By Sam McPherson
Perhaps the most volatile position in fantasy baseball is relief pitcher as team owners try to corner the market on saves. Remember back during your draft in March when some owners drafted New York Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman in the third round? Well, he has a 3.65 ERA right now with just ten saves, while an un-drafted player (Colorado’s Greg Holland) leads MLB with 31 saves, and his 1.72 ERA isn’t too bad, either. Almost half the teams in baseball have changed closers this year season already, for one reason or another.
Saves are a tough category to predict, as relievers flame out in the role of closer constantly in the real world, and in the fantasy baseball world, it’s often the best strategy to pick “second-string closers” off the waiver wire in hopes they will ascend to the top spot soon—simply because their strikeouts rates are high, a sign of dominance for the position. The point is to always scour the waiver wire for the “next” closer in advance, so you’re ahead of the anticipation curve in your league.
Players to Get Onto Your Roster Now
1. Sean Doolittle, RP, Washington Nationals: Recently acquired from Oakland, the dominant lefty has put up some very good numbers when healthy, and he appears to be the new closer in Washington. In two appearances with the Nats, he already has two saves. Doolittle possesses a 10.6 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate over his career, and his career WHIP (0.933) is excellent as well. Grab him if you can.
2. Danny Salazar, SP, Cleveland Indians: He was an All-Star player last year, but Salazar struggled a bit this season early while getting relegated to the bullpen. However, he made a start over the weekend, throwing seven innings of one-hit ball while shutting out the opponent and striking out eight batters. This could be a sign of great things to come down the stretch for the Tribe’s strikeout king (85 Ks in just 62 innings this year).
3. Nick Williams, OF, Philadelphia Phillies: It’s been a terrible year for the Phils, but Williams is showing some promise for the future. A second-round draft pick in 2012, Williams reached the majors this summer and is hitting .308 over his first 18 games. With three home runs and 12 RBI, he’s delivering for the sad-sack Philly roster. He still needs to learn how to draw walks more regularly for long-term success, but he can help your team right now.
4. Gerardo Parra, OF/1B, Colorado Rockies: At age 30, he has put together a solid career, but Parra is hitting way over his head (.358, eight HRs, 40 RBI in just 59 games) right now for the Rox. With injuries to higher-valued teammates Ian Desmond and Carlos Gonzalez either inconsistent, ineffective or injured, Parra has been playing regularly as of late, and that’s the key for any Colorado hitter. The Rockies would stupid to keep him out of the lineup for the rest of the year.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. David Robertson, RP, New York Yankees: The former closer for the Chicago White Sox won’t see a lot of save chances with the Yankees, but he still has some value since Chapman isn’t pitching well this year. Robertson is definitely worth keeping on your roster, even if he’s not active every day. His numbers (2.80 ERA, 0.934 WHIP, 13 Ks/9 IP) this year are stellar, even if he’s just a set-up guy in New York now.
2. Scott Schebler, OF, Cincinnati Reds: This may seem odd to list a player with 22 HRs, but Schebler is in a tailspin. He hasn’t homered since the All-Star break, and he’s hitting just .164 in July overall with just four walks and 20 strikeouts in 18 games this month. He’s trending downward, and no fantasy owner wants a player like that on the roster.
3. Ramiel Tapia, OF, Colorado Rockies: While Parra rises, Tapia fades. He was sent to the minors, and his lack of consistent playing time hurts his fantasy value, anyway. His .314 average was nice, but in 40 games and 112 plate appearances, Tapia had just nine RBI. That’s not going to cut in the Colorado lineup. He’s just 23, so he will be back, but next season probably is the season to draft him.
4. Aaron Sanchez, SP, Toronto Blue Jays: Seems like we have one of these guys every week in the column, but if Sanchez is still on your roster, let him go. After his All-Star season (15-2, 3.00) last year, this season has been nothing but a disappointment (1-3, 1.722 WHIP) for him, Toronto and his fantasy owners. Sanchez is on the disabled list with a blister now, as well. Hope is good in the spring, but now it’s just fantasy folly.