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Bullpen Report: April 20, 2019

In a game replete with bullpen implications, the Mariners rallied for a win over the Angels on the road. Cody Allen allowed at least a run in his third straight outing serving up back-to-back home runs to Tim Beckham and Omar Narvaez, then walking Ryon Healy before being lifted without recording an out. Allen moves to red alert in fantasy with FAAB bids looming. Many will suggest stashing Ty Buttrey. However, over his last four appearances, Buttrey’s worked in the fifth inning twice, the sixth and the seventh.

It could be a bumpy ride, but Hansel Robles represents the arm with the most likely chance to pitch the ninth if Allen needs a day or two off from the role. Robles worked around a walk last night and owns a 22.5 strikeouts minus walks percentage. But, his 4.66 xFIP could work against him. Taking the long view does not sit well with fantasy owners seeking immediate return on investment. Given Allen’s 4.91 ERA, 6.24 xFIP, 1.36 WHIP added to his 65 percent fly ball rate and 45 hard hit percentage against, he should be benched until further notice. Robles, who pitched the eighth inning in his last three outings, could be in the mix. But, stashing Buttrey, if he’s on the waiver wire, seems like the most savvy move going forward.

Even with the Angels meltdown, Seattle also provided some intrigue. Anthony Swarzak received the night off after working the two previous days. He threw 29 pitches on Thursday and 14 on Wednesday, so Roenis Elias recorded his fourth save in a scoreless ninth yielding a pinch hit single to Kevan Smith. It’s not a situation where Swarzak’s job could be in jeopardy, but Elias remains relevant due to his ability to work more efficiently and well in high leverage to start the year. Keep in mind, Elias pitched the last two days, so he could get Saturday off with Swarzak back in the saddle if a save chance presents itself.

Another fluid bullpen exists in Boston. Matt Barnes notched his third hold striking out two in the eighth inning in Tampa Bay. He faced the heart of the order retiring the third, fourth and fifth batters in the lineup. Again, Barnes represents the highest leverage pitcher in the Red Sox bullpen, which translates to him not working exclusively in the ninth inning. Ryan Brasier did hit a batter and struck out one for his fourth save. Both arms will provide fantasy returns, but predicting which one gets the save depends on how the game evolves. Plan accordingly.

Saves stashers turned their eyes upon Nick Anderson in recent days. And, yes, he could eventually take over the ninth in Miami. Anderson did strike out the side in the seventh inning en route to his first hold of 2019. He also allowed a home run to Brian Dozier in the process. Adam Conley and Drew Steckenrider shared the eighth inning with each garnering a hold bridging to Sergio Romo in the ninth. Romo notched his second save with a clean ninth and a strikeout. Due to the limited save volume, it’s tough to roster Marlins relievers in shallow formats. Use the blueprint above when assigning value and view Anderson as a stash, not an immediate add for save upside.

A rare blowup by Josh Hader led to a Dodgers win on the road. Hader retired Cody Bellinger on a strikeout to end the seventh inning of a tied game. Returning to the mound in the eighth, Hader walked A.J. Pollock to start the inning, never a good thing, then struck out Max Muncy. David Freese entered as a pitch hitter and also drew a walk. Hader bounced back striking out Austin Barnes before coughing up a three-run home run to Enrique Hernandez. Making Hader throw more pitches than he’s accustomed to benefited Los Angeles. Kenley Jansen fired a clean ninth with a strikeout for his seventh save.

Another extra-inning affair could be taking a toll on the Phillies bullpen. Hector Neris did toss a clean ninth in a tied game striking out the side on 13 pitches. Adam Morgan pitched the seventh working around a walk with a strikeout and Pat Neshek threw a clean eighth inning, perhaps a preview to future to high leverage innings for an unpredictable bullpen? Wade Davis allowed a base hit to Rhys Hoskins, but preserved the tie in the top of the ninth. Chad Bettis, grabbed the win in relief despite giving up an earned run on two hits when Charlie Blackmon hit a two-run walk-off home run against Juan Nicasio.

