Fantasy Baseball Category Impact: Saves and Holds
Each week, Colby Conway provides in-depth analysis on specific category contributors who may be lingering on your waiver wire.
Another year, another baseball season with me addressing various categories for your fantasy squad and helping lift your team in certain statistical categories. The Category Impact will do just that. I will recommend a few guys for a particular category that can give you an impact, whether it’s for a few weeks or a long-term solution. Each week, be sure to check out my Twitter (@colbyrconway) and vote on which category should be featured in the week’s Category Impact.
It feels like the season just started yesterday, but we are already a few weeks in and this is the FOURTH installment of your beloved Category Impact article. Based on the results of the Twitter poll from earlier in the week, we will be talking about boosting your fantasy team’s bullpen!
Without further ado….
Nick Anderson , MIA RP – Anderson boasts an elite K/9 (18.00) and BB/9 (under 2.00) and an incredible 97.8 strand rate through his first 13 appearances of the season. Despite failing to notch a save at this point in time, he’s the team’s most dominant reliever and is waiting in the wings to take over the closer gig. His FIP (2.60) and xFIP (0.97) indicate that he’s been a bit unlucky to date, and that 2.79 ERA of his should continue to dip as his string of dominance continues. Additionally, should that .389 BABIP return to a more normal mark, he’s only going to get BETTER. Sure, he allows a high exit velocity and hard hit percentage (see below), but that strikeout percentage is real, thanks to a nice 12-6 curveball and a hard fastball.
Sergio Romo leads the team with three saves, but his 7.88 K/9, 4.50 BB/9 and 6.75 ERA is far from shut down as a closer. Adam Conley also has a save, but a 6.00 ERA and a 3.00 K/B ratio is far from inspiring. Both of these options pale in comparison to Anderson and his tactical arsenal.
Robert Stephenson , CIN RP – If you have listened to any of the podcasts with Greg Jewett and myself, you’ll know that my podcast partner is BIG on Stephenson in most fantasy formats. In NL-only formats, especially leagues that value holds, Stephenson is a must add. Not only has he been dominant this season, but he’s next in line for saves in Cincinnati. Furthermore, regular closer Raisel Iglesias has displayed some chinks in his armor this season. Conversely, Stephenson has posted a 40.9 percent strikeout rate in his first nine outings, while inducing a career high 39.1 percent ground ball rate and 21.1 SwStr%. With all of that in mind, it’s no surprise that Stephenson is inducing a career low 55.1 percent contact rate, and getting opponents to chase out of the zone over one-third of the time. Of all of the relievers on this list, besides Nick Anderson , Stephenson is the closest to saves and should be owned in all formats, even shallower setups.
John Brebbia , STL RP – Jordan Hicks is the unquestioned closer, and even though Jon Gant has the other recorded save for the team, he’s not the next man up, at least in my eyes. That next man up spot belongs to the 28-year-old righty John Brebbia . Despite throwing the majority of his innings in low leverage, he’s starting to get some work in medium and high leverage situations. Per FanGraphs, in Brebbia’s lone high leverage outing of the season, he recorded one strikeout in a perfect 1-2-3 inning. There are some long-term concerns with Brebbia’s role, especially when Alex Reyes and Carlos Martínez return to relief roles, but for now, while he’s out performing his expectations, he’s worthy of an addition in deeper formats.
Per the chart above, courtesy of Baseball Savant, in terms of expected wOBA, Brebbia has been solid in 2019, and much better than last year and the MLB average. Riding a strong fastball and a developing slider, he’s your standard two-pitch reliever out of the pen with the potential to earn more important innings for a division contender.
Adam Cimber , CLE RP – Is Cimber in line to get saves in the Cleveland bullpen? No, not unless Brad Hand goes down with an injury. However, he’s been an effective reliever who has been much better than some of his statistics may tell. Riding a .160 BABIP, Cimber’s ERA of 4.50 is misleading, considering his FIP (2.02) and xFIP (3.35). His strikeout rate isn’t particularly overwhelming, coming in at just one batter per inning, but he’s generating more swings-and-misses than he did in 2018. Furthermore, that’s not just with his fastball, but his slider and sinker as well.
His arsenal has also changed this season, as he’s throwing his fastball less, and his slider more, which shouldn’t come as a surprise, seeing as his fastball generated a .281 batting average against and his slider came in at just .250. As a sidewinder lacking top-end velocity, Cimber lives in the bottom of the zone and relies on the movement on his pitches and the deception in his delivery. The strikeout potential isn’t elite, but Cimber will continue to pitch at a high level and the statistics will start painting the same story as well.