Many MLB teams are at the quarter pole now in this odd and abbreviated season.  So where do we find our closer situations sitting for week four of the season? We stay up late watching bullpens so you don’t have to do it!

 

NEWS and NOTES for the week of 8/10/2020

 

  • Houston Astros closer Roberto Osuna was placed on the IL with a sore elbow.  He is expected to have Tommy John surgery in the near future. Ryan Pressly, his likely replacement for the year, got shelled in a save situation this past week when he walked a batter and then gave up three consecutive hits to lose the game.  Cy SneedBlake Taylor? Maybe Josh James, who just moved to the bullpen after another failing as a starter?

 

  • Jairo Diaz steps in for the injured Wad Davis in Colorado, with Carlos Estevez sliding into an eight inning role in support. Keep an eye on this one as I am not sold on Diaz and love Estevez.

 

  • Hansel Robles continues to struggle for the Los Angeles Angels, prompting manager Joe Maddon to state that he would only use him in “low-leverage situations” for now.  Ty Buttrey got a save on 8/4, but this will likely be a committee situation as they sort through this mess in coming days.

 

  • Last week we reported that the Orioles might be a committee, but the only save opportunity they had this week went to Miguel Castro and not Cole Sulser.

 

 

  • Kirby Yates looks like his mechanical adjustments are working, and he appears to have salvaged his job in San Diego.

 

  • Daniel Hudson has taken over for the ineffective Sean Doolittle in Washington.  Doolittle has an unexplained velocity loss that precludes him for the top job right now.

 

  • The New York Mets bullpen is in full committee mode.  Seth Lugo got a two inning save on Wednesday night, but it appears that any of Edwin Diaz, Dellin Betances or even Justin Wilson could get the ninth inning depending on matchups.  A mess!

 

  • In the late game Friday night, recently activated Rafael Montero got the ninth for the Texas Rangers. He got the save chance on both Friday and Saturday so Montero appears to be the guy for now.  Watching the game, though, we caught a glimpse of Jonathan Hernandez, who struck our three in 1.1 innings. He is electric and with experience may get a shot this year too.

 

  • Aroldis Chapman has returned from the Covid illness and is in minor league camp regaining his footing, and should reclaim his spot soon. Zach Britton leads the lague in saves with five right now, so Chapman can take his time to get back into the flow.

 

  • Cubs’ manager David Ross did not waste any time removing Craig Kinbrel from the closer role this week.  He did not mince words in handing the reins over to Rowan Wick with Jeremy Jeffress getting the eighth.  One to watch as Jeffress has experience having closed before and if Wick slips, he can jump into the spot. For a good Cubs team, Wick is a must-add if available in your league.

 

  • Trouble in St. Louis, not only because of their Covid cancellations, but because of their pitching. Carlos Martinez went down with an injury, and they moved closer Kwang-hyun Kim to the rotation to claim CMart’s spot.  Who closes?  Manager Mike Shildt said he would play matchups in determining who gets the nod:  Giovanny Gallegos, Andrew Miller and maybe even Tyler Webb could get opportunities.

 

So many situations are in flux or in total chaos.

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.

 

Mastery

 

Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers

Hader remains in the top spot even though his Milwaukee Brewers have not played in almost a week.  Hader cut through the White Sox last week and is safely entrenched in the closer role in Milwaukee.

Capture 2

Any questions?

 

Liam Hendriks, Oakland Athletics

Hendriks looks fine right now with a 14.5 K/9 rate.  Move along here.  Hendriks has answered any questions from the first week of the season with four saves and is clicking right now.

 

Taylor Rogers, Minnesota Twins

This is a situation to watch even as Rogers looked locked in last week.  He was blown up by the Pittsburgh Pirates and took the loss on Thursday, and any signs of weakness could lead to opportunities for Sergio Romo (who seems like he’s 55 and been around forever) or Trevor May or Tyler Duffey. Yet the Twins are 10-3 right now and do not seem in need of a tweak.

 

 

Distinguished

 

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. Roll with him.

 

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers:

Jansen continues to look strong with four saves the last two weeks. Blake Treinen sits nearby with three holds and a 0.00 ERA.  Jansen’s cutter is looking strong again even if the velocity is down:

 

chart (31)

 

Jansen is using the cutter a whopping 75% of the time; will this become an issue or will he continue to have success for a dominant Los Angeles Dodgers team?

 

 Brad Hand, James Karinchak, Cleveland Indians

Hand regained his footing with two saves this week with Karinchak in a supporting role. Hand inspired confidence again this week.  Start him with confidence…for now.