Quick Hits: Save number two for Pedro Strop. He recorded one strikeout in two-thirds of an inning cleaning up a mess created by Brad BrachFelipe Vazquez notched his sixth save striking out the side against San Francisco. Richard Rodriguez needed to bail out Nick Burdi who yielded a hit and a walk resulting in an earned run…Acclimating to the bullpen, Joe Ross pitched two scoreless innings giving up a hit with a strikeout…In a non-save outing, Alex Colome ceded his first run since April 10th on three hits, including a solo home run by Niko Goodrum…Rebound outing for Joe Jimenez pitching in the ninth. Jimenez struck out two in his first clean appearance since April second…Save seven for Edwin Diaz. He navigated around a hit and a walk with a strikeout…Ken Giles closed out a Blue Jays win with two strikeouts in the ninth, but with a four run lead…Another encouraging outing by Raisel Iglesias. He struck out the side preserving a tied game in San Diego. Jared Hughes gets the win in relief and Michael Lorenzen his first save striking out Wil Myers to end the game…Kirby Yates also pitched in the ninth of a tied game at home giving up a hit with a strikeout. Craig Stammen gets the loss allowing a hit and two runs, one earned, on a home run by Derek Dietrich…Reports of Mark Melancon getting save chances in the future makes him another stash candidate. Perhaps the Giants can read the tea leaves and will move Will Smith sooner, rather than later to yield a better haul of prospects. Stay tuned…

Not Very Stable
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Bullpen Report — 4/20/2019


Bullpen Report: April 16, 2019

While so many questions linger regarding how bullpens will be deployed in the middle of April, it can be frustrating to see the quotes by the Mets about how they will use Edwin Diaz, yet, also refreshing. Many outwardly questioned why Diaz did not enter a tied game in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and New York leading by one. Per Mickey Callaway, Diaz will not pitch more than an inning, until the playoffs, nor will he enter a tied game on the road. Plan accordingly. Read the rest of this entry »

Bullpen Report: April 13, 2019

Remember when taking Matt Barnes with a late round pick felt like a steal? Barnes notched the save on March 29th in Seattle with two strikeouts. However, since then, he’s made four appearances with only one of them coming in the ninth inning. On April ninth, Barnes did get two outs, but also yielded a run on a hit batter, wild pitch and a double. He’s started his work in the seventh inning on two occasions and recorded the last two outs in the sixth inning on Friday. No matter the term associated with the highest leverage pitcher, it appears Barnes will enter when Boston needs him most, which recently, does not appear to be the ninth inning.

With Boston leading by four in the top of the ninth, Tyler Thornburg took the mound in a low leverage spot. He proceeded to walk the lead-off batter, Trey Mancini then allowed a home run to Renato Nunez. After getting Dwight Smith Jr. out on a line drive to shortstop, Boston called upon Ryan Brasier for the save opportunity. Brasier responded with his third save over the last 10 days retiring the only two hitters he faced. Read the rest of this entry »

Bullpen Report: April 9, 2019

When trying to predict the machinations of the Phillies bullpen, it’s frustrating. Gabe Kapler’s very public about his disregard for traditional bullpen roles, so investing in any reliever on his team will accompany ups and downs. One day removed from Hector Neris notching his first save in a clean outing, Pat Neshek faced the Nationals at home with the save opportunity. Seranthony Dominguez turned in a clean sixth inning and garnered the win in relief with a strikeout. Adam Morgan notched his fourth hold with a clean seventh and a strikeout. David Robertson worked around a Victor Robles single and struck out one in the eight. Neshek did record his first save of the year, but allowed a home run to Brian Dozier along with a double to Anthony Rendon. Through 5.2 innings this year, Neshek owns a 1.59 ERA and 0.88 WHIP, but the average exit velocity of his five balls in play last night, 96.9 MPH. There’s no clear reliever to own in this bullpen, so target accordingly. Read the rest of this entry »

