Fantasy Baseball: Savoring Clay Holmes, rueing Joc Pederson

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Fantasy baseball analyst Scott Pianowski highlights Wednesday's big headlines. For his breakdown of Dansby Swanson's value getting a boost, click here.

Aroldis Chapman has assembled an impressive career. He’s recorded 315 saves, made seven All-Star teams. He won a championship with the 2016 Cubs. I don’t think this is enough to get Chapman to Cooperstown, but it’s been a strong showing.

And yet, at age 34, I worry about what Chapman is now. He’s currently sitting with a 3.86 ERA, a 1.64 WHIP, a declining strikeout rate (9.6/9 is nothing for him) and a problematic walk rate (6.4/9).

And he’s on the IL, of course, with left Achilles tendinitis. This is par for the course in most Chapman seasons — he needs down time, he needs maintenance. The sports car inevitably enters the repair shop. He hasn’t made it past 58 innings since 2015. And he has just one season over 70 innings.

Initially you might think the Yankees bullpen was in chaos, with Chad Green out for the year, Chapman struggling and hurt, and Jonathan Loaisiga (7.02 ERA) also on the shelf. But relief pitchers come out of the woodwork every year, and New York’s had two unexpected stars emerge. Take a bow, Clay Holmes and Michael King.

Holmes is the stand-in closer for Chapman, and although he didn’t have his best stuff Wednesday, he closed up shop against Baltimore. It’s another case of following the K/BB rate and finding fantasy profit: Holmes has 24 whiffs, against just two walks, over 23.2 innings. Sure, a 0.38 ERA is unsustainable, but his FIP stands at 1.47. He’s been a lawnmower. He’s already up to five saves.

Clay Holmes has been a find for fantasy baseball managers who added the reliever early thanks to his stellar ratios. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Clay Holmes has been a find for fantasy baseball managers who added the reliever early thanks to his stellar ratios. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

King’s story is a little trickier at the moment, as he’s been knocked around his last two appearances. But he still checks in with a 2.96 ERA, with 38 strikeouts in 27.1 innings. The Yankees aren’t afraid to use King for multiple innings, either. He had an eight-strikeout game against Cleveland last month, and a six-strikeout game against Baltimore last week.

You can play this game in other cities, too. Spencer Strider is a knockout reliever in Atlanta, with 37 strikeouts in 24.1 innings (A.J. Minter’s stats are in the same shape). Jhoan Duran’s heater plays in Minnesota — 2.53 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 31 strikeouts, and a sneaky four saves. Brock Burke has been a revelation in Texas — 1.17 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 29 strikeouts, just five walks.

This is why you never have to prioritize the middle-relief hero on draft day. You can find these guys in-season. Think Nick Anderson in 2019, or Devin Williams in 2020. Paul Sewald was a Seattle star out of nowhere last season. Sometimes these fire-breathing dragons will collect wins and strikeouts for us, while massaging the ratios. Other times, they’ll become part-time closers or even full-time closers.

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Joc Pederson stays hot

Writing a fantasy column can be therapeutic, and I’ll use this space to purge my Joc Pederson sadness. I cut Pederson in a deeper mixed league a few days ago, thinking that perhaps the surging Kevin Kiermaier’s category juice was worth it over Pederson’s strong-side platoon pop. Maybe I was sick of jockeying with the daily San Francisco lineup, I don’t know. Sometimes I need some waiver-wire therapy.

Of course, Pederson conked three homers Tuesday, and that led to a rare start against a lefty opponent Wednesday. Pederson came through again, with a homer and two walks. He’s been the most-added Yahoo player over the last 24 hours (to be fair, Kiermaier is also on that list — and he has a homer, albeit an inside-the-park job, since I added him).

Case for adding Kole Calhoun

I’m surprised Calhoun rosters at just 28 percent, even as he’s been actively added of late. He’s homered six times in his last 10 games, and slots in the middle of the Texas lineup. Calhoun was a 33-homer man as recently as 2019, and his career average of .248 (right around his current number) is not a detriment in today’s game. He’s likely to be as useful as Max Kepler going forward, even though Kepler’s roster tag is 20 percent higher.

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