Howdy, Razzqueens n kings.
I wanted to shift my focus this week. Purely selfish motives here since I’m tired of just talking about saves while simultaneously being too lazy to hammer out a full-on SV+HD tiered ranking. Instead, this week I’m kind of doing what I did last week, except instead of early-bird specials on closers, I’m gonna look at early-bird specials on setup men.
I really enjoy SV+HD as a category, and I really enjoy tracking what bullpens do and how they use whom. So much so that I volunteered to create/monitor/update Razzball’s Bullpen Chart all season long! That’s right, I’m tracking this ish on the regular! We all know how wild any given pen can get on any given day, so I’ll likely regret this decision.
Anywho, there are some obvious guys you should be going after. Devin Williams, Craig Kimbrel, Giovanny Gallegos, Paul Sewald, Blake Treinen, etc. etc. etc. Guys who might close or might not close but will most assuredly be bitchin’ assets if holds count. This week’s piece isn’t for highlighting those types. I’m here to show you some names you might have overlooked. Or maybe you’re as on top of things as I pretend to be and you don’t need my help. To that I say…touché. Or maybe you’re just someone who plays in exclusively SV-only leagues and who has no use for this article. To that I say…booooooooo.
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Fiiiine, you caught me. I’m starting off with a St. Louis Cardinals player as one of the resident Cards homers here at Razzball. This guy isn’t the most exciting setup feller out there given he doesn’t strike out many guys and that his 1.97 ERA in the final two months of action wasn’t supported by ERA predictor metrics (3.23 FIP and 4.00 SIERA). But to that I say…whatever. McFarland had 14 holds from Aug. 1 til the end, managing a next-to-worthless 13.7 K% but also a pretty good 6 BB%. I like him still for two reasons: 1). he’s absolutely free on draft day and 2). the Cards let Luis Garcia walk free and chose to re-sign McFarland instead. TJM is one of those groundball extraordinaires who just finds a way to get outs and keep runs off the board. Being a lefty means he’ll be utilized frequently. I’m in on the cheap holds he’ll provide.
No one had more holds than Jackson in the final two months of the 2021 season (18). He rocked a 1.40 ERA, 2.47 FIP, 0.94 WHIP, 32.7 K%, and 15.8 SwStr% in that time. The one serious-ish red flag is the 10.2 BB%, but whatevs. Jackson should figure into a whole lotta holds situations pitching for the Atlanta Braves. And who knows…what if Will Smith starts to stumble? Jackson could quite feasibly work his way into closer consideration at some point. Smith is a nice draft pick and all for fantasy, but let’s not get too carried away thinking he’s a lights-out guy in the 9th — of all regular closers, Smith tied for the most blown saves over the final couple months, struggling mightily with walks and giving up home runs.
There’s a good Luis Garcia who pitches for the Houston Astros. He’s a starter. There’s another good Luis Garcia who pitches for the San Diego Padres. He’s a reliever. He’s the guy the Cardinals let go so they could re-sign McFarland, but that doesn’t mean Garcia isn’t in a solid spot to provide some steady holds. Hell, there’s an outside shot he’s in the mix for some saves, too. Garcia was a major part of the Cards’ late-season surge, collecting 12 HD and posting a 1.91 ERA, 2.92 FIP, and 0.85 WHIP in Aug./Sep./Oct. The Dads were impressed enough to offer him a two-year deal, and he should slot into late-inning work in 2022. He brings elite fastball/sinker velocity that pairs nicely with his very, very good slider.
Mr. Vesia had some of the nastiest stuff of anyone last season. If you can’t tell already, I’m really focusing on guys that finished 2021 very strongly and thus have set themselves up for higher-leverage work in 2022. In those final two months, Vesia had 7 HD while striking out 38.5% of batters and inducing a 17.7 SwStr%, which ranked in the top 10 of all RP who tossed even just 10 IP in that time. If Kenley Jansen doesn’t return, Vesia’s stock as a potentially elite setup man is sky-high. If Jansen happens to come back, then Treinen will be the primo option. Either way, Vesia will be useful. He’s got a good fastball, but it’s not an especially fast fastball…yet he still chucked it more than two-thirds of the time. But when he went slider or changeup…whew boy. Unhittable. Seriously, only one single hit combined with those two pitches.
Sadler had one of the overall sexiest ends to 2021 of any reliever. From Aug. 1 onward, Sadler did thusly: 10 HD, 0.00 ERA, 1.85 FIP, 1.88 SIERA, 0.43 WHIP, 27.1 K%, 3.5 BB%, and 32.5 CSW%. That’s some superb stuff, folks. Super superb. Whatever happens in this messy Seattle Mariners pen, you can pretty safely assume that this dude is gonna be a factor back there. He did a whole lot of damage in the month of September alone, getting leaned on heavily in the final days to help Seattle try to clinch a playoff berth, which they narrowly missed. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the M’s ship a guy or two out, maybe Steckenrider and Castillo? Castillo and Munoz? I dunno. Just speculatin’. Maybe Sadler is the one they cash in on.
I hope you know this name by now, cuz he’s the next in line if Scott Barlow either a). sucks (which is very unlikely) or b). gets traded (more likely than Option A). I’m not one to roster a guy just as a mere handcuff. That’s not something you can do in baseball (unless we’re talking a big best ball league like RazzSlam) like you can in football. But I digress. The point I really want to make here is that Mr. Staumont is a good Thrower of Baseballs and should be in line for all the holds opportunities a team like the Kansas City Royals can afford. Staumont went for 12 HD (tied for third-most), a 2.08 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 0.81 WHIP, 29.2 K%, and 8.3 BB% in the final two months of the season. And that’s really not far off from what his 2021 totals ended up being. I’m a tooch concerned with the almost 5% drop in SwStr% from 2020 to 2021, and I’d wager a certain Sticky Crackdown had something to do with it. On the other hand, he dropped his BB% from 14.3% in 2020 to 10.2% last year. Yay!
Oh snap. Is that former future fantasy ace Dinelson Lamet you see there? Wanted to have a little fun with my last guy on this list. I’m speculating some here, but are we very confident in Emilio Pagan in a setup role? And are we confident Lamet has the mojo in that arm to be a starter again? I can very much see a scenario where Lamet morphs into a bullpen ace instead of a starting rotation ace. It’s a little sad, yes, but think of a guy like Aroldis Chapman or Alex Reyes (at least there for a while…) or John Smoltz. Isn’t it kinda cool to see a starter shift to the pen and just utterly wreck? A healthy Lamet who doesn’t need the taxing workload of a starter could easily be that kind of guy, right? Anyway, the Padres went and signed Robert Suarez, whom I wrote about last week and who has been a bad mothertrucker over in Japan. I’m fairly confident he’s the closer, but if it doesn’t shake out, who’s to say Lamet might not get a look or three? Was he bad to close out the last year? Yes. Quite: 6.39 ERA, 5.06 FIP, 1.74 WHIP (more like 1.74 BARF amirite), and a horrendous 18.3 BB% in those last two months. Did he still have some strikeout stuff despite all that? Sure did: 31.7 K% and 16.5 SwStr%. I know I just talked above about Garcia, so he’s in the mix too of course. As are Pierce Johnson and Drew Pomeranz. Plus there’s always the chance Lamet gets a chance to start and finds his groove again. Look, all I’m saying here is maybe, just maybe, Dinelson Lamet factors into some SVHD situations.
I do some fantasy baseball as well as some fantasy hockey here at Razzball. Find me on Twitter: @jkj0787. DMs are always open for questions, comments, concerns, complaints, etc. Odds are good I’m drinking black coffee, dark beer, or some form of bourbon at any given time.