Consider this last call on Jordan Romano. He’s long gone in the deeper and cutthroat leagues, but there’s still some time in the medium and shallower formats.
For most of the year, the Toronto reliever has been a ratio-smoothing reliever, one of the new Nick Anderson scholarship winners. You know the drill; find a tidy K/BB ratio early in the year, add at the minimum acquisition cost. It’s a consistent, repeatable way to fantasy profit; enough of these early surgers wind up being the real deal.
But Romano’s value has spiked notably of late, as the Blue Jays have started to give him the most important bullpen work. He scored a victory five days ago against Philadelphia, and he’s recorded two saves since then; the type of repeatable saves that fantasy owners love. Work the ninth, get three outs, shake hands. (Bump elbows? Air fives? This 2020 stuff is so weird.)
The stat line is so good, I’m shocked Romano remains unrostered in about two-thirds of Yahoo leagues. Check what he’s done over 14 innings: 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 20 K. Two wins, two saves. That plays in any format. He’s the fourth-most valuable reliever in the Yahoo 5x5 game thus far.
Romano only has two pitches, but that’s enough for a reliever. His fastball arrives at a juicy 96.6 mph, and both his fastball and slider are plus-offerings. And when batters do make contact, the result is often benign; Romano carries a delightful 58.6 percent ground-ball rate.
The Buffalo ballpark is playing like a bandbox, but if Romano is going to miss this many bats and induce this much marginal contact, why worry? This is your last opportunity. Get to the window.
Unknowns all over the catcher leaderboard
The 2020 season has been disastrous for the catcher pool, and we all know that the stolen base is all but disappearing from the game. With that in mind, offer some appreciation to Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
Falefa checks so many useful fantasy boxes. For one thing, he’s the rare catcher-eligible player who isn’t actually catching this year. He’s been in the Texas lineup 25 times over 28 games, never as a catcher. Sometimes he’s at third, occasionally he’s at shortstop. A Falefa pickup covers a few tricky positions, offers consistent volume.
A .258/.327/.371 slash, that doesn’t exactly make the angels weep. Heck, his OPS+ is a pedestrian 93, seven percent below the league average. But Falefa is a madman on the bases — five swipes, two times caught — and that offers some buoyancy. He’s currently the No. 8 backstop in 5x5 value. He homered Monday, his first of the year.
The catcher leaderboard is a mishmash of unknowns and surprises. J.T. Realmuto is crushing at the No. 1 spot, no great surprise there. But the next seven guys are shocking, even considering that it’s a modest sample thus far. Check the list: Pedro Severino, Travis d’Arnaud, Austin Nola (another utility ace), Martin Maldonado, Sal Perez, Christian Vazquez, and our man Kiner-Falefa.
Many phones will autocorrect Falefa to Falafel, which might be why he lags at 42 percent rostered in Yahoo. If Texas is going to leave him in the lineup, I’m plenty interested. Keep running, Ranger.
Working on a bullpen stack
It was cute when the Red Sox shipped Brandon Workman to Philly, ostensibly to fix the Philadelphia closer problem. Not that Workman can’t be a useful piece, but Boston’s sitting on the 29th relief ERA in baseball (5.75) and the Phillies are a runaway last (8.00; good grief, Charlie Brown). This is one fire department helping another. There are 11 teams in the majors with relief ERAs of 5 or greater.
But on the plus side, some bullpens are throwing pellets. The Dodgers have a fire-breathing 1.82 ERA in relief. Oakland is at 1.99. Minnesota’s had some hit or miss relief this year (3.40 ERA, seventh), but the back-end guys have been fairly reliable. Frisbee master Sergio Romo (1.74 ERA, 0.74 WHIP), Tyler Duffy (0.82/0.45), and Trevor May (3.00/1.17) are all on my Yahoo Friends & Family Roster.
No, I don’t roster Taylor Rogers, the team’s enigmatic closer (seven saves, 4.76 ERA). But I have relief volume from a winning team, and the trio gets plenty of high-leverage work. Collectively, the three Twins have two wins, four saves, and 45 strikeouts over 33.1 innings. And the collective ERA is a lovely 1.45.
In fantasy football, we go where the points are. In fantasy baseball, why not go where the bagels are? There’s nothing tricky to this, just identify winning teams with bullpen depth. The Minnesota angle is helped by the all-Central schedule; there are plenty of weak offenses to attack over their nine opponents.
Chasing saves on bad teams, that’s so 2013. Let’s get back to basics; focus on reliable pitchers, working in positive situations.