CLEVELAND -- Fantasy managers want saves, strikeouts and run prevention from the closers, perhaps in that order, and nobody has done it better in 2019 than San Diego Padres right-hander Kirby Yates. Sure, Yates emerged as a reliable relief pitcher last season and when the Cleveland Indians traded for lefty Brad Hand, saves began to come his way, but few expected these numbers. This season, a whole lot of saves are coming his way. Yates already has 30 of them; for perspective, only 10 pitchers had more in all of 2018.
The road Yates traveled to get to the All-Star Game might seem a rare one, but perhaps not so much for the relief pitcher community, which often sees annual surprises and new names thriving. Fantasy managers should know this by now. Yates is a fine example, as he entered the 2017 season with three years of major league service time and a bloated 5.25 ERA, looking for a new team to invest in him as he turned 30. Then something changed, as he told me Monday during All-Star Game interview sessions.