Bullpen report: Jason Foley, Abner Uribe and three more relievers on the rise, plus updated SOLDS rankings


Perhaps 2023 spoiled fantasy players.

Sure, there were some bumps in the road for high-leverage relievers — but it now seems fairly calm compared to how the 2024 season has opened. It began this spring with Devin Williams, Jhoan Durán, Jordan Romano, and Paul Sewald landing on the injured list. There have been five saves this season with a reliever recording at least three innings. Four Pirates relievers have secured a save, none of them named David Bednar.

Things will calm down, or at least the fantasy community hopes they will. Because of the very limited sample this season has provided, proceed with caution and do not rage drop, it can create a vicious cycle of chasing saves that have already occurred, as opposed to the ones in the future.

Revisiting our high-leverage pathway identifiers, each team will receive one of the following labels for their bullpen usage, though these can change quickly.

  • Mostly Linear: A more traditional approach, with a manager preferring one reliever in the seventh inning, another in the eighth, and a closer (when rested) in the ninth. There are shades of gray. For instance, if the Cardinals face a team with their best pocket of hitters lining up for the eighth inning, Ryan Helsley may be called upon, since it represents the highest-leveraged moment in the contest.
  • Primary Save Share: The Team prefers one reliever as the primary option for saves, but he may also be used in match-up-based situations, whether dictated by batter handedness or batting order pockets in the late innings, which provides more than one reliever save chances each series or week throughout the season.
  • Shared Saves: Usually two relievers split save opportunities, sometimes based on handedness or rest or recent usage patterns keeping them fresh. While these situations usually rely on a primary and ancillary option, others can get into the mix. One reliever may eventually emerge, so this can be fluid.

(For daily coverage of bullpens, check out my work at Reliever Recon and Closer Monkey)

American League High-Leverage Pathways 

(For a deeper look at these high leverage ladders, click here)

image5National League High-Leverage Pathways

(For a deeper look at these high leverage ladders, click here)

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Top 25 relievers for saves

(For full tiered rankings for saves and SOLDS, click here — note, there are separate tabs for saves and SOLDS)

Relievers on the Rise

  1. Abner Uribe (MIL): He’s converted all three save chances with a 0.67 WHIP and two strikeouts against one walk over his first three innings. He’s throwing more strikes (67.6 strike percentage) and has a 12.3 swinging strike percentage. However, one should take note of the 58.3 first-strike percentage and 86.7 percent contact rate allowed. He’s the closer of the future filling the role out of necessity right now, but there may be some migration toward the mean (3.99 SIERA).
  2. Jason Foley (DET): Went eight days between outings this spring, then returned and hit triple digits with his fastball. Not sure what’s powering this spike, but he’s converted his team’s first two saves and converted seven straight save chances since June 18, 2023. He’s been in attack mode, posting a 15.2 swinging strike percentage and cutting his contact allowed in his very limited early sample, but it’s worth noting the increased level of production, fueled by the velocity surge.image7
  3. Michael Kopech (CWS): Although his manager refuses to label his relievers right now, the former starter transitioned back into a relief role this spring and secured his team’s first save in a white-knuckle 1.2 innings ride on Tuesday. He navigated around a hit and two walks while striking out one. Hopefully, he mixes in the slider more, which could boost his whiff rates and effectiveness. Like Foley above, he’s experienced a rise in velocity.image2
  4. Evan Phillips (LAD): Not sure why this must be said, but he’s more than a ratio eraser. He’s already notched three saves through his first four outings with a minuscule 0.27 WHIP and five strikeouts versus zero walks (41.7 K-BB percentage). He’s vastly underappreciated, but he’s his team’s best reliever.
  5. Mason Miller (OAK): He hasn’t recorded a save — yet — but his outing against Boston cannot be overlooked. He logged two scoreless frames, allowing a hit and a walk while striking out four. He threw 29 pitches (20 strikes – 69 strike percentage) and generated an eye-popping 11 whiffs (37.9 swinging strike percentage) in this outing, with multiple pitches over 100 m.p.h.image4

Closer Concerns

  1. Tanner Scott (MIA): One of the most valuable relievers in the second half last year, his command struggles surfaced during spring and have carried over into the season. He currently boasts a negative K-BB percentage, recording five strikeouts versus six walks with a 56.3 strike percentage through his first three outings. Hope lies in his velocity being in line with last year and his slider regaining form, but he must be more aggressive in the strike zone.
  2. Kenley Jansen (BOS): He’s battled various nagging injuries, but appeared on consecutive days in Oakland, recording saves in each. However, he’s working with reduced velocity on his cutter and has issued as many walks (5) as strikeouts (5) through his first three innings. Traffic and tricky backs make for slippery save situations. Monitor his results closely this month.image3
  3. Will Smith (KCR): Signed as a veteran high-leverage presence and opened the year as the closer, he’s off to a rocky start, suffering two losses and a blown within his first three outings. He owns a 3.00 WHIP with two strikeouts against four walks through 2.2 innings.image1
  4. José Leclerc (TEX): He lost his grip on the closer role early last season pitching through a neck issue, then bounced back in the second half while leading the team in saves during their postseason run. Once again, he begins the season as the preferred save share; now it’s not his velocity but his command working against him. He’s handed out five walks while striking out one through his first three contests with a 51.4 strike percentage. His team added multiple veterans with “closer” experience, so his grip on the ninth inning relies on turning things around, quickly.

Saves Stash List

  1. John Schreiber (KCR)
  2. Andrew Nardi (MIA)
  3. Kirby Yates (TEX)
  4. Chris Martin (BOS)

Ancillary Saves Relievers of Interest

Innings-plus Relievers

*Relievers with strikeout upside and/or ratio protection

**SOLDS and Holds Leaderboards will debut next week.**

(Top photo: Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images and Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

Statistical Credits: FanGraphs.com, Baseball-Reference.com, BaseballSavant.com, BrooksBaseball.net





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