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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
Twins' Chris Colabello set for MRI, X-rays on injured thumb
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(11:20 am ET) Twins first baseman/outfielder Chris Colabello is scheduled to undergo an MRI and X-rays this week on his ailing right thumb, according to the Pioneer Press. Colabello said he still feels numbness and tingling in his right thumb as a result of getting jammed on a pitch during an April 23 game against the Rays, according to the Worcester Telegram.

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(10/22/2014) Royals infielder Omar Infante came up big Wednesday against the Giants.

Infante wasted no time getting to work, doubling in his first at-bat. He would come around to score during the frame, giving the Royals a 2-1 lead. Infante would strike again in the bottom of the sixth. With a man on base, Infante belted a 98 mph fastball out to left for the two-run shot. He finished 2 for 3, with two runs scored and two RBI. 


Royals' Billy Butler drives in two Wednesday
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(10/22/2014) Royals designated hitter Billy Butler drove in two runs Wednesday against the Giants.

Butler struck in his first at-bat. With men on first and second, Butler managed to tie the game on a single to the left fielder. He would find himself in the exact same situation in the sixth inning, and responded in the same fashion. Butler again singled in a run on a hit to left field. He would finish 2 for 3, with no runs scored and two RBI. 


Royals' Yordano Ventura gives up two runs Wednesday
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(10/22/2014) Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura allowed two runs Wednesday against the Giants.

Ventura gave up two runs on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings. He struck out two and did not issue any walks during the outing. Ventura got himself into trouble immediately. To lead off the game, Gregor Blanco deposited a 98 mph fastball out to right for a solo home run. Ventura would settle in over the next two innings before giving up another run in the fourth. With a man on second, Ventura allowed an RBI double against Brandon Belt. Ventura would pitch into the sixth inning, but was pulled after giving up two singles. He threw 87 pitches during the outing and did not factor into the decision.


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(10/22/2014) Giants pitcher Jake Peavy was saddled with a loss in Game of the World Series Wednesday, allowing four earned runs on six hits and two walks in five-plus innings while striking out one in his team's 7-2 defeat against the Royals.

Peavy (1-1) ran in to trouble immediately Wednesday, giving up a run on three hits and a walk in the first inning after the offense had given him a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. He surrendered another run on an RBI double in the second, but the offense evened the game in the fourth. Peavy opened the sixth inning by giving up a single and a walk before being removed, and the Royals went on to post five runs in the inning en route to running out to an insurmountable lead.

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Giants OF Gregor Blanco slugs leadoff HR in World Series Game 2
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Giants outfielder Gregor Blanco went 1 for 4 with a walk and a solo home run in his team's 7-2 loss in Game 2 of the World Series against the Royals.

Blanco opened the game by running Royals starter Yordano Ventura to a full count before crushing a ball over the right-field fence to give the Giants an early lead, but the Royals evened the score in the bottom half of the first and didn't trail for the rest of the night. Blanco has hit just .176/.276/.255 in 51 postseason at-bats but has turned it up since Game 3 of the NLCS, going 5 for 15 with three walks, the home run and three RBI. The two teams head to San Francisco Friday tied 1-1 in the series.


 
 
 
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