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SP-Eligible Relief Pitchers to Target (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

by Josh Shepardson | @BChad50 | Featured Writer
Feb 28, 2023
SP-Eligible Relief Pitchers (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

Typically, player eligibility versatility is a consideration for hitters. However, having an RP-eligible starting pitcher or SP-eligible relief pitcher can create useful flexibility in leagues that use SP and RP position designations. Sometimes, there are potential closers who enter the year eligible at SP. There, unfortunately, aren’t any apparent save sources who fit the bill this year. Yet, the following players can be helpful in leagues that use holds and deeper leagues where relievers have value for ratios and strikeouts. Further, some of the highlighted players could save an occasional game or move up their bullpen’s pecking order with injuries or ineffectiveness ahead of them.

Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit

SP-Eligible RPs to Target (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

Tanner Houck (SP/RP – BOS): 371.0 ADP & 342.8 ECR

Houck might end up an RP-eligible SP instead of the inverse. He’s competing for a rotation spot. However, the righty was sharp in the bullpen last season. According to FanGraphs, Houck had a 2.70 ERA, 3.28 SIERA, 1.13 WHIP, 8.4 BB%, 24.2 K%, 29.8 CSW%, four wins, one hold and eight saves.

The Red Sox signed veteran closer Kenley Jansen. Thus, Houck is unlikely to provide saves, except potentially a multi-inning save or on an off day for Jansen. However, he could be a multi-inning relief weapon, contributing to ERA, WHIP and strikeouts while adding the occasional win. Houck is more enticing in leagues using holds. He’s also a streaming candidate in leagues, but gamers don’t need to draft him in most standard leagues.

Matt Brash (SP/RP – SEA): 440.0 ADP & 438.0 ECR

Brash was a dynamic bullpen weapon for the Mariners after he failed to stick in the rotation last season. In 34 appearances that lasted 30.2 innings, he had a 2.35 ERA, 3.00 SIERA, 1.24 WHIP, 12.6 BB%, 33.9 K%, 33.6 CSW%, three wins and nine holds. Brash’s walk rate was high. However, he offset it with an excellent strikeout rate.

Brash is prepping to relieve for the Mariners again this season. Paul Sewald, Andres Munoz and Diego Castillo are likely ahead of him for saves. Nevertheless, Brash has the swing-and-miss stuff to excel in high-leverage late innings and could be a holds source in leagues counting holds or holds-plus-saves. And Brash could be an asset in standard-scoring deep leagues if he cleans up his walks, lowering his WHIP in the process. Brash is a watch-list candidate.

Jordan Hicks (SP/RP – STL): 566.0 ADP & 556.7 ECR

Hicks has closing experience, saving 20 games in his career. Sadly, he’s behind at least Ryan Helsley and Giovanny Gallegos for saves. Hicks’ experience is still a plus in case the Cardinals need a spot save or Helsely and Gallegos suffer injuries.

The flame-throwing righty had an unimpressive 4.84 ERA in 61.1 innings in 2022. Yet, Hicks’ 4.37 ERA in only his 27 relief appearances that spanned 35.0 innings was more palatable. Nevertheless, it wasn’t enough to warrant excitement about his 2023 outlook. However, Hicks’ 3.20 xFIP and 3.09 SIERA were more encouraging.

Hicks had a stellar 26.6 K%, 9.8 BB%, 1.14 WHIP, three wins and eight holds in relief last season. The 26-year-old righty doesn’t post good enough numbers to merit drafting in standard leagues. Still, Hicks is a useful player in holds and holds-plus-saves leagues.

Matt Bush (SP/RP – MIL): 630.0 ADP & 461.3 ECR

Bush is the most intriguing player featured in this piece. Devin Williams is the incumbent closer, but Bush is waiting in the wings as the probable primary setup man. Williams has been one of the most dominant relievers in MLB in the previous three years. However, he’s walked over 12.4% of the hitters he’s faced since 2021. Additionally, Josh Hader‘s struggles last year for the Brewers before they traded him to the Padres was a cautionary tale of the volatility for even elite closers.

Bush isn’t perfect. However, he was rock-solid last year. In 54.1 innings in relief in 2022, he had a 3.31 ERA, 2.72 SIERA, 1.01 WHIP, 7.2 BB%, 30.5 K%, 33.7 CSW%, 18 holds and three saves. Bush also has prior closing experience and a track record of decent underlying stats. As a result, he’s a nifty late-round target even in deeper standard leagues and an excellent choice in holds or holds-plus-saves formats.

Jalen Beeks (SP/RP – TB): 786.0 ADP & 525.5 ECR

Eleven players had saves for the Rays last year, including Beeks. The veteran lefty had two saves. Beeks was a multi-inning reliever and opener early in his big-league career. He had 23 appearances last year when he recorded more than three outs. However, Beeks didn’t pitch more than two innings in any of his appearances.

Beeks was used as more of a traditional reliever, and his velocity exploded. According to FanGraphs, Beeks’ average fastball velocity was 91.8 mph in 2018, 92.2 mph in 2019, 93.1 mph in 2020 and 95.1 mph in 2022. He also essentially scrapped his cutter and curve and threw his fastball 48.1% of the time and his changeup at a 49.3% clip. His pitch mix helped him post a 28.9 CSW%.

The improved Beeks had a 2.79 ERA, 2.96 SIERA, 1.10 WHIP, 8.8 BB%, 28.9 K%, 28.1 CSW%, four holds and two saves in his 35 relief appearances that spanned 48.1 innings. Thus, Beeks can help ERA and WHIP more than the typical reliever over more innings and could have access to holds and saves in Tampa Bay’s mix-and-match approach in the late innings of games. If he had a larger body of work of bullpen success, he’d be the most interesting option in this piece. Nevertheless, Beeks is in the same bucket as Bush.

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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.

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