With the closer position as volatile -- if not more -- than it has ever been, many fantasy managers drafted established arms earlier than some might anticipate; just to be sure they were going to compete in the save category.
One of those arms that went early was Ryan Pressly. Unfortunately for those who did pull the trigger, it’s going to be a bit before they procure those saves from him.
Pressly was placed on the 10-day injured list on Saturday with inflammation in his right knee. The placement was backdated to April 14, so the earliest that the right-hander could return to the Astros is April 24.
Obviously, this is a massive loss for the Astros, and in turn fantasy managers. Pressly had already saved three games for the 2021 American League champions with an ERA of 2.70 over three appearances. In that 2021 season the right-hander was among the best stoppers in baseball with 26 saves, a 2.25 ERA, a 81/12 K/BB mark and 0.969 WHIP over 64 appearances.
Just as obviously, this creates a lot of question marks. The first is just how long managers should expect Pressly to be off the field. Astros manager Dusty Baker only said that they “have to make sure that [Pressly] is right” which doesn’t give much clarity on the situation. Is it possible that he’s back by the end of April? Sure. Can you count on that? Probably not.
The other -- maybe bigger, or at least equal -- question is who managers can turn to to help them while Pressly is out. The Astros do have internal options, and Baker mentioned three of them in Hector Neris, Rafael Montero and Ryne Stanek. All three have some closing experience, but the name that makes the most sense is Neris, as it’s a role he served for the majority of his time with the Phillies from 2017-2021 before signing a deal with Houston in the offseason. Having said that, Baker naming all three suggests this is a closer-by-committee situation.
As for external options, well, it’s a little tough, but there are two options rostered under 50 percent to continue. Tanner Rainey has gotten a pair of saves, and while his command has often left everyone involved frustrated, he has swing-and-miss stuff and appears to be the best option for Washington to close out games. There’s also Anthony Bender, who has procured a pair of saves early on and looks to have the same situation as Rainey.
Neither option is elite, but you’re going to have to comb the waiver wire for saves regardless, and those who have Pressly on their roster should take a look while they can at those options, and possibly Neris if you’re desperate.
Hitters with an EDGE
Juan Soto vs. Pirates
2-for-3, HR, 2B, 2 BB
Soto became the first hitter in the history of the Nationals to hit a baseball into the Allegheny River. He’s driven in three runs this year, and all three of them have been solo homers. The wunderkind is slashing .314/.467/.600 to begin the year, and there’s nothing we’ve seen over the past few years that suggests that slash isn’t sustainable. It’s just too bad the RBI chances might be limited by the rest of that not-so-good lineup. It won’t matter, he’ll still be among the best fantasy producers in baseball. Again.
C.J. Cron vs. Cubs
2-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI
With the two homers, Cron ties that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. fellow for the most dingers in baseball with five. He hit one off of Mark Leiter, and another off Ethan Roberts while driving in the three runs. It’s worth pointing out that Cron was also outstanding in the second half of the season, and he’s obviously taken advantage of the friendly confines, but also more than held his own on the road. Cron will go through some ups-and-downs in the average category, but it’s time to show him more respect. He’s one of the best fantasy first baseman in the sport.
Starting Pitchers with an EDGE
Michael Kopech vs. Rays
5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 SO
Kopech didn’t get a decision, but that’s just proof that baseball can be cruel. The only run the right-hander allowed was unearned in the first, and from that point on the former top prospect looked dominant -- with the occasional spurt of poor command. Kopech has incredible stuff, and so far, has had no issue adjusting back to being a starter. There will be some bumps, but enough smooth sailing to make fantasy managers happy.
Justin Verlander vs. Mariners
8 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 SO
Verlander was very strong a week ago in his first start since 2020 against the Angels. This was a different level, however. The level we saw from the 39-year-old a few years ago when he was among the best starters in baseball. There was very little hard contact off the former Cy Young winner -- Jarred Kelenic hit the ball to the warning track and Ty France had a couple of knocks -- and he had the Seattle hitters off-balance throughout the evening. Verlander was one of the riskiest propositions coming into the year, and while there’s still an awful lot of baseball left to be played, he’s made fantasy managers that invested in him look quite smart. A sensational effort, to be sure.
