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“On Bzdek” Bullpen Briefing: Fretting Over Felipe Vazquez, Shakeups in the Sunshine State, and Other RP News

It’s been quite a busy week for bullpens. One high end closer, Felipe Vazquez, is going through a rough patch that is causing concern for the Pirates and his fantasy owners. Meanwhile, the Florida bullpens were busy making trades and under-performing so we’ll get updates from both MIami and Tampa Bay. We’ll also have some injury updates from Baltimore and Cinci, and an update on the closing situation in Toronto with Roberto Osuna still on administrative leave. We’ll finish with the three stars of the week, and I think one of this week’s stars could be a player worth adding in holds leagues.

Miami Marlins

Brad Ziegler took an L in each of his last two appearances, one of which was a blown save. His season ERA is up to 7.83, and Marlins’ manager Don Mattingly told the media that Ziegler will be used differently from now on. At best, that means Ziegler is going to take some time off from closing games until he can right the ship, but there is a good chance the demotion could be permanent.

Kyle Barraclough and Drew Steckenrider are the two candidates for saves with Ziegler out of the role. They are similar pitchers, both boasting high K/9 along with high BB/9. In 2018, Barraclough has a 10 K/9 with a 5.6 BB/9, which are consistent with his career norms. He’s got a 1.48 ERA but a 4.06 FIP due to all the walks. Steckenrider has a 5.01 ERA thus far in 2018, but a 3.12 FIP, supported by a 12 K/9 and a 3.9 BB/9. The big difference between the two is tenure, with Barraclough pitching 187.1 innings over 4 seasons with the Marlins, while Steckenrider is in just his second MLB season and only has 58 career innings. Because of this tenure, and his 1.48 ERA (despite not being supported by his peripheral stats), Barraclough should get the first opportunity to close games in Miami.

Actions to take: Barraclough is the add for saves here, as noted above. He has his flaws and isn’t immune from having a rough patch, but neither is his main competition Steckenrider. This could be a situation where Mattingly rides the hot hand for the 9th inning, and right now the hot hand is Barraclough, so stick with him until further notice.

Tampa Bay Rays

With Alex Colome shipped to Seattle last weekend, the closer job is up for grabs in Tampa Bay. With the Rays’ unorthodox approach to pitching this season, I expect a closer committee for the foreseeable future. In the last week, Sergio Romo, Austin Priutt, and Jonny Venters all picked up saves. Jose Alvarado and Chaz Roe also figure to be in the mix for saves going forward.

Romo, a righty, and Venters, a lefty, will likely be used in key match-ups no matter the inning. Both should have quality ratios, chip in some holds, and notch the occasional save. Romo continues to be used in the “Opener” role which also limits his opportunity to pick up holds or saves.

Pruitt’s save was of the rare 5.2 inning variety as the Rays experiment with their pitcher usage. Don’t expect many more from him the rest of the way.

Jose Alvarado and Chaz Roe are the real contenders for saves. On the season, Alvarado has a 2.78 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 24 Ks, 10 BBs, and has not allowed a home run through 22.2 innings. Roe’s season stats are less impressive. In 19.1 innings he has a 4.19 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 23 Ks, 8 BB, and 3 HR allowed. Both have been equally solid the last 30 days as well, with ERAs in the low 3s.

Actions to take: Alvarado is the add for saves. I prefer him to Roe because he’s been able to limit the long ball in his career. However, because of the Rays’ experimental usage of pitchers, I would prefer the Marlins’ Barraclough if both are available, just as a reference point. In holds leagues, Venters is intriguing. He battled injuries in his career and hadn’t pitched since 2012 with the Braves. He should be a good source of saves and inherited runs saved being used in a lefty specialist role.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Felipe Vazquez left Sunday’s game early with forearm discomfort. He was diagnosed with a minor flexor irritation and made an appearance just two days later, pitching a clean inning in a non-save situation. He recorded a save on Wednesday, however he blew a save last night, allowing a walk and a home run. This was his third appearance in as many nights so perhaps he was a bit fatigued. Still, this marks his 4th blown save in 6 appearances. The poor performance, coupled with the forearm discomfort is a huge concern. I would not be surprised if he sees the DL in the near future, or at least a few days off.

Should the forearm issue be more severe than initially thought, there is no clear cut closer en waiting. Michael Feliz leads the Pirates with 11 holds, however he’s also rocking a 5.87 ERA on the season with a 1.43 WHIP. He’s got 29 strikeouts in 23 innings, but also 11 walks and 3 HR allowed.

Edgar Santana is another candidate. He’s got 6 holds, a 3.57 ERA, and 1.06 WHIP on the season along with 19 Ks, 4 BB, and 2 HR allowed in 22.2 innings.

The most impressive RP has been Richard Rodriguez. In 20.2 innings he’s recorded 32 Ks, 3 BB, and allowed 1 HR, resulting in a 2.18 and 1.21 ERA.

