Last time I checked, there were 39 different pitchers with saves, with all teams having played less than 10 games on their seasons.  Let that sink in. Bullpens continue to be the bugaboo for many fantasy owners as we head into the second full week of games.

Another week, another week of bullpen roulette.  Who’s in?  Who’s out?  Who’s hot?  who’s cold? Bullpen usage changes from game to game in many situations.  Managers are showing an aptitude to use their best reliever at different points in the game, leading to potential save opportunities for just about anyone in a bullpen.  Last night, for example. Boston manager Alex Cora used Matt Barnes in a tie game in the ninth, leading to a win for Barnes, and a save opportunity for…drum roll…Matt Andriese, which he converted.  See what I mean?

Some other names that have gotten saves that we were not expecting: Brad Boxberger (Milwaukee), Paul Fry (Baltimore), Jesse Hahn (Kansas City), Wily Peralta (Detroit) and Brooks Raley (Houston). 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.

While a headache for fantasy owners, it does make reading daily box scores fun again!

News and Notes:

  • Anthony Bass appears out as closer in Miami…for now.  Yimi Garcia got the save in his first opportunity on Saturday afternoon.
  • Jake McGee picked up his third save on Friday night, continuing a solid start to his season for the San Francisco Giants.
  • Emmanuel Clase got a save on Friday night in what continues to be an interesting situation in Cleveland. Clase is throwing 99 MPH cutters…
  • Oakland continues to be an injury carousel; Trevor Rosenthal is on the 60 day IL and had thoracic outlet surgery last Thursday, and AJ Puk followed him to the IL with a strained left biceps. Options abound here:  Lou Trivino, Jake Diekman, Sergio Romo and JB Wendelken.  Could we see a committee approach in the Bay?
  • The Toronto bullpen bears a close look.  Many spent a bundle of their FAAB last Sunday on Julian Merryweather, but let’s not forget they have other options in Jordan Romano and Rafael Dolis as well. Romano blew a save in extra innings on Friday night. What a headache.
  • Edwin Diaz got lit up in a non-save situation on Saturday, only getting two outs whole facing six hitters.  Egads!
  • Chris Martin hit the IL this weekend with right shoulder inflammation.  This should solidify Will Smith as the closer in Atlanta.
  • Joakim Soria went down last weekend with a calf strain. Chris Devenski got a save in his absence.
  • Greg Holland is yet to earn a save for Kansas City, but Wade Davis and Jesse Hahn each have one.
  • Craig Kimbrel remains hot and looks resurgent.
  • We also learned that Aroldis Chapman has added a splitter to his repertoire…as if he needed another frightening weapon.
  • In St. Louis, Alex Reyes has three saves and looks terrific on the young season. Jordan Hicks and Giovanny Gallegos lie in wait.
  • Raise your hand if you saw Ian Kennedy becoming a closer again three months ago. Yet he is doing so in Texas.
  • Cory Knebel wrested two saves this week from Kenley Jansen.  What is happening in LA?

Here is our updated closer and reliever workbook: Closer Workbook   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 is stuck on two saves. Valdez proved human on Saturday, and blew the save. Lefty Paul Fry got a save last Wednesday, but it was in an 11 inning game, so there does not seem to be much to read into that.  Best guess is that Tanner Scott will also get opportunities and the situation will be a mix-and-match moving forward. I would anticipate that the Orioles’ bullpen will be moving down in these rankings shortly, but they have ben excellent (with one misstep) to start the year.

Tampa Bay:  They just keep getting the job done. Diego Castillo remains at two saves, but with three outings on the season, he’s got five strikeouts in three innings.  I do not see anyone challenging him for the top job.  Looking for holds?  Ryan Thompson and Andrew Kittredge cold get those opps with Chaz Roe and Pete Fairbanks on the shelf.  Cody Reed also looked very good Saturday afternoon,

Chicago White Sox: It is and will always be Liam Hendriks.  The struggles of Matt Foster and Codi Heuer have hurt the Sox thus far.  Look for guys like Garrett Crochet and Michael Kopech to get more opportunities should these struggles continue; Aaron Bummer will get holds.

Houston Astros: Ryan Pressly is the closer.  He hasn’t had an opportunity yet, but he will.  You can safely ignore the save Raley got last week. Start Pressly in all formats.

New York Mets:  Edwin Diaz is the closer and had a rough outing yesterday afternoon.  Trevor May lurks as a great candidate for holds.  The Mets fans were merciless on Diaz. Let him shake off the rust before casting him out.  I still think he gets the opportunities, and would still start him in all formats.

Milwaukee Brewers: Josh Hader and Devin Williams are two of the top relievers in all of baseball. Hader took home the win on Opening Day, striking out three in one inning of work. Hader got another win this week.  Williams and his famous “Airbender”  lie in wait to get holds and vulture some saves.  If you want go deep for holds, look at Brent Suter. Brad Boxberger got save this week as well, but this was a tenth inning job.  Tt is still Hader’s job, and he’s among the best in the game.

