Ok, is it just me, or is every closer either injured or ineffective thus far?
Welcome to the third week of “Closing Remarks,” where we examine the moving and shaking of bullpens around MLB.
Let’s get caught up on a busy week and prepare for the coming week.
NEWS and NOTES for the week of 8/3/2020
- Houston Astros closer Roberto Osuna was placed on the IL with a sore elbow. Normally, we would expect Ryan Pressly to stop in here, but he is just freshly returned from his own elbow woes. Who will close until Pressly is ready? Read on to find out. Do you know Andre Scrubb?
- The Colorado Rockies and Wade Davis were ate the top of the mountain last week, with Davis having earned two saves. However, he just it the 45 day IL with a shoulder strain. Scott Oberg, you say? He’s perhaps out for the year with blood clots. Who will get opportunities here?
- Hansel Robles had a blown save Saturday night, giving up three runs in epic fashion. He is struggling mightily to get anyone out this year after a career season in 2019. The leash is tight in Los Angeles; who will get the nod?
- The Baltimore Orioles appear to have a bullpen by committee now, and last week, we told you about Cole Sulser, who now has three saves. It appears he is the guy right now; Mychal Givens pitched in the eighth over the weekend, and the O’s traded Richard Bleier to the Miami Marlins over the weekend.
- In Seattle, Taylor Williams got another save opportunity after Dan Altavilla exploded on Friday night.
- Drew Pomeramz got the save in San Diego for the struggling Kirby Yates, who has given up four earned runs in limited action this year and is walking guys at a 25% clip. This is unlike the Yates we have known, and Pomeranz may get opportunities as Yates tries to right the ship.
- Daniel Hudson is taking over for the ineffective Sean Doolitttle in Washington. Manager Davy Martinez was non-committal, but Doolittle has some issues to work out to keep the job for the defending champions.
- Will Smith is close to health in Atlanta, which may not matter for saves, as Mark Melancon has been perfect this year.
- Taylor Rogers earned three saves this week, even though Sergio Romo also got one last week. Rogers should be in the driver’s seat.
- The New York Mets bullpen is in full meltdown mode. Edwin Diaz looks to be out, and manager Luis Rojas has options. This could include Dellin Betances and Seth Lugo.
- How about Texas? Jose LeClerc has the same issue as teammate Corey Kluber: a grade 2 strain of the teres muscles in his shoulder, and this is not good. Nick Goody got a save last week, but who knows how this shakes out down there. It will probably not be Goody; could it be
- Aroldis Chapman has returned from the Covid illness, and should reclaim his spot soon.
- Cubs’ manager David Ross is said to be contemplating removing Craig Kimbrel from the closer role after two highwire acts last week caused concern. Jeremy Jeffress would be next in line.
- Finally, a new stud could be emerging in Detroit, even though Joe Jimenez currently leads MLB with four saves. Gregory Soto, ladies and gentlemen.
Whew. This is a ton of action in one week. I am already tired and we aren’t anywhere close to being done yet!
As a reminder, here is our rubric to grade the closers if you need to refresh your memory:
- 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.
Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers
Hader remains in the top spot even though his Milwaukee Brewers have not played in almost a week. A tough test awaits the Brew Crew with a surging Chicago White Sox lineup.
Liam Hendriks, Oakland Athletics
Hendriks looks fine right now with a 14.5 K/9 rate. Move along here. He is the guy in Oakland. Ride with confidence.
Taylor Rogers, Minnesota Twins
This is a situation to watch even as Rogers earned three saves this week. Sergio Romo also has two. Manager Rocco Baldelli loves to ride the hot hand and also play matchups. Right now Rogers is the guy, but this is a perfect example of drafting skills, not stats. Rogers is elite.
Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks: moved up this week
Bradley has two saves and a 17.2 K/9 right now. That may not last but he has the grip on the job in Arizona.