Also worth noting is Tyler Glasnow. He’s got 38 strikeouts in 28 innings, but also 15 walks, a 4.82 ERA, and a 1.43 WHIP. He’s got the strikeout rate to succeed as a reliever, even with a walk rate north of 4.5 per 9.

Actions to take: All in all, Vazquez owners (I am one) should be concerned, but there is no need to drop him yet. I would be hesitant to invest in Michael Feliz because there are better options to choose from, plus he’s been struggling of late allowing 9 earned runs over his last 4 outings.

My pick for saves would be Edgar Santana. He’s been solid and has been used in high leverage situations, both which point to him getting the first shot at closing if need be. Richard Rodriguez would be my second choice as he’s been lights out in 2018 so far. While he’s yet to record a hold in 2018, he should see some opportunities in the near future.

As for Glasnow, I think the Pirates still see him as an SP long term, but if they commit to him in the pen, I could see him having a lot of success. He’s not someone to add right now unless you are in a deep holds league, but certainly someone to keep an eye on going forward.

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners acquired the former Tampa Bay closer Alex Colome last weekend. He will not challenge star closer Edwin Diaz for saves any time soon, but he will remain valuable in holds leagues pitching in a middle relief role. The move bolsters an already strong bullpen for Seattle, who currently sit in 4 games up on the Angels for the second wild card slot and 1 game behind the Astros in the AL West. The Mariners appear to be early aggressors in 2018. With the bullpen solidified, look for them to upgrade at SP.

Actions to take: In saves leagues, Colome’s value plummets and he’s droppable in such formats. In SV/HLD leagues, Colome remains an asset and worth holding onto.

Toronto Blue Jays

Roberto Osuna is still on administrative leave, and likely to stay there for the foreseeable future. Ryan Tepera picked up the Jays’ only two saves in the last week, though he did allow an earned run in 2 of his 3 appearances and finished the week with a 2.67 WHIP. Seunghwan Oh is coming off a good week, throwing 3.1 innings with 6Ks, 2BBs, and 0 ER allowed. He may get the next save opportunity with Tepera looking less than stellar.

Actions to take: Oh is worth a speculative add for saves. He may have been dropped during the week with Tepera getting the save opps. I wouldn’t swap Oh for Tepera yet, but Tepera owners should certainly keep a close eye this weekend.

Baltimore Orioles

Zach Britton pitched well in his first rehab appearance earlier this week, striking out the side. He’ll have a couple more appearances before returning to the Orioles sometime in the next 1 – 2 weeks. I wouldn’t put much stock into the results of Britton’s rehab appearances. The important thing is that he’s healthy and continues his recovery. He has the potential to be a top-5 closer if he returns to his pre-injury form.

Actions to take: Britton should resume closing duties soon after returning to the big leagues. He’s worth a DL stash in all formats right now. While he is a likely trade deadline candidate and may or may not close depending where he lands, I’ll take my chances with the elite talent and worry about how it unfolds in August.

Cincinnati Reds

Raisel Iglesias‘ DL stint was for just over the minimum 10-days, as he returned this week from a sore left bicep. The injury doesn’t appear to be a concern, but with any RP injury I always recommend waiting a couple of appearances for the now-healthy reliever to ensure they are truly healed. If Iglesias has further issues, it seems clear that Jared Hughes is the first choice for saves in Iglesias’ absence.

Actions to take: If you added Hughes while Iglesias was out, consider holding through the weekend to make sure Iglesias is over his biceps injury. However, if some of the saves pickups discussed above are available, such as Kyle Barraclough, it makes sense to make the swap.

Three Stars of the Week

Reyes Moronta, SFG – Moronta pitched 3.1 innings, striking out 4 and not allowing a baserunner. He also recorded 3 holds – his only holds of the season. Moronta has a 1.44 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 25 innings in 2018. He’s got a 10 K/9 and a 5 BB/9. He’s worth a look in holds leagues as he seems to be gaining the trust of Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy.

Sean Doolittle, WAS – Doolittle pitched 4.2 innings: racking up 4 saves, 5 Ks, and finishing the week with a 0.00 ERA and 0.64 ERA. He’s always been a top RP when healthy, and he’s been able to stay off the DL thus far in 2018.

Yusmeiro Petit, OAK – Petit pitched 5.0 innings striking out 5. He picked up a hold and a win, finishing with a 0.00 ERA and 0.40 WHIP on the week. He was a horse last season, pitching 91.1 innings and recording 101 strikeouts. His 2018 hasn’t been quite as good, but perhaps Petit needs a couple months to find his groove as it seems many RPs do after a season with such a big workload.

That’s all for this week. As always I’ll answer any questions or comments you may have if you drop them below or in the fantasy baseball Reddit community. Thanks for reading!


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Our guest this week is Bryan Luhrs. Bryan is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com. Bryan focuses on the minor leagues and he also is the owner of Real Deal Dynasty Sports.

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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