–Jason Grilli dished a scoreless ninth-inning en route to his 27th save in 28 opportunities as the Pirates earned their league-leading 50th victory by clipping the Brewers, 2-1. In addition to Grilli’s impeccable save conversion percentage, the right-hander owns an impressive 42.7% K%, a 1.82 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP. Grilli’s whiff rates (42.7% K%) appear gaudy and are well-above his career average (21.4% K%), but career bests landing the first strike (61.8% F-Strike%) and inducing swinging strikes (15.7% SwStr%) suggest the spike in strikeouts isn’t exactly a mirage or stroke of luck. If you own shares of the Pirates’ ninth-inning man I wouldn’t be mad if you shopped him around your league — you’d likely get a hefty return on your investment — but as long as health remains in his corner and your squad is in need of saves, ride the wave.
-Fellow bullpen mate, Mark Melancon, notched his league-leading 22nd hold in today’s Pirates victory over the Brewers. The majority of fantasy baseball leagues may not reward holds, but Melancon owns a pristine 0.94 ERA (1.65 FIP), a 0.89 WHIP and a reasonable 27.3% K% to go along with two victories and two saves on the year — making the righty quite the valuable commodity in any format. If you have the roster space, just plug him into your lineup and forget that he’s there.
–Chris Perez took to the bump for just the second time since returning to the disabled list on Saturday. He faced the minimum opponents for the second consecutive night and earned his seventh save on the season. Perez needed just 11 pitches to retire the White Sox in the ninth, but he’s recorded just one strikeout in two frames since rejoining the team. Despite being a perfect 5-for-5 in save chances during Perez’s absence, Vinnie Pestano returned to the setup role, making him expendable in most leagues with the exception of those that reward holds. On the other hand, with Perez’s strikeouts down, walks up and velocity down a tick on each of his offerings, some owners with roster spots may want to keep Pestano on their roster as insurance. Who knows? Maybe he’ll get another shot at the ninth should Perez not make gains in those areas or if Pestano sends his dog another stinky package in the mail.
-Cincinnati southpaw Aroldis Chapman locked down his 20th save in 23 chances this season in a 6-4 Reds victory on Saturday over the Rangers. The Cuban Missile isn’t missing as many bats (14.7% SwStr%) as he did last year (17.9% SwStr%), but that may be because the velocity on his slider is down almost a full tick from last season. At any rate, Chapman is still earning save opportunities and striking out more than 40% of the batters he faces, maintaining his top five closer status for the rest of the season.
–Kevin Gregg has been pretty fantastic for the Cubbies since regaining the ninth-inning role in Chicago. But the 35-year-old right-hander blew his first save of the twenty-thirteen campaign this afternoon, becoming the eighth Cub to achieve such a feat this season. Amazing. While the blown save may-or-may-not have lowered Gregg’s trade value as deadline approaches, it seems that fantasy owners should try and deal him now, then look for his potential replacement in Chicago. As Chris Garosi noted in week 14’s report over at the Fix, James Russell and Carlos Villanueva could both be considered candidates to take over the ninth frame if/when Gregg is sent packing. And although Russell may be having the better season of the two, he is a lefty, which could potentially play a part in Sveum naming the next man in. Blake Parker, another potential closing candidate down the road, actually notched his first save of the season in the 11th inning against the Mariners. He appears to be the dark-horse candidate here and could leapfrog the other two, so keep your ears to the ground.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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