out at you, specifically the WHIP. Typically, high WHIP is related to high walk totals, especially for guys with high strike out potential. However, that is not the case with Middleton, at least not in the last month. Since we turned the page to August, Middleton has walked just 1 batter while striking out 17 in 12.2 innings. That’s an elite K/BB ratio, but Middleton’s been knocked for a whopping 18 hits in August as well, partly due to a .432 BABIB against. This is surely due for some positive regression, and I think with Middleton’s ability to miss bats and limit walks we could see him post a very strong finish to the season.
Couple this with the Angel’s fluid bullpen situation and Middleton should be able to net his fair share of holds the rest of the way, as well as an occasional save. Owned in only 11% of Fantrax leagues he’s an option worth consideration.
Joe Musgrove, Hou (39% owned)
The starter turned reliever has recorded 2 holds in the last week, and 3 in the last two weeks. Musgrove had periods where he was an effective starter, so it figures that he should benefit from a move to the bullpen. So far, in 17.1 relief innings Musgrove struck out 18, walked 3, and allowed 9 hits. Musgrove should continue to see late inning action for the Astros. He’s a great add for holds leagues.
Dominic Leone, Tor (5% owned)
Since August 1st, Dominic Leone has the most innings pitched (13) and the most appearances (14) of any Blue Jays reliever. During that time frame he’s recorded 5 holds, 19 strikeouts, and 2 walks, good for a 13.15 K/9 and 9.5 K/BB. Leone has quietly moved up the hierarchy for the Blue Jays. Osuna will still close, and Tepara is still a reliable setup man, but Danny Barnes has allowed an earned run in 3 of his last 4 appearances, so Leone seems to be the 3rd best option right now. In addition, Leone has 10 inherited runners saved since August 1st, so he’s getting action in some important situations. He figures to continue seeing holds opportunities moving forward.
Trevor Hildenberger, Min (15% owned)
Hildenberger has been very good in August, posting an ERA of 2.45 and a WHIP of 1.00 to go along with 5 holds. He also struck out 11 and walked just 1, good for an 9 K/9 and a 11 K/BB, which leads me to believe that his next month might be even better than his last. Matt Belisle has been good enough as the Twins’ closer, but Taylor Rogers, Hildenberger’s main competition for the 8th inning, has an ERA of 6.48 and a WHIP of 1.56 in the last month. Hildenberger should continue to pitch well and if he does he should continue to record holds.
Jose Ramirez, Atl (15% owned)
I’ve written about Jose Ramirez in the past as a holds candidate since Jim Johnson’s ineffectiveness got the best of him. He remains just 15% owned on Fantrax, yet since August began he’s recorded 4 holds to go along with a 0.84 WHIP and 1.69 ERA. This isn’t just few weeks either. On the season Ramirez has a 1.01 WHIP and 2.36 ERA. His strikeout rate isn’t elite but it’s good enough with a K/9 sitting at 8.27 on the season. Arodys Vizciano should close for the Braves, but Ramirez has a strong hold on the set-up role.
Sam Freeman, Atl (1% owned)
Another Braves reliever, lefty Sam Freeman has a 3.06 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP on the season, to go along with 6 holds. Of those 6 holds, 3 have come since August 1st, during which time Freeman has yet to allow an earned run and has an impressive 0.54 WHIP. Freeman is on a roll right now, but his current success is backed by a 7 K/BB ratio since August and a 2.75 K/BB on the season. This is much improved from his previous career high K/BB of 1.84 back in 2014. At 1% owned, we are digging deep but Freeman should get some holds opportunities for the Braves the rest of the way, enough to warrant a look in deeper leagues.
Josh Fields, LAD (7% owned)
Since August 1st, Fields has recorded 5 holds for the Dodgers while posting a 1.86 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. Fields August was also good for a 6.52 K/9, which is nothing special but his 3.5 K/BB shows that he’s in control on the mound. The Dodgers seemingly win every game (although they lost their first series this weekend since early June) so Fields should see plenty of leads to protect the rest of the way.
That wraps up this week’s edition of Bullpen Briefing. This will be the last edition for the 2017 season, so thank you all for reading all season long and I‘ll see you all next season.