Fantasy Forward: Closer shuffles, Harvey ebbs while Big Erv and Sano flow

As the middle of May approaches, teams start to show their true colors in baseball and for fantasy owners. Addressing needs becomes necessary to survive the marathon race baseball represents. Chasing saves can be a common theme and with the latest news in Milwaukee, and those needing them should see if Corey Knebel is available, immediately. He has been the best pitcher in the Brewers bullpen since the start of the season, and with Neftali Feliz trying to find his way in lower leverage outings, Knebel may wrestle the job from him for the rest of the season.

Two postponements allowed the Nationals to try and sort out their depleted bullpen, but neither Shawn Kelley or Koda Glover have been activated. Stay tuned. It’s not going to be a popular take, but pay close attention to the Yankees and Aroldis Chapman. He has not been the same since an outing against the Red Sox and he keeps grabbing near his elbow. Where there’s smoke, there can be fire. In leagues with deep benches, and if Dellin Betances available, speculation could pay dividends. Ryan Braun did land on the disabled list, Mike Trout did not homer last night, and Santiago Casilla provided a nuclear meltdown in Texas in the ninth inning. Off to the recaps.

Starting pitcher observations

Although the Indians broadcast speculated on Ervin Santana or Dallas Keuchel starting for the American League in the All-Star game, overlooking Chris Sale seems shortsighted. Santana did become the first pitcher to allow one run or fewer in his first seven starts within his team’s first 32 games since Fernando Valenzuela, but he did give up five walks against four strikeouts in his seven shutout innings.

Houston’s Lance McCullers breakout may be engaged with seven strikeouts in six shutout innings in the Bronx last night. Once again, he threw more curves (37) of his 90 pitches with nine swinging strikes on the pitch of his 12 produced.

Deep league players should note Andrew Cashner has turned in four quality starts of his last five outings with a 1.93 ERA in these games. He’s hard to trust, but teams decimated by injuries can kick the tires.

Overshadowed by Santana’s performance above, Josh Tomlin also turned in a quality start with seven strikeouts in eight innings of work with only a Miguel Sano home run allowed.

Dylan Bundy recorded eight strikeouts in Kansas City inducing 14 swinging strikes with eight resulting from his change-up. He held them to four hits and one walk with two earned runs allowed.

Royals southpaw Danny Duffy worked seven innings allowing eight hits, two earned runs, one walk with six strikeouts to lower his ERA to 3.38 on the year. He topped Bundy by one swinging strike and netted seven with his change-up.

With the Cubs trying to catch lightning in the bottle, they promoted Eddie Butler who responded for the win in his first start for the team. He pitched six inning giving up two hits and three walks with five strikeouts in six shutout innings in St. Louis. Another deep league speculative add.

After winning in Colorado, Clayton Kershaw is now 89 – 0 when receiving at least four runs of support.

In a much needed bounce back start at home, Matt Shoemaker fired seven shutout innings allowing three hits, one walk with seven strikeouts to lower his ERA to 4.50.

Johnny Cueto has yet to beat the Reds but did work eight innings with six strikeouts against his former team last night during their marathon win in extra-innings.

Bullpen musings

While it’s clear Santiago Casilla will provide a rough outing, he seems to be the clear cut choice for the ninth inning. When he blows a save like last night’s, yikes to the ratios. Ryan Madson is pitched well as a set-up option, but the team does not trust him. Sean Doolittle is on the disabled list so if another pitcher emerges, it would come from the likes of Liam Hendriks, Ryan Dull or Frankie Montas.

Roberto Osuna recorded his eight straight outing without a run allowed in a non-save appearance. Brandon Kintzler now has nine saves and nine strikeouts on the season. Alex Colome worked 1.1 innings for his ninth save in Boston.

San Diego’s Brandon Maurer bounced back on Friday night for his fifth save against a hit allowed with a strikeout after blowing a save the day before. Kelvin Herrera’s sixth save lowered his ERA to 3.21 in a clean inning of work. Wade Davis did give up a hit and a walk but an unearned run allowed keeps his ERA at zero for the season.

Hitter highlights

Houston’s George Springer extended his hit streak to 11  during which he’s 14-for-43 (326) with six RBI. Over his last 40 plate appearances, Carlos Correa has reached 20 times with five doubles, three home runs, eight singles and four walks. Brian McCann homered for his sixth of the year and three RBI in the win Friday night.

Jose Bautista homered in two of his last three games and could be turning the corner this year. After a frustrating 2016 season for fantasy, this Kevin Pillar with the .303 average and two hits with his fifth stolen base was who we speculated on last year. Take note of his improved patience at the plate, he will stick at lead-off if it sticks.

It’s easy to pass on Tyler Flowers, but he hit his first home run of the season yesterday, tied his career high with four RBI and he’s hitting .369 on the season. Really, he is.

With his home run last night, Miguel Sano became the fastest Twins player to reach 10 home runs in his 32nd game since Kirby Puckett.

After a slow start, Evan Longoria showed signs of life with a double and his fifth home run in Fenway last night.

The Rangers coaching staff whispered to Joey Gallo the suicide squeeze sign prior to his at-bat in the ninth inning, it proved unnecessary as his three-run walk-off home run (12) decided the game for their second straight come from behind win.

Another slow starter, Neil Walker recorded three hits in as many at-bats with a walk hitting his third home run and driving in two last night for the Mets. Of course, the team left in Matt Harvey too long and he’s now allowed 10 home runs in 40 innings this year as opposed to eight in 93 last year with health issues.

Ryan Braun landed on the disabled list which creates a path to playing time for Hernan Perez who hit third, went 3-for-4 with a home run (5) and raised his average to .281. Jett Bandy also hit his fifth home run raising his OPS to .930 this season.

Playing time should increase for Matt Szczur who launched a lead-off home run for San Diego. Austin Hedges pitched in with a 2-for-4 night with his eighth home run and three RBI along with Wil Myers ninth homer.

Moving to lead-off seemed to sit well with Leury Garcia who filled in at shortstop for Tim Anderson, finished 3-for-4 with two home runs and all three RBI in the White Sox loss to the Padres.

Despite the looming return of Welington Castillo, Caleb Joseph is heating up with three hits in three at-bats last night to push his average to .274 and he represents the better defensive catcher. It will be interesting to see how playing time shakes out upon Beef’s activation from the disabled list.

Willson Contreras sparked the Cubs offense with two home runs in St. Louis. In the opposite dugout, Randal Grichuk hit his fourth home run but his average sits at .230 this year.

All Cody Bellinger does is hit. He launched his seventh home run in Colorado and pushed his RBI total to 18 with a 1.117 OPS.

Could Luis Valbuena “Wally Pipp” C.J. Cron in Los Angeles? Valbuena went 3-for-5 last night with his second home run of the year to raise his average to .290. His power’s for real, the average will regress.

Derek Span homered for the second straight game off the disabled list and now has five RBI on the season. Buster Posey hit his sixth home run to raise his RBI total to, nine?

Arizona scored 11 last night with A.J. Pollock going 2-for-5 with two runs and an RBI, David Peralta 3-for-5 with two runs and his fourth stolen base. Brandon Drury hit his third home run with three RBI and raised his average to .325 in the process.

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Greg Jewett

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I am a father, PE teacher & fantasy baseball writer. Using saber metrics & information to evaluate players & trends is exciting to me."Passion is the oxygen of the soul." Bill Butler