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Bullpen Report: Post-deadline newsmakers

Senior Fantasy Writer
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This week's Bullpen Report is all about the Miscellany. Closers racking up strikeouts, the dilemma of a lots of saves versus high ERA, and a backup who still may see some opportunities as the waiver trade deadline nears. Oh, and a case for Chris Perez!

Let's get started with ...

1. Kenley Jansen is awesome

Not sure how many crazy ways there are to measure a closer, but Jansen has been a stud since taking over the role from Brandon League. And he's at that point where a team in need of saves wouldn't look like an idiot for offering some high-profile players for him. For instance, in a Roto league where I can (hypothetically) make up about six points by getting 13 more saves, I'd think about offering Manny Machado for Jansen. Or Ben Zobrist. Or maybe even Matt Holliday. Point is, I view Jansen as a top five closer at this point, who can help a team in saves, strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP.

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What makes Jansen scary is that for as good a season as he had last year, nearly all of this season's peripherals are even better. While his strikeout rate is slightly down, his walk rate has been halved, his ground ball rate is up, and his fastball velocity has increased. It may not be long before the rest of the Fantasy world realizes that Jansen may have already entered elite level. Before they do, it may be worth it to float a few offers for him.

2. Greg Holland is just slightly less awesome

With the Royals winning now, Holland's seeing more save chances -- he leads MLB with six saves over the last 14 days -- while sporting a 1.76 ERA on the season and striking out 65 batters over 41 innings. After a rough start to the season, Holland is rewarding the owners who stayed loyal to him with a dominant 2013, and he seems to be doing it under the radar, as he doesn't have the same buzz as the Joe Nathans and Sergio Romos, whose class he is currently in.

Like Jansen, Holland has slashed his walk rates, but he has also managed to improve his strikeout rate. Holland's WHIP has dropped, his BAA is down to .188, and his velocity is pretty much where it was last season (96 mph). Even though the numbers say they're close, I still see Jansen as just slightly more dominant as Holland. Still, with the numbers there, if someone sees Holland as markedly worse than Jansen, you may have a nice chance to acquire Holland at a decent price before the Fantasy trade deadline.

3. Kevin Gregg is impossible to figure out

Gregg was pretty much a lock to get traded before the July 31 deadline -- he's a free agent at the end of this year, he has a solid track record as a closer (20 saves in six of the last seven years), and the Cubs have a ready replacement in Pedro Strop. But the deadline came and went without Gregg being dealt, and while he can still be traded before Aug. 31, his non-trade complicated an already enigmatic situation.

-- July was Gregg's worst month, by far, with a 5.79 ERA and 2.14 WHIP.
-- However, strictly from a saves standpoint, Gregg had his best month of the year, with nine saves.
-- If a Fantasy owner thinks Gregg isn't going to get traded, they have to balance the high ERA against the large number of saves. Gregg's nine saves were the second-most in the majors for July.
-- It remains a worry, though, that an owner trading for Gregg may have nothing to show for it, especially if he's sent to a team that will use him in middle relief.

So it's very layered, with trades, ERA, and saves all mixed inside a big bowl and left for us to guess what it tastes like. My guess is a little sour. Any team claiming Gregg on waivers (assuming the Cubs send him through) is probably willing to either send something back to the Cubs, or will get tripped up when the Cubs just let him go (the fun "he's yours" clause of the entire process). Just from the information we have, it seems like the Cubs will find a way to get something back for Gregg, leaving him useful in only holds leagues for the rest of the season.

4. Chia-Jen Lo is a fun darkhorse gamble

The 27-year-old Astros reliever is in a bullpen without a closer. While the assumption was that Jose Cisnero would get the saves following Jose Veras' trade, manager Bo Porter said the team would go with a committee approach. And that committee will likely include Lo, who has a 2.11 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 128 minor league innings, along with a 10.8 K/9. The only real negative attached to Lo is his injury history -- he's been in the Astros' system since he was 23, and only has 128 IP over those five seasons, thanks mostly to arm trouble and a Tommy John surgery.

Still, Lo has the talent to close games for the Astros, and the team is probably anxious to see what he can do in save situations. They could trade off "committee" saves early on, but I could see Lo getting two in a row, then three, then just holding the job the rest of the way, maybe ending up with 7-10 saves by the end of the season.

5. Chris Perez is better than you think

Perez is quietly having a career year as the closer for the Indians, sporting a 2.41 ERA (his low is 1.71 in 2010) and 1.16 WHIP (he's actually finished three seasons with a better number). Since his return from the DL on June 28, Perez has been a stud -- allowing just one run in 17 innings, giving him a 0.53 ERA over 16 games. Of his 15 saves this season, Perez had eight in July, along with two of his four wins.

In addition to his recent successes, the Indians have won eight of their last 10 games. Getting hot just at the right time, the Indians should continue their winning ways (although not to this recent extent) and keep providing Perez with save opportunities. This makes him a top 12 closer.

And this is a case where I'm letting the bigger picture cloud the peripherals. Perez has seen a decrease in strikeouts this season, and a jump in walks (although his walk rate is still better than his career average). He also has a higher-than average strand rate, meaning he may be due to allow a few more runs in as the season winds down. However, with Cleveland winning and Vinnie Pestano in the minors, Perez can afford to have a couple shaky outings and still keep his job. And get saves. Gregg finished July with a ballooned ERA and still got nine saves. And that was with the Cubs

Perez is a very good closer, and I would consider him a "buy" candidate for the rest of the season

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS .

