David Bednar is much-overlooked reliever

Unless you have one of the top closers (ie, Josh Hader, Liam Hendriks or Raisel Iglesias), the hunt for saves can become increasingly annoying because of some MLB managers’ propensity for using a committee approach.

That means saves can come from one place one day and a completely different placed the next, which makes finding saves a lot more difficult for fantasy managers (unless you have Nostradamus-like abilities — and, if you do, please send Powerball numbers to the email at the bottom of this article).

But, how about this: Instead of focusing on the pursuit of saves, why not focus on the pursuit of pitchers who can fill the RP spot and give you positive results? Why focus your chase to one stat when you can have someone who helps with multiple categories several times a week?

Pittsburgh’s David Bednar enters the season supposedly splitting closer duties with Chris Stratton, who collected eight saves in 13 chances in 2021, but was relegated to seventh-inning duty of a blowout loss on Opening Day.

Despite being part of a potential committee, and being on a bad team, fantasy managers shouldn’t ignore Bednar, who remains available in roughly 70 percent of ESPN leagues.

David Bednar
AP

From June 18-Oct. 1, Bednar went 3-0 with a 1.01 ERA, three saves, nine holds and a 43-11 strikeout-walk rate over 33 appearances. He limited opponents to a .156 average and .453 OPS during that stretch. Overall, he went 3-1 with a 2.23 ERA, 11.4 strikeouts per nine, 2.8 walks per nine and a 0.97 WHIP.

Among pitchers with a minimum of 60 innings pitched in 2021, Bednar ranked 15th in strikeout percentage (32.5), 18th in swinging strike rate (15.6) and had the 19th-lowest opponent average (.184) in the majors.

Bednar looked sharp in six spring appearances, striking out nine over 6¹/₃ innings (12.8 per nine), walking two and allowing no runs.

Bednar’s fastball has a max velocity of 100 mph, and it’s a pitch he uses more than 55 percent of the time. He had a 27.9 percent whiff rate and limited opponents to a .195 average last year. Opposing hitters also had a ton of trouble with his curveball, a pitch he used 23.6 percent of the time, hitting .128 against it with a 46.8 percent whiff rate.

Bednar may not get a ton of save opportunities (that he has more to do with him being on a terrible team than being part of a committee), but he has closer-like stuff that will help fantasy teams regardless.

Giants: One of the most tantalizing relievers available is flamethrower Camilo Doval (60.7 percent owned in ESPN leagues), who has a max velocity of 102 mph, and had three saves and struck out 12.3 per nine innings last year. He had a 17-game stretch in which he didn’t allow an earned run, held opponents to a .148 average and had a 27-4 strikeout-to-walk rate. No-brainer to be the Giants’ closer, right? Wrong, because manager Gabe Kapler doesn’t believe in traditional bullpen roles. So, Jake McGee (31 saves in 2021) will get plenty of action, as will Doval and even Tyler Rogers. Despite the committee, Doval should be rostered.

Camilo Doval
Camilo Doval
USA TODAY Sports

Tigers: Gregory Soto, who struck out 10.7 per nine and had 18 saves in 19 tries in 2021, should get the ninth over Michael Fulmer, whose velocity was down this spring, for a much-improved team.

Networks: Tony Santillan, who had a 2.91 ERA and struck out 29.5 percent of the batters he faced in 2021, pitched a clean ninth (15 pitches, 11 for strikes and two strikeouts) to earn the save for Cincinnati on Opening Day. With Lucas Sims (elbow) sidelined, it’s unclear if this vaulted the 24-year-old ahead of Art Warren, but Santillan is worth monitoring.

Marlins: Dylan Floro is out with arm soreness, which means Anthony Bender should be in line for endgame situations… for now.

Cubs: David Robertson, not Mychal Givens or Rowan Wick, picked up the Cubs’ first save of the season. The 37-year-old, who appears to be healthy after a couple of injury-riddled seasons, could very well keep the job, and he is available in more than 90 percent of ESPN leagues.

David Robertson
David Robertson
Getty Images

Parents: Robert Suarez is a 31-year-old rookie atop the Padres’ depth chart and is rostered in less than 35 percent of ESPN leagues. In four spring outings (meaningless, of course), he allowed one earned run over four innings while striking out 15.8 per nine and walking none. Dinelson Lamet could challenge him, but Suarez is worth a flier.

Rockies: From 2016-21, Alex Colome picked up 155 saves with a 2.91 ERA and 8.7 strikeouts per nine. His main competition from him is Daniel Bard, who had a 5.21 ERA, 11.0 strikeouts per nine and 20 saves in 28 tries in 2021. Neither is heavily rostered, so this is a wait-and-see-who-emerges kind of situation for those fantasy managers chasing saves.

big hits

Tarik Skubal SP, Tigers

The Roto Rage favorite had quite the exhibition season, allowing just two runs over 13 ²/₃ innings (1.32 ERA). He also has a 21-3 strikeout-walk rate, 1.17 WHIP and .241 opponent average.

Byron Buxton OF, Twins

Went 15-for-32 (.469) with five homers, 13 RBIs, eight runs, a stolen base and a 1,608 OPS in 12 spring games. Now, if he could just stay healthy.

Byron Buxton
Byron Buxton
AP

Clayton Kershaw SP, Dodgers

Tied for the lowest opponent average (.154) of the spring while striking out 13, walking three and maintaining a 3.09 ERA over 11²/₃ innings.

Kyle Higashioka C, Yankees

The Bombers’ backstop hit .423, drove in 11 runs and homered seven times in just 26 exhibition at-bats. He also had a 1,695 OPS.

Big Whiffs

Cody Bellinger OF, Dodgers

Over 13 spring games, he went 5-for-36 (.139) with no homers, one RBI, a league-worst 18 strikeouts and a .301 OPS. Hopefully, that’s not a sign of things to come from the 2019 NL MVP.

Chris Flexen SP, Mariners

Though he had a solid 13-2 strikeout-walk rate over 16 innings, he had a 7.31 ERA, and allowed seven homers and a .294 opponent average.

Chris Flex
Chris Flex
USA TODAY Sports

Yoan Moncada 3B, White Sox

Had the lowest OPS (.264) of qualified spring hitters. He also went 4-for-33 (.121) with 13 strikeouts in 12 exhibition games.

Brandon Woodruff SP, Brewers

Allowed the second-most earned runs (14) of any pitcher this spring. Opponents hit .308 with six homers off him in just 11 ²/₃ innings.

Check Swings

– Still looking for Lance Lynn or Jacob deGrom replacements? Consider these widely available arms (owned in 50 percent or less of ESPN leagues): Nick Pivetta, Steven Matz, Patrick Sandoval or Tylor Megill, who on Thursday struck out six, walked none and picked up a win for the Mets.

– After making the Royals’ roster following a stellar spring (.406, three HRs, eight RBIs, two SBs, 1,222 OPS), MLB’s top prospect, Bobby Witt Jr., went 1-for-4 with an RBI and a run in KC’s opener. That one hit, the first of his career, was a go-ahead double in the eighth inning Thursday.

– This is 40! St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright picked up the win against Pittsburgh on Thursday after pitching six shutout innings, striking out six and walking none. Albert Pujols, 41, went 0-for-5, and Yadier Molina, 40 on July 13, went 0-for-4 on Old-Timers’ … sorry, Opening Day.

Team name of the week

Snells Like Teen Spirit

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