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Fantasy Baseball Reliever Report: Week 16

Cam takes a look at two potentially overlooked pitchers that might come up huge down the stretch and in 2024 for fantasy baseball.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JULY 07: Nick Pivetta #37 of the Boston Red Sox delivers a pitch during the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics at Fenway Park on July 07, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Rutherford/Getty Images)

We are past the All-Star game and the Fourth of July. The MLB season’s official and unofficial halfway points have both come and gone. We are now entering the last week of the month and heading towards the trade deadline. I’ve written over a dozen of these reliever reports, and this week there are two very interesting pitchers I want to talk about. Each began the season in their team’s rotation, but found their way into the bullpen. One has already been traded, and one still may be moved. One is rostered in about a third of leagues, while the other is in less than 5%. But, especially if you are in a keeper league, each of these pitchers should be stashed for 2024.

The two pitchers I’m referring to are:

Nick Pivetta, Boston Red Sox

Pivetta is in his fourth season with the Sox and has been a solid contributor. He’s gone from a six-figure player to making $5.3M this year. The always cost-savvy Sox no doubt look at Pivetta as expendable with the likes of Tanner Houck, Garrett Whitlock and Brayan Bello on the team. 

And although the team is in the playoff race, only a couple of games behind the last wild card slot, GM Chaim Bloom may go the same route he went last season, which is not to go all-in either direction. Let’s put it this way, do I think Bloom is preparing a package to go after Shohei Ohtani … No. He’s not ready to go all in and trade away his farm system. Moving Pivetta may seem like the move of a seller, but for what their recent blueprint has been, it makes perfect sense.

Pivetta is good enough to be a back-end starter on any contender. He’s been recently used as the bulk reliever for Boston and has pitched very well in that role. He has 94 Ks in 75 innings and has brought his WHIP down to 1.21. Since June 12th, he’s brought his ERA down a full run to 4.44. He’ll help some team (and your fantasy team) down the stretch, if not the Red Sox, and he’ll help next season as well.

Shintaro Fujinami, Baltimore Orioles

Fulinami is a bit more of a shot in the dark. But why not? It’s acquisitions like this that can make a champion out of an also-ran. He’s only rostered in 4% of the leagues, so you’ll be able to snag him. The 6’6″ righty was a disaster for the A’s to the point they got fed up and wanted to cut their losses, trading him to the surging Orioles.

Fujinami’s stuff is much better than he’s shown so far in the Majors … although that’s what has been said about him for the better part of a decade in Japan. At 29 years old, he still has a lot of baseball left in his right and a ton left to prove. 

As a starter, he was a complete bust, and the A’s quickly moved him to the bullpen, where he’s faired much better. In his first MLB start, he gave up eight earned runs in only 2.1 innings. His ERA was north of 30. He has been chipping away at it literally all season. It is now down to 8.57, and he has a 1.66 WHIP. But, that is mainly from giving up 30 walks in 49.1 innings. He’s only given up 52 hits, which tells me that if a pitching coach can get him to challenge hitters more, his walk rate will go down dramatically. This is a very common trait among Japanese pitchers; they love to nibble. 

His last six appearances have been the most encouraging. Since the Fourth of July, Fujinami has thrown seven innings, striking out eight, only giving up four hits and not walking a batter. He has a 2.57 ERA and a 0.57 WHIP over that time. And although Baltimore’s bullpen is stacked, you can never have too many good arms. Fujinami may be the perfect swingman for the Orioles down the stretch and actually make a start or two. A great comp for him is Texas’ Dane Dunning. Dunning started the season as the Rangers’ sixth starter/long man/fill-in and break glass in case of emergency pitcher. All he’s done this year is post eight wins so far with a top-five 2.82 ERA and a fantastic 1.11 WHIP. 

And remember, it doesn’t matter what Fujinami did up to the point with the A’s. All that matters is what he does moving forward for the Orioles … and your fantasy team, if you snag him. I’m as excited about him in 2024 as I am for the rest of this season.