Chicago Cubs: Kimbrel looks unhittable so far.  Start him where you have him.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Kenley Jansen has been written off by many, but this bullpen continues to intrigue.  Cory Knebel got two saves this week.  Brusdar Graterol nears a return from the IL.  Victor Gonzalez and Blake Treinen continue their solid work in the bullpen. Manager Dave Roberts did not answer the question when asked to commit to Jansen as his closer yesterday. He cited a desire to keep all the bullpen arms fresh, and why not?  He essentially has four options.  I’d encourage you to pick up some of these guys as questions mount about Jansen’s effectiveness and velocity.  I’d lean Knebel and make a nominal FAAB bid if he is available in your league.

San Diego Padres: With a plethora of options, many pundits wondered who would be anointed closer here.  Melancon leads the league with four saves; he’s unblemished this year. Tingler prefers to have one closer, and Melancon has over 200 career saves and the most experience.  But at 35 he will also need nights off, and that opens the door for three other good candidates. Drew Pomeranz, Keone Kela and Emilio Pagan are good reserve or holds candidates. Melancon has been terrific thus far in 2021:

Distinguished

New York Yankees:  We learned this week that Chapman has added a cutter.  Good grief. While he doesn’t have a save yet, he’s struck out six of the seven batters he has faced in 2021.  He will be the main option.  Chad Green will get holds and vulture saves.

Kansas City Royals: Greg Holland…right?  Except that Wade Davis and Jesse Hahn have saves this year while Holland has none. Holland has not looked good, giving up three walks and four hits in two appearances thus far. Could we be heading to a committee here?  Names to watch include Davis, Hahn, Josh Staumont and Scott Barlow.

Minnesota Twins: What an intriguing situation. Taylor Rogers took the loss Saturday night giving up an unearned run. Alex Colome pitched the eighth in the same game, and gave up the tying run. What to make of all of this? Colome has two saves.  Randy Dobnak has one.  Rogers has none. Look for some kind of split here moving forward, maybe 70-30 for Colome.

Los Angeles Angels: Raisel Iglesias will keep this job.   He’s a top guy with lots of opportunity and zero competition. Mike Mayers did get a save earlier in the week, but that was after two consecutive days of usage for Iglesias, including  30 pitches the night before.  Ride with him.

Washington Nationals: The team has been besieged by Cvoid-19 illness and protocols.  Hand was just activated Saturday from the IL.  He should be the closer with Tanner Rainey a phone call away.

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 here.

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. He’s looking excellent thus far:  six strikeouts in 3.2 innings.  One issue to consider is that he may not get many save opportunities on a crummy Rockies’ team.

San Francisco: What we thought might be a competition was wrested away by Jake McGee. McGee has been terrific with four saves and moves this bullpen up this week. McGee is using his fastball an astounding 90% of the time.  Can he keep that up? See chart below:

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. Ottavino got beat up Saturday, but the tam has not had a save opportunity all week.  Barnes is a high wire act with historically poor ratios; improvement in those areas could help make his saves less painful. That said, he has 11 strikeouts in five innings, and appears to have regained confidence in his fastball.  Maybe the competition is causing him to turn the corner?  I would roll with Barnes. Barnes is trusting his curveball more this year and cutting down on baserunners.  See pitch mix below in a small sample size:

Toronto Blue Jays: Many owners dropped a ton of FAAB on Julian Merryweather last week, and he repaid you with zero saves. Tommy Milone, somehow, got a save by pitching three innings in a 15-1 blowout yesterday. Jordan Romano has a win and a hold.  I would not get overly excited about Merryweather, based on a checkered injury history and usage concerns.  Manager Charlie Montoyo said before the season he thought he would use a committee approach as he did last year.  File Rafael Dolis as well, and maybe even David Phelps for holds.  One to watch here.

Cleveland Indians:  We have shared for weeks the idea that Emmanuel Clase was likely to get opportunities despite the helium on James Karinchak.  And he did,  getting a save this week. 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.

Philadelphia Phillies: Archie Bradley gave up the lead on Saturday night, and Jose Alvarado continues too look good.  Connor Brogdon, preseason sleeper for us, has three vulture wins.  Yet Hector Neris is the closer.

Atlanta Braves:  It is Will Smith.  Chris Martin hit the IL with a sore shoulder this weekend.  Hold opps 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 also has a save.  Neither have been sparkling.  I would stay away unless desperate; if you must have one, get Soto.

Oakland Athletics: Trevor Rosenthal is on the IL and had thoracic outlet surgery on Thursday. It’s unknown how long he will be out, but looks like at least 12 weeks. The A’s used Sergio Romo and Jake Diekman in the seventh yesterday afternoon.  I would lean Lou Trivino right now, based his excellent start to the year, but don’t sleep on Miguel Romero, who is at the alternate site now.  At 3-7, they may use a closer by committee.

Texas Rangers:  Ian Kennedy has taken the job and moved ahead of his competition.  He’s been good so far.

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.  Garrett has two saves but an ERA of 15.  Yikes.  Sims has been slightly better at 5.40.  The Reds are a surprising 6-2 and this bullpen still needs shaking out. In some leagues I have both Garrett and Sims and wait for resolution.

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.

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 Ms used Kendall Graveman and Keynan Middleton in expanded roles this week. Montero gave up the tying run in the eighth inning Saturday, with Graveman pitching the ninth, and Middleton getting the save in the tenth. I won’t touch this one either.