The musical chairs of MLB bullpens continue unabated this week.

Our closer workbook o\is here for your perusal: Closer Workbook 6.20.21. Notice that Jake McGee is listed atop the heap in San Francisco, Michael Fulmer is back in Detroit, and Greg Holland seemingly, maybe, in the front of the line in Kansas City.

News and Notes:

  • Is Jake McGee back in the closer’s chair in San Francisco? Hard to say, but he did earn his 14th save Friday night.
  • Ian Kennedy is back from the IL in Texas and has recaptured his role.
  • It appears that Greg Holland is at the top of the heap again in Kansas City. Holland locked down a save, his fourth of the season, on Friday night.
  • Despite suggesting that Taylor Rogers should get more opportunities, the Twins continue to use Hansel Robles to close out games. And with that said, Tyler Duffey earned his second save on Friday night. Egads!
  • Perhaps providing further clarity in the Toronto bullpen, Rafael Dolis hit the IL on Thursday, which should make Jordan Romano the clear favorite to close.
  • I would peg Michael Fulmer as the closer again in Detroit after he came off the IL and was immediately thrust back into the ninth inning to earn his fifth save of the year.

Mailbag Questions

Who is Garrett Crochet? One week he looks lights out, the next week he looks like he can’t find the strike zone.  Is this just normal progression or something we should be more aware of? Dap Scout @dapscout

Hey Dap, I keep trying to remind myself that last year at this time Crochet was less than a month out of college at Tennessee. He is kind of enigmatic. He has only given up two barrels all year. But the velocity has waned with a larger sample size; granted, it is still almost 97 MPH, but he was at 100 MPH last year in fewer innings. Looking at spin rates, those are way down from last year as well (2503-2340 for the fastball, 2415-2185 for the slider). I think part of it is not having an expressed role in the bullpen, which is something I have been criticizing Tony La Russa for all year. I think La Russa may be trying to give the bullpen guys every chance to establish specific roles, but I can tell you, being a White Sox fan, the only thing I know about the bullpen for certain is that Liam Hendriks gets the ninth. I do think if the Sox are going to continue to lead the AL Central, Crochet will have a large role in that.

Who looks good in Pittsburgh if Richard Rodriguez is traded? Matt Maison @mattmaison

Hi Matt, thanks for asking that question.  Lame answer, but I think Derek Shelton will go to a full-blown committee if and when Rodriguez is traded. It’s unlikely he holds on to a closer role if he is moved at the deadline. My best bet would be the injury-prone Kyle Crick, but they also have guys like Sam Howard and David Bednar who could get a shot. Chris Stratton has excelled in a multi-inning role for them, but doesn’t get chances in late inning situations. Long-term, I think Blake Cederlind will be the guy, but he’s not going to pitch for some time after Tommy John Surgery in March.

Why is Joely Rodriguez so unlucky? (Sorry, that’s more of a rhetorical, existential question) Kris Olson @KO_Reporter

Kris, ain’t that the truth? Just when you think he’s going to get a shot, Ian Kennedy snags the job. And he’s not letting go of it, and took it back this week after a brief IL stint. However, I think Rodriguez will get his chance as I’d bet my next paycheck that Kennedy is traded before the deadline to a contender looking for bullpen help. And similar to Rodriguez, I doubt Kennedy remains the closer on his new team.

How deep would a league need to be for Daniel Bard or Cesar Valdez to be worth targeting in roto at this point in the season? JayDub @JayDubTheGamer

Jay Dub, thanks for the question. I think Bard is ownable in most formats right now. Bard has four saves and a playable 3.00 ERA with 10 strikeouts in nine innings in June. He’s steadily improved each month. Now, there are options I prefer in a 12 teamer, but I would roster him if he is available. Valdez was a great story, but we saw the other shoe dropping in May, didn’t we? I don’t find him ownable in any format right now, even AL only.

Here is 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.


Boston Red Sox: Matt Barnes has three wins and 15 saves. He has an eye-popping 52 strikeouts in 291. innings. Barnes has given up a run in his last two outings. Cracks in the armor? He’s still the top option on a first-place Boston Red Sox team.

New York Yankees: Anyone see Aroldis Chapman today? He hit 103.4 MPH yesterday afternoon. Wow. Chapman has four wins and 15 saves, but his last seven outings have been rough, with two losses. But he was better this week and keeps his high ranking.

