I keep telling myself that it gets easier with the bullpens, as I am up before sunrise every Sunday working on “Closing Remarks” at RotoFanatic.

I keep buying good coffee as I pore over each situation. And then I told myself, hey, we are pretty deeply into the season now, don’t worry so much.  And then I looked up this morning and realized it’s only May 16th.  But this is truly a labor of love and I hope each week we find you somebody who can help your bullpens.  We are always looking for help, aren’t we?

You know I love to start off each weekly piece with the guys who recorded their first saves each week.  The list can become mind-boggling.  But here is the list for the week that was: Jordan Romano (!), AJ Cole, Bryan Shaw, Heath Hembree and Hansel Robles.

News and Notes:

  • Jake McGee seemed to have regained his mojo, with two more saves this week. And then he blew a high-profile save on Saturday night, surrendering a home run and two runs to earn the loss. He also blew the save on Friday night.  Could it be time for Tyler Rogers, who picked up his third save this week?
  • Is Jake Diekman the closer in Oakland now?  He picked up two more this week at the expense of erstwhile closer Lou Trivino.
  • Cesar Valdez struggled this week.  Could he be regressing? He now has three blown saves on the year.
  • Lucas Sims looks to be getting into a groove in Cincinnati; could he become the closer once and for all? He had a dominant performance over two innings this week with four strikeouts. Then he came back with a win on Saturday, but he did surrender one earned and three walks.  Why doesn’t anyone want this job in Cincy?
  • Liam Hendriks is back to his nasty self with eight saves, and the ERA is down to 2.76.
  • Very quietly Alex Colome has pitched himself back into the closer discussion in the Twin Cities, even though the aforementioned Robles earned one Saturday afternoon.
  • It sure looks like Jordan Romano is the closer in Toronto

Here is our updated closer and reliever workbook: Closer Workbook 5.16.2021 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

New York Yankees: Aroldis Chapman is a machine. The 31 Ks in 15 innings is video game stuff. He has nine saves and has surrendered only one unearned run, proving again to be a top three closer in the game.

Tampa Bay: They are doing it again.  They have four guys with saves so far this year: Diego Castillo, Andrew Kittredge, Jeffery Springs and Trevor Richards. That being said, Castillo was activated off the IL on Friday night, and should resume the closer role.

Houston Astros: Those who exercised patience with Pressly are now reaping dividends. Pressly picked up two more saves this week, his sixth and seventh, to go with two wins and a nifty 1.59 ERA.  That will play.

Boston Red Sox: Give tons of credit to Matt Barnes.  The oft-maligned closer of years past has been fantastic this year: nine saves and 33 strikeouts on the year.  You should continue to use him with confidence.

Milwaukee Brewers: Josh Hader has eight saves and 26 Ks in 14.2 innings. It’s a no-brainer to use him in all formats. here is some concern about Devin Williams so far, but he’s starting to look more like the dominant guy he was in 2020. Also, don’t sleep on holds in this bullpen. J.P. Feyereisen has nine, Brad Boxberger and Brent Suter four each. Williams has five holds and his ERA is getting back in line at 3.86. The 10 walks in 14 innings leave much to be desired, however.

Texas Rangers: Ian Kennedy has been a revelation and leads the AL with ten saves. He’s perfect in ten opportunities. Joely Rodriguez is back and has five holds. Should Kennedy falter, Rodriguez could be next in line.  There is no reason to think Kennedy is in any danger of losing his job.

Chicago Cubs: Kimbrel looks unhittable at times and the command has been there. He’s got seven saves in nine opportunities. I continue to watch for walks with him; he did have four the week before last, but only one this week. If the command and control falter, he would be in trouble. He’s by far their best option and the job will be his, so roll with him, despite a blown save and loss on Saturday against the moribund Tigers. Andrew Chafin has eight holds, Ryan Tepera five and Rex Brothers four.

San Diego Padres: Melancon has 13 saves and a 1.02 ERA. Drew Pomeranz went to the IL with a left shoulder impingement.  This should open the door for guys like Tim Hill, Austin Adams and Emilio Pagan to rack up some holds. Hill leads the team with six as of Saturday night.

