Are you stress-eating far too many Chili Cheese Fritos fretting over bullpens? Things change daily in MLB bullpens, and we here at RotoFanatic are staying on top of the action for you so you can rest easy. Pour yourself a drink and we will get through this together.
NEWS and NOTES for the week of 8/17/2020
- The biggest news this week is the placement of San Diego closer Kirby Yates on the 10-day IL with right elbow inflammation. The MRI showed bone chips for Yates, an unfortunate happening for him and the Padres, especially in a contract year for him. He will get a second opinion Monday but may be looking at an extended absence. This should open the door for Drew Pomeranz, who has four saves already, and perhaps vulture saves for Emilio Pagan as well.
- Tampa Bay soutphaw Jose Alvarado went to the 10-day IL with shoulder inflammations. With Oliver Drake also on the IL with biceps tendinitis, maybe this helps us clear up Tampa Bay’s closer situation…or maybe not.
- Aroldis Chapman should return within a day or two to the New York Yankees bullpen, where Zack Britton leads MLB with seven saves. Might there be a controversy here?
- Trevor Gott was hammered for five runs on Friday night for the San Francisco Giant. An already loose grip took further harm.
- Hector Neris has been shaky in Philadelphia, blowing the save but getting a win on Friday night.
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 the best in the business. Interesting development in Milwaukee: the ascension of Devin Williams. Williams appears to be the next-in-line in Milwaukee right now, overtaking the ineffective Corey Knebel. Williams is averaging 17.9 K/9 and has a 1.17 ERA, stymieing the Cubs on Friday night. Williams is off to a great beginning with Milwaukee:
Zack Britton, Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
Chapman will likely be activated in the next day or two, but Britton has been terrific: seven saves, a 1.23 ERA and .84 WHIP. The Yankees can afford to let Chapman regain his strength and vigor due to the depth they have in their bullpen.
Britton is getting it done with two pitches, a sinker and a slider. He throws a hard sinker, 94-95 MPH, an astounding 79% of the time. Shades of Mariano Rivera (who threw an unbelievable cutter) with a large focus on one pitch.
Liam Hendriks, Oakland Athletics
Hendriks looks fine right now with a 14.5 K/9 rate. Hendriks has a firm grip on the job with six saves, a 1.74 ERA and a .87 WHIP. He must be in your starting lineup. He earned his seventh save last night, tying Britton for the MLB lead.
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers: moving up
Jansen continues to look strong with two more spotless saves this week. Blake Treinen sits nearby with four holds and a 0.96 ERA. Jansen looks excellent and has only given up one run all year.
Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks
Bradley has fives saves and a 11.3 K/9 right now. It’s his role.
Taylor Rogers, Minnesota Twins: moving down
This is a situation to watch. Rogers has looked bad on back-to-back days. Last week he earned a save against Milwaukee and on the subsequent game on Tuesday night, was torched for two hits and two runs. Taylor seems like he may do better in a more consistent role; might manager Rocco Baldelli simply deploy him for the ninth and use his other great arms in setup roles? Rogers did get a save on Saturday afternoon even though he gave up a couple of hits. He has five saves on the season, despite the shakiness. We think he will keep the role, but keep ind mind that May, Duffey and Romo are lurking behind him. Rogers did get his fifth save last night. Pay attention to this situation.
Brad Hand, James Karinchak, Cleveland Indians
Hand has five saves and is regaining his footing after a rocky start. Karinchak has been terrific but will keep a high-leverage set-up role for now.
Kirby Yates*, Drew Pomeranz, Emilio Pagan, Sand Diego Padres
No one wants to lose their closer to an elbow injury, but few teams are as well-equipped to handle that loss as the Padres. Pomeranz has four saves already and should step easily into the role with Pagan (who is settling in) entrenching himself in the eighth inning. Pomeranz has gone expressly to a two-pitch mix since being in the bullpen. See below:
Pomeranz is a must-own in all leagues if he is on your waiver wire. Pagan could vulture some saves as well; he is good if you count holds and has been pitching better of late.
