The big news of the day is the injury to Corey Knebel, so I will lead off with the Brewers bullpen situation. I’ll follow it with the other bullpens I am monitoring around the league. No closers have lost their job titles since last week, but there are still several question marks. I’ll discuss the White Sox, the Orioles, the Pirates, the Cardinals, the Angels, and the Dodgers. After that, I’ll feature a middle reliever to watch and potentially add if you’re looking for a handful of quality innings to supplement your starting rotation. As usual, I’ll finish with the three stars of the week.
The Brewers were trailing 8-0 when they called on Corey Knebel to pitch the 9th and get some work in. He recorded two outs and then injured what appears to be his hamstring while making a pitch. Knebel definitely looked like he was in some pain and was unable to put pressure on his leg when being helped off the field. The Brewers already announced Knebel will go on the 10-day DL, but I fear the injury could be more serious and require a prolonged DL stint.
Actions to take: My initial reaction is that Jacob Barnes will assume closing duties so he’s the add here. Barnes is in his third season with the Brewers and has been a trustworthy setup man for manager Craig Counsell. Barnes sports a K rate of 9.6 per 9 for his career, and a walk rate of 3.5 per 9. While the walks are a tad high, he gets enough strikeouts that the walks are manageable.
Matt Albers is also worth an add if Barnes is already owned or if you want to make sure you don’t let a closer slip through your fingers. I fear that Knebel won’t be back anytime soon, so we are talking about almost a full seasons worth of saves here. If you have the roster space, it’s worth it to add both and see how things shake out. Getting onto Albers; he’s bounced around throughout his career, but the veteran reliever had an impressive 1.62 ERA and 0.85 WHIP last season to go along with a 9.3 K/9. Prior to 2017, Albers had not posted a K/9 above 7.2 since 2011. His 2017 season looks like an outlier, especially at age 35, but the Brewers may choose to put Albers in the closer role and leave the rest of the bullpen roles as they were. Barnes is still my first choice, but there is no telling what Craig Counsel will do. Add both if you can.
Josh Hader is also worthy of consideration. He’s the best pitcher in the Brewer’s pen, but he is too green and too valuable in the multi-inning middle relief role. I think he remains in his current role where he’s had so much success. Jeremey Jeffress, while he did pick up 27 saves for the Brewers back in 2016, just doesn’t have the ability to be a reliable closer anymore.
Chicago White Sox
It was a busy week for Joakim Soria who went 2/3 in save opportunities. The blown save came last night. A 3-run White Sox lead quickly became 1 run after a 2-out Niko Goodrum home run. Then, after a Nick Castellanos single, Victor Martinez hit a double to left to tie the game. You never want to see your closer give up a home run so that is definitely a cause for concern. However, the double that tied the game was really a badly misplayed ball by Leury Garica. Soria has been good on the season besides last night, so his closer tag is not in jeopardy just yet, but another bad outing and it will be. Nate Jones is the CLEW, who has yet to give up a run this season in 3.1 innings pitched.
Both Soria and Jones are free agents after this season. The White Sox are not expected to contend, so I imagine they will look to boost both RPs’ values before shipping them off at the deadline. I know it’s early, but if that happens, Juan Minaya is a good bet to re-take the closing gig just as he did last year after the White Sox sold off their bullpen arms at the trade deadline.
Actions to take: Soria owners should hang tight for now. If Jones is available, he may be worth an add for insurance. It’s a little early to add Minaya in most leagues but good to have him on your radar.
The Orioles had one save situation in the last week, which came last night. The opportunity went to Brad Brach who got the job done. Mychal Givens came on to pitch the 7th but was yanked after recording just two outs and was credited with an earned run. This marks the second appearance in a row that Givens has been touched up. He gave up two runs, and the lead, in the Orioles 10-6 loss to the Astros on Tuesday. Earlier in the week Givens had pitched a scoreless ninth in a 7-0 loss, a game in which Brach pitched a clean 8th inning. Brach retains the closer tag for now.
Actions to take: Continue to hold Brach. A couple strong outings combined with a Givens rough patch gives Brach some security for now. Darren O’Day had two clean outings in the last week, but I think Givens remains the CLEW (Closer En Waiting) if he can right the ship in the coming week.
Felipe Rivero gave up 4 runs in his first outing of the year but bounced back on Sunday picking up two saves in the Pirates doubleheader. He struck out 5 in those two innings and looks back on track. Rivero got the day off Monday for his efforts, and George Kontos filled in nicely picking up the save. Rivero then notched his 3rd save of the season last night, putting to rest any lingering concerns from his bad first outing.
Actions to take: Rivero’s 6 Ks in his last 3 innings is comforting. The closer gig is firmly his so there is no need to make a move. George Kontos remains the CLEW.
