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Bullpen Report: Finding a little relief

Senior Fantasy Writer
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I've moved enough in the past decade to know that it stinks. The packing, lifting, unpacking -- there's no real fun element to it. But there is one thing I look forward to every time: opening up the box of "Miscellany." For me, it's usually things like playing cards, some old CDs, stickers featuring DC superheroes, maybe some type of Star Wars thing I won on ebay, and a bunch of other random fun stuff that I don't really need to own, but enjoy.

So in the spirit of the Miscellany box, I give you this week's Bullpen Report. Just a bunch of stuff thrown into a box that doean't fall into any specific category.

Rex Brothers is a must-add

With Rafael Betancourt likely done for the season, Rex Brothers will re-assume closing duties in Colorado. The 25-year-old lefty has a 1.51 ERA and 1.16 WHIP on the season, with 11 saves and a 9.4 K/9. Brothers won't have the kind of "run him up the rankings!" ascent that Kenley Jansen got when he was named closer, but the upside is very real -- Brothers can keep his ERA and WHIP low while racking up saves and getting about a strikeout per inning.

Tommy Hunter is closing in on relevance

We've seen this before -- an incumbent closer trips up a little bit, rights himself in the 7th and 8th innings, then returns and is dominant for the rest of the season. The best example I can think of is Brandon League in 2011. Currently, we're looking at something similar from Jim Johnson, just much later in the season (League would always run into trouble in May, for some reason).

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Enter Tommy Hunter, a converted starter who is enjoying a 2.63 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in his first full season as a reliever. The "throw-in" in the Chris Davis trade with the Rangers, Hunter got the save for the Orioles on Wednesday, ahead of deadline acquisition Francisco Rodriguez.

If Johnson stays out of the saves mix for any amount of time, Hunter -- who saw his average fastball velocity rise from 91.6 mph last season to 95.8 this year -- will likely be the next in line. He comes with some risk (most notably, Johnson reclaiming his job), but is worth a gamble in AL-only formats and Roto leagues where a team is badly in need of saves.

Joel Peralta has taken the lead in holds

With Mark Melancon now closing games for the Pirates, his lead in the holds category was bound to disappear; Melancon is now tied for third in the majors with 26 holds. Your new leader is Tampa Bay reliever Joel Peralta, with 31. David Robertson is in second with 30.

Peralta and Robertson's hold totals actually have some significance -- the single-season leader in holds is Luke Gregerson, with 40. Peralta and Robertson both play for teams that are winning, meaning that, with a very good month, they could challenge the record. It's not likely -- for as good as the Yankees have been lately, Robertson has just six holds so far this month, and only two pitchers have double-digit holds in any month this season (Jesse Crain and Peralta, both in May) -- but it might be a fun category to keep an eye on as the season winds down.

Your hold leaders for August are...

Tyler Clippard, Nationals, 7 holds
Yoervis Medina, Mariners, 7
Joe Smith, Indians, 7
Ronald Belisario, Dodgers, 6
Matt Belisle, Rockies, 6
J.J. Hoover, Reds, 6
David Robertson, Yankees, 6
Jared Burton, Twins, 5
David Carpenter, Braves, 5
Tim Collins, Royals, 5
Charlie Furbush, Mariners, 5

Strikeout Kings

While the list of August leaders in K/9 boasts many familiar names, there are a few that may catch the attention of Roto owners looking to lower WHIP and ERA while keeping Ks up. Or even for the owner in a Categories league where K/9 is a category.

August leaders, K/9 (min. 5 IP)

Francisco Rodriguez, Orioles, 16.43 K/9
Kenley Jansen, Dodgers, 15.43
Danny Farquhar, Mariners, 14.46
Aroldis Chapman, Reds 14.40
Rich Hill, Indians 14.40
Charlie Leesman, White Sox, 14.40
Grant Balfour, Athletics 13.50
Mike Gonzalez, Brewers, 13.50
David Carpenter, Braves, 13.50
Craig Kimbrel, Braves, 13.09

Top of the SPARP heap

For those of you new to Bullpen Report, SPARP is an acronym for "Starting Pitcher As a Relief Pitcher" -- one of those Kris Medlen types who can be plugged into the RP slot in standard H2H formats to take advantage of the points windfall from starters. Over the last 21 days, there have been some interesting SPARP performers in the Fantasy game. The top SPARPs in that span:

Alex Wood, Braves, 79.5 Points in the last 21 days
Andrew Albers, Twins, 73.5
Kris Medlen, Braves, 69.5
Bruce Chen, Royals, 65.6
Tyson Ross, Padres, 63.5
Joe Kelly, Cardinals, 62.5
Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners, 60.5
Andre Rienzo, White Sox, 52.5
Tony Cingrani, Reds, 52
Andrew Cashner, Padres, 46.5

I know it's the easy way out, but Iwakuma is probably the most attractive of this group, followed by Wood, who still has plenty of innings left on his arm this season. Medlen is 3 1/3 innings away from equaling his total from last year (which was also a career-high) and hasn't started a game since Aug. 13. He also averaged seven hits per game over his last eight starts. Cingrani has only thrown 129 innings so far this season, which is still below last year's total of 146.

