Bullpen Notes 3.27.2021
As a reminder, we will update our new closer chart each week, trying to keep you abreast of what is happening in the ever-changing MLB bullpens. Let us save you the headache!
Baltimore: As noted last week, Hunter Harvey is injured and is not ready to start the season. Tanner Scott looks to get the first shot. Cesar Valdez (meh) followed by Paul Fry and Dillon Tate (watch carefully) could also get shots if Scott falters or manager Brandon Hyde uses a committee approach. If Scott is on your waiver wire, he’s worth taking a shot on.
New York Yankees: We know Aroldis Chapman is the closer, but who do we look to for holds on a contending team with both Zack Britton (elbow surgery) and Justin Wilson on the shelf? Chad Green now appears to be a prime candidate for holds. Grab him late if you want a handcuff to Chapman to start the season, or you are looking for holds. Keep in mind that Chapman is serving a two-game suspension to start the season, so Green may be in line for some opportunities that first week.
Tampa Bay: It was revealed this week that breakout candidate Nick Anderson of the Tampa Bay Rays would miss a significant portion of the season with a “slight” tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. This is a distressing report, not only for Tampa Bay, but also fantasy owners who may have paid for a breakout this season. Team officials are calling him out until the All-Start Break. This type of injury doesn’t bode well, even though he is not recommended for surgery.
The debate now becomes who is the closer in Tampa Bay? It could come down to Diego Castillo and Pete Fairbanks. Here’s the take: both will likely get save opportunities as Kevin Cash now has impetus to play musical chairs at closer, as his prerogative and part of the Tampa Bay methodology. I feel that Fairbanks has a higher upside, and the fact that he got the ball in the playoffs means something, right? You may want to take a flyer on Chaz Roe, who is back from injury and has a devastating slider. He’s a prime candidate for holds.
Toronto: Staying in the AL East, we head north of the border (although they will play home games in Dunedin, Florida for the next few weeks) and find that Kirby Yates is done for the year, succumbing to Tommy John Surgery. This is quite a blow for Toronto and fantasy league owners. Granted, most of you likely did not pay a high price for a 32-year-old arm coming off bone chip surgery in that same elbow. Nonetheless, if you have rostered him, you will need to replace him. Savvy owners in drafts may have handcuffed Jordan Romano to Yates; many did in slow drafts after the news of the Yates injury. Don’t sleep on Rafael Dolis though, either. He has some experience in the job and never discount manager preference for experience in the role. That said, Romano has potential and is the guy to own in this bullpen. Julian Merryweather is a deep sleeper for holds that you might want to dogear as well.
Note Romano below. Notice the increased velocity in his slider and four-seamer last year. He could be primed for a breakout.
Texas: The Rangers traded away Rafael Montero this offseason, ostensibly to take some pressure off Jose LeClerc, who you may recall, they paid to be the closer two years ago. Those who may have drafted LeClerc as a sleeper option are now disappointed to learn he will start the year on the IL. So what happens here? Mum is the word so far, but do not be surprised if Ian Kennedy, the former closer in Kansas City, might rise to the top of this decimated bullpen. Matt Bush is here also. With LeClerc facing an unknown future in his return from injury, this bullpen is wide open. Jonathan Hernandez is nursing a UCL injury (read: not good) and Joely Rodriguez has a bad ankle. Look for Kennedy or a committee approach until Hernandez or more likely Rodriguez makes it back. These could be painful saves.
San Francisco: It looks like Jake McGee has won this job, with other options Reyes Moronta and Tyler Rogers behind him at this time. Personally, I would avoid the others and put my stock, for now, in McGee. Should San Francisco struggle, he may become trade bait, and if he is moved, my guess would be he would not be the closer at his next stop. Buyer beware on McGee.
San Diego: A plethora of options a week ago, now there may be issues. Could Emilio Pagan reemerge as a closer option? Drew Pomeranz, whom many drafted as the first Padres’ reliever off the board this year, has been slowed with a tight forearm. Although the team has not appeared overly concerned about this, any time the words “forearm” is used I tremble. Pomeranz tantalizes with his potential, but if injured, he does nothing for you. Buyer beware. Pagan is being mentioned within the organization (the collective “they”) as the closer-in-waiting, but this may have as much to do with the injury situation as his stuff. Pagan will need to regain some of his 2019 mojo to make this work. See 2019 line below:
Cincinnati: Here is a full disclosure from me: I am a Lucas Sims truther, come hell or high water. Both Sims and closer favorite Amir Garrett have been slowed by an injury to this Spring Training. Garrett has been lights out this past week; nine strikeouts. Wow. In several leagues this year, I have drafted both in an attempt to corner all of the team’s saves. You may choose to do the same thing with this bullpen; another option would be Minnesota, with Alex Colome and Taylor Rogers likely to have a split (maybe 60/40 Colome to Rogers?) of the save opportunities whole also getting a fair share of holds as well. My gut, and there is no information to go on with this yet, is that manager David Bell may use Garrett as a stopper with his high strikeout potential in the middle innings, while Sims gets the save opportunities. Update: as of 3/27, Bell announced that Sims and Garrett are co-closers. Here we go; watch this battle develop over the next weeks.
Compounding this bullpen are other great arms like Michael Lorenzen and Tejay Antone. How is the rotation shaking out? Lorenzen is hurt and may start the year on the IL. Antone could be in the rotation or a multi-inning option as well. You need a strong constitution if you own anyone in this bullpen.
Pittsburgh: Speaking of string stomachs, what is happening in Pittsburgh? A guy we talked about earlier as a deep sleeper, Blake Cederlind, just had Tommy John Surgery and is out for 2021. Manager Derek Shelton was coy and noncommittal about the closer situation, which most fantasy players thought would go to Richard Rodriguez. But that may not be the case. In an interview with MLB Network, Shelton suggested that David Bednar was opening eyes in camp and might get some high-leverage work. Shelton also suggested he might go an “unconventional route” and use a committee, a la Tampa Bay. Could Michael Feliz and play a role here? Bednar? Kyle Crick would seem to be the largest beneficiary of a demotion of Rodriguez to a setup role. Kyle Crick below:
Keep in mind that there are several free agents still looking for work that could pop into bullpens in the come days or weeks; guys like David Robertson and Shane Greene could be signed as the war of attrition begins in the game that is managing fantasy bullpens.