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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
Yankees' Warren: 'Versatility helps me more than hurts me'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:46 pm ET) Yankees pitcher Adam Warren doesn't see his ability to pitch out of the bullpen as a hindrance to his chances of making the starting rotation, MLB.com reports.

"I think it helps me more," Warren said Tuesday. "If they like what they see out of me as a starter, then they can throw me there. I always feel like versatility helps me more than hurts me. I'm just trying to go out there and prove that I can start, and that way I can add that versatility that I can do any role."

Warren tossed two scoreless innings in Tuesday's Grapefruit League opener Tuesday. He said he's focused on proving he's one of Joe Girardi's five best starting options.

"I did have some success last year, but I don't want to get comfortable," Warren said. "I know I can be much better. People always talk about, 'Once you get comfortable, you need to quit.' I always want to keep pushing forward. I feel like I've never proven myself because I feel like I always want to prove that I'm better than people think I am."


Athletics' Jesse Chavez gunning for rotation spot
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:45 pm ET) Athletics pitcher Jesse Chavez is hoping to lock down a rotation spot, according to the Bay Area News Group.

Chavez performed well in 21 starts with the club in 2014, but lost his job after the team acquired Jon Lester midseason. Chavez blames himself for the demotion. "It wasn’t a case of the job being taken away," he said. "It was a case of I didn’t hold it. I shouldn’t have put the team in a position to doubt me."

After the Athletics brought in a fair amount of pitching in the offseason, Chavez has become somewhat of an after-thought as the team's fifth starter. He believes the opportunity is there, though. "The chance to be a starter is there," Chavez said. "For me, I just approach it like last year when I was trying to just win a spot on the staff. I’m always going to pitch like I’m pitching to win a job."

Chavez, 31, posted a 3.45 ERA over 146 innings last year. 


White Sox SP Jeff Samardzija: '100 percent ready' for camp
(7:18 pm ET) White Sox starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija said Tuesday he came into camp "100 percent ready" after throwing all his pitches before reporting, ESPNChicago.com reports.

“I held back a couple pitches last year in spring training and it affected me early in the season so this year I started throwing all my pitches before camp so coming in I was 100 percent ready,” Samardzija said. “For me these next handful of starts will be about getting on same page with (catcher Tyler Flowers), what pitches I like to match up, let him realize what I like to do, how I like to put guys away and when do we want action, when do we want a strikeout. So for me that will be big.”

Samardzija had a rough outing in his first intrasquad game giving up two runs on three hits in only two innings. But it appears that he is healthy and ready to get things started.

“It’s good to feel the arm. My arm feels great. It’s coming out real good. You do what you do to keep getting stronger and build from here.”

Samardzija split time between the Cubs and A's last season, going 7-13 with a 2.99 ERA and 202:43 K:BB ratio in 219 2/3 innings.


Athletics' Marcus Semien homers twice in spring debut
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:05 pm ET) Athletics infielder Marcus Semien hit two home runs in his spring debut on Tuesday.

Semien didn't take long to strike. In his first at-bat, Semien crushed an 0-2 pitch from Madison Bumgarner for a two-run shot. He added a solo shot in the fifth inning off Cody Hall. Semien finished 3 for 3, with two runs scored and four RBI. He's expected to open the season as the team's starting shortstop. 


Mets' David Wright feeling good about his shoulder
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:56 pm ET) Mets third baseman David Wright is feeling good about his shoulder, according to MLB.com.

Wright participated in an intrasquad game on Tuesday. It was the first game action Wright has seen since being shut down with a shoulder issue last season. Following the game, Wright said he felt healthy. "It felt great," Wright said. "I felt like every other spring training, which is obviously the goal coming into this."

The 32-year-old hit .269/.324/.374 over 535 at-bats last season. 


Red Sox SP Rick Porcello on Tuesday outing: 'My arm felt good'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:54 pm ET) Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello retired all six batters he faced Tuesday and threw all four of his pitches in his relief appearance, MLB.com reports.

"It felt good to get out there," said Porcello. "I was obviously just trying to work on the little things: Throw strikes and get ahead. Location wasn't quite where I wanted it, but for the first time out, my arm felt good and the ball was coming out of my hand well. That's the most important thing."

Manager John Farrell said he was pleased with Porcello's efficiency, location and aggression in the strike zone. Porcello indicated he treated the spring appearance no differently than a regular-season game.

"I'm not going to take anything for granted," Porcello said. "Baseball is baseball, and on any given day, you can go out there and get your butt whipped. First thing first is just getting the ball down and throwing strikes. For the most part, I felt pretty good about that today. There's a couple things mechanically I need to continue to iron out and just keep refining everything, but a good first day."

Porcello joined the Red Sox this offseason via trade. He went 15-13 with a 3.43 ERA and 129:41 K:BB ratio in 204 2/3 innings with the Tigers last season.


Red Sox's Clay Buchholz feeling good about new mechanics
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:41 pm ET) Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz is feeling good about his new mechanics, according to MLB.com.

Buchholz tossed one inning during the team's exhibition game against Northeastern University, and came away encouraged with his offseason work. When asked about his mechanics, Buchholz said, "They feel natural. I've been working a lot on it. It's basically the only thing I worked on in the offseason and throughout camp. It's pretty much to the point of being second nature." 

Manager John Farrell was impressed as well. "This has been a continuation from the end of last year through his offseason bullpens," he said. "He's been able to execute so far." 

Buchholz, 30, posted a 5.34 ERA over 170 1/3 innings last year. 


Twins' tab Kyle Gibson for Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:32 pm ET) The Twins have tabbed pitcher Kyle Gibson for the start on Thursday, according to MLB.com.

Gibson is coming off a season in which he posted a 4.47 ERA over 179 1/3 innings. He's expected to open the year in the team's rotation. It's unclear how long Gibson will pitch in the spring opener. 


Orioles, Pedro Beato agree to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:21 pm ET) The Orioles and pitcher Pedro Beato have agreed to a minor-league deal, pending a physical, masnsports.com reports.

Beato was a first-round pick of the Orioles in the 2006 MLB Draft but didn't crack the major-league roster before being taken by the Mets in the 2010 Rule 5 draft. He spent most of last season with Triple-A Gwinnett, posting a 4.10 ERA and 45:17 K:BB ratio in 48 1/3 innings.


Braves' Luis Avilan feeling good heading into bullpen competition
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:15 pm ET) Braves left-handed pitcher Luis Avilan is competing for a spot in the bullpen this spring after enduring a down season last year, and he's confident he's getting back to the form he showed in 2013, MLB.com reports.

"I feel like all the work I've done in the offseason is really paying off," Avilan said. "I feel really good with my bullpen [sessions] and my live BP. I've been feeling really good with my pitches. The location has been really good, better than last year."

Avilan made 10 appearances in winter ball after posting a 4.57 ERA and 25:21 K:BB ratio in 43 1/3 innings in 2014.


 
 
 
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