Cleveland Indians: Both top options, Emmanuel Clase and James Karinchak, are outstanding relievers. Clase now has seven saves, Karinchak, three. I think Clase is still the guy with Karinchak as the stopper, at least most days. Karinchak leads the team with five holds, while Bryan Shaw has four, and Nick Wittgren has three.

Distinguished

New York Mets: Edwin Diaz is stuck on five saves and is holding his own in what has become a shaky Mets bullpen all of a sudden. Seth Lugo is working his way back from an elbow injury and could provide depth at the back end of their bullpen with his versatility. Watch carefully but Diaz is the best option in the Met’s pen by far.

Los Angeles Dodgers: This bullpen has embarrassing depth behind erstwhile closer Kenley Jansen.  It is still his job, and he has seven saves on the year and good peripherals, other than the 14 walks.  This team has been tested with injuries over the past few weeks, but has Blake Treinen and Victor Gonzalez as steady options in their bullpen.  They could get reinforcements soon; both Tony Gonsolin and David Price should be back soon, with the loser of their battle for a rotation spot going to the bullpen.  Look for it to be Price in the bullpen in the short term.

San Francisco: Jake McGee has been very up and down the past couple of weeks.  McGee roared back with two more saves earlier in the week to get his total to 10, but then blew two saves Friday and Saturday against Pittsburgh to cast doubt on his role.  We said last week that he has been overused and thus likely overexposed; Tyler Rogers would appear to be the next man up, and while his stuff doesn’t leap out at you, he does have three saves on the year so far.  A small bid, if he is still available, could provide you some bullpen depth.

Baltimore Orioles: Valdez did get his eighth save this week, but he also blew one, giving him three on the year. He’s looking human, but doesn’t appear to be in danger of losing the job right now.

Chicago White Sox: Don’t look now but Hendriks has lowered his ERA to 2.76 and has eight saves for an interesting White Sox team.  Codi Heuer (six holds) and Aaron Bummer (five holds) have been hammering out higher leverage roles on this team.  Evan Marshall will also get holds.

Kansas City Royals: Raise your hand if you saw the Royals starting 16-9 and manning first place in the AL Central, except now they are 18-21  No reason to think it is not still Josh Staumont, who is still sitting on many waiver wires. Stash him if you have roster space.

Washington Nationals: Of course after I tout the job he is doing last weekend, Hand implodes this week.  Welcome to my life!  He has really struggled of late, with an ERA of almost 5.00 over his last week of games, and an unsightly six walks.  Don’t look behind you, Brad.  That is Daniel Hudson coming up in the rearview mirror.  Let’s take a look at Hudson below.  Note the slight uptick in fastball velocity, but the slider is up from 86 MPH to 88.6 MPH in 2021:

Miami Marlins: Yimi Garcia only pitched once this week, and earned his fifth save. My issue is one of usage with him; he just hasn’t had many opportunities lately even though he has been fine in the role.  His last three outings have been spotless, but he’s only had one save in that time, so he is lagging slightly behind his peers in other bullpens. This is an issue with owning him: lack of opportunity hurts him.

St. Louis Cardinals: Alex Reyes just continues to excel. He’s earned 11 saves and continues to rack up Ks, with 27 in 20 innings; in a game last Tuesday, he had five strikeouts (all be it with three walks) in two innings while earning a win. With Jordan Hicks being hurt and out for at least the next six weeks, Reyes puts a further stranglehold on the job.  Giovanny Gallegos backs him up. Ryan Helsley is a name to dogear as well.

Proficient

Oakland Athletics: The little engine that could continues to churn, and it doesn’t matter who is in the top chair.  Manager Bob Melvin continues to deftly play matchups, and has used Lou Trivino, Jake Diekman and Yusmeiro Petit to great success all season. Those three have been the bulk of this bullpen, with Diekman getting his fourth and fifth saves this week.  Trivino looked to be the guy two weeks ago, but has run into some trouble since then. Melvin has said he will continue his trend, meaning both Trivino and Diekman will get opportunities. This one is tough and you may want to punt on it based on the inconsistency of the choice here, unless you earn both…which I am betting some of you do!