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers:
I have been wrong thus far about Jansen. Two saves and four strikeouts, no runs surrendered yet. He is off to a fine start and we move him up to distinguished this week. I still think you should put on your seatbelt and expect a bumpy ride at some point.
Brad Hand, James Karinchak, Cleveland Indians
Hand has seen his velocity down to start the year as well. I am officially worried. Hand said in preseason interviews that he planned to throw his slider more in 2020, but that has led to poor results this year. Last week we told you to grab James Karinchak; he did get a save last week and has tremendous velocity. Even if Hand lose the job, Karinchak has the stuff to be in the distinguished category, and quickly.
Joe Jimenez, Detroit Tigers: moving up
Don’t look now, but Jimenez leads the major leagues in saves right now with four. We have to move him up the list. However, as mentioned prior, there is a new guy in the Detroit bullpen to love: Gregory Soto. Soto could get a shot if Jimenez comes back to earth. He throws a sinker and slider mix but check out this so far this year:
Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros
Osuna is out with an elbow injury but the Astros have a terrific replacement once Ryan Pressly gets back to full health. In the meantime, a young man named Andre Scrubb answered the call last week in only his second appearance. This bullpen has been devastated by injuries not only to Osuna and Pressly, but also Chris Devenski and Brad Peacock. This situation will sort itself out. Note that the Astros did sign veteran closer Fernando Rodney this week. He’s 42. Just no. Look for Pressly to take the role this week if he is healthy.
Mark Melancon/Will Smith, Atlanta Braves: moving up this week.
Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies
Neris is back but the Phillies have not played. No reason to move him up or down this week.
Nick Anderson, Oliver Drake, Tampa Bay Rays: one to watch, what is going on here?
Drake picked up another save this week for the Rays. Anderson only appeared in two games last week. Recall that the Rays play bullpen games annually; so hard to pick the right guy. Will the Rays use Drake until he falters? I would say yes, based on the fact they have used Anderson as more of a fireman in middle innings. But watch closely.
Check out Drake’s chart below; pay attention to the fact that his “offspeed” pitch is actually split-finger fastball that he throws about 63% of the time at a velocity of 83-84 MPH. With his release point, many batters think it looks more like a screwball.
Alex Colome, Chicago White Sox
Colome finally got into game action this week and earned a save on Friday night for the White Sox. Manager Rick Renteria prefers to use ace reliever Aaron Bummer for the fireman role, for now. Colome has done nothing to lose trust and moves up this week in our rankings.
Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds: moving down
Iglesias in an enigma, and is struggling to start the season. He gave up two more runs Friday night in a non-save situation. On Sunday Iglesias pitched in the sixth and seventh innings, and the Reds still do not have a save this season. His grip on the job is tenuous; the Reds have options like Michael Lorenzen, Amir Garrett or maybe even Lucas Sims. Pay attention to this one.
Sean Doolittle, Daniel Hudson, Washington Nationals: moving down
Bullpen remains in flux despite not having played a game in a week. Doolittle did pitch in a sim game this week, and manager Davy Martinez reported that his velocity is still down. If that remains the case, and Doolittle keeps the ball up in the zone, Daniel Hudson will get chances, and soon. Snatch him if you can.
Ian Kennedy, Trevor Rosenthal, Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals:
This is a carousel here. This weekend the Royals were swept by the White Sox (YES) and thus had no save opportunities. Who is the guy? Right now it’s Rosenthal, and what a road back to the bigs for him. He earned the save against Detroit last week. Holland did have a save the week before but has had issues with his control thus far. Kennedy has the skills but not the role right now.
Craig Kimbrel, Chicago Cubs
The Cubs could be looking for a different closer this week after several shaky outings from Kimbrel. As mentioned earlier, Jeremy Jeffress would get first crack.
