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Bullpen Report: Second-half reliever watch

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Over the last three months, the Bullpen Report has looked at every possible angle on relievers -- ranking current closers, predicting new closers, getting intimately acquainted with holds and inventing SPARPs. Through it all, some analysis slips through the cracks. For instance, I'm a big fan of Rex Brothers eventually taking over as the closer for the Rockies, but there's no way to really shoehorn it in when going over who I think is the eighth-best closer in baseball.

Enter the All-Star break

With little to write about for next week's shortened slate of games, I decided to throw some potpourri out there for this All-Star break column. I give you ... random thoughts on five relievers I'm targeting in leagues for the second half.

Huston Street, Padres

I get a good amount of questions about why I have Street ranked so high, usually something along the lines of, "Hey [deleted], why the [deleted] do you have Huston [deleted] Street as your 11th closer? [deleted] you. --Aizer."

Most Added Relievers (as of 7/13)
Player % change
1. Hector Santiago, RP, White Sox 7
2. Chad Gaudin, RP, Giants 7
3. Steve Cishek, RP, Marlins 4
4. Steve Delabar, RP, Blue Jays 4
5. Greg Holland, RP, Royals 3
6. Francisco Rodriguez, RP, Brewers 3
7. Carlos Martinez, RP, Cardinals 3
8. Brad Ziegler, RP, Diamondbacks 3
9. Fernando Rodney, RP, Rays 2
10. Ernesto Frieri, RP, Angels 2

I'll admit, I have some worry that Street could just go south and make the lofty ranking look stupid. He's currently sitting on a 4.30 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, with just 16 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings. He's given up three home runs in his last six appearances, and he now has an ERA above 3.00 in five of his last six seasons.

But I see hope for Street. He has 15 saves this season, despite throwing just 29 1/3 innings. Street had to endure three seasons pitching in Colorado. His career K/9 is 9.00, so that ugly rate this year is due for a correction. And the Padres have Jedd Gyorko and Yonder Alonso close to returning, meaning the offense will once again be running on all cylinders -- a situation that had them 16th in the majors in runs scored in May and 11th overall in June. More runs should lead to more wins, which will give Street more chances at saves.

There's no guarantee that Street won't get hurt again, which is a legitimate gripe for those shying away from him. But if there wasn't a concern with Street, he wouldn't be available at a discount price. And that's what makes this game fun. It's a gamble, but it's a gamble that will come at a very low cost to an owner looking to add saves. Street is intriguing because he could go either way, but I'm willing to take the chance that he improves in the second half and finishes the season closer to 40 saves than 25.

Kenley Jansen, Dodgers

I'm not sure Kenley Jansen can be had cheap right now. And this may be one of the circumstances in which I don't care. Once he took the job from Brandon League, I moved Jansen all the way up to No. 5 in my rankings. He continues to sport a low ERA (2.38), minuscule WHIP (0.97) and very high strikeout rate (12.5 K/9).

Additionally, the Dodgers should be a much better team in the second half than the disaster that they were in the first, leading to more save opportunities for Jansen. After a bumpy stretch in mid-May, when Jansen gave up five runs in a five-game span (including two consecutive appearances with four total runs allowed), Jansen has been a stud, collecting seven saves in 21 games, with a 1.17 ERA and 0.87 WHIP, while striking out 32 batters in 23 innings. Since recording his last hold, on June 10, Jansen has rattled off seven saves, allowing just three runs in 12 appearances.

In short, Jansen has nudged his way into the "is he one of the best in baseball?" conversation. And outside of minor concerns over his health, along with the lack of a really solid track record, my feeling is that he has to be included in that discussion. Because of that, I wouldn't hesitate to offer something of substance (Billy Butler? Asdrubal Cabrera?) in a deal for the 25-year-old over the All-Star break.

Mariano Rivera, Yankees

Here's a fun fact -- in typical stoic Mariano Rivera fashion, the retiring Yankees closer is on pace to have the best season of his career. His 1.89 ERA is the ninth-lowest of his career (over 19 seasons), but his 29 saves have him on pace to topple his career-best 53. Sure, his WHIP is the highest it's ever been and he may be a handful of strikeouts off his normal pace, but Rivera is going on a farewell tour in the second half of the season and will likely be super-focused on making the most out of his last 30 or so appearances.

Granted, this "super-focused" theory is mainly guesswork and logic, but if you knew you were retiring in three months from a very public job, where peopel get emotionally attached to everything you do while wearing your last name on their backs, wouldn't you want to expend all your energy on doing the absolute best you could for that span, then just sail off into the sunset and relax after?

Like Jansen (health issues, lack of real track record), Rivera has some flaws (he's old, he was hurt last year), but with some key Yankee bats coming back, Rivera is going to have the exciting combination of more save opportunities and a sense of urgency in his final season. If a Fantasy team is looking for a closer upgrade, Rivera is worth a trade offer, with some very real upside in the second half.

Trevor Rosenthal, Cardinals

This has nothing to do with Edward Mujica. In fact, if Mujica finishes the season with 52 saves and never yields an opportunity to another reliever, Rosenthal will still have value as a low-ratio, high-strikeout reliever. Consider this: Rosenthal, who has 20 holds, has pitched 43 innings this season and already has 64 strikeouts. Those Ks are more than Jhoulys Chacin, Jerermy Guthrie, or Dylan Axelrod.

Owned in 25 percent of leagues, Rosenthal isn't exactly an unknown to Fantasy players. He has a ton of value in holds formats, serves as Mujica insurance for save speculators, and can help fill the scoresheet with his strikeouts. Because he doesn't get a lot of wins in middle relief (to be fair, those are nearly impossible to predict), Rosenthal has limited value in Points formats -- outside of deeper leagues, where teams regularly roster speculative closers. But in Roto leagues, owners looking to slowly chip away at ERA and WHIP may want to consider rostering Rosenthal.

Rex Brothers, Rockies

Where Rosenthal's value has merit outside of Mujica, Brothers' is almost wholly tied to Rafael Betancourt. When Betancourt hit the DL last month, we saw Brothers step in while the team didn't miss a beat at the end of the bullpen. The popular qualifier with Brothers is that the Rockies need to drop in the standings in order for the team to trade Betancourt (38 years old and in the last year of his contract), but I'm not so sure that's the case. Colorado -- currently 7 1/2 games out of the second wild card spot -- could send Betancourt off in a deal while still in the playoff hunt. The Rockies will get something for a pitcher they would likely just lose in the offseason (the sides have a mutual option) while not really seeing a drop-off at the closer position.

Like Rosenthal, Brothers is owned in 25 percent of leagues, but I'd rather have Brothers on my roster. Look at it this way: Mujica would have to get injured in order for Rosenthal to work his way into the saves mix. But Betancourt can either get injured or get traded. And getting traded is an increasingly likely scenario for him. So while Rosenthal may be the better bet to just plug in and play no matter what happens with his situation, Brothers is the pitcher you want if you're looking to get any kind of saves on your roster in the second half

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Angels' Garrett Richards tosses five scoreless in minor league game
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:07 pm ET) Angels pitcher Garrett Richards was able to throw five scoreless innings Saturday in a Triple-A outing as a part of his rehab from left-knee surgery. Richards was happy to get back to normal activities, according to the L.A. Times.

"When you're sidelined for so long, getting back to normalcy is really comforting, it's reassuring mentally for me," Richards said.

He gave up just one hit with five strikeouts in the outing.

"When you get hurt, you initially have these questions running through your head. 'Am I going to be the same? How is this thing going to respond? Where am I going to be in my career?' But everything is really clicking. My leg is getting stronger every week."

Rehab continues to progress slow and hopes to be ready by mid-April.

"This is something we want to do right the first time," Richards said. "We want to make sure this thing is ready to go when they put me in there, when the lights are on and the games mean something. I want to be 100%."


Diamondbacks pitcher Jeremy Hellickson tosses 75 pitches Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:59 pm ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Jeremy Hellickson tossed 75 pitches Saturday after getting an extra few days of rest for arm fatigue. He feels his arm is ready to go for the start of the season, reports MLB.com.

"I thought his stuff was good," manager Chip Hale said. "Used his offspeed stuff and looked like he confused some hitters, so that's what we're looking for."

Hellickson allowed eight runs in 4 1/3 innings pitched Saturday.

"I'd like to not give up as many hits as I've given up two of the four starts anyway," said Hellickson. "The good thing is I don't think too many of them were hard hit. Curveball still has a ways to go, but I think the fastball and fastball command is pretty much where I want it. The changeup wasn't bad today. It was a little better last time, but for the most part it was down today which is all I can ask for."


Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn surrenders two runs in outing Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:51 pm ET) Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn gave up two runs on six hits, including a home run, in five innings of work Saturday against the Tigers.

Lynn added five strikeouts and lowered his ERA to 4.50.

"It was good to get out there and face hitters and get your pitches in and get your work done and come out of it healthy," Lynn said to MLB.com. "That's all that really matters right now. I've felt good the last two times out with everything. I'm just going to keep going that direction."


Rockies pitching prospect Jon Gray struggles in rout
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:46 pm ET) Rockies top pitching prospect Jon Gray lasted just 2/3 of an inning Saturday against the Cubs, allowing seven runs, six earned, on four hits with two strikeouts.

Gray, who's ERA is now 5.93 this spring, is happy it happened now instead of during the regular season, according to the Denver Post.

