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We know spring training is fully underway when a bunch of arms break. We’re sure to see more as soreness becomes less general and more devastating to our early drafts. The four-tier format is back for our closer report. This week, pandemic foodstuff themed tiers. I’d laugh but for fear that might cause me to cough resulting in those nearby turning mob justice on me. Let’s get to some news and notes on the reliever front first.

  • Emmanuel Clase – He of the hardest cutter in baseball is starting his Cleveland career off on a sour note. A back strain will likely sideline him for 8-12 weeks. This opens the door for fellow reliever wunderkind James Karinchak to solidify a leverage role. If you want a job relieving for Cleveland just have a hard to spell name, throw gas, and be in your early 20’s.
  • Jose Alvarado – Don’t look now but Alvarado looks sharp as ever. But Roto-Wan, Nick Anderson is *the* it closer of draft season?!? I have no issue with Anderson’s stuff, just his role. He factors into their ninth inning, no doubt. Let me ask you this, though. He saved some games for them last year since they’re a team that’s the most progressive in leverage roles, right? No? Ok, well he came over from Miami, who’s bullpen was a collection of molding leftovers. He racked up a bunch of saves there, surely? How about one save. Well, at least he’s a young prospect? Turns 30 in June. I don’t mean to rain on your Nick Anderson parade, and by “don’t” I mean I do, but he’s far from a lock. I’m betting on Alvarado seeing some of their saves as the lefty side of a committee in every league I draft that uses RPs.
  • Brandon Kintzler – Things are not off to a great start this spring for the presumptive Marlins closer. Like, walking four straight batters bad. I’d consider a spec play on Ryne Stanek early on.
  • Ryan Helsley – I’m not the Helsley guy but some people I respect (see: Matt Thompson, Nick Pollack) have made it a point to draft the young Cardinal in the late rounds. Their ninth inning is a mess to predict, as usual. Helsley also has an outside shot at the rotation it seems, depending on the health of their assumed starters.
  • Trevor Rosenthal – Rosie is the latest zombie reliever. He’s always been able to light up radar guns. He just has zero command at times, as in most of the time. The command seems to be there this spring, however. KC would love to add any talent it can to baseball’s most mediocre bullpen.
  • Please, blog, may I have some more?

Much like the classic Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC) PC game, The Oregon Trail, we finish our bullpen parade out west. Apologies if the research in this post is light, I stayed up all night playing TOT on the Wayback Machine. Suck it deer, I shot so many of you I can’t even carry all the meat. Much like the game, your journey to saves accumulation is a series of decisions fraught with peril. Do your best not to die of dysentery. In this example, Wade Davis is dysentery.

AL East AL Central AL West

NL East NL Central NL West

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Which position would you say has gained the most value over the past decade?

In MLB? In fantasy?

Maybe it’s shortstop. 2020 might be the best shortstop season of all time, whatever that means.  

And that’s pre Wander. 

But this winter saw Emmanuel Clase traded for Corey Kluber. I know Delinosaur Jr. is feeling the pain of everyone there, too, and the old Klubot has been in the shop for a hot minute, but to say this trade made waves is an understatement.

The conversation began in alarmist, anti-ownership fashion and ended in hushed admiration of Clase’s cutter and consideration of the relative values of their contracts and remaining innings, especially in the context of a team with a pitching surplus such as Cleveland’s. 

Felt like a signpost to me.

As did Tampa Bay’s trade of top 50 echo chamber prospect Jesus Sanchez for erstwhile bartender Nick Anderson. 

As have the contracts dolled out every off-season, even in the miserly winters of 2017-18, when bullpen pitchers were signed early in the cycle for near-record middle-relief contracts. 

I might be kicking the horse a bit at this point when all I really want to do is share my work-intensive relief prospect rankings. More and more leagues are incorporating holds, either as its own category or a combination category with saves. Given the dominance of hot relievers, all these guys gain a lot of value in saves+holds leagues, where their barrier to helping you in that category is all but erased. In the dynasty game, they can be swapped in and out of your minor leagues to expand your active roster and suppress your ratios while snagging some strikeouts and the occasional win. 

Without further ado because we’ve had plenty of ado because hey I worked on this one all winter, the following humans are my top 20 relief prospects for 2020. 

The sun is setting on the final days of fantasy baseball in 2019. If you’re fending off the wolves here are some relievers with a shot at a sneaky save over the next few days. Cut the fat and for that matter, any player not likely to get you a stat in a category of need no matter how big the name. Adding these names is the fantasy equivalent of Bran’s time travel/warging of Hodor. They probably stem the tide but may ruin something (like a ratio).

Please, blog, may I have some more?

What a disaster major league pitching has been this year. With the juiced ball on top of mounting injuries, we’re all plugging holes faster than Captain Ahab. If you’re in good shape in your pitching categories I recommend a conservative approach using a stopgap reliever until you can sort out something more permanent. Protect those ratios, maybe grab a few strikeouts, and figure out your fringe solution on your bench.

Please, blog, may I have some more?