Alex Colome, Chicago White Sox
Daniel Hudson, Washington Nationals: moving up
It’s Hudson’s job now in Washington. He earned a save this week and he is the guy to own here. Doolittle went to the IL with knee trouble this week. Hudson could quickly move up our rankings. Will Harris was activated from the IL, and he should settle into an eighth inning role there. Hudson earned a save midweek and should have the role without much competition.
Rafael Montero, Texas Rangers: moving up
Montero is hot and has seized the role in Texas with three more saves this week. Get him on your roster if you need saves. He earned his fifth save last night in Colorado. Keep an eye on Jonathan Hernandez too; he has 15 strikeouts in eleven innings and could get a chance if Montero falters or gets injured.
Brandon Workman, Boston Red Sox
Workman only pitched once this week, on Friday night, and looked rusty. The Red Sox are just not very good, and Workman is their closer, but might not get too many opportunities.
Joe Jimenez, Detroit Tigers: hanging on
Jimenez has the job but is stuck on five saves with an unsightly 6.43 ERA. The Tigers will need to make some decisions this week; are they in it at 9-8 as of Saturday night? They may need a better option of they are trying to win. Last week we talked about Gregory Soto, who looks to be settling into a setup role for the Tigers.
Mark Melancon/Will Smith, Atlanta Braves: steady as she goes
Melancon has four saves and a win in Atlanta. The rumors of his demise may have been exaggerated. Melancon throws mostly a cutter that gets lots of groundballs and a curve that appears to be more of a knuckle curve and generates popups. Look at his historical groundball percentages below, as well as that topped percentage:
Committee, Tampa Bay Rays
The most frustrating proposition in owning a fantasy baseball team may be determining the Tampa Bay closer. With Jose Alvarado and Oliver Drake on the IL, it would seem that Nick Anderson would get first crack at the job. Diego Castillo is there also. Chaz Roe has impressed in middle relief too. And of course Anthony Banda got the multi-inning save on Thursday night. The frustration continues, but I would roster Anderson and be mindful of where and when you slot him.
Jairo Diaz, Colorado Rockies
Diaz had a lousy week in Colorado, and did not get any saves this week. He gave up two runs in an appearance against the Diamondbacks midweek. His ERA is 13.50 and his WHIP 3.50 over the last ten days. His grip may be loosening and Carlos Estevez waits in the wings (yes please). Watch this week.
Trevor Rosenthal, Kansas City Royals
I know you have been watching this one keenly. Rosenthal continues to look reborn, with five saves, a 0.90 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. We feel comfortable recommending riding Rosenthal as long as this run lasts. He is the guy to own in Kansas City, getting his fifth save Saturday night. It is interesting to take a deeper dive on him. Note that in the chart below, we see that his four-seamer velocity is still elite, but that he is also throwing his breaking pitches harder and with more spin than in years past:
Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds: the enigma
Iglesias in an enigma, and has struggled to start the season. Historically he implodes in non-save situations. Over the last week, he’s earned a save and had four strikeouts in two appearances, so maybe he is righting the ship. There isn’t much competition in Cincinnati since closer-in-waiting Michael Lorenzen has not been great thus far either.
Roberto Osuna*, Ryan Pressley, Houston Astros: moved to marginal
Osuna was thought to be preparing for Tommy John surgery soon, but instead is going to try and rehab and return later this season. These types of injuries don’t usually respond to this regimen, but Osuna will try it. This bullpen has been decimated by injury: Chris Devenski, Brad Peacock and Jose Urquidy are all in various stages of comebacks. Ryan Pressly will continue to close in Houston. Pressly did earn a save this last week against San Francisco, in spite of his ghastly 9.82 ERA and 3.27 WHIP. It’s important to remember that he is rounding into shape after not much action in Spring Training 2.0. I do think he will settle in and retain the job. Pressly pitched a clean ninth last night to earn his second save of the year.
Rowan Wick, Chicago Cubs
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. KInbrel did throw a scoreless inning Friday night, his first in seven outings this year. Maybe he will turn the corner, but I am not waiting to find out. Feel free to cut Kimbrel if you do not have a deep enough bench to warrant waiting for him to work out his troubles.
