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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
Recently claimed Neal Cotts will not be traded
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:21 pm ET) Though he was claimed on revocable waivers and considered a trade candidate this week, ESPN.com reports Thursday Rangers reliever Neal Cotts will not be traded.

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Angels to recall Wade LeBlanc, who could join rotation
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Chad Qualls likely unavailable Thursday as well
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(12:14 pm ET) Astros pitcher Chad Qualls told MLB.com Thursday he does not expect to be available for that day's game against the Yankees, due to tightness in his lower back.

Qualls has not pitched since Tuesday, but does not think  the injury will require a disabled list trip. 


Yohan Pino set to start in Saturday's doubleheader
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(12:03 pm ET) The Twins will recall pitcher Yohan Pino for Saturday's doubleheader against the Tigers, manager Ron Gardnehire told MLB.com Thursday.

Pino will start the first game of the doubleheader, his first start since he was sent down last week. Pino's stay with the team will not last long, as he will be called up and sent down as the team's 26th man for the doubleheader. 


David Murphy begins physical activities
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(12:02 pm ET) Indians outfielder David Murphy began core exercises Thursday, manager Terry Francona told reporters.

Murphy began his exercises Thursday, though it sounds as if he is limited at this point. Murphy is expected to be out until at least mid-September due to a strained right oblique. 


 
 
 
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