As of 6 PM CST last night,  there were 54 different pitchers with saves, with all teams having played a little more than a dozen games on their seasons.  Still trying to find saves?  Holds?  Ratio controls?  Did you spend a huge chunk of FAAB on Julian Merryweather to watch him get hurt this week?  Egads.  Bullpens are going to bullpen.

Another week, another week of bullpen roulette. Here are some more names that got saves this week that you may not have been expecting: Kendall Graveman, Kyle Zimmer, Craig Stammen, Lou Trivino, David Price, and Keynan Middleton. Yep.  David Price.

Keep in mind some of these opportunities come, or may continue to come, in the second games of doubleheaders, when a manager may be loath to run his closer out there a second time in the same day. Also, some of these saves are the three-inning variety, where a reliever will come in relief of the starter and pitch the rest of the way.

Have a headache yet? Rest easy.  We will get you covered today.

News and Notes:

  • Yimi Garcia has three saves and a win and is putting a stranglehold on this job in Miami.
  • Jake McGee remains hot with six saves on the season.
  • Emmanuel Clase blew a save on Saturday night but still seems to be the top option in Cleveland.
  • It appears that Kendall Graveman is the closer in Seattle, but Keynan Middleton has gotten opportunities as well.
  • Lou Trivino appears to be the preferred option here as Trevor Rosenthal recovers from thoracic outlet surgery.
  • The Toronto bullpen bears a close look.  Many spent a bundle of their FAAB last Sunday on Julian Merryweather, who then was subsequently injured. Jordan Romano joined him on the IL this week with ulnar neuritis, which sounds terrible. Could be Rafael Dolis time in Toronto.  Or Dunedin.
  • Edwin Diaz struck out three hitters in a row on Saturday to earn his first save for the Mets.
  • Will Smith has three saves in Atlanta and should keep the job even after Chris Martin comes off the IL.
  • In St. Louis, Alex Reyes has three saves but looked poor in two outings this week, with a velocity decrease raising eyebrows.  Jordan Hicks and Giovanny Gallegos lie in wait. I would lean Gallegos if you want the handcuff as it does not appear that Hicks is yet ready to pitch multiple days in a row.
  • Ian Kennedy has three saves but Joely Rodriguez came off the IL this week.  Could we get a committee situation in Texas?
  • Raise your hand if you saw Victor Gonzalez getting a save for the Dodgers last night against the Padres. If there is one thing we have learned already this year: bullpens are going to bullpen!

Here is our updated closer and reliever workbook: Closer Workbook 4.17.21  Note that those listed in red are injured, and those with carrots (^) are moving up this week.

And we also have our rubric for grading the bullpens:

  • Mastery: the best. Nothing else to be learned here. Move forward with confidence.
  • Distinguished: just a notch below mastery, excellent work, but still some room for improvement.
  • Proficient: is average. Think of this as a solid “C” on your term paper.
  • Marginal: poorly constructed, issues with organization, and unclear what is happening.
  • Unacceptable: failure due to lack of planning or execution.

Mastery

Baltimore Orioles:  Cesar Valdez got his third save this weekend and continues to get the job done with his dead fish changeup.   Best guess is that Tanner Scott will also get opportunities and the situation will be a mix-and-match at some point. The Orioles’ bullpen continues to be excellent. Who knew? And Valdez gets it done with this:

 

Tampa Bay:  They just keep getting the job done. Diego Castillo has secured two saves, with a 12.9 K/9. Cody Reed has chipped in with three holds.  Tampa Bay isn’t missing a beat despite injuries to Nick Anderson and Pete Fairbanks.

Chicago White Sox: It is and will always be Liam Hendriks, even as he blew the save last Sunday.  The struggles of Matt Foster and Codi Heuer have hurt the Sox thus far.  Michael Kopech has been a revelation in a multi-inning role so far, showing high strikeout upside.  Aaron Bummer will get holds. Evan Marshall has looked good. This bullpen needs to sort itself out in the coming weeks.  Some of the bridge guys are unfortunately burning the bridge at this point. We have to move this bullpen down this week.

Houston Astros: Ryan Pressly converted his first save on Saturday afternoon in a 1-0 win over the Mariners.  Even though opportunities have been scant, he is the guy in Houston.  Continue to deploy as such.

New York Mets:  Edwin Diaz is the closer and showed why yesterday:  three hitters, three strikeouts on 13 pitches,  blazing fastball, filthy stuff.  Keep in mind the Mets have played fewer games than any other team.  Diaz is fine.  Trevor May gets holds here.

Milwaukee Brewers: Josh Hader is one of the best in the game but has only been in three games netting one save. The absurd: 20.3 K/9?  Keep running him out there.  There is some concern about Devin Williams so far, and manager Craig Counsell mentioned this week that he was going to give him some lower leverage work to try and work out the kinks.

Chicago Cubs: Kimbrel looks unhittable so far:  three saves and a 15.0 K/9. As long as the command remains, he could be a top ten guy this year again.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Kenley Jansen has three saves, Corey Knebel has two, David Price and Victor Gonzalez have one each.  Huh? This bullpen is terrifying with option after option.  Blake Treinen has six holds, Gonzalez has four, and the resurgent Jimmy Nelson has two and was nasty last night. I think they are protecting Jansen against overuse, but each game seems to be its own entity so far.  No matter; they are getting the job done.

San Diego Padres: With a plethora of options, many pundits wondered who would be anointed closer here.  Melancon has five saves and has surrendered only one run this year. As most know, Drew Pomeranz, Keone Kela, and Emilio Pagan all have experience should Melancon falter.  Keep an eye on Ryan Weathers who appears to be in a swing role of sorts for the Padres.  Could become a valuable piece if he moves full-time to the bullpen.

 

Distinguished

New York Yankees:  The Yankees are struggling; maybe you love to see it, and maybe you don’t.  Aroldis Chapman is not struggling even though he has only one save thus far; he’s got 11 punch-outs in four innings, and that is video game stuff. Chad Green will get holds and vulture saves.

Kansas City Royals: Greg Holland…maybe? He is struggling right now with his command and manager Mike Matheny used Scott Barlow to close a game this week. Granted, small sample size, but Holland has six walks and four strikeouts in just over five innings this year and a bloated 2.25 WHIP.  Five guys now have saves for Kansas City, who sits atop first place in the AL Central. What do we think?  Barlow. Stash Staumont.

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are struggling so far at 6-8.  Alex Colome has two saves, Randy Dobnak one, and Taylor Rogers zero. Looks to be Colome’s job…for now.  Still think this will some kind of split, maybe 70-30, Colome/Rogers. Colome has struggled thus far but did earn the save in his lone appearance this week.

Los Angeles Angels: Raisel Iglesias will keep this job.   He’s a top guy with lots of opportunities and zero competition. Iglesias only pitched once last week.  Continue to ride with him.

Washington Nationals: Brad Hand picked up right where he left off last year: he has been in four games this week, earning one save, and has surrendered two hits and no runs with five strikeouts. Much-maligned, he should be safe in Washington.

St. Louis Cardinals: Nobody told Alex Reyes that this was supposed to be Jordan Hicks’ job.  Reyes has three saves on the young season and has been spotless.  The Cardinals seem to be bringing Hicks along slowly due to past injury concerns as he ramps up his stamina.  It looks like they may not use him two days in a row in an attempt to protect him.  Giovanny Gallegos also is here.  Roll with Reyes right now but keep an eye on things; there was some concern about Reyes’ velocity drop this week. Keep in mind that management will limit Reyes to about 100 innings this year to try and keep him healthy. And Gallegos and Hicks have both thrown well to start the year.  Keep an eye on this one.

 

Colorado Rockies: Daniel Bard just keeps getting the job done, and he is one of the best stories in baseball.  Watch his age and injury history; at any time this could go south. The Rockies are 4-11; how many chances will he get?  He’s been stuck on two saves for a week. The good news for those who own Bard is there is no competition for the job in Denver.

