Welcome back to week 11 edition of the Bullpen Briefing. I’ll pick up where I left off last week, getting an update from Pittsburgh, where closer Felipe Vazquez was dealing with poor performance and a sore forearm. From there, we’ll take a look at the shared closer role on the south side of Chicago as well as a couple guys returning from the DL in Baltimore, including several potential post-trade deadline closers to keep on your radar. I’ll finish with updates from Miami, Detroit, Houston and Toronto, and as always the three stars of the week.
Felipe Vazquez made two appearances since last week, coming on back-to-back days Tuesday and Wednesday. He pitched a total of 2.1 innings striking out 4, including a 4-out save on Wednesday. He did walk two on Wednesday, but the biggest thing here is that Vazquez looks healthy after experiencing some forearm soreness a couple weeks ago.
Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez both recorded holds for the Pirates last week, however neither was dominant. Crick walked 3 batters and allowed 2 runs in 2.2 innings with no strikeouts, and in 2.0 innings Rodriguez struck out 1 but allowed a solo HR. Edgar Santana pitched 2.0 innings and allowed 1 hit and no walks or strikeouts.
Actions to take: Vazquez owners can breathe a sigh of relief for now as the stud closer’s back-to-back appearances quiet the injury concerns. I am still wary of the long-term health of Vazquez’s forearm though, and I’d be keeping a close eye on Santana, Crick, and Rodriguez if I were speculating for saves.
Chicago White Sox
After not recording a save all of May, Joakim Soria picked up two saves in a row on Tuesday and Thursday of this week. Soria last gave up an earned run on May 18th. Since then, he’s pitched 8.1 innings, striking out 10 and walking 1. Nate Jones hasn’t been bad himself though. Before allowing 4 earned runs on Tuesday, Jones had 8 straight scoreless appearances with 8 strikeouts, however he did allow 6 walks over that span.
The closer role will likely be shared between Soria and Jones with manager Rick Renteria riding the hot hand. I fully expect both pitchers to be on the trade market, so getting them each looks in various situations makes sense to build some value.
Bruce Rondón has quietly been putting together a solid last month recording 15Ks to 3 BBs in 9.2 innings. He’s got a rogue save and 3 holds during that time. He looks like he is lining up to take over closing duties come August.
Actions to take: In leagues where saves are scarce and valuable, Jones and Rondón are both worth owning. If you’re looking for a long-term saves play, Rondón is a great stash.
Zach Britton is expected to be activated from the 60-day DL on June 15th. That’s next Friday for those like me who can’t add without a calculator. Britton was a premier closer from 2014 to 2016 before injuries made him look human in 2018 and finally ended his season prematurely. A fully healthy Britton is a valuable fantasy piece. He’s still available on 46% of yahoo leagues, so if your league is one of the 46% then grab him now because you won’t be able to this time next week.
Darren O’Day is also working his way back from the DL. He threw a rehab game at High-A yesterday striking out the side. He should be activated some time over the weekend. He’s got a 3.77 Era and 0.98 WHIP, including 18 Ks in 14.1 innings this season.
Actions to take: For the last time, stash Zach Britton! For those in holds leagues or competitive saves leagues, O’Day may be worth an add. He’s been a solid reliever the last several seasons when healthy, especially against right-handed batters. With Britton and Brad Brach impending free agents and trade candidates, and Mychal Givens having a mediocre season, O’Day could find himself closing games by late summer. Speaking of Brad Brach, if you can afford to hold him until Britton proves he is healthy and capable, it’s probably a good idea. I’ve seen too many times a player returns from injury only to re-injure themselves within a week of returning. Brach did blow a save in ugly fashion last night, allowing 3 ER in 0.1 innings, but he’s been otherwise solid the last month and earned the closer role back after some early season struggles.
The Marlins switched closers from Brad Ziegler to Kyle Barraclough last week. Barraclough made good on his new role by recording the Marlins’ only save of the week on Tuesday. Barraclough may have his ups and downs, but things are looking good for him right now and it’s nice to see him securing his opportunity in his new role.
Actions to take: Barraclough is certainly owned in your league by now if saves are hard to come by. He’ll likely hang onto the role all year, but if not Drew Steckenrider is the closer en waiting now.
Joe Jimenez deserves some attention. Jimenez was a highly regarded reliever prospect last season, but in his 19.0 inning cup of coffee he posted a 12.32 ERA. In 2018 he’s showing why he was so highly regarded. In 29.1 innings Jimenez has a 2.45 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 9.20 K/9 and 2.15 BB/9. Shane Greene has also been very solid closing games for the Tigers the last two seasons. I don’t see an imminent closer change, but right now Jimenez is the more dominant reliever, and if he keeps it up the role will eventually be his someday.
Actions to take: No actions here as Jimenez is likely owned in holds leagues already. For saves leagues he is someone to keep on your radar.
Héctor Rondón has had a resurgence with Houston this season. In 22.0 innings Rondón has a 1.64 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 26 K to 4 BB. He picked up his first save since 2016 this week when he was brought into the 8th inning of Wednesday’s game and he stayed in for the 9th. We’ve seen Astros manager A.J. Hinch deploy this strategy before this season with Chris Devenski and Brad Peacock, despite closer Ken Giles being available.
Actions to take: Giles should continue to see the bulk of the saves, but his value certainly takes a hit in saves-only leagues because of the way Hinch is handling his bullpen. While a save here and there isn’t cause for concern, that adds up to 6-7 saves missed over the course of a season. You might consider shopping Giles if you can find a closer elsewhere. I will certainly take note of this next year and drop Giles a few notches in the rankings because of it. In holds leagues, Rondón is worth an add as he is very much in the mix in the late innings for Houston.
Toronto Blue Jays
No saves were recorded by Blue Jays relievers in the last week, but Ryan Tepera pitched 3.2 innings striking out 4, and did not allow a walk or a run. Tyler Clippard pitched 3.2 innings, striking out 7 and walking none, but he also allowed 2 solo home runs.
Actions to take: Despite no saves being recorded, the last week has solidified in my mind that Tepera is the reliever to own for saves in Toronto.
Three Stars of the Week
Joakim Soria, CWS – Soria pitched 4.1 innings striking out 7, walking none, and recording 2 holds and 2 saves. It’s fun to see relievers contribute in several counting stats in one week. Soria just needed a win to complete the trifecta.
Aroldis Chapman, NYY – in 2.1 innings, Chapman picked up 3 saves while striking out 5 and walking none. On the season Chapman has 46 Ks to 11 BBs in 25.2 innings. He’s reclaimed the top closer rank in my opinion, and provided good value for those who drafted him a few rounds later than Kenley Jansen.
Tony Cingrani, LAD – Cingrani pitched 3.0 innings recording 6 Ks, 1 BB, 1 HLD, and 1 W. Unfortunately, just when Cingrani was getting hot, he hit the DL with a left shoulder strain. With 36 Ks in 22.1 innings on the season, Cingrani is someone to keep an eye on in holds leagues when he returns from the DL.
That wraps up this week’s Bullpen Briefing. Thanks for reading and if you have any questions or comments feel free to drop a comment below and I’ll be sure to respond.
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