RELIEVERS: Early look at ARI, KC, MIA, MIN, SF

The season has begun! But don't overreact to the first week of news. Let's look at what happened on Opening Day and then tour through some early ideas about Arizona, Kansas City, Miami, Minnesota, and San Francisco.

The Mets preserved a close lead just like they drew it up: Seth Lugo (RHP, NYM) in the seventh, Jeurys Familia (RHP, NYM) in the eighth, and Edwin Diaz (RHP, NYM) in the ninth. 3 IP, 4 strikeouts, no baserunners. The A's and Padres had similar experiences.

The Reds started the eighth inning up 5-2 and went to the closer to start the eighth. Raisel Iglesias (RHP, CIN) promptly gave up a leadoff home run to make it 5-3 and then got through that inning. Back out for the ninth, Iglesias gave up two walks and got one out when he was pulled in favor of lefty Amir Garrett (LHP, CIN). Garrett struck out his man, and was replaced by David Hernandez (RHP, CIN). Hernandez walked the first batter on four pitches to load the bases for Corey Dickerson (OF, PIT). Dickerson engaged in an epic battle with Hernandez, fouling off seven(!) two-strike pitches before finally grounding out to second base and ending the game, stranding three. Perhaps some over-creativity, but a win is a win. It should not surprise owners to see more of these creative uses and oddball save chances from more teams in 2019. Just part of the landscape.

Let's turn to the highlighted pens, starting with Arizona.

Arizona named Greg Holland (RHP, ARI) as the closer to start the year. Few expect him to last the season. Here are the projections:

ARI               Sv Hld  IP xERA WHIP  DOM  CMD HR/9 BPV 15$ ADP
==============    == === === ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== === === ===
A.Bradley         26  23  58 3.43 1.21  9.3  3.5  0.9 122   6 208
G.Holland          9  15  44 4.21 1.41  9.8  1.9  0.6  54  -5 492
Y.Hirano           0  19  51 3.71 1.18  8.1  3.3  1.1 107  -2 571
A.Chafin (L)       0   8  44 3.52 1.34  9.0  2.2  0.4  85  -6 na

The projections still favor Archie Bradley (RHP, ARI) over the course of the season. Owners taking the long view may try to get Bradley from his owner, in hopes that the Holland announcement will provide a discount. Skills-wise, Bradley is vastly superior, as is Yoshihisa Hirano (RHP, ARI). The Diamondbacks hope to use Bradley and Hirano more flexibly and in leverage earlier in games and let Holland run with clean ninth innings.

Holland is skills-challenged with a 1.9 CMD ratio and 1.41 WHIP. But if he can run with the role in April, he did get better in the second half of 2018 and might surprise to hang in there longer than a week. Owners just have to wait and see. If Holland has some initial success, it could create more of a buying discount on Bradley that owners should try to grab. Hirano is the wild card here. If Holland fails, it could be Hirano who jumps into the breach to allow Bradley to stay in his role. Watch this pen carefully—it is a place to create profit.

Kansas City has Brad Boxberger (RHP, KC) and Wily Peralta (RHP, KC). Fantasy owners want other options. Here are the projections:

KC                Sv Hld  IP xERA WHIP  DOM  CMD HR/9 BPV 15$ ADP
==============    == === === ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== === === ===
W.Peralta         18  12  58 4.86 1.69  7.6  1.5  1.1  25 -10 440
B.Boxberger       16  12  58 3.74 1.31 11.2  2.5  1.4  99  -1 389
T.Hill (L)         2  24  58 3.34 1.31  7.8  2.6  0.8 100  -5 749
K.McCarthy         0  20  58 3.95 1.36  5.6  2.1  0.9  67  -6 749
J.Diekman (L)      0   4  44 3.61 1.36 10.6  2.3  0.6  92  -7 749
D.Storen           0   4  29 4.26 1.38  7.8  2.3  1.2  72  -9 na
K.Zimmer           0   4  29 4.60 1.59  8.1  2.0  1.2  58 -11 735

Skills-wise, Peralta is terrible and Boxberger is far better, but also has bouts of gopheritis. Projections split saves between the two of them, but it may spread to other relievers as well. So far, we have just a glimpse into living with the Royals pen. Up 5-0 against the White Sox after eight innings, Wily Peralta (RHP, KC) was called to get the last three outs. One walk, one hit and one out later, Peralta was lifted and Jake Diekman (LHP, KC) came in. One walk and one out later, Diekman was lifted and the bases were full and two outs for Kevin McCarthy (RHP, KC). McCarthy allowed a hit and a walk, three runs scored (two charged to Peralta, one charged to Diekman), and only at 5-3, two-on did the Royals go to Brad Boxberger (RHP, KC) who got the final out and the save. But then Saturday, Boxberger came in early to a non-save situation and gave up 3 ER. Ian Kennedy (RHP, KC) ended up with the save.

Royals fans may need plenty of Tums watching this progression late in games with leads. The reliever you want here—if any—is still Boxberger. Whether he can weather the season surrounded by these other relievers remains to be seen, but he is the best skill set who is closest to the job. Tim Hill (LHP, KC) and fellow lefty Diekman might also become emergency options down the road, but that is way too speculative for now. Kennedy is now a consideration as well, although that save was a matter of expediency.

A few subscribers asked about the Miami pen. Drew Steckenrider (RHP, MIA) or Sergio Romo (RHP, MIA) or how about Adam Conley (LHP, MIA)? Manager Don Mattingly said that there is no set closer and all three are in the mix. Here are the projections:

MIA               Sv Hld  IP xERA WHIP  DOM  CMD HR/9 BPV 15$ ADP
==============    == === === ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== === === ===
D.Steckenrider    21  11  65 3.61 1.20 10.7  3.1  0.8 113   6 335
S.Romo            12  15  65 3.67 1.17 10.0  4.0  1.5 127   1 470
A.Conley (L)       2  18  58 4.16 1.26  8.1  2.5  1.1  77  -6 632
T.Guerrero         0   7  55 4.75 1.59  8.4  1.6  1.4  28 -12 738
W.Y.Chen (L)       0   6  73 4.37 1.23  7.3  2.8  1.2  77  -5 692

You have to like Romo's chances if he can avoid the homeriffic 1.5 hr/9 pitching in Miami, which is a distinct possibility. But he got blown up right away against Colorado, so consider that something of a setback for his chances. Steckenrider is more consistent and not that far off Romo's skill set. Conley is not nearly as skilled as those two, but he will vulture saves when tough lefties come at the end of games. It might be a pen to mix-and-match, but that has not generally been Mattingly's m.o., so let's see who gets the first save chance. The bet here is that it will be Romo and not Steckenrider, but that is merely speculation at this point, and you can see the current projections run with Steckenrider.

Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli has promised to keep his use of relievers fluid, with several names potentially in leverage at various times. Here are the projections:

MIN               Sv Hld  IP xERA WHIP  DOM  CMD HR/9 BPV 15$ ADP
==============    == === === ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== === === ===
T.May             23  11  44 3.53 1.23 10.8  3.3  1.0 123   3 248
T.Rogers (L)      11  11  58 3.28 1.16  9.5  3.8  0.6 128   3 574
B.Parker          11  11  44 3.94 1.30  9.2  3.5  1.2 110  -4 450
A.Reed             0  11  58 4.13 1.24  7.9  4.3  1.6 107  -4 718
T.Hildenberger     0   7  44 3.76 1.32  8.4  2.9  1.0  99  -5 689

Up 2-0 on Opening Day, Baldelli put in Taylor Rogers (LHP, MIN) for the last 1.1 innings—and the save. No other reliever was used. That was something of a surprise, but it provides a lot of insight into Baldelli, who will use the guy that he thinks matches up best, regardless of whether it is the ninth inning or not. Opening Day, that was Rogers.

On Saturday, Trevor May (RHP, MIN) came into a tie game early, followed by Rogers, followed by Blake Parker (RHP, MIN) who gave up a run and took the L. Rogers should get a bump from this first game as an elite lefty who can fill multiple purposes, including getting multiple-inning saves like on Opening Day. But this is going to remain a multi-headed bullpen with each reliever getting save chances.

San Francisco finally named Will Smith (LHP, SF) as the closer after using him for the better part of 2018. Here are the projections:

SF                Sv Hld  IP xERA WHIP  DOM  CMD HR/9 BPV 15$ ADP
==============    == === === ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== === === ===
W.Smith (L)       23  11  44 3.16 1.14 11.7  3.6  0.6 141   6 201
M.Melancon         6   0  44 3.61 1.25  7.4  3.3  0.6 100  -4 525
S.Dyson            2  14  58 3.40 1.22  7.3  2.6  0.6  97   0 735
T.Watson (L)       0  21  58 3.55 1.14  8.7  3.7  0.9 116   2 705
N.Vincent          0  11  58 4.24 1.17  8.4  3.6  0.8  97  -3 751
R.Moronta          0   7  58 4.11 1.38 10.7  2.0  0.9  70  -4 713

The projected skills say that it should be Smith. The Giants were hoping to get more from Mark Melancon (RHP, SF), but he had a lousy spring and may never bounce back to prior levels. Tony Watson (LHP, SF) and Sam Dyson (RHP, SF) may get more of a late-inning role than Melancon. Watch who is setting up Smith. That is a reliever you may want for later in the year, if Smith gets traded as is widely expected, given his left-handedness and the Giants likely fall out of the pennant chase.

Next week, this column will dive into a full week's usage and compare with skill sets to try to find pockets of profit for you to grab. Follow me @dougdennis41


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