San Francisco: What we thought might be a competition was wrested away by Jake McGee. McGee has been terrific with six saves.  McGee is using his fastball an astounding 90% of the time, but it’s been effective so far.  Looking for holds?  Tyler Rogers quietly leads the majors with seven.

Proficient

Boston Red Sox: Hard to say how this will work out, but Matt Barnes will get the first crack, and Adam Ottavino waits stage left. Barnes has been excellent to start the year with 15 strikeouts in only eight innings and two saves for a surprising 10-4 Red Sox squad. The key has been his ability to keep runners off base, surrendering two hits and two walks.  Can he keep it up?

Toronto Blue Jays: Many owners dropped a ton of FAAB on Julian Merryweather last week, and he repaid you with injury.  Jordan Romano is also on the IL.  It should be Rafael Dolis up next. He got a win this week.  Please keep in mind that he was struggling with back issues two weeks ago; something to watch for with him. If he should go down, the Blue Jays could turn to guys like Ryan Borucki, David Phelps, or Trent Thornton.  Maybe Nate Pearson?  Who knows? The Blue Jays could be on the market for another arm.  Stay tuned.

Cleveland Indians:  We have shared for weeks the idea that Emmanuel Clase was likely to get opportunities despite the helium on James Karinchak.  Clase did blow a save Saturday night, Clase is throwing 100 MPH cutters.  Disturbing for hitters, amazing for fantasy owners. He appears to be the guy as Karinchak is being used as a stopper. Nick Wittgren has struggled but history tells us he will right the ship. Roll with Clase right now; Karinchak is an option in leagues where you count strikeouts and could be used instead of a mediocre sixth starter.

 

Philadelphia Phillies: Hector Neris is in a tenuous position. Connor Brogdon, preseason sleeper for us, has three vulture wins and could get save opportunities if Neris falters.  Jose Alvarado is here too but manager Joe Girardi appears to like him using him as the top lefty out of the pen. Neris has two saves but did blow one this week against the Mets. Watch this one.

Atlanta Braves:  It is Will Smith.   Hold opportuntues for Tyler Matzek, AJ Minter, and maybe even former closer Luke Jackson.

Marginal

Detroit Tigers: Gregory Soto should be the guy; he’s by far their best arm in the bullpen, even though Bryan Garcia has two saves.  Neither have been sparkling.  I would stay away unless desperate; if you must have one, get Soto.

Oakland Athletics: Lou Trivino quietly has taken the roll and should keep it for now. As mentioned last week Miguel Romero is at the alternate site and could be a closer in waiting. Jake Diekman looks for holds here. Look at Trivino’s vertical movement over time:

Texas Rangers:  Ian Kennedy has taken the job and moved ahead of his competition.  He’s been good so far. Joely Rodriguez is back this week and could be a factor here.

Cincinnati Reds: Skipper David Bell announced in the last week of Spring Training he was going closer by committee led by Amir Garrett and Lucas Sims. Lying in the weeds is Sean Doolittle, who looks to have regained his velocity.  Garrett has two saves but an ERA over 11.  Sims got a save this past week.  Still looks to be committee.

Pittsburgh Pirates: As we expected, Richard Rodriguez got the first save opportunity on Opening Day….and hasn’t had one since.  He will probably get traded at some point. Guys like David Bednar and Chris Stratton will get the few holds that may be available. Sam Howard also has three holds.

Unacceptable

Arizona Diamondbacks:  Joakim Soria was injured last week with a calf strain, leading to potential opportunities for Stephen Crichton, Chris Devenski, and Kevin Ginkel.  Devenski got a save last week.  I don’t want to touch this one.

Miami Marlins:  Anthony Bass looks to be out of the job with a brutal week.  Yimi Garcia came on in the ninth on Saturday and should get more chances moving forward.

Seattle Mariners:  Rafael Montero looks shaky, and the M’s used Kendall Graveman and Keynan Middleton in expanded roles this week.  Graveman is an intriguing FAAB addition this week, as I think he is wresting this job away from Montero.  I find it hard to trust this bullpen and will continue to rate them low until we see some definitive answers.  I will be bidding on Graveman in leagues where I do not have him. Check out his velocity upticks since he moved to the bullpen.