Rienzo is probably the most intriguing of the group. While he doesn't have these blow-you-away minor league numbers, he had been good the last four seasons, and carried a 9.7 K/9 over 543 2/3 minor league innings. Before his call-up, he went on a nice run of games, lowering his WHIP and ERA. And through his first five major league starts, Rienzo has a 3.56 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. It shouldn't cause anyone to run out and add him, but Rienzo could be a shrewd add in a deeper league for his two-start week.

One last thing ...

With Steve Delabar on the DL, I went ahead and grabbed Brett Cecil in a couple AL-only leagues where I could use saves. Cecil, like Tommy Hunter, has found a new life in relief, and after a rocky July has come back around to his early-season self in August, with a 2.57 ERA and 10 strikeouts in seven innings.

Couple this with Casey Janssen's 7.94 ERA in August (and 5.40 ERA dating back to the start of July), and you have a very speculative play on late-season saves, should Janssen need to be rested and Delabar stays on the DL.

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
Padres to sign Josh Johnson
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:48 pm ET) The Padres are set to sign pitcher Josh Johnson to a one-year deal, confirms CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. Yahoo initially reported the two sides were on the verge of a deal.

Johnson will make a base salary under $2 million, but can earn as much as $8 million due to incentives. Given his recent injury issues, it's assumed those incentives will revolve around both his numbers and his ability to remain healthy. Johnson signed with San Diego last season, but was unable to pitch after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The team declined his option during the offseason, but showed interest in re-signing Johnson to a lesser deal.

Johnson posted a 6.20 ERA in 81 1/3 innings with Toronto in 2013. 


A's C Stephen Vogt expects to be ready for opening day
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:18 pm ET) Athletics catcher Stephen Vogt believes he'll be ready for opening day, according to MLB.com.

Vogt had foot surgery in October, but had his walking boot removed Thursday. Vogt admitted that he may not be 100 percent by spring training, but said he expects to be ready for opening day. After playing multiple positions due to the injury last season, Vogt said he's eager to get behind the plate again. 

The 30-year-old Vogt hit .279/.321/.431 over 269 at-bats last year. 


Josh Johnson on the verge of signing with Padres
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:03 pm ET) The Padres are on the verge of a one-year deal with pitcher Josh Johnson, confirms CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. The deal was first reported by Yahoo!

The two sides are still figuring out the details of the contract, but it's assumed it will include incentives based on games started. Johnson signed with the club last offseason, but did not pitch after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April. The Padres declined an option on Johnson following the season, but expressed a desire to bring him back at a cheaper price. 


Report: Cubs still looking at Ross
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:59 pm ET) The Cubs are still looking at catcher David Ross as a backup, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The team has been linked to Ross a number of times this offseason, but that interest was expected to wane following the trade for Miguel Montero. Despite the fact that the organization already has Welington Castillo as a backup, the interest in Ross is still there. Ross is said to have a close relationship with pitcher Jon Lester, and that could play a role in his decision.

Ross hit .184 over 152 at-bats last year.


Royals not counting on Kris Medlen until the second half
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:14 pm ET) The Royals do not expect pitcher Kris Medlen to return until the second half of the season.

General manager Dayton Moore told reporters he expects Medlen to be a factor down the stretch. Medlen is coming off Tommy John surgery, and the team will give him time to recover. Medlen had the surgery last March. Typically, it takes about a year for pitchers to recover, but the Royals aren't banking on Medlen being healthy right away.

Prior to having the surgery, Medlen posted a 3.11 ERA over 197 innings in 2013. 


Royals designate Johnny Giavotella for assignment Thursday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:22 pm ET) Royals infielder Johnny Giavotella was designated for assignment Thursday. Giavotella appeared in just 12 games for Kansas City in 2014 and has a .238/.277/.334/.612 slash line over four MLB seasons (125 games).

Veteran outfielder Ichiro Suzuki on Orioles radar
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:07 pm ET) The Orioles are showing some interest in signing 41-year-old outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

The Orioles are looking for an outfielder after losing Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis in free agency. Ichiro is 156 hits shy of 3,000 career hits and looking to extend his MLB career.


Germano, Lowe, Rivero sign minor-league deals with Mariners
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:41 pm ET) The Mariners announced Monday they signed pitcher Justin Germano, pitcher Mark Lowe and infielder Carlos Rivero to minor-league deals, which included invites to spring training.

Dodgers acquire Matt Long from Angels, then deal him to Brewers
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:38 pm ET) The Dodgers announced Thursday they acquired minor-league infielder/outfielder Matt Long from the Angels to complete the Dec. 9 trade for catcher Drew Butera.

However, Long wasn't with Los Angeles for long, as they traded him and pitcher Jarret Martin to the Brewers for minor-league catcher Shawn Zarraga.


Rockies sign trio of players to minor-league contracts Thursday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:37 pm ET) The Rockies have signed left-handed pitcher John Lannan, right-handed pitcher Justin Miller and catcher Audry Perez to minor-league contracts. Each of the players also received an invitation to the team's spring training. 

Lannan made five appearances in 2014 with the Mets, going 1-0 with a 15.75 ERA. He was also a member of the Nationals from 2007-2012, where in 2009 he threw 206 1/3 innings, going 9-13.

Miller made eight appearances for the Tigers in 2014, posting a 5.11 ERA with five strikeouts while Perez appeared in just one game last year with the Cardinals.


 
 
 
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