Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Report: March 25
Steve Pimental goes around the league, highlighting bullpens of note and potential closers to add to your fantasy baseball rosters.
With two games in the books and the season for the other 28 teams beginning in a few days, let us look at some relievers who have been in the news and see how their fantasy value may have changed since the start of training camp.
Hunter Strickland - At the very least, if you haven’t drafted yet, you should probably make him your last starting pitcher so you get credit for the two saves he got in Japan. Strickland has never had more than 9.0 K/9 in any season (his 7.0 IP in 2014 don’t count), and he walks too many batters to get away with getting so few strikeouts. His 2.88 career ERA is almost exclusively due to a 0.67 HR/9, but with a 41.4 % career groundball rate, I’m not sure we can trust Strickland to continue to limit home runs the way he has in the past. Strickland appears locked in as Seattle’s closer, and even if his skills haven’t improved, he has a chance to limp to 30 saves with an ERA around 4.00. I believe Strickland has a chance to be better than that, but you shouldn’t pay for that upside.
Craig Kimbrel - There were reports last week Kimbrel was in talks with Milwaukee, which makes sense considering the Brewers still haven’t decided what to do about Corey Knebel ’s partially torn UCL. At this point, you have to figure Kimbrel misses at least a month, and we have no idea how long he might languish on your bench. If you are in a 10-team league or have fewer than seven bench spots, you probably should consider dropping him. He will almost certainly close wherever he goes, and my guess he finishes the year with better numbers and more strikeouts than Hunter Strickland , but I would hate to waste a bench spot on him.
Greg Holland - Arizona Diamondbacks manager Terry Lovullo apparently hates Archie Bradley . Lovullo allowed Brad Boxberger to muddle his way through to 32 saves with a 4.39 ERA and 5.40 BB/9 in 2018, and we can probably expect something similar for Greg Holland in 2019. Holland hasn’t had fewer than 4.08 BB/9 since 2014, but at least he still (barely) gets more than a strikeout per inning. Holland isn’t safe by any stretch, and I’d probably rather own Hunter Strickland , but I do expect Holland to have a long leash while Archie Bradley contends for the league lead in holds again.
Alex Colomé - Colome was named the White Sox closer Friday despite having worse spring numbers than Kelvin Herrera . Colume is only one season removed from saving 47 games with the Rays, and his strikeout and walk rates were both notably improved in 2018. He is in a bad home ballpark for pitchers, which probably increases his volatility, and he is far from a lock to be the closer all season. That being said, he is probably a better pitcher than Herrera, and he should certainly strike out more batters. Colume seems relatively safe, even if he isn’t likely to strike out 100 batters or save 45 games.
Jordan Hicks - Cardinals manager Mike Shildt suggested Jordan Hicks will be the Cardinals’ primary closer. Like a lot of people, I believe Hicks is good enough to succeed, but the Cardinals have Andrew Miller and potentially Álex Reyes and Carlos Martínez lying in wait in case Hicks falters. Right now I think I would have Hicks somewhere around 17th in my relief pitcher rankings; behind Will Smith but ahead of Cody Allen and Arodys Vizcaíno . Andrew Miller ’s draft stock has to fall as a result of this news, though I don’t think anyone would be shocked if he finished the season with 10ish saves.
Pedro Strop - Strop completed a bullpen session Friday and appears on track to pitch against Boston either Monday or Tuesday. That one appearance could be enough to get Strop ready for Opening Day. Strop appears likely to be the Cubs closer for at least the first month of the season, though he seems unlikely to hold onto the job when Brandon Morrow is healthy. In a league with a deeper bench, you could draft both with the idea of locking down Cubs saves. Of course, that assumes Strop does not begin the season on the IL, in which case Steve Cishek would likely close. I think I would still draft Craig Kimbrel over Brandon Morrow , but at least with Morrow we think we have a pretty good idea of when he will return.
Arodys Vizcaíno - Like Hunter Strickland , Arodys Vizcaíno has gotten a lot of mileage out of keeping the ball in the yard, though Vizcaino backs it up with a higher strikeout rate. I believe A.J. Minter is the better pitcher, and I think Minter needs to be owned in all Saves+Holds leagues once he comes off IL. That being said, there are plenty of bullpens where the better pitcher doesn’t get saves, and my guess is Vizcaino will hold onto the job for as long as he is pretty good, which could certainly be for the entire season. I would hate to have to rely on him, though.
Josh Hader - The Corey Knebel injury has made it so that Hader is probably worth where he is being drafted, whereas before I thought his ADP was too high. Hader will likely only close until Jeremy Jeffress or Craig Kimbrel are ready for the job, but that could be enough considering we expect 100+ strikeouts and he already got 12 saves last season. The good news is that outside of Jeffress, the Brewers don’t have anyone else on the roster who appears capable of saving games. Jeffress should probably be behind Brandon Morrow on your draft board, at least until Craig Kimbrel signs with someone else.