• Fellow Bullpen Report contributor Benjamin Pasinkoff shot out an e-mail the other day mentioning that the Mariners quietly called up Stephen Pryor this week. While not considered a blue-chip prospect in scouting circles, Pryor has never whiffed less than 10.7 K/9 at any stop during his minor league career. While his walk rate (4.6 BB/9 career, 5.2 in his brief stop at AAA this year) leaves much to be desired, Pryor’s 6’4″ frame and mid-90s heat are certainly worth noting in any bullpen with a shaky pecking order. While he is expected to work in middle relief for the foreseeable future, his is a name owners should keep in mind in case he eventually impresses his way to the late innings. Dynasty and deep keeper owners with roster flexibility might even consider a speculative add in the hope of striking “closer gold” down the line.
• Aroldis Chapman struck out the side tonight to earn his fourth save since being anointed the Cincinnati closer. I could wax poetic about everything Chapman has done right this year (after tonight he has a 1.44 xFIP, has pitched 27 straight scoreless innings to open the season, has only allowed 15 baserunners in those 27 innings, and oh, by the way, has an eye-popping 15.7 K/9) but it goes without saying that he’s the best relief pitcher in baseball right now. It’s quasi-unfair for owners that Sean Marshall got the boot — it was pretty clear that his mediocre ERA was a function of an absurd BABIP (“down” to .426 as of tonight), especially for a pitcher with a 61.2 GB% — but unless Chapman’s off-the-field issues get weird enough to cause on-the-field trouble, or the Reds dust off their “Chapman as a starter” promise, he’s not giving his new job back anytime soon.
• Rafael Soriano earned a save in a five-run win tonight by coming in and cleaning up a Clay Rapada mess. In fact, it was a doubly-good day for Soriano fantasy owners as Jon Heyman reported earlier that the Yankees expect to keep him in the closer role even after David Robertson returns from his oblique injury. A healthy Robertson (2.03 xFIP with a — Chapman-esque — 15.1 K/9) is the best reliever in the Yankee pen with Mariano Rivera sidelined, but Soriano has performed admirably as the Yanks’ finisher over the last few weeks. A brief glance at Soriano’s peripherals might give pause (4.01 xFIP, 2 K/BB), but a deeper look at his splits show a much improved pitcher over the last month (4.82 xFIP, 1.2 K/BB in April versus 3.51 xFIP, 3.7 K/BB in May). As long as April Soriano fades into the rear-view mirror as the weather heats up, he should gain plenty of leash while simultaneously allowing Robertson to slide back into his familiar setup role where he accrued a bullpen-high 2.8 WAR in 2011.
• Charlie Manuel’s somewhat interesting usage of Jonathan Papelbon continues. He has refused to use him in tie games or other close, but non-save, situations, to the point where his usage patterns have included odd gaps like only pitching twice during the first 11 days of May. However, when the Marlins loaded the bases down by two with one out in the eighth inning tonight, Manuel called on Papelbon to rack up five outs and nail down a Phillies win — the first time he asked for more than one inning out of his $50 million closer. Papelbon wriggled out of the eighth inning jam and pitched an uneventful ninth for his 15th save of the season. He is already one of the top three closers in fantasy, but using him properly for multi-inning saves should only increase his value to both the Phillies and fantasy owners alike. As a sidenote, Jose Contreras left this game with a visible elbow injury — he wasn’t in the mix for saves, but owners in deep leagues looking for strikeouts or holds should probably set their eyes on other middle relievers.
For those of you who play daily fantasy games like FanGraphs: The Game, or just like to stream players, here is a matchup you may be able to exploit.
A Pitcher for Tomorrow: Bobby Parnell (NYM) vs. STL
With Johan Santana (is the Daily News headline going to be “NO-HAN!”?) not letting anyone take the ball away from him tonight, the Mets bullpen should be plenty rested for their Saturday afternoon tilt. Parnell’s been a bit unlucky with a .343 BABIP, but has otherwise stellar peripherals across the board. With a Lynn/Dickey matchup, the odds of the game being close enough for New York’s National League representative to get their hard-throwing righty setup man in for an inning seem high enough to roll the dice.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]