 

Proficient

 

Alex Colome, Chicago White Sox

Colome has been flawless to start the season with four saves, even with a pedestrian 7.5 K/9.  An biceps injury to Aaron Bummer last night only further solidified his status.  If Colome were to meltdown, Evan Marshall coukld get a chance, but Zach Burdi and his 100 MPH fastball were called up this weekend, and he could be the closer-in-waiting on a competitive White Sox team.  Colome moves to the top of the proficient list.

 

chart (32)

 

Colome does it with two pitches, a cutter and a four-seamer.  Similar to Jansen listed above, he’s throwing the cutter an inordinate 75% of the time, but he is getting results. Note the lower usage of his mediocre four-seamer in favor of expanded usage of the cutter.

 

Brandon Workman, Boston Red Sox

Workman continues to get the job done, a solid three saves this week. Keep in mind he has a history of command issues, and sports a high 1.60 WHIP this week.  Tread with caution, but his workman-like effort (ha) has him solid in his role.

 

 Joe Jimenez, Detroit Tigers: treading water

Jimenez has the job. He remains stuck on four saves and took a loss earlier this week, but manager Ron Gardenhire will stick with Jimenez for now.

 

 Mark Melancon/Will Smith, Atlanta Braves: steady as she goes

Melancon has been perfect this far and he’d better be, because Will Smith and maybe even Luke Jackson and Shane Greene will pounce if he is ineffective. Smith is working his way up to a set-up role this week and should get the eighth inning when he is ready.

 

Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies

Neris is shaking off the rust but will remain the closer. He got into two games this week, and two saves this week against the Yankees.  He’s solid and will move up the ranks with continued good performances.

 

Nick Anderson, Oliver Drake, Tampa Bay Rays: one to watch, what is going on here?

The most frustrating proposition in owning a fantasy baseball team may be determining the Tampa Bay closer.  I mean, who is it?  They used Nick Anderson on Tuesday and Thursday, and he saved both games. Oliver Drake had two saves the week prior.  Diego Castillo and Jose Alvarado lie in the weeds.  UGH.  Don’t you just want to wash your hands of this situation?  But you can’t if you need saves.  I think Anderson offers the most upside and would roster him and take a wait-and-see approach.

 

Jairo Diaz, Colorado Rockies

It’s Jairo Diaz’s job even as I dream of them giving the role to Carlos Estevez. Diaz earned three saves this week without one strikeout.  Can he keep up that success for a surprising Rockies team?  You have to roster Diaz if you need saves but I love Estevez’s potential with more experience. The Rockies move up the ranks this week to a cautionary proficient.

 

 

Ian Kennedy, Trevor Rosenthal, Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals:

I know you have been watching this one keenly. Rosenthal got the ninth again Friday night and earned the save.  Holland was the first reliever in the same game and earned the win.  Kennedy continues to be used as a stopper in the middle of games.  Rosenthal has the hot hand and fantasy owners should ride him until he falters or loses the job.  The KC bullpen tops the marginal ranks.

 

Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds: moving down

Iglesias in an enigma, and is struggling to start the season. Iglesias did earn one save this week, but his numbers are frightening: 1-1, 6.23 ERA, and only one save after 34 last year. The Reds are a disappointing 6-8 to start the year, despite having excellent starting pitching thus far.  Manager David Bell will not allow bullpen woes to throttle their season, but none of his options in the pen look good so far, with the exception of Amir Garrett and Lucas Sims. At this time I think Bell will continue to look to Iglesias, but that could change next week if he continues to be ineffective.  The odd thing with Iglesias is that he historically struggles in non-save situations and is typically ok in save situations.  Watch this one.

 

Daniel Hudson, Washington Nationals

It’s Hudson’s job now in Washington. He earned a save this week and he is the guy to own here. Doolittle is not even in a setup role now.  Hudson could quickly move up our rankings.  See chart below to see his 2020 percentile rankings:

 

Capture

 

Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressley, Houston Astros: moved to marginal

Osuna looks to be out for the year (and maybe next) with an elbow injury, but the Astros have a terrific in-house replacement once Ryan Pressly gets back to full health.  Pressly was hit hard this week, leading to speculation tat Cy Sneed or Blake Taylor could get a shot.  Lurking is Josh James, who has command issues that may preclude him from the job. Pressly is too good to be this bad, and once at full strength, should be the guy for Houston.

 

Craig Kimbrel, Chicago Cubs is OUT.  Rowan Wick is IN. 

Kimbrel is out in Chicago, huge contract and all. KImbrel owns a 23.63 ERA and a4.13 WHIP, and manager David Ross has seen enough for now. Rown wick earned two saves last week, and it might be his job now, although Jeremy Jeffress also has earned a save two weeks ago.  I would pick Wick (see what I did there?) for now.  Feel free to cut Kimbrel if you do not have a deep enough bench to warrant waiting for him to work out his troubles.