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Player News
Mets' Collins: Daniel Murphy looks 'tremendous' Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:22 am ET) Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy (hamstring) played five innings, took five at-bats and ran the bases in a minor-league game Wednesday, and while the team will leave him behind to see minor-league work this weekend, there's still a chance he could join the team to play on Opening Day, the New York Daily News reports.

"Dan looked tremendous. He looks great at the plate, but it’s the daily grind (we worry about)," manager Terry Collins said about Murphy's action Wednesday. "We certainly have to be monitoring his workload, but we’re hoping that the next couple of days he gets a little extra work in, then we’ll look up this weekend and he joins us after."

Murphy said he has yet to push the hamstring by trying to run at 100 percent.

"I like the way I am progressing," Murphy said Wednesday, "but we’ll see how I feel tomorrow."


Astros option OF L.J. Hoes to Triple-A Fresno
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) The Astros have optioned outfielder L.J. Hoes to Triple-A Fresno.

Hoes was competing for a bench spot but dealt with a wrist issue recently after being hit by a pitch over the weekend. He went 7 for 25 this spring before being sent down.


Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen leaves game, says he's fine
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen didn't run out a ground ball in the eighth inning of Wednesday's game and left the field slowly before being officially replaced in the game, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

McCutchen, who dealt with a lower-body injury earlier this spring, said he was fine after coming out of the game. He indicated that he slipped on the plate and throttled things back just to be safe. The outfielder finished the game 1 for 4 at the plate.


Orioles' Chris Tillman strikes out eight in spring finale vs. Pirates
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman allowed two earned runs on three hits in five innings while racking up eight strikeouts and issuing zero walks in Wednesday's spring finale against the Pirates.

Tillman gave up both runs on a home run in the second inning by Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez but was excellent aside from the one mistake. He closes the spring with a 2.76 ERA and 18:2 K:BB ratio in 16 1/3 innings. Tillman will square off with the Rays Monday on Opening Day.


Pirates' Gerrit Cole tosses three scoreless innings vs. Orioles
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole allowed just one hit and one walk in three scoreless innings while striking out three in Wednesday's spring finale against the Orioles.

Cole closes the spring with a 3.24 ERA and 12:4 K:BB ratio in 16 2/3 innings. He's slated to pitch the taem's second game of the season, leaving him to face the Reds next Wednesday.


Pirates' Francisco Liriano allows one run in spring finale
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano surrendered one earned run on three hits in three innings while striking out two in Wednesday's spring finale against the Orioles.

Liriano hadn't surrendered a run in nine spring innings heading into Wednesday's game and finishes the spring with a 0.75 ERA and 14:4 K:BB ratio in 12 innings. His next start will come on Opening Day against the Reds Monday.


Rangers' Colby Lewis serves up three homers in spring finale
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis allowed four earned runs on seven hits and one walk in three innings while walking two and giving up three home runs in his team's 10-4 loss to the Rockies Wednesday.

Lewis also served up three home runs in one inning in his spring debut but kept the ball in the park while surrendering three runs in eight innings over his previous two appearances. He closes out the spring with a 9.75 ERA and 5:4 K:BB ratio in 12 innings. Lewis is slated to make his regular-season debut Tuesday against the A's.


Indians first baseman Nick Swisher goes 2 for 3 in spring debut
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) Indians first baseman Nick Swisher went 2-for-3 Wednesday in his first action since undergoing surgery on both knees this offseason, reports MLB.com.

"All I really wanted to do was go out there and have some fun again, man," Swisher said. "I feel like it's been Groundhog's Day for me. It's like the same thing every day. So, to be able to come out here and actually be able to compete at this level was great. It raised my spirits a little bit, for sure."

Manager Terry Francona was happy to get Swisher back in the lineup.

"I think it was really good to get him in a game," Francona said. "I think it was really good for him -- whether he got hits or not. It was nice to see him get on base a couple times. I think it's helpful to him. I think it probably gave him another little push in the right direction. I think he had fun and it makes it feel a little bit closer to the finish line."

He remains without a timetable to return for the regular season.

"I wish I could give you a timetable. I wish I could give you a day," Swisher said. "I'm just going to come back when I feel healthy. Do I feel like I could go and DH for this team and contribute right now? Sure, but that's not all I want to do. I want to make sure I'm able to go to the outfield. I want to make sure I'm able to go to first base and make sure all my movements are fluid and smooth."


Rangers' Elvis Andrus goes hitless in return Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus went 0 for 3 and struck out twice in his return to the lineup Wednesday as the Rangers fell to the Rockies, 10-4.

Andrus was scratched from Monday's lineup due to stiffness in his lower back but missed little time due to the injury. He has hit .359/.381/.590 in 39 spring at-bats.


Rockies' Kyle Kendrick allows four runs in spring finale
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) Rockies pitcher Kyle Kendrick surrendered four runs (three earned) on five hits and one walk in five innings while striking out four in his team's 10-4 win over the Rangers Wednesday.

"Personally, I feel ready to go," Kendrick said after the outing, per the Denver Post. "I worked on my curveball this spring and I used it today. That’s something that’s come along and it’s probably something that is going to be big for me this year."

Kendrick wraps up his spring with a 3.98 ERA and 12:5 K:BB ratio in 20 1/3 innings over six starts. He'll next take the mound Monday to face the Brewers on Opening Day.


 
 
 
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