Toronto Blue Jays: We seem to be back where we started on this one, with Jordan Romano appearing to the be the top choice.  He earned his first save this week,  but so did the recently recalled AJ Cole, who was quietly effective last year and could some higher leverage work with an opportunity. Romano is a two pitch guy, with a slider and a four-seam fastball, and he seems to be in control of this situation, at least for today.  Let’s reintroduce ourselves to Romano again:

Philadelphia Phillies: Hector Neris has seven saves and had a good week holding off his competitors:  a save, five strikeouts in three outings.

Atlanta Braves: It is Will Smith and will be; he has seven saves. Hold opportunities for Tyler Matzek, AJ Minter, and maybe even former closer Luke Jackson. Keep in mind that the Braves also had Chris Martin return this week, and just signed Shane Greene as well.  This one could get murky but as long as Smith does the job, it will be his. Smith did give up four runs in an outing against the Blue Jays last week, but has been spotless in his last two.

Marginal

Seattle Mariners: Kendall Graveman has done well when he has had chances; he just doesn’t get many. He has four saves and 16 strikeouts in 15.2 innings.  I like him but the 19-20 Mariners don’t provide consistent chances.

Minnesota Twins: We said as the season began that we foresaw a 60/40 split for save opps between Alex Colome and Taylor Rogers. I did not see the Twins being 13-24 at this point, and they have truly earned their record, as they have been awful.  Interestingly, Hansel Robles, formerly of the Los Angeles Angels, got the save on Saturday afternoon. More interestingly, Colome got the win after pitching the eighth.  Colome seems to be working his way back into consideration for the top job after pitching in lower-leverage situations fives times the last two weeks.  Rogers has been shaky too.  This one is still a mess.

Detroit Tigers: It’s Gregory Soto, but I caution you strongly against doing this to yourself. I have become intrigued with Michael Fulmer, who in a varied role with the team, has three wins and two saves.  His slider is nasty again and he looks to be fully recovered from his TJS.  Could he be the closer?  Stranger things have happened in baseball.  See the resurgence below.  Note the velocity increase in all of his pitches, which would seem to signify improved health and confidence. I think he is a sneaky add if he is on your waiver wire.  See below:

Pittsburgh Pirates: Richard Rodriguez is six-for-six in save chances this year. Sam Howard has appeared in 19 games already, and quietly has seven holds. David Bednar and Chris Stratton have three holds each.

Unacceptable

Colorado Rockies: Bard’s ERA is down to 6.59 and he earned his fourth save on Friday night.  The Rockies are woeful at 15-24. Mychal Givens has three holds, and could get a shot at the closer gig if Bard continues to flail in the role.  Egads!

Los Angeles Angels: Raisel Iglesias should keep the job despite being shaky; he has five saves but the ERA remains high at 5.54. I want to love him but common sense prevails in my old age; stash him of you have him but using him right now is tough. Mike Mayers would appear to be next in line, and has six holds. Tony Watson has closing experience and has three holds.  Steve Cishek is also in this bullpen, although he has struggled in a setup role thus far.  This bullpen is just fraught with peril; too much ballyhoo for me.

Cincinnati Reds: Before the season started, I thought Lucas Sims would eventually pull away and land this job. No one seems to be able to claim the job. Sean Doolittle was ok for a time, but has struggled to a 9.95 ERA the last two weeks. Amir Garrett is settling in, but he may be more of a stopper.  Sims only pitched once this week but struck out four in two innings. There have only been two save opportunities the last two weeks, and both were blown, one by Doolittle, and one by Tejay Antone.  Who knows?  I have both Sims and Garrett stashed in many places.  Someone needs to step up and soon.

Arizona Diamondbacks:  Stephan Crichton is masquerading as a closer, but on a good team, he is a seventh inning option at best.  He does have four saves, but an ERA of 3.97 and a 1.68 WHIP.  This guy hurts you more than he helps you.  Pass.