Tampa Bay Rays: Diego Castillo is the top option in Tampa. He’s got 11 saves, even though he did not get an opportunity this week.  Yes, Tampa Bay has several options, including Pete Fairbanks, but Castillo is the safest bet for saves in this bullpen.

Chicago White Sox: Liam Hendriks has been arguably the best closer in the game with three wins and 18 saves. This was a guy who ended April with a 4.35 ERA, and he has whittled it down to 2.15 and has 46 punchouts in 29.1 innings.  And he’s the only reliever with a set role in the White Sox bullpen.

Cleveland Indians:  Are we going to ride the Emmanuel Clase/James Karinchak rollercoaster all year? Clase has been lights out  and has no ERA in June to go along with two saves. Karinchak has 55 Ks in 30.2 innings, but he has run across tough times in June, and hasn’t had a save opportunity since June 1st. While still outstanding against lefties, he’s been susceptible to the long ball and the walk. Clase sits atop my hierarchy for their bullpen, although Karinchak continues to have value in leagues that count holds and strikeouts. Clase is disgusting:

Houston Astros: Ryan Pressly continues to be called on in the ninth inning for the Astros, and for good reason: he’s got four wins and ten saves on the season. The one issue you may have with Pressly is that his usage is less than those of the elite closers; that being said, he gets excellent results.

Milwaukee Brewers: The duo of Josh Hader and Devin Williams is fear-inducing again, as Hader has yet to blow a save in 17 opportunities with a .63 ERA and 48 Ks in 28.2 innings. Williams has his era under 3.42 after a terrible April, but walks remain an issue, at a robust 14.7%, and that bears watching if you own him for holds and strikeouts.

Chicago Cubs: Craig Kimbrel has been lights out all year. He’s second in MLB with 19 saves, and 47 punchouts in 28.1 innings.  More impressively, he has only nine walks on the year, which had been a huge issue the last two years. Continue to deploy with confidence. Ryan Tepera and Andrew Chafin are good holds candidates. Look at the impressive work of Kimbrel below:

St. Louis Cardinals: Alex Reyes continues to be great with 17 saves, but as noted above with Williams, watch the walks. He has not blown an opportunity, but his 1.33 WHIP hides a whopping 20.6 BB%. Clearly he limits damage, but how often can you play with fire and not get burned? That’s not a dad joke as you fire up your grill this Father’s Day! Use him, but be mindful this could go south, despite the overwhelming stuff.

Los Angeles Dodgers: It’s still Kenley Jansen, as it has been week after week. Jansen has 17 saves and continues to be ably backed by Blake Treinen, who has three saves, and Victor Gonzalez. Treinen does get the opps when Jansen needs a night off, and his vulture saves might really help you. On average he’s own in only about 20% of leagues, although in more competitive leagues, he may be scooped up.

San Diego Padres: Mark Melancon has 20 saves to lead MLB. As you likely know by now, he will help you keep your ratios in control but will not give you high strikeout totals, which is his only drawback right now.


Texas Rangers: As mentioned above, Ian Kennedy came off the IL this week and resumed closing in Texas. He has 12 saves for a crummy Rangers’ team. As noted with Melancon, he doesn’t help you gather strikeouts, but he has been stellar this year. I expect him to be traded in coming weeks which would give Joely Rodriguez a long-awaited opportunity. He might be a guy to stash if you have a deep bench and foresee needing saves later in the season.

Kansas City Royals: As the world turns, so does the Kansas City pen. It looked like a committee situation last week, but Greg Holland got the opportunity on Friday night, with Scott Barlow in the eighth. What about Josh Staumont, you might ask?  Well, he has five saves on the year, but has not looked himself since returning from the IL, and he has not gotten a save opportunity since he has been back. Looks like Holland…for now…but I am staying away from this one.

Oakland Athletics: It truly appears that at this time, Lou Trivino will get the bulk of the chances; he has 12 saves now and Jake Diekman has not gotten an opportunity in June. So it is Trivino for now. Trevor Rosenthal could be back in August, which could shake this hierarchy up some. This will be one to watch. Check out Trivino’s pitch mix below:

New York Mets: Edwin Diaz is showing why many had him ranked as a top five closer this year coming into the season: 14 saves, 37 strikeouts in 27 innings. He did blow the save on Friday night and took the loss, but continue to use him for  a good Mets team. Seth Lugo quietly has moved into a higher usage pattern since his return from the IL, and is a great source of vulture wins and saves, as well as holds, for fantasy players.