Brandon Workman, Boston Red Sox
He keeps getting the job done, but for how long? The Red Sox starting staff is in shambles and opportunities may not be plentiful for Workman. Take a look at his pitch mix below:
Workman gets by throwing a curveball 51% of the time, and features an average four-seamer. Of note is that he is throwing the curveball more this year and the four-seamer less. This feels like a bad recipe to me. Ride him at your own risk.
Kwang Yun Kim, St. Louis Cardinals
It’s tough to have much confidence in anyone in the Cardinals bullpen since the job seems to change hands daily. But Kim seems to have the job, for now. Kim did earn the save on Opening Day, but did give up two hits and a run before closing the door. Ryan Helsley might get an opportunity, and Alex Reyes is lying in the weeds. Watch this one, but it is Kim’s job. For now.
Hansel Robles, Los Angeles Angels: dropping in value
Remember when we talked of regression last week? Robles was down almost three MPH; 97.1 to 94.2 last weekend, and it continued this week. Cause for concern, or just ramping up? I am a non-believer in Robles. Ty Buttrey has not been good, and I think Keynan Middleton could be next up, even though they are bringing him back slowly after injury in 2019. Robles’ velocity is way down, and he’s been very hittable because of it:
Edwin Diaz, New York Mets: moving down
The Mets do have a bevy of options behind him should Diaz falter. He blew two save opportunities last week. Dellin Betances and perhaps Seth Lugo wait in the wings. The leash is short in New York this year, methinks.
Jose Leclerc (injured), Committee, Texas Rangers: moving down
What a mess in Texas. LeClerc may miss the rest of the season. Manager Chris Woodward uttered the dreaded “committee” word today. My pick here would be Jonathan Hernandez, a young, inexperienced pitcher who may have the best stuff. Woodward said he may start with Edinson Volquez. Look away. Jesse Chavez may also get tapped here. But look at Hernandez below:
Note that he throws his sinker about 43% of the time, and this is a 97.3 MPH sinker thus far in 2020. Hernandez has by far the best stuff to close, but will he get that experience? You may want to take a cheap flyer on him this week and stash on your bench.
Cole Sulser, Baltimore Orioles
Mychal Givens has been pitching the eighth, and Sulser has been getting the save opportunities for the surprising Orioles. He is three for four in his chances, and manager Brandon Hyde calls him gutsy, which is what you need to be called if you put this guy on your roster.
Committee, Colorado Rockies
Wade Davis and Scott Oberg are out. Did you know that if you google Carlos Estevez you will see Charlie Sheen? It’s true; that is his real name. Go do it. And then think about picking up Estevez. However, it appears that Jairo Diaz will get first chance.
Taylor Williams, Seattle Mariners
Who is closing in Seattle? I still like Yoshihisa Hirano after he recovers from his COVID-19 scare. He threw a couple of bullpens last week, but is not ready yet.
Williams features a four-seamer and a slider but is a 29-year-old journeyman who has never held the role. I would not touch this situation for fantasy purposes right now. Wait and see what happens.
Kyle Crick/Nick Burdi, Pittsburgh Pirates: treading water
Burdi, but really, does anyone care? The opportunities are few and far between.
Trevor Gott, Head of Committee (for now), San Francisco Giants: just stop yourself
It’s Trevor Gott right now. He has two saves thus far, but didn’t get any opportunities for this moribund team last week. Only take if desperate…
On The Mend
Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
Chapman is back, and will climb these ranks once he reclaims his role. Look for the Yankees to get him back to speed this week.
Keone Kela, Pittsburgh Pirates
Kela confirmed this week that he had the COVID-19 virus. He is working out but we do not know when he will be activated. When he is, look for him to reclaim his role in Pittsburgh. If he does well he will be prime trade bait later this month.
Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays: moving down, on the mend
Giles won’t throw for two more weeks. He took a PRP injection last Thursday and hopes to avoid surgery, but this is not a good development. Anthony Bass has first crack, but don’t sleep on Rafael Dolis, either. Bass did have a save last week before the Blue Jays stopped playing due to the COVID-19 virus.