By: Michael Bondy
When the fantasy season starts, people tend to turn a blind eye to high-end talent beginning the season on the disabled list. Due to this common forgetfulness, many other active, smart, owners are able to stash important pieces to improve their roster in the very near future. These injured pieces take up limited roster spots and go a long way to securing championships when the end of the year comes around and your roster is finally healthy. Below are a few candidates who make great stash options for owners who may have struggled to draft reliable relievers on draft day. Rather than throwing the saves category all season, stash some of these proven arms and wait for them to take their closer job back as the year moves on.
Mark Melancon – San Francisco Giants
The Giants signed reliever Melancon to a four year, $62,000,000 mega contact in the 2017 offseason after a brief, yet successful stint in Washington and his previous squad, Pittsburgh the year before. Melancon was brought to the Bay area with high expectations after accumulating 130 saves across three and a half extremely productive seasons with the Pirates. Unfortunately, much like the Giants season last year, the Melancon experiment was a disaster in its first year, as the bullpen and just about every other aspect of the Giants blew up in 2017. With a 4.50 ERA, a weak 11 saves on 16 total chances and only 32 total appearances, it all added up to be one of the least productive seasons across Melancon\’s very productive nine-year career. With 2017 over and behind him, Melancon heads into the 2018 season looking to prove he can be the dominant arm of old and can keep a clean bill of health, once he gets over his injury that has carried over from last year, of course. Starting the year on the DL with a right elbow injury, Melancon has fallen off of everyone’s radar, and maybe deservedly so. That being said, it sets up the storyline for the perfect mid-season comeback for someone with obvious elite closer talent. Giant’s manager Bruce Bochy came out before last week\’s Opening Day game and stated he believes the righty will be throwing soon, and hopeful returning to his newly revamped lineup sooner rather than later.
For the time being it seems Hunter Strickland and Sam Dyson will have to battle for nightly saves. With that being said, Strickland nor Dyson have a strong hold on the closing spot and pose any threat to hold the position upon Melancon\’s return, but both make suitable fantasy fill-ins for the time being as well. Both players are aware they are merely placed holders right and are battling to prove who should be Melancon’s set up man, rather than a successor.
Zach Britton – Baltimore Orioles
Considered by many the most reliable closing pitchers in all of the Majors in 2016 after a remarkable 47-for-47 save season which included an astonishing 0.54 ERA and 0.836 WHIP, Britton of the followed up an extremely forgettable, injury plagued 2017 by starting the season on the 60-day DL. This lengthy stretch of injuries has led to many people forgetting about the closer who ranked fourth in all AL Cy Young voting just two seasons ago. Britton is not expected back until late may so this is surely a month-by-month stash option. Regardless, once off the DL, he slots immediately into a closing role on a team which should be in the playoff hunt all season, making him a sure-fire starter on any fantasy roster.
Many doubters feel that Britton may have lost a grip on the Orioles closing job as Brad Brach has been doing an admirable job holding down the end game duties. (20-for-26 saves in last two seasons) but regardless of his timely success, the Orioles made it known last season they will not hesitate to give their $12,000,000 man his primetime role back as their main man to shut the door at the end of the night.
Greg Holland – St. Louis Cardinals
2018’s odd free agency has taken another extremely talented fantasy piece and caused them to start the season a bit later than planned. Much like we’ve seen with high-end arms like Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb, Holland was signed late and will need a few weeks to hone his craft as he works his way back to major league form. With a career ERA of 2.60 and 186 saves, it was mind blowing it took this long for Holland to find a job in the majors as he could close easily for nearly half the teams league-wide. Especially after an extremely successful comeback season in 2017 where he closed out 41 games with the Colorado Rockies. The 41 saves in 46 attempts ranked him surprisingly tops in the National League tied with Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers. Coming off of Tommy John Surgery in 2015, Holland signed a one-year deal to prove himself in 2017 and did just that. Reminding people of his dominance and cementing himself as one of the better relievers to take the ball in the ninth.
Holland joins a revamped and very talented team of hitters in St. Louis. With a good pitching rotation and overall solid lineup, he should find himself in more save opportunities than other normal ninth-inning arms. Now is the time to add Holland as he is expected to take the closing reigns from the Cardinals as early as next week.
Extra Fire Bonus Reliever
Jordan Hicks – St.Louis Cardinals
If you haven’t heard the name Jordan Hicks, take this as a pre-warning. Hicks flamethrower tendencies have drawn the comparison to Aroldis Chapman and Joel Zumaya, while his ability to work multiple innings has him marked more as an Andrew Miller type setup man. At the ripe age of 21-years-old with a two-seamer that has been clocked above 100 MPH multiple times, Hicks looks primed to be a perfect candidate for late game outs, and more specifically, his specialty, strikeouts. With Holland sliding into the closer role upon his arrival with the team next week, Hicks is only an injury away from being the first closing option out of the pen. Keep an eye on the young right-hander who will be fighting all season with Chapman for the hardest throwing crown. (One which he holds with a 101.6 MPH on March 29th – fangraphs.com)