Washington Nationals: Brad Hand doesn’t have any one skill that leaps out at you when you study him, yet he continues to get the job done for an underwhelming Washington squad with 14 saves. He won’t help like others with Ks, but he’s converted his last ten save chances and chipped in two wins as well in his last 15 appearances. He’s consistent, and that counts for something in our game.


Colorado Rockies: My apologies to Daniel Bard, who I buried here several weeks ago. He’s got the ERA down to 4.03 and has nine saves on the year, and has six saves and a 2.00 ERA and 23 strikeouts in his last 15 outings. The issue on a bad team like the Rockies is volume, and it’s simply too volatile a situation to count on big numbers coming from Bard at this time, but he has been good. He’s a likely trade candidate this summer, which could give Carlos Estevez a shot at the ninth. Stay tuned!

Miami Marlins: I want to love Yimi Garcia, but I think my feelings have soured on him. He’s 0-3 with an 8.44 ERA in his last seven outings, and hasn’t earned a save in a week. This ranking is more out of respect for what he has done all year; the recent work leads us to speculate that a changing of the guard could be happening in Miami.  Would it be Anthony Bass again? Dylan Floro?  Guessing Bass simply because he has done the job before, and managers love that. Manager Don Mattingly has not said whether he would remove Yimi from the role, so continue to use him if you are feeling so inclined to do so.

Toronto Blue Jays: Rafael Dolis hit the IL after complaining of no feeling in his fingers and hand, which should further solidify Jordan Romano in the closer role.  He’s been slow to accumulate saves, however, with only four on the year. He does have four wins, but let’s be honest, we don’t draft closers for wins, we get them for saves. It’s a frustrating situation, but Romano is the guy in Toronto and should accumulate some stats here.

Los Angeles Angels: Raisel Iglesias has 12 saves and 41 punchouts in 28 innings. But be mindful that he is prone to the home run; he’s given up seven thus far. But that being said, he’s been great the last three weeks. Use him.

Atlanta Braves: Will Smith has 12 saves and 38 Ks on the season  Isn’t there always this feeling with Smith that you feel you can do better than him? Yet he keeps the job and continues to convert chances despite some ugly peripherals. But here’s the thing: his xERA is 2.63, and he has  a 33.6 K%, which indicates he should have better numbers. The velocity is there. I am fine using Smith as a second closer but if he is your top guy, you might want to see what you can add via acquisition.

Philadelphia Phillies: Hector Neris has 10 saves. Ho-hum.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Richard Rodriguez continues to quietly get the job done while he bides his time to the trade deadline. See above note in the mailbag for updates on who could be next in line.


Cincinnati Reds: Lucas Sims looks to be nailing down this job after two months of twists and turns. He’s got seven saves now and his ERA is down to a more manageable 4.23. Moreover, he’s 4-0 with six of those saves and a 2.55 ERA in his last 15 outings.  Quietly he has become a respectable option for your team. If he is still out there snatch him up. That said, Tejay Antone comes off the IL early this week, but the Reds prefer to deploy him in a multiple inning role. One to watch but I think Sims finally has the gig. Let the stats tell the story for Sims below:

Detroit Tigers: It’s Jose Cisnero last week, and then Gregory Soto gets the save on Tuesday night. Then Michael Fulmer gets the last rocky outs on Thursday. It’s Fulmer and plan as so; he’s off the IL and appears healthy. For now. Until Bryan Garcia gets the next opportunity…

Minnesota Twins: This one requires some interpretation. While we have been calling it a committee, in fact it looks like Taylor Rogers is the closer again, getting the last three chances during nine-inning games. He converted last night. Hansel Robles has done an admirable job for the Twins, and he got the save chance on Friday night when Rogers pitched the eighth. It appears that the Twins are still in committee mode. Plan accordingly, but I give a slight edge to Rogers.

Seattle Mariners: Kendall Graveman has been rocky which may open the door up for a name you may recall in a different uniform, Drew Steckenrider. Watch this one.

San Francisco Giants: Looks like Jake McGee is back after earning his 13th and 14th saves this week with Tyler Rogers pitching the eighth the last week. But who knows? Still could be a committee situation, but leaning McGee for now. Be careful of usage patterns here; McGee does seem to falter with frequent usage.


Arizona Diamondbacks: I wondered this week if I didn’t talk about it at all, if it would get better. Nothing changed; they have lost 15 in a row and there are zero save opportunities for anyone here.