Seven Viable Firemen

The emergence of the fireman reliever hit the fantasy landscape a couple years back when Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller proved themselves to be entirely too good not to roster despite not occupying a traditional saves role. From there we’ve seen Chris Devenski, Chad Green, and the new king of the role, Josh Hader, emerge as lockdown fantasy options across just about every format.

Here are seven more relievers putting up big numbers that might be worthy of your roster as strikeout and ratio stabilizers. Plus, there’s always a chance that they ascend into the closer’s role as Betances, Miller, and Hader have at times over the last couple years.

Seranthony Dominguez, RP | Philadelphia Phillies| 0.00 ERA, 0.17 WHIP, 35% K in 11.7 IP

Dominguez was a flavor of the week in NFBC leagues a while back after notching a random save and so I considering not including, but he’s still widely available across all three major providers (CBS, Yahoo!, and ESPN) so I got him on the list. He gets whiffs with both his 98 mph fastball and 87 mph slider. He’s allowed a whopping two hits while notching 13 strikeouts in his 10 appearances thus far. He’s got an elite name, elite stuff, and the 23-year old could definitely usurp Hector Neris for the ninth inning role if Neris has extended struggles.

Dan Winkler, RP | Atlanta Braves | 0.84 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, 38% K in 21.3 IP

A.J. Minter was my guy coming into the season, but he just hasn’t gotten it done and Winkler has emerged as the best non-closer in the Braves pen. You may remember Winkler from his 175-strikeout season in the minors back in 2013, but injuries took over with a Tommy John surgery in 2014 and then a fractured elbow two innings into his 2016 season. That he’s even pitching in the majors is damn impressive let alone the fact that he’s beasting on the league.

The 28-year old works fastball-cutter primarily, mixing in a slurve when ahead. He destroys righties (.258 OPS, 42% K) while more than holding his own against lefties (.671, 30%). Winkler would be a major free agent buy if Arodys Vizcaino went sideways so speculate now if you’re scrounging for saves.

Amir Garrett, SP/RP | Cincinnati Reds | 2.12 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 32% K in 29.7 IP

The fireman role’s rebirth in baseball is boon for Garrett as he really seems cut out for more of a 1-3 inning role as opposed to the 5-6 asked of starters. His move to the bullpen has added velocity to his fastball (+3 to 94.6 mph) and slider (+3 to 82.4) while allowing him to shelve his mediocre changeup. Lefties have actually knocked the fastball around a bit, giving him a reverse platoon, but his 27% K-BB rate against them is actually better than his 20% mark against righties. Garrett is still a work in progress as he continues to allow too many homers and that’s a big reason why Jared Hughes and not Garrett has jumped into the closer’s role after Raisel Iglesias hit the disabled list. Garrett’s strikeout stuff and ability to go more than one inning regularly gives him a good shot to log 100+ strikeouts out of the bullpen.

Collin McHugh, SP/RP | Houston Astros | 0.79 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 34% K in 22.7 IP

Yep, this is that McHugh, the former starter who rose to some prominence with the Astros, but has been squeezed out by the bevy of studs populating their rotation. He’s been awesome as a reliever this year. He has eight multi-inning outings in his 17 appearances and the strong swinging strike rate we saw throughout his time as a starter is netting more strikeouts than ever for the 31-year old righty. He’s added a couple ticks of velocity to his fastball (now up to 92) while his curveball/slider combo have done the heavy lifting on the strikeout rate. He seems to have taken the multi-inning role from Devenski, who only has two outings eclipsing an inning this year after 24 a year ago.

Joe Kelly, RP | Boston Red Sox | 1.82 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 29% K in 24.7 IP

Is it finally happening? Kelly has long had impressive stuff, but never seems to get the most out of it. In 2016, he spiked a 26% K rate, but did so with a 5.18 ERA. In 2017, he had a 2.79 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, but fanned just 22% of his batters faced. Kelly allowed four runs in a third of an inning to open his season (March 29th), but since then he’s allowed just one run and 16 base runners in 24.3 innings (0.37 ERA, 0.66 WHIP). Maybe he’ll get that Cy Young after all!

Richard Rodriguez, RP | Pittsburgh Pirates | 2.21 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 38% K in 20.3 IP

Rodriguez is a 28-year old journeyman reliever has been extremely successful so far with his fastball (92.9 mph)/slider (80.6 mph) combination. He’s getting ahead often with a shiny 73% first-pitch strike rate and then leveraging a 15% swinging strike rate to finish batters at a fantastic clip. He’s gotten a strikeout in 15 of his 17 appearances (and the two he didn’t were both sub-1 inning outings), including two 6-strikeout showings. Rodriguez’s profile was no doubt raised when Felipe Vazquez left Sunday’s outing with forearm discomfort, but it seems Edgar Santana got more attention in the most recent waiver period on Sunday.

Joe Jimenez, RP | Detroit Tigers | 2.49 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 25% K in 25.3 IP

Could it be? Have the Tigers finally developed a capable reliever for the first time since… forever? OK, I’m sure there’s one in the team’s history, but bullpen issues plagued the club throughout their successful run that preceded this current rebuild. Jimenez labored through a disastrous 19 innings last year, but he’s been much better this year. He has reigned in his 95 mph fastball and turned it into a major weapon. His .491 OPS on the pitch is 8th-best of the 116 pitchers who have thrown at least 250 heaters while his 30% strikeout rate with it is 14th.

Any middle relievers with devastating stuff you’re keeping a close eye on as a potential assets?

Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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4 years ago

Love these guys. Any way you can note which guys (like Garrett and McHugh) who qualify as SPs? They helps me fill in the gaps around my weekly points league start caps.

4 years ago
Reply to  Moltar

Gsellman is SP eligible. Although he’s not as dominant as the guys mentioned above (3.72 SIERA, 22% K), he makes it up a bit with volume (33.2 IP)

4 years ago
Reply to  ArmadilloFury

Speaking of Mets, Seth Lugo is another, but he’ll be starting Thursday in place of Thor.