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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
Robbie Ross earns win Wednesday vs. A's
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:48 am ET) Rangers pitcher Robbie Ross picked up a win Wednesday, striking out one in 1 2/3 scoreless innings in his team's 6-1 victory over the A's.

Ross (3-6) was one of three pitchers to appear in the bottom of the eighth inning Wednesday, and after the Rangers scored six runs on three A's relievers in the top of the ninth, Ross finished off the win with a clean bottom half of the final inning. He owns a 6.39 ERA and 49:29 K:BB ratio in 74 2/3 innings.


J.P. Arencibia slugs 10th home run in win vs. A's
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:46 am ET) Rangers designated hitter J.P. Arencibia went 1 for 4 with a three-run home run in his team's 6-1 victory over the A's Wednesday.

After the Rangers evened the score at 1-1 in the ninth inning, Arencibia put his team up with a big blast over the left field fence. He has a modest four-game hitting streak with two home runs during that stretch. Arencibia has hit .173/.234/.367 with 10 home runs and 35 RBI in 196 at-bats.


Sean Doolittle blows save, takes loss Wednesday vs. Rangers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:46 am ET) Athletics closer Sean Doolittle blew a save opportunity Wednesday and was stuck with the loss in his team's 6-1 defeat against the Rangers.

Doolittle (1-4) was tasked with protecting a 1-0 lead but surrendered a game-tying double before the Rangers broke things open with a three-run home run. The closer finished with five earned runs on three hits and two walks in just one-third of an inning. Doolittle owns a 2.97 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 83:7 K:BB ratio in 57 2/3 innings.


Jeff Samardzija strikes out 10 in gem vs. Rangers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:45 am ET) Athletics pitcher Jeff Samardzija didn't factor into the decision Wednesday despite giving up just four hits in eight scoreless innings while striking out 10 and walking none in his team's 6-1 defeat against the Rangers.

Samardzija matched his season high for strikeouts in the gem, and he's now delivered 15 innings of scoreless baseball over his last two starts. However, the bullpen blew his lead in the ninth inning to keep him at 6-12. Despite his record, he's been excellent this season, posting a 2.98 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 190:43 K:BB ratio in 205 2/3 innings. Samardzija is slated to face the Angels Monday.


Derek Holland allows one run in no-decision vs. A's
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:45 am ET) Rangers pitcher Derek Holland didn't factor into the decision Wednesday, giving up one earned run on four hits and three walks in 6 1/3 innings while striking out five in his team's 6-1 win over the A's.

Holland turned in his fourth straight strong start and actually saw his ERA rise despite the excellent line. The only run came on a single with two men on in the fifth inning, giving Holland four straight starts with one run or no runs since coming off the disabled list. He owns a 0.99 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 22:3 K:BB ratio in 27 1/3 innings. Hollard is scheduled to face the Astros Monday.


Mariners announce weekend rotation plans
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:33 am ET) The Mariners announced Wednesday that Taijuan Walker will draw the start in Friday's series opener against the Astros in Houston.

Walker hasn't made a start for the Mariners since late July, but he's managed to make three appearances out of the bullpen in September. He owns a 2.96 ERA and 21:15 K:BB ratio in 24 1/3 innings.

The announcement will move Chris Young back to Saturday and Hisashi Iwakuma to Sunday.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:03 am ET) Padres pitcher Eric Stults took a loss Wednesday, allowing four earned runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings while striking out two in his team's 5-2 defeat against the Phillies.

Stults (7-17) delivered four scoreless innings before running into trouble in the fifth, when the Phillies opened the inning with four singles to score two runs and then followed a sacrifice with a two-run double, which chased the starter from the game. It's the first time since June 8 Stults has failed to finish five innings. He owns a 4.59 ERA and 101:44 K:BB ratio in 162 2/3 innings. Stults is scheduled to face the Rockies Tuesday.


Cole Hamels strikes out nine in win vs. Padres
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:03 am ET) Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels earned a win Wednesday, allowing one earned run on seven hits and one walk in seven innings while striking out nine in his team's 5-2 victory over the Padres.

Hamels (9-7) gave up just one run for the second straight start, and he's turned in 11 quality starts in 12 tries in the second half, with the only "off" day resulting in a five-inning, three-run win. He owns an excellent 2.47 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 187:57 K:BB ratio in 189 2/3 innings. Hamels is scheduled to face the Marlins Tuesday.


C.J. Cron swats 11th home run Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:52 am ET) Angels first baseman C.J. Cron went 2 for 3 with a three-run home run in his team's 5-0 win over the Mariners Wednesday.

Cron's home run came at an opportune time, as the Mariners turned to the bullpen in the seventh inning only for the Angels first baseman to immediately smack a three-run blast to put the lead out of reach. He has hit .273/.301/.482 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI in 220 at-bats.


C.J. Wilson tosses seven one-hit innings in win Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:48 am ET) Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson earned a win Wednesday, allowing just one hit and three walks in seven scoreless innings while striking out seven in his team's 5-0 victory over the Mariners.

Wilson (13-9) retired the first 11 batters he faced Wednesday before issuing a walk, and his no-hitter came to an end with two outs in the fifth. It's his first time since May 17 getting through a start without giving up a run. Wilson owns a 4.42 ERA and 149:78 K:BB ratio in 169 innings. He's slated to face the A's Monday.


 
 
 
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