Hunter Greene vs. Dodgers
5 1/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 SO
Ok, the line here isn’t great. It’s not bad, either, but the story here is not the line. It wasn’t the story when he gave up three runs over five innings against the Dodgers, either. No, the story here is that Greene absolutely dominated the Dodgers for four innings and also set a record with 38 pitches clocked over 100 mph. You’re not reading that wrong. There were 39 fastballs from the 22-year-old that went over 100 mph and 13 of them that went over 101. Greene needs to improve his command, and show he can fool hitters a third time through the lineup. Let’s worry about that later. What Greene did on Saturday was spectacular.
Owen Miller -- available in 46 percent of Yahoo fantasy baseball leagues.
Usually we save this for players rostered under 50 percent, but we’ll make an exception for Miller since he’s close to that mark, and also been unheralded despite putting up tremendous numbers over the first week-plus. After reaching four times on Saturday in a loss to the Giants, Miller is now hitting .560/.586/1.080 on the year. Obviously, that’s not sustainable, but there’s a reason the Guardians wanted Miller in the trade that sent Mike Clevenger to the Padres, as he’s a player with a hit tool that projected plus and a quality approach at the plate. The 25-year-old isn’t a fantasy superstar, but he’s eligible at first and second base, and certainly belongs on more rosters than where he’s currently at in Yahoo leagues.
Lou Trivino struggled in his first two appearances of the year, but has looked more like a legitimate closer in his last two games. That includes a save on Sunday against the Blue Jays that saw him strike out three and not allow a hit -- albeit with one walk. Trevino isn’t likely to get a ton of save chances for the rebuilding Oakland squad, but he should be effective when he does get the chance. The stuff is good.
Jake McGee saved 31 games for the Giants in 2021, but it took until game eight of the year for him to get his first save of the season. He allowed the first two runners to reach, but the southpaw was able to get around them and hold the Guardians scoreless and pick up that save. McGee should get more chances, but this really does look like a closer-by-committee situation. Not great from a fantasy perspective.
Mark Melancon had his best outing as a member of the Diamondbacks on Saturday, which isn’t saying a ton since it’s his first year and he’s only had four appearances. Still, the long-time stopper struck out two and had no trouble getting through the New York lineup to get his first save of the year. Melancon doesn’t miss bats at an elite level and Arizona isn’t exactly a playoff contender, but he should get the overwhelming majority of save chances, and that matters. See the Pressly injury for why.
Matchup of the Day
To be honest, the options for Sunday are, well, limited. This is a fun one, however. Urquidy is coming off a strong outing where he allowed just a run against the Angels on Sunday, limiting the Halos to just four hits. Brash, on the other hand, was sensational in his MLB debut while pitching into the sixth inning, allowing two runs and impressing with his swing-and-miss stuff with the ability to command it. Expect some ups and downs between both Urquidy and Brash, but this has the potential to be a very fun option. Once again, the options were limited.
American League Quick Hits: Twins manager Rocco Baldelli confirmed Saturday that an MRI on Byron Buxton's right knee revealed no structural issues. … Tigers placed SS Javier Báez on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to April 13, with right thumb soreness. … Sonny Gray left his start on Saturday against the Red Sox with hamstring tightness. He’ll be reevaluated on Sunday. … Hyun Jin Ryu is currently being treated for left forearm soreness after his start against the Athletics. … Yordan Álvarez worked out with the Astros before Saturday's game against the Mariners. He was not activated off the COVID-19 injured list, however. … Matt Manning left Saturday's game against the Royals with right shoulder discomfort. … Brad Miller was scratched from the lineup Saturday with back tightness. … Orioles manager Brandon Hyde told reporters that there are no results yet on John Means left elbow. Mariners placed OF Mitch Haniger on the COVID-19 injured list.
National League Quick Hits: Jose Iglesias has been out of the lineup with a hamstring issue. The hope is that he can return to the lineup on Sunday. … Reds placed OF Nick Senzel on the injured list. … Jordan Hicks will not make a start on Tuesday against the Marlins. … Starling Marte homered for the second consecutive game Saturday in the Mets' loss to the Diamondbacks. … Jack Flaherty (shoulder) played catch Saturday for the second consecutive day. … Ian Desmond announced his retirement from baseball. … Wil Myers (thumb) remained absent from the Padres' starting lineup for Saturday's game against the Braves. … Jonathan India (hamstring) was not in the lineup Saturday against the Dodgers. … Craig Kimbrel was not available Saturday against the Reds. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters that he doesn’t play to have Kimbrel work on back-to-back days early in the season.