The biggest closer news of the week is unfortunately an off the field incident occuring in Toronto. I’ll hit that bullpen first as the closer role is very much up for grabs. The other bullpen news came in the form of injury. Two closers are returning from the DL in Milwaukee and Los Angeles, and one closer is hitting the DL in Baltimore. As always, I’ll finish on a positive note with the three stars of the week.
Toronto Blue Jays
Roberto Osuna was placed on Administrative Leave on Tuesday after he was arrested and charged with domestic violence. There have been several players that missed games recently under the MLB Domestic Violence policy, ranging from 15 to 51 games. As this is an in-season issue, I imagine Osuna will be out indefinitely, until there is some more clarity on the legal side of things. The Blue Jays will need someone else to close games in the meantime.
One candidate for saves in Osuna’s absence is Tyler Clippard, who notched the first Blue Jays save chance without Osuna on Wednesday. He owns a 1.40 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 2018, a stark improvement from a 4.77 ERA in 2017. However, Clippard’s 2018 peripherals do not support the improvement as his FIP is 4.30, more in line with 2017 results. Clippard has also allowed 3 home runs on the season for a 1.4 HR/9. Despite these negatives, Clippard is still striking batters out at around 10K/9 and he has experience closing games. He is certainly in the mix for saves.
Another potential closing candidate, who also happens to have experience closing games, is Seungwan Oh. Oh’s got a 1.65 ERA and 1.04 WHIP on the season, but like Clippard, his ERA is outperforming his 3.53 FIP which is more in line with Oh’s 2017 ERA of 4.10. Oh’s strikeout per 9 sits at 8.8, and his BB per 9 is 1.65. He is also benefiting from a 98.7% LOB.
John Axford is another candidate for saves, though I haven’t seen his name mentioned much. Axford hasn’t closed since 2015 with the Rockies when he picked up 25 saves. He’s got a 1.47 ERA and a 2.40 FIP, as well as a 1.15 WHIP, 7.8 K/9, and 3.0 BB/9. Oxford has racked up 18.1 innings, the most of the Jays’ closer candidates, but has just 1 hold on the season. He could be a late inning option with his current year performance.
Finally, a closer candidate who is unlike the others because he has no closing experience, is Ryan Tepera. A lifelong Blue Jay, the 30-year-old righty has a 3.06 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 9.7 K/9 on the season, all consistent with Tepara’s 2017. He is walking a manageable 3 batters per 9 innings and has already picked up 7 holds after recording 17 in 2017. I would be surprised if Tepera did not see an opportunity to close in this situation.
Actions to take: This one looks like it will initially be a committee. Many have raced out to add Clippard and Oh; if you are chasing saves that’s not a bad move but I have my doubts on their ability to take the role and run with it. The guy I am targeting is Ryan Tepera due to his reliability year to year and the fact he’s never had an ERA over 3.59 in his 4 seasons with the Jays. In holds leagues, or deep saves leagues where the three other RPs have already been picked up, it’s worth it to grab Axford, who is the dark horse to close and actually having the best season of the four. At the least, he should see increased hold opportunities.
The Brewers activated Corey Knebel after he spent 5 weeks on the DL with a hamstring injury. Knebel saw immediate action coming into a game when the Brewers trailed 4-0, as is normal for a closer returning from a DL-stint. Knebel pitched 1 inning, striking out 1 and giving up a solo homer. The Brewers have been closing games committee-style in Knebel’s absence, with Josh Hader taking the MLB by storm. I expect Knebel to resume closing duties rather quickly, but he may see a few more rest days initially, leaving the door open for Hader to notch a save from time to time. We’ve also seen Hader pick up several 2-inning saves so I think he will still be in the mix for those going forward.
Actions to take: Knebel is surely owned in your league, as is Hader. If for some reason Hader is dropped in your saves league, he is still worth owning due to his elite ratios and the occasional save or win he will add. The biggest losers of Knebel’s return are Jeremy Jeffress, Matt Albers, and Jacob Barnes, as the three of them will have to share the middle innings now. All are worth holding in holds leagues but feel free to cut bait in saves leagues.
Los Angeles Angels
Another closer was activated from the DL this week, and that is Keynan Middleton. Middleton missed minimal time (13 days) with an inflamed elbow. In fact, not one save was recorded in Middleton’s absence by anyone in the Angels’ bullpen. I suspect Middleton to go right back to closing games.
Actions to take: Middleton is back so activate him from your DL slot. If you picked up one of Blake Parker or Cam Bedrosian in Middleton’s absence, consider swapping them for a member of the Blue Jays bullpen which is a lot more up in the air right now.
The Orioles placed Darren O’Day on the DL this week with a hyperextended elbow. He is not expected to be out long. O’Day had been the go-to for saves in recent weeks for the O’s. With O’Day unavailable, the Orioles went to Brad Brach with the first save opportunity and Brach nailed it down. Brach has been sub-par overall on the season though. He owns a 5.02 ERA and 1.81 WHIP. He got off to a rough start to 2018 and his last two weeks haven’t been pretty with a 4.76 ERA and 1.94 WHIP.
Mychal Givens also got off to a rough start in 2018, but he righted the ship recently with 8.1 innings, 13 Ks, 1 BB, a 1.08 ERA and 0.72 WHIP in the last two weeks.
Last, Richard Bleier has been the O’s best reliever. He has a 0.40 ERA and 0.93 WHIP across 22.2 innings. The strikeouts are not there for Bleier though, with just 4 K/9. However, being a lefty, Bleier may see a save opportunity if the match-ups dictate so.
Actions to take: Brach may get save opportunities, but he’s not someone I am interested in picking up until I see some sustained success this year. I will take my chances with Mychal Givens and his recent performance. It’s also worth noting that Zach Britton is working his way back and is throwing off a mound. He’s likely another 1-2 weeks away but worth a DL stash if available.
Ken Giles worked two scoreless innings in two save chances since his meltdown last week. His closing role appears safe for now.
Actions to take: Giles remains the closer to own, but I wouldn’t drop closer in waiting Chris Devenski just yet.
3 Stars of the Week
Brad Hand, SD – In three, one-inning appearances, Hand picked up 3 saves, 8 Ks, allowed just two hits and allowed nary a run nor a walk.
Raisel Iglesias, CIN – Iglesias pitched four innings in 3 appearances, picking up a win, a save, and 4 Ks. He allowed 3 hits and walked none.
Archie Bradley, ARI – Bradley threw 3.1 innings and recorded 3 holds. He allowed 1 walk and 1 hit. He’s having another stellar season to the tune of a 1.35 ERA and 0.80 WHIP and remains a top holds candidate.
That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading. Feel free to drop any questions or comments below and I’ll be sure to respond.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday May 6th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #119 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 discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Kyle Klinker. Kyle has been an owner in MLFS baseball, and basketball leagues for over 5 years. He also has a couple of championships under his belt over that span in some tough leagues. We loving refer to him as “The Red Rocket.”