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Downs, Robertson, Samardzija: Climbing Depth Charts

Middle relievers tend to get hurt and/or be ineffective no apparent reason, creating an opening for other guys in the bullpen to get more leveraged work. It happens all the time, and taking advantage of situations like that are a necessity in fantasy these days. That applies to saves mostly, but we can’t forget about holds as well.  Here’s three guys that recently climbed a notch or two on the depth chart thanks to some hobbled teammates…

Scott Downs | Angels

Downs is no stranger to the late innings after all those years in Toronto, but Fernando Rodney‘s injury gave him an undisputed hold on the eighth inning role in Anaheim. He’s a holds-only kind of guy because his strikeout rate is down and very underwhelming (4.79 K/9) , and the last few years suggest his true talent level is not a .215 BABIP, especially not with a 65.6% ground ball rate. Downs’ FIP continues to sit in the low-3.00’s (3.24 to be exact) and soon enough his ERA will approach that (it’s at 1.31 with a 91.4% LOB rate), but he’s getting consistent late innings work and will help pad that holds total if that’s all your looking for.

David Robertson | Yankees

Injuries to Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain have made Robertson Mariano Rivera‘s latest setup man. He’s a strikeout fiend, sporting a 14.49 K/9 this season and a career 11.84 mark, but he’s stone cold WHIP killer because he walks a ton of guys (5.93 BB/9 this year, 4.92 career). If you want to massage the numbers a little bit and remove the three intentional walks, his walk rate this year is “just” 4.94 BB/9. The Yankees win a lot of games and Robertson will have plenty of leads to protect late in the game, so his holds total should climb considerably in the coming weeks while his strikeout rate remains elite.

Jeff Samardzija | Cubs

Through his first 18 appearances (24.1 IP), Samardzija unintentionally walked 23 batters and struck out 28. In ten appearances (12.1 IP) since, he’s walked just two and struck out 13. Progress or a mirage? Either way, Samardzija has inherited more late inning responsibility now that Kerry Wood made his annual trip to the disabled list, and if nothing else he’ll continue to offer plenty of whiffs even if his walk rate craters again. There’s not much value here beyond strikeouts and expected holds, but if you like to gamble on upside or are in a deep mixed or NL-only setup, Samardzija could offer some payoff.

All three players are owned in less than ten percent in both Yahoo! and ESPN leagues.