As we head into the final days of the baseball season there are still plenty of fantasy baseball managers playing in season long leagues who are struggling to hang on to first place or others who are hoping they can claw their way to the top of the standings in their respective leagues. In both cases their pursuit of a championship will play out right down to the wire. In some instances, a few extra strikeouts or an extra hold or save can be the difference between a first or second place finish. If you find yourself in a situation where you can move up the ranks in a pitching category in a league that allows daily waiver wire moves, you might still have some options available to you. At this point starting pitchers that you’ve been relying on all season like Gerrit Cole and Framber Valdez have made their last starts of the regular season and can be replaced by high quality relievers who can help to further pad your pitching stats. We’ll identify some of those relievers to target on the wire and if your fantasy baseball season is over, we’ll highlight some relievers who’ve made big strides this season and should be on your radar heading into the 2024 fantasy baseball season.
Rest of Season Reliever Targets
In case you haven’t noticed Alvarado has been sharing closer duties with Craig Kimbrel of late. In his last 10 appearances Alvarado picked up four saves, two holds and he struck out 16 batters in 10 IP. He also had a 1.80 ERA during that time frame. He’s available in 60% of Yahoo! fantasy baseball leagues.
McArthur hasn’t given up a run in his last 13.1 IP. He has three saves and two holds, and he has struck out 14 batters while walking none during that time period. He’s rostered in 14% of Yahoo! leagues.
Zerpa is another Royals reliever who has been coming on lately. In his last five games (14.1 IP) Zerpa has two wins and a hold and he’s struck out 12 batters while walking just one. He has a 1.26 ERA during that time span.
Hicks hasn’t given up a run in his last 13 appearances spanning 12 IP. He has struck out 10 batters and recorded five holds during that time frame.
Brash hasn’t given up a run in his last 14 IP. He has 17 strikeouts and seven holds during that time span.
For the most part Yarbrough has been used as a long reliever since the Royals traded him to the Dodgers. He’s put together a nice run of late, and in his last three games he has 17 strikeouts in 12.1 IP. He’s only walked three batters and he’s pitched to a 3.65 ERA in those three appearances.
Tyler Kinely, Colorado Rockies
Kinley has a chance to back into an occasional save. In his last nine outings he’s recorded five saves while pitching to a mediocre 4.15 ERA.
Looking ahead to 2024
Heading into Wednesday's action Diaz was tied with Pirates closer David Bednar for having the third most saves in baseball with 37 and should be one of the first few closers coming off the board in fantasy baseball drafts next season. Diaz has been so good this season that Reds manager David Bell, who was a notorious closer by committee strategist, used him exclusively as the team’s closer all season long. His home (4.01 ERA) and away (1.87 ERA) stats are a bit skewed, but Diaz has been equally effective against right-handed (.190 BAA) and left-handed batters (.177 BAA) this season.
Being able to close out games at an elite level seems to run in the Diaz family. Diaz tore his right patellar tendon during that World Baseball Classic and missed the entire 2023 season, but it seemed that had the Mets made the playoffs he might have been able to return to action. Diaz has saved 32 games in each of his last two full seasons and should return to form in 2024.
Sewald has 12 saves and a 2.30 ERA in his last 17 appearances for the Diamondbacks. While pitching for the Mariners it seemed like it was just a matter of time before Sewald lost his job and Andres Munoz took over as the team’s closer. Sewald seems to have job security with the Diamondbacks and will almost certainly open the 2024 season as their primary closer. Buyer beware!! Sewald will be a free agent at the end of the 2024 season and if the team fails to contend the Diamondbacks might eventually look to move him in a trade.
Speaking of Munoz, since taking over as the Mariners’ primary closer after the MLB trade deadline he has recorded 11 saves, posted a 2.74 ERA and he has struck out 31 batters in 23 IP. The Mariners have a deep bullpen, but Munoz will open the 2024 season as the team’s closer.
Barlow has plenty of closing experience from his time with the Royals and if the Padres don’t re-sign free agent Josh Hader Barlow could be a prime candidate to open the season as the team’s closer. His ERA has been almost two full runs better (5.35 vs. 3.42) since he was traded to the Padres from the Royals at the MLB trade deadline. Barlow himself will be a free agent at the end of next season. Robert Suarez is another Padres reliever to keep an eye on as the 2024 season approaches. The veteran right-hander is under team control through the 2027 season, and he has 97 career saves between his time spent in the major leagues and pitching in Mexico and Japan.
With Craig Kimbrel and Jose Alvarado becoming free agents at the end of this season the Phillies bullpen might look a lot different next season. If you’re looking for a sleeper who has the potential to eventually close out games at the major league level Kerkering is someone that you need to familiarize yourself with. Kerkering has only two minor league seasons under his belt, but he has a 1.78 ERA, and he has recorded 14 saves during that time.