Let’s look at Wick:

 

chart (30)

 

Wick features four pitches, a four-seamer, a curveball, a slider and a cutter.  But primarily, he uses the 95 MPH  four-seamer about 56% of the time, and the curveball, at 37%.  The four-seamer lacks movement even wit good velocity but Wick makes up for it with a 77 MPH curveball with intense bite that causes lots of popups. Wick has the job on Chicago’s North Side and is one to grab in all leagues if you have not already.

Kwang Yun Kim, St. Louis Cardinals, to the rotation, ceding to….

This bullpen is a mess due to Covid-19 and injury. Mile Mikolas is out for the year, and Carlos Martinez will miss at least one start and likely more, necessitating changes in the rotation.  Our guess here is that Giovanny Gallegos will get first shot.  Ryan Helsley is on the IL, but Andrew Miller and Tyler Webb could also get chances depending on game situations.  Hate to say this, and I can feel you roll your eyes, but Alex Reyes is back too, and he could get into the mix once he is at full strength.  Lean Gallegos for now.

 

 

Hansel Robles, Los Angeles Angels, out, ceding to…

Remember when we talked of regression last week?  Too early to take a victory lap, but I never trusted Robles, a career journeyman, to hold on to this role. So who gets it?  Ty Buttrey did get a save this week, but Felix Pena and Keynan Middleton could get chances as well. Looks like committee work here in Los Angeles, but Buttrey is far froma n ideal candidate.  If you need saves you can try Buttrey, but I continue to believe that Middleton will eventually get a crack at it too.  Holding pattern for now.

 

Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Dellin Betances, Justin Wilson…maybe the ghost of Tug McGraw, New York Mets:

The Mets do have a bevy of options behind him should Diaz falter.  He did have a save on Opening Day but also blew one on Saturday. Dellin Betances and perhaps Seth Lugo wait in the wings. The leash is short in New York this year, methinks.

 

Rafael Montero

What a mess in Texas as Jose LeClerc is out.  Watching the West Coast games late this weekend, Rafael Montero got the save chance Friday night (and again Saturday night), striking out Mike Trout to end it (after a long, loud foul ball that would have tied the game if fair).  Manager Chris Woodward raved about him after the game, leading fans to believe the job is his for now.  But keep an eye on Jonathan Hernandez, a young guy with a powerful arm.  Let’s get to know Montero:

 

chart (29)

 

Granted, Montero only pitched his first game in 2020 last night, but take a look at his increased velocity.  He’s added 2 MPH to his four-seamer since 2017, and 2.5 MPH to his power sinker as well. He throws a change-up at almost 90 MPH.  He was successful last year in a setup role in Texas, and now he seems to have the closer job.  Sneak a FAAB bid in on him; his competition may be Edinson Volquez or the aforementioned Hernandez.

 

Cole Sulser, Miguel Castro, Baltimore Orioles

Sulser did not get any opportunities this week, but Miguel Castro did on Saturday. Sulser’s less-than-inspiring K rate of 6.0 doesn’t bode well for future success. Only if desperate should you venture here.

 

Taylor Williams, Seattle Mariners

Anointed the closer by default, Williams struggled this week in a non-save situation. Given a four-run lead in the eighth, he squandered it, leading to Carl Edwards, Jr. getting the save.  Dan Altavilla also has one save for the Mariners, who at 5-8, may mix and match this role since they do not appear to be contenders for a playoff spot.  Edwards intrigues me going back to his days as a middle reliever with the Chicago Cubs who flamed out because of lack of command.  Could he be a hidden gem?  I would stay away from this unsettled closer situation.

 

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. The Pirates are awful at 3-11 and no one has really gotten any save opportunities, so Kela should walk back into the role with ease.  Nick Burdi is the de facto closer for now, but will cede once Kela is activated, likely in the next few days.  Might not be a bad stash for your team if you have bench space.

 

Committee, San Francisco Giants: just stop yourself

It’s Trevor Gott right now.  Gott did earn another save this week, but it is hard to believe in a guy with no pedigree or track history on a team that is 6-9 as of this writing. If you want to take a shot, take it, but know you will only get the occasional save and not much help in any other categories.

 

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.  Yet in his absence, Zack Britton leads the major leagues in saves with five.  It’s good to be a Yankee these days with all of this depth on their roster. Ride Britton until Chapman is back, perhaps later this week.

 

Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays: moving down, on the mend

The news on Giles remains grim; he hasn’t picked up a ball yet and won’t for at least another week. Anthony Bass has first crack, but don’t sleep on Rafael Dolis, either. Bass did have a save last week.