I’m not a huge believer in the idea of a closer by committee. Perhaps in part because it is difficult to do successfully, and in part because most of the teams who go to a committee do so because their bullpen kinda stinks. In the last few years, we’ve seen a shift in bullpen usage where the dominant arm is not the closer, in order to be used in a key situation, whether in the 6th, 7th, or 8th inning. Despite this shift, there has still typically been a named closer in most cases. This year, and the last couple of weeks especially, there seems to be an increased committee approach in bullpens that have high caliber arms. The Houston Astros are one example, and I will touch on them first today, followed by the Cardinals, Brewers, and Angels. I’ll finish with some positive news from Detroit and the three stars of the week.
Last week, I was not questioning the closer situation in Houston. Sure, Brad Peacock got the save on April 8th, but Ken Giles worked the previous two days and deserved a night off. This was the second time Peacock finished a game for the Astros, the first being a 3 innings performance earning Peacock a win on April 4th. This was a 1-run game where typically we’d see the closer in the 9th, but with Peacock dealing, manager AJ Hinch let him finish things off.
Then, last Friday Chris Deveneski got a save (striking out the side to boot) and Giles was nowhere to be found, causing me to question everything I thought I knew about bullpens. Something was definitely up in Houston and Giles owners couldn’t help but be concerned.
The following day, Brad Peacock pitched the 7th inning, allowing 3 runs that tied the game. Giles pitched the top of the 9th in a tie game, which shows some trust from Hinch. On Sunday, in another tie game, it was Devenski who pitched the top of the 9th inning. There was no action from the pen on Monday, but Tuesday It was again Devenski getting the save, pitching 1 inning in a 4-1 ballgame.
I started to wonder if Hinch was preserving Giles’ arm after the Astros’ deep post-season run, but it was announced yesterday that Giles is dealing with a back issue and has been unavailable the last few days. This helps put things into perspective, and while a DL stint may be on the horizon for Giles, at least we know there is a reason for his lack of playing time.
Actions to take: Devenski, Peacock, and Giles will all provide fantasy value in 2018. I still believe Giles will get the lions share of save chances despite not getting many opportunities recently. Devenski and Peacock both entered the season as high end middle relievers who would provide quality ratios and holds. It looks like they may both be chipping in a few more saves than expected, which is a nice bonus. For saves speculators, Devenski is the guy to add right now, but if he is already taken then give Brad Peacock an add. Both guys are great and should get save chances while Giles is dealing with his back issue.
St. Louis Cardinals
Greg Holland was expected to assume closing duties when he joined the Cardinals team last Monday. In five appearances he is yet to record a save while Bud Norris has picked up three in the last week. Holland will certainly get his chance, but Norris is making a strong case for himself with 17 strikeouts and only 1 walk in 9.1 innings, to go along with a 1.93 ERA and 1.07 WHIP.
I’m not sure I get manager Mike Matheny’s thought process on using Holland this season. Typically when a reliever returns from the DL, or in Holland’s case from extended spring training, you ease him back with an appearance in a low leverage situation, then hand him the reins. Matheny has done the opposite, thrusting Holland into an extra inning affair in his first appearance, and then an appearance late in a game where the Cards trailed 3-2. Holland finally got a low leverage situation in his third outing, followed by an 8th inning non-hold appearance. Holland has been a 9th inning guy for the last several years and Matheny is not setting Holland up to succeed.
Actions to take: I still think Holland is the long term saves option for the Cards, but Norris is worth a short term add until we see Holland record a save. I do think Norris should be owned in holds leagues. He was solid in 2017 out of the pen and looks good again in 2018, his success supported by his 17/1 strikeout per walk rate. If Holland gets the closer role, Norris will share the 7th and 8th innings with Jordan Hicks and Dominic Leone. The Cardinals’ bullpen looks a lot stronger today than it did on the eve of opening day.
The Brewers’ situation is also up in the air, though perhaps more due to ineffectiveness. Jacob Barnes and Matt Albers both got opportunities to close games last week and neither was able to separate himself from the other.
Queue Josh Hader, who was dominant in 2017 but is off to an even better 2018 with 22 strikeouts in 9.2 innings pitched, to go along with a 1.86 ERA and 0.52 WHIP. Hader is leaning on his slider more in 2018, throwing it at a 31% clip vs 11% in 2017. It’s obviously helping. Hader was thought to be too valuable in a middle inning role because of his ability to pitch more than one inning, but he was called upon last Saturday for a save and got the job done. On Tuesday, Hader pitched a scoreless 8th and 9th to preserve a 2-0 lead and pick up his second save in as many chances.
Just as things were pointing toward Hader being the guy, Brewers manager Craig Counsel went to Jacob Barnes for a 2 inning save on Wednesday night. Barnes got the job done, striking out three to preserve the 2-0 lead.
Actions to take: Hader, Barnes, and Albers are all in the mix for saves. Hader is the best pitcher of the trio and he’s on fire right now. Barnes is a distant second with Albers not far behind. In a competitive saves league, all three are likely owned and all are worth owning. I don’t think anyone is dropping Hader anytime soon, but if Barnes or Albers are available and you need saves I would consider adding them.
Los Angeles Angels
The dust may be settling in LA, and with Keynan Middleton recording the team’s last three saves, he looks to be the closer. I’m not ready to seal the deal, but Blake Parker hasn’t been very good this year and Cam Bedrosian has been used in the early innings almost exclusively thus far.
Actions to take: Middleton is the add for saves here. Parker should get some holds but I don’t trust him right now and I would rather own Bedrosian if I had to choose between the two. I also prefer just about every player discussed above to Parker, sorry Blake.
Joe Jimenez is continuing his torrid 2018. He picked up a 1.1 inning hold on Tuesday night, striking out 3. He now has 7 strikeouts in 7.2 innings, which is closer to the projections which have Jimenez at just over a strike out per inning. If you missed the boat on some of the high end middle relievers this year, Jimenez may be a nice consolation prize.
Three Stars of the Week
Paul Sewald, NYM – Sewald pitched two, 3 inning outings this week, recording 5 strikeouts in each. On the whole, he threw 6.0 innings with 10Ks, one hit, no walks, and no earned run. He out-pitched most starting pitchers this week.
Josh Hader, Mil – In 4.0 innings, Hader picked up 2 saves and struck out 8, along with a 0.00 ERA and 0.25 WHIP.
Pedro Baez, LAD – Baez pitched 3.1 innings, striking out 8 batters and allowing no base-runners. He recorded one hold.
Thats all for this week. Thanks for reading and feel free to drop a comment below. See you next week.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Thursday April 19th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #116 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 guests this week are Tim McLeod of prospect361.com and Cole Freel. Cole is one of the newest writers with the majorleaguefantasysports.com and one of the more popular. Cole’s articles publish every Saturday at 1pm EST and his focus is Buys/Sells from the hitters side of the ball. Tim is one of the most respected minor league scouts in fantasy baseball. Be sure to check out his website linked above.