The reliever roulette wheel is one of the most stressful parts of managing a fantasy baseball roster during the season. No matter how hard you try, no matter how much of a priority you make it on draft day, injuries or ineffectiveness or managerial shenanigans will inevitably conspire to have you poring over the waiver wire in search of a reliable source of saves — preferably one that won’t have you tearing your hair out as he walks the bases loaded every other night.
If that’s you — and, if you’ve made it here, we’re guessing it is — 1) support groups meet every Thursday and 2) Friday may have given you the answers to your prayers. After Michael Fulmer melted down yet again in a loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday night, the Chicago Cubs announced that reliever Jeremiah Estrada had been recalled from Triple-A.
Official: RHP Jeremiah Estrada recalled from Triple-A Iowa, RHP Javier Assad optioned to I-Cubs.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 21, 2023
You may not have heard of Estrada just yet, but trust us, you will soon enough. The 24-year-old was a revelation in the Cubs’ system last year, tearing his way all the way from A-ball to the Major Leagues in just one season. And he did it with truly mind-boggling strikeout numbers: In 48.1 Minor League innings in 2022, Estrada struck out 78 batters. Yes, you read that right — 78.
His secret? One of the best four-seam fastballs in baseball.
Estrada’s slider is no slouch either, but the heater is top-of-the-scale good by just about every metric. It even befuddled big league hitters, as Estrada fanned eight in a 5.2-inning cameo with the Cubs at the end of last season. Estrada didn’t make the Opening Day roster this year, but that was as much to do with who still had options remaining rather than a reflection of his talent or how Chicago views his role moving forward — the fact that they called him up during a season that he began in High-A tells you everything you need to know about what thinks of his potential.
The back-end of the Cubs bullpen is pretty crowded at the moment, with Fulmer still in the mix along with Brad Boxberger, Keegan Thompson and Adbert Alzolay. But Fulmer has rapidly pitched himself out of the closer’s chair, while Alzolay and Thompson are valuable in multi-inning roles. More to the point, though: Estrada is simply elite, with stuff that you’d dream up in a lab for a closer, and it shouldn’t be too long before he makes the role his own. If you’re in need of saves and have the roster flexibility to be patient, he’s a must-add in just about every league but especially 12-team and deeper — as well as holds leagues in which his exact role isn’t as important.