Giovanny Gallegos? Alex Reyes? Andrew Miller? St. Louis Cardinals
Last week I said this: “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.” Reyes was flat-out nasty against the White Sox on Saturday afternoon, striking out the side in game two of a doubleheader with fastballs ranging from 98-100 MPH. He could legitimately take the job and run with it in St. Louis, and this bullpen has been a mess all season. Miller did get a save Saturday afternoon but this may have been based more on matchups. Hard to tell what is going to happen here until the Cardinals get in a few more games.
Brandon Kintzler, Miami Marlins
The veteran has three saves and a 1.42 ERA and .94 WHIP. He’s holding steady for a surprising Miami Marlins squad.
Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies
Neris is shaking off the rust but will remain the closer. He’s looked lousy in two games the last week, but because the Phillies don’t have much behind him right now, they will give him time to get right. Track record shows he should come back. Give him time.
Ty Buttrey, Los Angeles Angels: trending up?
What a mess in Los Angeles. Ty Buttrey earned another save this week, and he’s been pretty good over his last seven games: a 2.35 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Buttrey is quietly locking down the job in what was supposed to be a committee. Keynan Middleton lies in the weeds and might get a chance or two even if Buttrey remains the closer. Let’s take a look at what is making Buttrey have some success:
Buttrey features a heavy four-seamer at 96-97 MPH that induces lots of groundballs. In 2020, his groundball percentage is 63%. He throws the four-seamer about 50% of the time and uses a breaking slider as his secondary pitch about 39% of the time. He throws an occasional changeup as well. So Buttrey could continue to be successful with this mix even while not getting lots of strikeouts.
Committee, New York Mets:
Look, the demise of Edwin Diaz over the last year plus has been well-documented. But in six appearances since losing the closer role, he has twelve strikeouts and only one walk. Could he be amping up to get his job back? He’s quietly put up a 2.16 ERA and a 47% strikeout rate in August. Seth Lugo has three saves now and is a solid option, but could the Mets move him to their decimated rotation? Marcus Stroman opted out of the season and Jacob deGrom is nursing a back injury while Noah Syndergaard had TJS earlier this year. Stay tuned; ride Lugo for now but be ready to see Diaz start getting opportunities again.
I love Lugo and wish he had a more prominent role, which should be coming either as the closer or a starter:
Lugo features a staggering five pitch mix. In a small sample size thus far, Lugo is using his four-seamer less (26% in 2020) and his sinker (27%) and slider (20%) more than in 2019. Lugo historically gets lots of swings and misses with both the four-seamer and the sinker.
Cole Sulser, Miguel Castro, Mychal Givens, Baltimore Orioles
Sulser did get two saves this week even as he appears to be mediocre at this point for Baltimore. He does have five saves but blew another one this week. Castro has one save and Givens has yet to give up a run in seven outings this year. Tanner Scott has also been a revelation as a fireman. The Orioles have surprised with a winning record so far this year. Will Sulser keep the job? Givens could be trade bait, and if so, he could get some opportunities to showcase his skills before the trade deadline at the end of the month, Stay tuned. I would not touch this situation unless desperate. Checkout the velocity and movement Givens gets on his pitches below:
Taylor Williams, Seattle Mariners
The Mariners only won twice this week and Williams is the closer…for now. But he has struggled in August, while Matt Magill has been perfect in eight appearances. Shake-up could be coming to the Emerald City.
Keone Kela, Pittsburgh Pirates
Kela was activated this week and got a save on Thursday night against the Cincinnati Reds. The velocity was 97 even though he did give up a leadoff homer. He’s back and should be comfortable in the role for Pittsburgh.
Committee, San Francisco Giants
Trevor Gott was shelled this week, obliterated for five runs in his last outing. Could his time as closer be over after four saves? He hasn’t had a save since August 8th. Tyler Rogers got an almost accidental save this week, and Tony Watson could be in the mix too. Don’t do this to yourself.
Anthony Bass, Jordan Romano, Toronto Blue Jays
The news on Giles remains grim; he hasn’t picked up a ball yet and won’t for at least another week. Anthony Bass was used as the closer temporarily, but he gave up a critical three-run homer last week. Interesting to note, Jordan Romano was warming up to get the ninth when Bass had been called on in the eighth. Could a change be coming? What do we know about Romano? He throws hard and is off to a good start. See below: