This week’s fantasy baseball free agency roundup concludes with a look at relief pitchers. RPs cause the most agita out of any position in the game since the goal is to get as many of the 30 closers as possible onto your roster. Platoons and multi-position eligibility make it easier to fill the other positions in your league, but getting enough viable closers to get saves without blowing up your ratios becomes the cause of constant roster churn. Below we explore three relief pitcher situations with players available in 50% or more of Yahoo! leagues. [Jeff]
Joaquin Benoit (48% owned) and Hector Neris (40% owned), Philadelphia
Jeanmar Gomez imploded early this season, surprising no one, and the prevalent wisdom was that Hector Neris would pick up the ninth inning mantle in Philly. Instead, we missed the clear replacement in Joaquin Benoit as he took the closer role. They are both good pitchers. Benoit is the man, so he’s the man to get now. If you’re speculating, snag Neris only if you’re desperate or in an exceptionally deep fantasy baseball league. Benoit is unlikely to relinquish his role, especially given that he owns a 2.11 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and more than a strikeout an inning since 2013.
Matt Bush (30% owned), Jeremy Jeffress (11% owned), Tony Barnette (6% owned) and José Leclerc (3% owned)
After Sam Dyson imploded, the Rangers handed the ball to Matt Bush to close. Bush subsequently injured the AC joint in his throwing shoulder, and the Rangers fear he’ll have an extended absence. The ball then went to Jeremy Jeffress, who formerly closed for Milwaukee. Jeffress has struggles of his own thus far in this young season, allowing 3 ER in 4 IP, so he has his own warts.
The Rangers dug deeper in the bullpen, with Tony Barnett the intended closer over Jeffress on Thursday. Instead, the Rangers extended their lead and José Leclerc locked down a multi-inning save. Confused yet? Think it’s a mess? It is. Avoid the Rangers bullpen if you’re desperate for saves, but speculate on Barnette or Leclerc in the deepest of leagues. Leclerc might snag the role from Barnette but currently sits behind him. Avoid this situation if at all possible in your fantasy baseball leagues.
Shawn Kelley (30% owned) and Koda Glover (11% owned)
With Blake Treinen struggling after beating up AA & AAA talent in Spring Training, the Nationals have a bullpen mess on their hands. Treinen (6.23 ERA), Kelley (9.00 ERA) & Glover (4.50 ERA) are all underperforming their expectations. With Treinen yielding 3 earned runs in 4.1 IP, striking out six and walking two. The strikeouts are good, but the walks are bad. Nobody in this bullpen has a firm grip on anything, so that’s where you go mining.
Kelley has the worst ERA of the three but that’s due to allowing three home runs in just four innings pitched, quadrupling his HR/9 rate in this young season. It could be Kelly hiding an injury that’s leaving his stuff hanging, or it could be bad cluster luck. Kelley should drive his ERA down as the season progresses, and as the setup man, he’s next in line if Treinen struggles.
Koda Glover was the hot sleeper closer candidate coming out of Spring Training before Treinen snagged the role and Glover relegated to sharing the seventh and eighth with Shawn Kelley. He’s not striking anyone out (1 K) but isn’t walking the world either (1 BB). Equal strikeout to walk rates are the death knell of pitcher value, so it could be rough times ahead for Glover. He has almost no real pedigree, either; Glover blasted through the minors before getting just under 20 IP last year. The sleeper closer candidacy seemed to be mostly wishful thinking.
The Washington bullpen has a questionable closer in Treinen. He may not lose the role since neither Kelley nor Glover is making moves to take the role from him. Kelley is the man to speculate on in this ‘pen, however, as bad home run luck makes him look much worse than he is. Glover’s fantasy baseball trendiness seems to have been wishful thinking more than anything else at this point.