Bullpen Report: April 6, 2019

During a night, which mostly went to plan with the shrinking herd of closers, a newly muddled, yet reported time share will ensue in Atlanta. Arodys Vizcaino flirted with disaster walking lead-off hitter Peter O’Brien, then allowing a double to Martin Prado. Vizcaino recovered to strikeout Curtis Granderson and Brian Anderson prior to issuing a walk to Neil Walker before inducing Starlin Castro to fly out to left field. This preserved a shutout win for the Braves, but no relief to Vizcaino owners in the WHIP department. He’s working about two MPH below his numbers from last year with his fastball and slider, plus reports suggest the health of his shoulder will need to be managed. A.J. Minter should not be on many waiver wires after this weekend, even in a shared role, he provides potential upside. Read the rest of this entry »

Bullpen Report: April 2, 2019

Whilst fantasy owners attempt to chase the next save in the Seattle bullpen, April Fool’s, a pitcher not many talked about received the chance on Monday night. Roenis Elias notched his first major league save, he did record one in Triple-A last year in Pawtucket, throwing a clean inning against the Angels. Los Angeles did use pinch hitter Zack Cozart, removing one of the two left-handed hitters Elias could face, yet, he navigated the inning inducing a pop-out to third base, a fly ball to right field and a lineout to center by Kole Calhoun. Since transitioning to the bullpen, Elias improved his fastball velocity to 94 MPH and joins the burgeoning committee approach for the Mariners.

For reference, Brandon Brennan pitched the eighth inning allowing a hit and striking out one, Zac Rosscup walked one in two-thirds of an inning in the seventh and Chasen Bradford, who recorded the last save for Seattle, pitched an inning between the sixth and seventh innings. There will not be a test, but, quizzical faces trying to discern how this bullpen evolves. Add in the pending arrival of Anthony Swarzak, who could be activated prior to Tuesday night’s game. Read the rest of this entry »

Bullpen Report: March 30, 2019

A somewhat wild Friday evening will leave some fantasy owners sleepless about Seattle. Hunter Strickland will undergo an MRI on Saturday after experiencing tightness in the back of his shoulder. It could be inflammation, but resulted in Strickland blowing his first save of the year after convincing his manager to leave him in. Strickland allowed two hits, including a three-run home run to Mitch Moreland, and a walk in one-third of an inning. Roenis Elias finished the ninth inning getting a strikeout versus the two hitters he faced. If Strickland does land on the injured list, this could signal a committee approach in Seattle until Anthony Swarzak returns.

Hard to say which right-handed reliever will emerge, but Matt Festa or Cory Gearrin could get save chances along with either Zac Rosscup or Elias if facing a left-handed lean in the final stanza. Plan accordingly. Read the rest of this entry »

Breakout Breakdown: Anthony Rendon

Although it’s more of a repeat, Anthony Rendon provided another fantasy relevant year while improving upon his average. Rendon set career highs in both doubles and extra-base hits despite appearing in 11 fewer contests compared to 2017 . In 2018, he finished with 88 runs, 24 home runs, 92 RBI, two stolen bases and a .308/.374/.535 slash line. In spite of missing time with an ankle injury last year, Rendon finished tied for first in the National League in doubles, fourth in average, fifth in on-base plus slugging percentage (.909), sixth in slugging percentage and ninth in extra-base hits (70). Rendon also reached base safely in 33 straight games between August 21st and September 25th hitting a robust .369/.454/.662 in the streak. Read the rest of this entry »

Half Season Heroes: Jesse Winker

At a time when many players trade contact for fly ball rates to generate power, Jesse Winker could be emerging as a fantasy asset with a skill set rooted in plate discipline with power on the rise. Winker appeared in 89 games last year scoring 38 runs with seven home runs, 48 RBI and a .299/.405/.431 slash line. Unfortunately, his season ended abruptly due to a subluxation of his right shoulder, covered in detail by Mark Sheldon. While many questioned Winker’s power as a prospect, the article suggests he’s been dealing with the balky shoulder for 2-to-3 seasons. In spite of this, Winker flashed his upside for fantasy in this limited sample, making him an intriguing target for upcoming drafts.

