It was another busy week for major-league bullpens, and Fantasy owners smart enough to capitalize on the opportunities are reaping the benefits today. If you were one of those owners, congratulations…but don’t rest on your laurels, for the bullpen landscape is an ever-changing panorama indeed.
There’s a new bullpen hierarchy in Arlington, as the Rangers have adopted a “no set role” kind of approach to the late innings, but one hurler has already established himself as someone to watch – while the former closer seems to be a forgotten man.
We were taught a rather interesting lesson in bullpen mathematics in Milwaukee, where 1 + 1 + 1 apparently equals eight. That’s one part sunscreen, one part rosin, one complaint from the opposing manager equals an eight-game suspension – which is currently being appealed.
Down in St. Petersburg (they don’t play in “Tampa”, folks), the Rays welcomed back their former closer, but their current ninth-inning man continues to hang zeroes on the board, and doesn’t appear ready to surrender his seat in the closer’s chair. It’s a good problem for the team, but a perplexing conundrum for Fantasy owners.
Things are a lot more settled out in Los Angeles these days, though, as their bullpen committee now consists of one: Meet the new boss; same as the old boss. “Settled” is not a word which is oft applied to Fernando Rodney’s relief appearances, and the Mariners’ closer is again displaying his flair for the dramatic…and that’s not a good thing, folks.
Following bullpens around the league is truly a daily pursuit, so be sure to check out – and bookmark — our Bullpen Depth Charts, which are updated as news breaks… which means pretty much daily.
We have been concerned about Neftali Feliz for a while, and he finally lost his closer’s gig this past week. Feliz sports a robust 5.09 ERA and 1.75 WHIP, opponents are batting .293 against him, and he has issued nine free passes in 17.1 innings of work. He has been persona non grata of late in the Rangers’ bullpen hierarchy – even being passed over in a save opportunity May 22, when he hadn’t pitched since Tuesday. Feliz may eventually receive another chance to close games, but right now he’s clearly on the outside looking in. Update: Feliz was placed on the disabled list May 25 with an axillary abscess on his right side, which further solidifies Tolleson’s seat in the closer’s chair.
Milwaukee Brewers’ set-up man Will Smith was suspended eight games for having a foreign substance (reportedly a mix of rosin and sunscreen) on his forearm during a game. Smith has officially appealed the suspension, so if he’s on your Fantasy roster you’ll want to stay abreast of the appeals process.
The Rangers are officially going with a closer-by-committee, but Shawn Tolleson has grabbed the early lead by converting saves on May 20 and 21. Tolleson owns a 3.26 ERA and 1.19 WHIP through his first 19 appearances, and he has fanned 26 batters and walked just four during that time. With Tolleson unavailable May 22, Ross Ohlendorf notched his first career save, but the 32-year-old is probably not a big part of the Rangers’ future ninth-inning plans. Tolleson is a decent reliever, but he has dealt with command problems throughout his career – as evidenced by his 3.78 career BB/9. The good news is that he owns a 2.2 BB/9 in four minor league seasons, and a 1.8 BB/9 thus far in 2015, so perhaps these concerns are unfounded. His current strikeout rate seems a bit lofty compared to his career norm, but the good news is that his 2015 FIP of 2.40 suggests that he’s been a better pitcher than his 3.26 ERA would indicate. He may not hold the job for the entire season, but Tolleson is clearly the best Rangers reliever to own at this juncture.
Kenley Jansen was activated from the disabled list May 15, and announced his presence with authority by striking out four batters in his very first inning. The big man has racked up a pair of saves since then, and looks to be firmly entrenched in his old job at the back of the bullpen.
Reliever on the Rocks
Jonathan Broxton enjoyed a renaissance season in 2014, but the burly veteran has been very hittable thus far in 2015. Through his first 17 appearances, Broxton sported an ERA of 8.22 and a WHIP of 1.83; he’ll need to turn things around quickly if he hopes to keep his spot as Milwaukee’s primary set-up man.
Hector Rondon was lights-out in April, fashioning a 1.80 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 10 appearances, but he has encountered a bumpy patch of road over the past few weeks. Rondon sports a 6.00 ERA and 1.78 ERA in nine May outings, and he has allowed earned runs in three of his past seven games. There’s been no talk of a closer change on the north side, but Pedro Strop would probably be the first in line if Rondon’s struggles continue.
Relievers on the Rise
Some observers reckoned that Jake McGee would step right back into the closer’s role in Tampa Bay when he returned from the disabled list, but Brad Boxberger apparently didn’t get that memo. Boxberger has allowed just one earned run and six hits in his last 15 appearances, and he has struck out 23 batters in 16 innings this season. Both McGee and Boxberger should be owned in all Fantasy leagues.
Just a few weeks ago, we were watching Mark Melancon for all the wrong reasons, but the Pirates closer has really turned things around lately. Melancon’s velocity is still down, but the veteran closer has allowed just one earned run in his last 13 appearances. He’s not out of the woods yet, but Melancon’s recent run of success is certainly encouraging.
Keep an eye on…
We told you last week about Fernando Rodney’s recent struggles, and things haven’t improved since then; the Archer of CrookedHat has allowed earned runs in four straight appearances, and one has to wonder when the Mariners will look to someone else when the game is on the line. Enter 25-year-old Carson Smith, who has allowed two earned runs and just six hits in his first 19 innings of work. Smith is a sinker/slider pitcher who has fanned 22 batters in his first 19 innings, while holding opponents to a miniscule .138 BAA. He averaged 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings and fashioned a 2.55 career ERA in three minor-league seasons, so there’s reason to believe that his early success is not a mirage. If you’re in a deeper league and prospecting for saves, consider taking a flier on the young man from Texas State University.
Following bullpens around the league is truly a daily pursuit, so be sure to check out – and bookmark — our Bullpen Depth Charts, which are updated as news breaks.
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