St. Louis Cardinals
Greg Holland is scheduled to be ready for the Cardinals on Monday. I suggested Dom Leone would get the save opportunities until Holland was ready and was proved right when Leone did get the opportunity on Tuesday night. He was 4/5ths of the way through a 5-out save, when he gave up a game tying home run to Christian Yelich, immediately followed by a walk-off blast from Ryan Braun. The poor outing boosts Jordan Hicks’ value, who pitched the 9th inning in the Cardinals 3-1 loss to the D-Backs last night. Leone pitched 1.1 innings of scoreless ball himself, so he rebounded nicely from the blown save.
Actions to take: In saves leagues, I’d swap Leone for Hicks if you’re looking for a save over the weekend. In holds leagues, Hicks is the go-to setup man for now, but I think Leone and Hicks will both play a big role in the late innings for St. Louis. I’d be happy owning either of the two.
Los Angeles Angels
On Easter Sunday, Mike Scoscia called upon Blake Parker in the 9th inning of a 4-run, non-save situation. Parker got into trouble and Keynan Middleton bailed him out to pick up his first save of the year. Cam Bedrosian had already pitched the 7th inning of that game.
On Thursday, in a 2-2 ballgame, Bedrosian again pitched the 7th. Middleton followed and pitched the 8th and 9th, and Parker came in for the 11th. It seems that Bedrosian is the middle inning guy, and Parker the late inning guy, with Middleton used in the fireman type roll.
Actions to take: Parker is lined up to close, so he’s worth an add in saves formats. Middleton’s usage suggests he’s got the trust of Mike Scioscia, and I really like him in holds and non-traditional league types because of his ability to go more than 1 inning.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Kenley Jansen took an ‘L’ last week and followed it with a blown save in his next appearance. I’m not concerned yet, but Jansen did throw a career high 85 innings including playoffs last year. He walked 2 players on Monday night after walking just 10 in 2017 (including playoffs). He’s still the best in the game and he’ll have a long leash as long as he’s healthy. We’ll check back in if things continue down this path.
Actions to take: You would be crazy to consider dropping Kenley Jansen, but if you are speculating on saves candidates I think Josh Fields is the CLEW should Jansen need a 10-day DL stint to get him on-track.
Middle Reliever to Watch:
Amir Garrett, CIN
You might remember lefty Amir Garrett from last season. The rookie got off to a hot start with a 12-strikeout game on April 19th. It was downhill for Garrett after that though. He was eventually moved to the bullpen and finished the season with a 7.39 ERA. It seems that part of Garrett’s struggles related to a hip injury that cost him some time on the DL, but which he otherwise pitched through. In the off-season, Garrett underwent platelet-rich plasma and stem-cell injections to help him recover, which he reportedly has.
The clean bill of health showed in Garrett’s spring training stats. In 17 spring training innings he struck out 21 while walking just 4 batters. Garrett was competing for a spot in the Reds’ rotation during training, but despite a solid spring he was assigned to the bullpen to start the year. The benefit for fantasy owners is that Garrett is stretched out and should be able to give multiple innings in relief, which he did last night pitching 1.2 innings, striking out two, and walking none. This was his second appearance of the season, the first was 1 inning of work in which Garrett recorded 2 strikeouts and a walk.
The middle relief role is becoming more and more fantasy relevant as starting pitchers are not pitching as deep into games as they used to. Garrett can be a supplement to your fantasy staff, giving you 3-4 innings per week with a handful of strikeouts. If spring training and the early season success is any indication, Garrett has the ability to rise quickly through the Reds’ bullpen hierarchy.
Actions to take: I added Garrett in my 16-team league after Joe Musgrove was placed on the DL. I prefer Garrett to any of the starting pitchers available on the wire. I recommend you do the same if you are in a similar situation. For those of you in holds leagues, it might take a few more good outings before Garrett is getting hold opportunities. You may be able to wait to add him depending on how competitive your league is in adding middle relievers, but don’t wait too long or he will be gone before you know it.
Three Stars of the Week
Edwin Diaz, Sea – Diaz pitched 3 innings, recording 3 saves and striking out 8. He did not allow a baserunner.
Brad Peacock, Hou – Peacock pitched 5 innings, including a 3-inning appearance on Wednesday where he was credited with the win. He recorded a total of 7 strikeouts, two hits, and no walks. He did not allow a run.
Archie Bradley, AZ – Bradley went 5.2 innings, picking up 4 holds and 7 strikeouts He did allow a run, but was still good for a 1.59 ERA and 0.71 WHIP for the week.
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading and feel free to drop a comment or question below. I’ll be back next week with another edition.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Thursday April 5th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #112 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 the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week Bilal Chaudry. Bilal is a long time veteran of Major League Fantasy Sports Leagues. He is the defending MLFBC champion, has also done some commissioner work, and is a frequent radio guest.