Before delving into the potential growth of his power, ignoring Winker’s prowess at the plate would be a mistake. He’s one of five players with at least 300 plate appearances last year to record more walks than strikeouts. This puts him in rare air joining only Jose Ramirez, Carlos Santana, Alex Bregman and teammate Joey Votto in doing so. Some guy named Mike Trout just missed the list with a 0.98 walk to strikeout rate. In terms of plate discipline, Winker finished with a 5.9 swinging strike percentage and made contact over 85 percent of the time. Winker also swung at pitches in the strike zone (Z-swing percentage) at a 65.3 rate punctuating his upside in terms of discipline.

Transitioning to his batted ball data, Winker increased his line drive percentage by over seven percent, reduced his ground ball rate by over 10 while hitting more fly balls compared to his statistics from 2017 in Cincinnati, in spite of a nagging shoulder injury. More important, Winker raised his hard hit percentage to 43.9 percent last year which overshadows the drop in home run per fly ball data. A hitter who just fell short of hitting .300 with more walks than strikeouts and improved batted ball data seems like an interesting fantasy commodity. Here’s a look at a rolling chart of these statistics from the last two seasons:

If Winker’s shoulder returns to full strength and he can carry over the hard hit percentage, his latent power could surface in 2019. Looking at his xSTATS, Winker’s exit velocity grew from 86.7 MPH in 2017 to 89.1 MPH last season. His expected home runs from the last two years add up to 14.8 in only 402 at-bats, almost in direct line with his 14 in this time frame. Unlike many batters, Winker does not need to pull the ball to increase his home run total, it lies within his ability to hit to all fields. Here’s his spray chart from the last seasons using all of his line drives and fly balls according to Statcast:

Steamer projects a very solid season for Winker with 75 runs, 17 home runs, 66 RBI, three stolen bases and a .284/.376/.437 slash line in 525 at-bats. Once again, using his xSTATS, Winker’s expected average from the last two years sits at a very respectable .288, and well within his outcomes for 2019, with owners hoping for a repeat of last year. This also applies to his home run projection as long as he can accrue at least 500 at-bats. News on his shoulder this spring will provide more clarity as to his health. With some luck, Winker could exceed his Steamer home run projection and reach 20, but it’s speculation not an expectation. However, 17-to-20 home runs with a .288 average could be more appealing than how people may perceive Winker. Especially considering only 20 hitters finished with a higher average than Winkler while accruing at least 300 plate appearances.

Winker’s #2EarlyToMock average draft position finished at 211.1 over the course of nine drafts. His highest draft spot of 180 still leaves room for profit due to his potential upside. Discipline with an uptick in power and a strong supporting cast in Cincinnati not only make Jesse Winker a half season hero, but he’s a worthy target in the upcoming draft season.

Half Season Heroes: Franmil Reyes

Trying to discern between second half breakouts as seeds sown for growth compared to a potential bust makes preseason preparation exciting. One name sure to be popular in the new year will be Franmil Reyes. During his 87 game sample in the majors last year, Reyes launched 16 home runs with a .280/.340/.498 slash line in 261 at-bats. It did not come without some adversity. He arrived to the majors with a propensity to hit for power along with racking up strikeouts.

This proved to be true during Reyes’ first 104 at-bats during May, June and nine games in July prior to his demotion. Reyes hit six home runs but only walked seven times with 42 strikeouts resulting in a .221/.270/.423 slash line. Less than ideal. Getting a reset in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League, Reyes finished with a robust 16 home runs in only 58 games at Triple-A with a .324/.428/.614 line. This led to his return to San Diego on August fourth.

