We’re in the middle of the sixth full week of the fantasy baseball season and there are some MLB bullpens that are starting to fall into shape. The Atlanta Braves were finally able to reinstate their closer Raisel Iglesias from the IL last Friday and he promptly picked up his first save of the season on Saturday. Camilo Doval has been on a hot streak of late. The San Francisco Giants closer led all relievers with four saves last week. Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Evan Phillips is starting to separate himself from the rest of the Dodger relievers as he recorded three saves last week. The Detroit Tigers have won seven of their last 10 games and Alex Lange has saved three of those seven wins. They are all moving up the fantasy baseball rest of season rankings.
Unfortunately, there are several other bullpens that are in flux and those are the teams where we can find saves on the fantasy baseball waiver wire. The Cubs don’t have a designated closer, the Yankees are still trying to figure things out and the Phillies just had to place their best reliever on the IL. We’ll explain it all in this week’s Fantasy Baseball Closer Report.
Unless otherwise noted the statistics quoted in this article are accurate as of Wednesday morning May 10, 2023.
Fantasy Baseball MLB Bullpen Updates
With many teams recognizing that bullpen depth is often the key to a long playoff run, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal is reporting that teams are already reaching out to the Royals to find out if they’d consider trading Aroldis Chapman. Chapman was one of the top relievers in the game for several years, but he fell on hard times in his final two seasons with the Yankees. However, he has been looking like his old self this season. He’s still walking too many batters (4.3 BB/9), but Chapman is pitching to a 2.84 ERA, and he’s struck out 20 batters in 12.2 IP. Chapman is getting lots of swings and misses on all of his pitches as evidenced by his overall Whiff % which is in the 99th percentile. Opposing hitters have a .174 BAA him and he’s found new life in that 35-year-old left arm of his. The average velocity on his fastball is up just over two MPH (99.6 MPH) and his sinker is clocking in at 101.8 MPH on average. Scott Barlow leads the Royals with four saves, but Chapman is the next man up, and is the only other Royal reliever with a save this season. The Royals should probably wait to move Chapman until it gets closer to the MLB trade deadline so that they could jack up their asking price for him. There’s also no guarantee that he’d be the closer on the team that he’d get traded to, but with the trade rumors swirling around and Chapman pitching like he’s found the fountain of youth he should at least be on your watch list for now.
The Phillies lost a major cog in their bullpen with Jose Alvarado hitting the IL on Wednesday. It looks like Alvarado, who leads the Phillies with five saves, avoided a serious injury as an MRI showed that he was simply dealing with inflammation in his left elbow. The Phillies have a few pitchers in their bullpen with closer experience. The Phillies, who like to focus on best matchups when determining who closes out their games, will likely lean on Craig Kimbrel during Alvarado’s absence. He’s had an uneven season, but he also has the second most saves (3) on the team. Gregory Soto and Seranthony Dominguez will likely also be utilized in save situations. Soto has 50 career saves and Dominguez got off to a rough start this season but has a 0.87 ERA and five holds in his last 12 appearances. Matt Strahm was recently moved into the Phillies bullpen after beginning the season in their starting rotation. He saved four games for the Red Sox in 2022 and picked up his first save of this season in a two-inning effort for the Phils on Sunday. He has the potential to be used in late inning high leverage situations as well.
The Yankees bullpen continues to be in a state of flux as Clay Holmes tries to work his way back into manager Aaron Boone’s good graces. Holmes hasn’t given up a run in his last three appearances and although he didn’t pick up the save in the Yankees’ Saturday victory against the Rays, Boone did trust him enough to use him in the eighth inning against Tampa Bay’s 3, 4 and 5 hitters. Michael King continues to be a reliable reliever who can pitch multiple innings and will be in the mix for save opportunities moving forward, but Ian Hamilton is the Yankees reliever who recorded the team’s most recent save on Saturday. Hamilton is playing for his sixth team in a career that has been marred by freak injuries including a shoulder injury suffered in a car accident and facial injuries caused by a line drive. He has 25 strikeouts in 20 IP this season and has a sparkling 1.35 ERA. With the instability within the Yankees bullpen so far this season Hamilton is another reliever who should be on your watch list.
It’s hard to find fantasy value in a Cubs bullpen that entering Thursday’s action, has accumulated a total of five saves that have been distributed among four pitchers. The Cubs are using a true committee approach and every time one of their relievers records a save, we feel compelled to move that pitcher to the head of the table. Statistically Mark Leiter Jr. Jr. has been the Cubs’ best reliever this season. He’s pitched to a microscopic 1.13 ERA, and he’s saved one game and recorded seven holds. Adbert Alzolay has also been very effective working out of the bullpen for the Cubs. He’s compiled a 2.41 ERA and has five holds on the season. Alzolay also recorded the Cubs’ most recent save. Michael Fulmer has one save and Brad Boxberger has saved two games for the Cubbies on the season. They were expected to be the favorites to compete for the closer’s job at the start of the season, but both have been inconsistent and struggled at times and should not be on fantasy baseball rosters.
Middle Relievers Who Should Be On Your Radar
The following are a few relievers who provide good ratios, can be good resources for holds, and occasionally make multiple inning appearances. They might be worth streaming in place of mediocre starting pitchers:
Stratton hasn’t given up a run in his last four appearances spanning seven innings pitched. He has struck out 10 batters and walked just one during that time frame.
Brazoban hasn’t given up a run in his last 14 innings pitched, spanning 12 appearances. He struck out 16 batters and recorded five holds during that time span.
Suter has appeared in 15 games this season and he has pitched to a 1.15 ERA and 1.00 WHIP thus far. He has 22 strikeouts in 23 IP. He has a win, a hold and he hasn’t given up a home run.
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