TDG Roundtable: Relief Pitchers We’re Stashing
Every week, our writers here at The Dynasty Guru will be bringing you some quick-hit musings about a particular topic so you, the reader, can get a blast of info from a bunch of different writers with some passionate opinions. This week, our staff members lay out some relief pitchers they’re playing the long game with.
Aaron Bummer, CWS
The Craig Kimbrel trade to the Dodgers has cleared the path for Bummer to be securely seated in the 8th inning role for the White Sox. He is already a top RP asset in any leagues that count holds, and he would be the top closer option if anything were to happen to Liam Hendricks. He already filled in for one save this season and has also secured two (eighth inning) holds. In 2021, Bummer’s expected stats were elite with his xBA, xSLG, and xwOBA all being in the top 4% of the league. HIs K% and whiff-rate follow suit, and he doesn’t give up barrels as he only allowed three barrels in 134 BBE last season. He gave up a few runs in his first outing of the year so his ERA looks bloated currently, but he has also earned a strikeout for all seven outs he has recorded. Bummer’s elite stats and secured bullpen role, which still offers upside, is exactly what I look for in a bullpen stash.
Jonathan Loaisiga, NYY
Loaisiga found himself atop the WAR leaderboard for relief pitchers in 2021 by tallying nine wins, five saves, and 17 holds. He limits hard contact at an absolutely elite level with a hard-hit percentage and average EV in the top 1% of the league in 2021. He serves as both a “fireman” and a late-inning setup man for the Yankees depending on the game situation. Being used in so many different high leverage situations results in Loaisiga having the chance to earn a win, hold, or even save on any given night. Even in a league without holds as a category, an RP with excellent ratios and the ability for 10+ wins plus saves is very useful. Additionally, I firmly believe that if Aroldis Chapman were to go down with an injury, Loaisiga would fill in as the primary closer, which he will also have the chance to secure for himself next year with Chapman’s contract set to expire.
Wil Crowe, Pittsburgh Pirates
I can’t believe I am highlighting a reliever for the Pirates. I am taking him seriously for a couple of reasons.
The first reason is that we are one week into the season and Wil Crowe has already pitched in 9 innings. Second, in in those nine innings Crowe has only given up one hit (he has walked three though), and currently boasts a 0.57WHIP.
Third, Crowe has struck out 10 hitters in the nine innings thus far. The fourth reason you should roster Crowe? He picked up a save on Wednesday night. The fifth and last reason I have for you is possibly the best of all. It certainly shows that even if he isn’t the closer he should have great value. On the same night he picked up his first save, he also pitched 3 innings to finish the game, needing 50 pitches to do so. That is quite impressive. Don’t eat crow, but get some Crowe on your fantasy team.
Bullpen pecking orders can change at a moment’s notice, driving massive swings in reliever value. To find saves, it’s important to be diligent on the wire, constantly churning in search of the next saves option. I generally only do short-term reliever stashes in saves leagues unless I’m in full rebuild mode–and even in rebuild mode, I’ll try to find short-term saves guys to flip to contenders for prospects.
A few bullpen situations especially have my attention right now: Washington, Cincinnati, Texas, and Boston. The bullpen situation for each of these squads is currently either in flux (Boston, Texas) or else the current top candidate for saves is a talent risk (Cincinnati, Washington). In Boston, I think they’ll continue to mix and match unless Matt Barnes’ early 2021 effectiveness returns (a return of his velocity wouldn’t hurt either). Even though he is a lefty, Jake Diekman is the favorite for saves in the meantime: projection systems agree he is much better than the other candidate, Hansel Robles. Joe Barlow is the obvious candidates to take the role in Texas, respectively. Tony Santillan and Tanner Rainey are currently atop the pecking order in their respective bullpens, but projections (e.g. the Big Four projection systems available at FanGraphs) generally see both as major talent risks. I prefer the talented Art Warren and Lucas Sims for saves the rest of the way. Washington has no clear superior alternative to Rainey, but Victor Arano, Sean Doolittle, and Kyle Finnegan could all get chances if Rainey struggles–I’m not stashing any at this point, just keeping an eye on them.
I’m primarily looking at the K/9 rate for my stash candidates in Saves Only leagues. So early on, I am stashing (or even using) Aaron Bummer, Jake Diekman, and Andres Munoz. None of which likely are surprising. If you glanced into my watch lists you’ll see other names, many of which have a less than stellar K/BB ratio. I keep an eye on these arms for improvement in the walk rates so I can jump on them early. Relievers are a fickle bunch, especially those that are not elite so I’m quick to churn though many during the season. So my approach is to start with an excellent K/9, watch for K/BB improvements, then once a cloudy closer scenario brews…baby, you’ve got a stew going!
One name who jumped out early this season to me (and please note, he’s far down the closer pecking order currently) is Brock Burke of the Texas Rangers. Entering the year, I wasn’t really aware of him but the lefty currently has struck out 10 batters in 4 innings without a single walk. This is exactly the profile I keep an eye on as the season rolls along. The small sample size will grow, and maybe the Rangers will move him back to the rotation (where he held decent K/9 through the minors). For now his 4-seam fastball is playing up and looks to be pairing well with his slider for lots of mid-relief K’s.
Steven Wilson, RP, San Diego Padres
Full disclosure, I want to nominate Jonathan Loaisiga, Art Warren, or someone of that ilk here. Maybe you’re in a shallower league, go get ‘em. Most of my leagues these guys are gone, and when I try to trade for them there’s zero interest.
I nominate to you Steven Wilson, a rookie reliever for the San Diego Padres. I thought this was a shallow bullpen, but having listened to Taylor Case pimp Pierce Johnson, I realize there is a next in command as far as the closer in waiting goes. Well, we’re digging deep here and closer is a position teams are totally irrational about, so it’s cool to get crazy. Maybe it’s not today, or tomorrow or the next day, but I feel there’s a chance for this guy.
A totally underrated prospect, because that’s what happens to relievers, but this kid has a 3.24 ERA, 1.09 WHIP. That’s pretty nice, right? What if I told you he had a 15.2 K/9 last year, with a 5:1 K:BB ratio? Yea, I got your attention? You wanna get nuts? Alright…. Let’s get nuts!
Well, I can’t get nuts, but I can assure you I’m adding this guy in my leagues. Despite it being his MLB debut, the Padres brought Wilson into a tied game in his MLB debut, a game he got the W for pitching a scoreless 7th. He also got the win in his second career game despite allowing a run. But the team clearly has plans for the reliever. Third game Wilson had 5 K’s in 2 clean innings.
No, he’s not next in line for saves. But he has the talent to be effective and productive on your team while many others struggle. Will he be a closer? Maybe, maybe not, but he has the stuff to do it well.
And he’s sitting on your waiver wire.