From this point forward, Reyes surged. Over his last 157 at-bats he scored 22 runs with six doubles, 10 home runs, 24 RBI and an eye popping .318/.385/.548 slash. He also hit safely in 20 of his 25 games in September benefiting fantasy owners who held tight or took another chance on Reyes upon his return to the majors. More encouraging, Reyes walked 17 times compared to 38 strikeouts in this time sample, showing growth in his plate discipline after his reboot in the minors.

During Reyes’ time at Triple-A, he walked 14.8 percent of the time versus a 23.6 strikeout percentage. While this rate of discipline should not carry over to the majors, there’s room for growth seeing his 9.7 and 9.8 walk rates in August and September provide hope going forward. In these same two months, Reyes reduced his strikeout percentages to 23.6 and 20.6 respectively as well. In both May and June, Reyes produced strikeout rates at or above 40 percent.

When trying to assess his potential average in 2019, some will depend on his ability to build on the gains in discipline during his second go around in the majors while he continues to adjust to hitting at this level. Reyes will also need to improve against right-handed pitching if he’s going to hit at or above his Steamer projection. At Triple-A, Reyes hit .359/.519/.564 against southpaws while slashing a very respectable .316/.404/.626 against right-handed pitchers in his limited 216 at-bat sample last season. When going back to his 2017 Double-A statistics, Reyes hit appreciably better against right-handed pitching (.292/.349/.514) than he did against left-handed pitching (.147/.233/.293).

While this intimates Reyes remains a work in progress, he should be able to improve upon his splits from last year in the majors. Reyes hit .247/.298/.449 versus right-handed pitching with 10 home runs in 178 at-bats. Against southpaws, he slashed .349/.426/.602 with six home runs in 83 at-bats. It’s tough to predict how Reyes will fare versus each type of pitcher in 2019, but planning on some movement to the mean in each category seems salient. So, improved plate discipline baked in with past production versus each type of pitcher should allow Reyes to hold his own going forward.

Transitioning to his batted ball data, Reyes should be able to achieve his Steamer projection of 69 runs, 28 home runs, 79 RBI, two stolen bases and a .251/.319/.456 line in 531 at-bats over 146 games. With home run production down last year, these will not be numbers to overlook. When trying to gauge his home run totals, Reyes displayed power throughout the minors along with the 32 he hit across two levels last season. But, trying to predict a total higher than Steamer’s will be difficult. Could he surpass this total? Absolutely. However, paying for more could be risky.

According to Statcast data, Reyes averaged an exit velocity of 96.4 MPH on his fly balls and line drives put into play of his 181 batted ball events. Last year, Reyes made the most of his 33.3 and 23.9 fly ball percentages from August fourth on, but he’s not recorded a season with a fly ball percentage above 40 percent, once, during his debut season in 2012 in Rookie ball. It’s encouraging Reyes produced a hard hit percentage (44.2) and home run per fly ball rate (29.6 percent) above the major league averages. He’s also within five-plus percent of the major league average in fly ball percentage. Not trying to downplay his home run upside, but his ground ball rates of 45.8 percent in August and 53.5 percent in September cannot be ignored when projecting his best case scenario.

Using xSTATS data, Reyes had an expected home run total of 12.7 last year with an expected slash of .268/.330/.465, an xBABIP of .346 and .OBA of .344 last year. These numbers along with his Steamer projection translate to upside. It’s apparent Reyes will be targeted from the 10th round on. In the #2EarlyMocks orchestrated by Justin Mason, Reyes carried an average draft position of 208.1 with a high pick at 165 and a low of 260 within the nine leagues. Due to his strong finish along with his power despite the ground ball to fly ball rates, Reyes will be worth the risk. As intimated above, using the Steamer projection as a guide to his baseline value, targeting “Franimal” to balance a draft with power and an average which will not tax the category makes perfect sense. Reyes could hit 30 home runs, or 24. Either way, he’s a half season hero who deserves the hype.