"I would rather have a bad game the first outing, but it can't always be that way," Gray said. "This was unfortunate, but it's all about how you respond. I've responded well in the past, and I think I will be able to again."

Manager Walt Weiss still doesn't put all the blame on Gray for the struggles.

"We made it tough on him, and I think he made it tough on himself with a couple of bunts back to him," Weiss said. "We didn’t play well behind him. We looked up and he was 40 pitches in, and you don't want that in the first inning. So we got him out of there."


Blue Jays pitcher Marco Estrada open to different role this season
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:35 pm ET) Blue Jays pitcher Marco Estrada knows it's unlikely he will end up with a job in the starting rotation, but he's willing to accept any role this year, reports MLB.com.

"If that's what I'm going to do, that's fine," Estrada said. "I told these guys I just want to be out there to help this team win. That's all I care about. If it's starting, awesome. If it's relieving, that's fine. I just want to help, I want to win, I want to get into the playoffs and that's all that matters."

Estrada gave up one run on five hits with three strikeouts in three innings of work Saturday against the Braves.

"I'll be honest, I felt a little weird out there, being out there again," Estrada said. "I just haven't seen a hitter in a couple of weeks almost. Timing was a little off, rushed a few pitches that I left up, a few changeups that I missed up, but other than that, I felt pretty good other than missing two weeks."

He is also feeling healthier after battling an ankle injury at the beginning of spring training.

"The ankle is much better. It's getting there, I can go out there and pitch, it's not a big deal anymore. Just every day it has been feeling much better. There's not much we can do right now. Need another day or two and it will probably be gone."


Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma allows four runs in start
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:29 pm ET) Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma gave up four earned runs on five hits in five innings of work Saturday against the Giants. Iwakuma added four strikeouts and two walks on 85 pitches.

"I felt pretty good," Iwakuma said to MLB.com. "I feel like I can enter the season right now physically. From here on, it's all mental. I feel like I have a lot of life on my fastball, and that's a good sign."


Mariners catcher Mike Zunino rips pair of home runs Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:25 pm ET) Mariners catcher Mike Zunino ripped two solo home runs Saturday against the Giants, going 2 for 3 and boasting his average to .310 in 16 spring training games.

"I was just looking for pitches early in the count to drive," said Zunino to MLB.com. "I'm feeling all right. Just continuing to try to make adjustments and seeing a little bit of improvement. It's something to keep building on."


Athletics pitcher Scott Kazmir goes five scoreless Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:16 pm ET) Athletics pitcher Scott Kazmir posted another dominant performance Saturday, going 5 1/3 scoreless innings with four strikeouts and just two hits allowed against the White Sox.

Kazmir lowered his ERA to 0.75 with just one start left before the season begins.

"Every pitch felt like I had good feel with it," Kazmir said to Bay Area News Group. "I was able to lock everything down. My changeup was the pitch today.I could get it to either corner. And if it started out down the middle it would wind up in the dirt."

Manager Bob Melvin continues to gush over Kazmir's performances.

"Everything was working, side to side," Melvin said. "He had cadence and rhythm. We wanted to get him to 80 pitches, and we did."


Yankees pitcher Dellin Betances continues to struggle on the mound
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:10 pm ET) Yankees relief pitcher Dellin Betances is still not quite right on the mound. Betances gave up another run Saturday, his fifth in seven appearances this spring.

"At the end of the day, you've got to try to prepare yourself," Betances said to MLB.com. "But I guess it's better to happen now in Spring Training where I can fix it before we leave and head up north. I'd rather it happen now than in season, when it's a little tougher there when the games count more."

Betances is working to fix his leg kick on the mound with pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

"It's not like I'm missing as bad as I once was," Betances said. "I'm around the zone. I felt way better even before I came in. I felt like my direction was better, something I'll try to work on more. As that gets better, I think I'll be able to throw more strikes and put guys away."


Braves pitcher Alex Wood surrenders three runs in outing
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:05 pm ET) Braves pitcher Alex Wood went six innings Saturday against the Blue Jays, allowing three runs on seven hits with two strikeouts.

"I thought it was good for the most part. I think I'm getting closer," Wood said to MLB.com. "I think they hit a lot of weak ground balls. Hit a couple hard, but overall I thought it was good. ... Get that next [start] done, and I'll be right where I need to be."

Manager Fredi Gonzalez liked that Wood was able to see some real game scenarios in his appearance.

"You know what was good about it today? He got himself in a couple jams," Gonzalez said. "It was nice to see that he had to get out of those jams, working through those things.

"Because sometimes you go 1-2-3, 1-2-3 every single time, it's a little different. You don't get the adrenaline, the juices flowing. Today he faced a really, really good right-handed dominant lineup and he did great."


 
 
 
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