Fantasy Baseball Middle Reliever Targets: Week 19
The trade deadline dust has settled, and no team has yet to shuffle its bullpen through a major waiver deal. With relief units taking form for the summer, holds-leagues participants must think outside the box.
Like many relievers, the following players have taken long, arduous journeys to the majors. Two older rookies have finally cracked the code while another needed a change of scenery to get noticed. An already stacked bullpen has one more healthy arm, and last year’s holds leader has resurfaced under the radar. He’s probably the most recognizable name with the highest probability of instantly helping fantasy managers seeking holds.
Taylor Rogers (MIN): 1 Percent Owned
A year after recording a 3.07 ERA and 30 holds, Taylor Rogers has registered a 3.88 ERA and eight holds. He’s much better this season.
The bottom line is worse for the 30-year-old, who fell down Minnesota’s totem pole after relinquishing 10 runs through April. He has since sported a 2.45 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 35.2 innings. The disastrous start has shrouded his progress in most significant categories:
The southpaw has not yielded a baserunner in his last five outings, a stretch in which he has struck out eight of 13 batters faced. Also hurting his overall cause, last year’s surprising AL Wild Card Game participant has fallen back to earth. Yet he has tallied a hold in each of his last three outings for the Twins, who once again have allotted Rogers seventh- and eighth-inning opportunities. Allowing a .202 wOBA to fellow lefties, he can again compile holds in a specialist role while offering better supporting stats than last year.
Luis Garcia (PHI): 0 Percent Owned
Philadelphia’s bullpen was plenty deep before welcoming Luis Garcia back from a wrist injury. He has convincingly offset any risk of getting lost in the shuffle.
Since returning on July 23, the 31-year-old righty has tossed 6.1 scoreless frames with 11 strikeouts. Only five relievers have netted a higher strikeout percentage in the second half, and just three have bested his 20.6 swinging-strike percentage.
Gabe Kapler has quickly fed Garcia meaty roles despite his immense relief depth. He shielded a 1-0 lead in the seventh on Tuesday, a day after replacing Seranthony Dominquez following a ninth-inning blown save. While the peripherals weren’t as pretty last year, he still posted a 2.65 ERA and 56.3 ground-ball percentage. He’s a valuable, hard-throwing hurler rolling for a playoff contender, so give Garcia a look.
Jesse Biddle (ATL): 1 Percent Owned
Unlike the other guys listed here, Jesse Biddle once boasted significant prospect pedigree. The Phillies drafted him out of high school at pick No. 27 eight years ago. Command woes stunted his maturation, and Tommy John surgery removed him from the franchise and starting rotation in 2016.
Now pitching in Atlanta’s bullpen, Biddle brandishes a 2.22 ERA, 46 strikeouts, and a 56.0 ground-ball rate in 44.2 innings. Even though he continues to walk too many batters (19), the 26-year-old has emerged as a high-leverage hurler who has accrued three holds, a save, and a win in his past five outings.
The save occurred in extra innings after the Braves already utilized Johnny Venters, Brad Brach, Dan Winkler, and A.J. Minter, who squandered the save opportunity. Don’t start plotting his path to a closing gig. Simply appreciate his long road to the majors materializing in setup chances for a playoff hopeful. After Rogers, Biddle is the most likely to attain mainstream recognition during the final two months.
Dylan Floro (LAD): 0 Percent Owned
Where do the Dodgers keep finding these guys? Dylan Floro marks their fourth reliever highlighted in three weeks. Although he can’t match Scott Alexander’s ground-ball mastery, a 55.9 percentage has fueled his 2.57 ERA in 49 innings.
A 20.3 strikeout and 9.8 swinging-strike percentage are nothing special out of the bullpen, but the 27-year-old righty has fanned 14 batters over 12.2 innings since getting acquired from the Reds. He has already accrued five holds in 11 outings for his new squad, four more than he collected in Cincinnati. While his current employer is obviously better, the NL champs also trust him enough to handle narrow leads in the sixth and/or seventh.
What’s different beyond Floro’s uniform? He is throwing fewer sinkers-which opponents have batted .316 against during his career-in favor of a four-seamer yet to yield a hit this season. The heater has also induced a far higher whiff rate (15.6 %) than his sinker’s meager 6.3. Los Angeles likely attained him envisioning a fix, and those tweaks have paid immediate dividends. Far from a star-studded cast, this new-look bullpen can immensely aid holds players down the stretch.
Ray Black (SF): 0 Percent Owned
The Pitching Ninja, Rob Friedman, brought my attention to Ray Black via a GIF of him baffling Jon Jay with 99-mph fire at the knees. NBC’s Ahmed Fareed called the San Francisco righty “one of the most dominant relievers in baseball.” Well, let’s figure out who this guy is.
It will now feel like a letdown to learn Black is a 28-year-old rookie carrying a 3.86 ERA in spite of a .095 BABIP. He has surrendered four hits (all in his first and last outing), but five runs and walks apiece in 11.2 innings. FanGraphs classifies seventeen of his 23 batted balls as fly balls.
Black also boasts a 15.1 percent swinging-strike rate and 65.9 contact percentage, so he’ll be tough to hit even with worse batted-ball fortune. In addition to a heater inducing a .184 wOBA, his slider and curveball have yet to permit a hit in 51 pitches. Before blowing a lead on Tuesday, he began August by earning a win and a hold with spotless seventh-inning appearances. He’s still comfortably behind Mark Melancon, Sam Dyson, Tony Watson, Reyes Moronta, and Will Smith in San Francisco’s pecking order, but he’s nevertheless gaining more prominence by making opponents fade to black.