The steady stream of starting pitchers succumbing to MLB injuries has helped boost the fantasy baseball value of relief pitchers. With starting pitchers like Blake Snell, Jesus Luzardo and Grayson Rodriguez recently hitting the IL, fantasy baseball managers shouldn’t only be seeking out relievers to help them in the saves and holds categories. 

Instead, those fantasy managers whose rosters have been decimated by injuries to their starting pitchers might sometimes be better off replacing those pitchers with top long relievers, especially if there isn’t much available on their league’s waiver wire. 




Fantasy Baseball Closer Report: MLB Closers 2024

Today, we’ll provide a few suggestions for long relievers that you might consider rostering later in this article. We’ll also take a closer look at some MLB bullpen situations that you should be aware of in this sixth week of the 2024 baseball season. 

*Unless otherwise noted, statistics quoted in this article are accurate as of the morning of May 1st, 2024.

Jason Adam Is The Rays Reliever To Be Used In Save Situations 

With Pete Fairbanks on the IL, if you had to roster one Tampa Bay Rays reliever with the best chance to record a save this week, it’s Adam. But, these are the Rays we’re talking about. 

Colin Poche hitting the IL gives Adam a clear path to pitch in save situations, but the Rays have a deep bullpen and a history of mixing and matching their relievers and using them based on game situations. Garrett Cleavinger, who we mentioned in last week’s article, is still in the mix to be used in late-inning, high-leverage save situations, as are Shawn Armstrong and Kevin Kelly.  

Keep An Eye Out For Injury News About Craig Kimbrel

As this article is being written, Kimbrel hasn’t pitched since Sunday when he blew his second consecutive save opportunity against the Oakland A’s. It was later revealed that he was dealing with upper back tightness, and while it appears that the Baltimore Orioles are hoping that rest will help Kimbrel avoid a trip to the IL, unfortunately, only time will tell. 

If you roster Kimbrel and have daily waiver wire moves, grab Yennier Cano if he’s available. Danny Coulombe might be worth a speculative add as well. He picked up the save for the Orioles, on Monday night. He took over for Cano in the ninth inning. Cano had worked 1.1 innings and faced the heart of the New York Yankees batting order. 

As a right-handed pitcher, Cano will likely see more save opportunities than southpaw Coulombe if Kimbrel is forced to miss significant time, but both will be used in late-inning, high-leverage situations.

Jason Foley Is Still The Detroit Tigers Closer

Sometimes we can all use a peek behind the curtain as we try to get inside the mind of big-league managers. Jason Foley, the Detroit Tigers closer, was used in the eighth inning of game one of their doubleheader against the Saint Louis Cardinals on Tuesday. 

Tigers manager A.J. Hinch needed a groundball, and who better to get one than Foley, who has a 55.6% groundball rate on the season? Hinch, who likes to use his best relievers when the game is on the line no matter what inning it is, never officially named Foley as his closer even though he’s recorded nine of the Tigers’ 10 saves heading into Wednesday's action, but it’s obvious that Foley is his go-to guy.




Better Days May Be Ahead For Josh Hader

The Houston Astros bullpen has the sixth worst ERA (4.90) and the seventh lowest strand rate (65.8) in baseball. Hader, who enjoyed a big bounce back 2023 season, signed a five-year $95,000,000 contract this offseason but so far, he has not been worth the money. He has a 6.39 ERA and has given up at least one run in six of his 13 appearances this season. There’s been a slight uptick in his HR/9 rate and his strand rate is a career low 51.1%, but Hader isn’t about to lose his job. 

Based on his .444 BABIP and 3.19 xERA, some of his struggles could be chalked up as being caused by some bad luck, and better days may be ahead. Unfortunately for the Astros, Ryan Pressly, who used to be the Astros’ closer, is having similar issues as Hader. His ERA (6.17), BABIP (.424) and strand rates (53.8) are way off his career norms, but like Hader, his 3.53 xERA suggests that there will be better for him this season. Bryan Abreu, who has eight career saves and got off to a terrible start this season, has finally turned his season around. 

Abreu, who has been used by the Astros in late-game, high-leverage situations for the past few seasons, posted a 9.53 ERA through his first six appearances. But since then, Abreu has pitched to a 0.90 ERA, won a game and held four others in nine appearances. Rafael Montero, who has 30 career saves, is another reliever that the Astros usually turn to in late-game situations. He’s had his ups and downs this season but has recorded four holds thus far. 

Adbert Alzolay On His Way Out As The Cubs Closer

In fantasy baseball’s worst kept secret, Chicago Cubs manager Craig Counsell confirmed that Alzolay was no longer the team's primary closer, but he didn’t rule out the possibility that he could regain the role at some point this season. Hector Neris has recorded all three of the Cubs’ saves since Alzolay was removed from the closer's role. 

Mark Leiter, who has seven career saves, would likely be the next man up if Neris were unavailable. Yency Almonte, who has 12 career saves between his time in the big and minor leagues, could also be considered a sleeper and might have an opportunity to earn a save at some point this season. The Cubs have been using him in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings this season and he has a save and five holds.




Starting Pitchers Are Averaging Just 5.2 Innings Per Start This Season

Here’s a few top long relievers who are pitching multiple innings on a weekly basis that you should be aware of:

Luke Weaver, New York Yankees

Over the past week, Weaver has pitched 6.2 scoreless innings across three appearances. He’s held a game and has struck out eight batters while issuing just one walk. 

Justin Slaten, Boston Red Sox

Eight of Slaten’s 10 relief appearances have gone for more than one inning this season. Slaten has two wins, a save and three holds on the season. He has a 0.52 ERA and a WHIP of 0.577.

Adrian Morejon, San Diego Padres

Morejon hasn’t issued a walk in 10.2 innings pitched this season. Overall, he has a 2.61 ERA and over the past week, he made two appearances, striking out six batters and walking just two in 3.2 innings pitched.

Derek Law, Washington Nationals

Law pitched 5.2 scoreless innings last week across three appearances. He struck out 10 batters, didn’t issue a walk and recorded two wins.