Welcome to another week of “Closing Remarks” as we get ready to finish off May and move fully into summer. The saga continues in bullpens around the major leagues.

I am becoming obsessed with reporting on guys who get their first saves of the week. This week: Pete Fairbanks and Jacob Barnes. I wasn’t even sure who Jacob Barnes was before this week. They were the only two who got their first saves this week.

Here is the updated chart for this week: Closer Workbook 5.23.2021

Here is 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.

News and Notes: The Saga Continues

  • Alex Reyes continues to dominate the NL with 13 saves.
  • Mark Melancon earned number 15 this week, and shows no signs of letting up.
  • Aroldis Chapman continues to mow hitters down, with 36 punch-outs in 18 innings. Truly absurd.
  • James Karinchak earned his fifth save this week, begging the question, who is the closer in Cleveland? Is it Karinchak or is it still Emmanuel Clase?
  • I would bet a substantial portion of my next paycheck that Michael Fulmer is the closer in Detroit; he earned his fourth save.
  • Minnesota: Hansel Robles got his second save this week. Could he supplant Taylor Rogers? Will Alex Colome get another chance?  Tyler Duffey?  Egads!
  • Did you pick up Tejay Antone? If he’s not the closer, he’s the best reliever in the Cincinnati bullpen. What of Amir Garrett? Lucas Sims?
  • We will take a look at Oakland and see if it is Lou Trivino and/or Jake Diekman.

Here is our updated closer and reliever workbook:

Note that those listed in red are injured, and those with carrots (^) are moving up this week.

Mastery

New York Yankees: Aroldis Chapman is just ridiculous. We mentioned that above. He has yet to surrender an earned run and continues to be one of the best in the game.

Tampa Bay: They have four guys with saves so far this year: Diego Castillo, Andrew Kittredge, Jeffery Springs and the since-traded Trevor Richards. Castillo should be the guy, but Pete Fairbanks got his first save last Wednesday. The Rays also just added J.P. Feyereisen via trade this week, and he will get a high-leverage role in the bullpen immediately.

Houston Astros: Ryan Pressly has been stuck on seven saves for a week, but there is no doubt that he is the top option in Houston.

Boston Red Sox: Matt Barnes picked up save #11 this week and added five more strikeouts to his total. I must admit I was wrong about him so far, and you should deploy him with confidence.

Milwaukee Brewers: Josh Hader has ten saves and three wins, and 30 strikeouts as well. He is a top three guy at the position and that isn’t going to change any time soon.

Texas Rangers: Ian Kennedy picked up save #11 this week, and continues to be outstanding. The only thing to watch with him is overuse; on nights he can’t go, Joely Rodriguez and Josh Sborz appear to be in line to get vulture opportunities.

Chicago Cubs: Craig Kimbrel looks revitalized this season with nine saves. Andrew Chafin quietly has 10 holds for the Cubs.

San Diego Padres: Melancon has 16 saves and a .87 ERA. Drew Pomeranz went to the IL with a left shoulder impingement last week, and this could be an issue for San Diego. This should open the door for guys like Tim Hill, Austin Adams and Emilio Pagan to rack up some holds, although none of them had holds this past week. Melancon is throwing a cutter about 63% of the time, and getting it done:

Cleveland Indians: What do we make out of Karinchak getting his fourth and fifth saves this week? Clase still leads the team with seven saves, but picked up a hold this week. The thing is, the Indians maybe have the best bullpen in baseball, and it is possible that both guys could be in a timeshare with Nick Wittgren and Bryan Shaw getting holds too. The key seems to be that Karinchak will get the save opps when there are left-handed hitters coming up in the ninth inning. This is an interesting one to watch; multiple relievers with value in this bullpen. Karinchak has a .068 batting average in his fastball this year. Sweet Jesus.

Distinguished

New York Mets: Edwin Diaz has seven saves and has been effective, adding 23 strikeouts in 18 innings. I expected a higher volume of Ks, as you may have, but he’s still the guy roster from the Mets.

Los Angeles Dodgers: It’s funny to me how so many fantasy players shy away from Kenley Jansen. There always seems to be some concern with him: health, ability to pitch in consecutive days, competition behind him, lower velocity, and so on. Yet, he keeps getting the job done: a 1.31 ERA and 11 saves, including four this week. Blake Treinen did get a save this week on a night when Jensen was unavailable. Victor Gonzalez leads MLB with 12 holds. Lots of options that can help you in this bullpen.

San Francisco: Jake McGee has been very up and down the past couple of weeks. He did get his 11th save this week and only pitched one other time. 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. It appears that Gabe Kapler will be monitoring the usage of McGee moving forward. His 4.58 ERA hurts you more than it helps you. So while the saves are nice, you may want to be looking elsewhere for closers. Rogers has 10 holds, and Caleb Baragar has seven if you are in need of holds in deeper leagues.

Baltimore Orioles: Cesar Valdez is the closer, for now. He is stuck on eight saves and competition could heat up in Baltimore. We have been hyping Tanner Scott and Paul Fry for some time, and they could get shots depending on a number of factors. Remember Valdez is 36 and relies more on deception and guile to get hitters out, and that time could come to an end at any moment. Valdez sports a 6.23 ERA in May. If you haven’t already, it is time to look elsewhere for saves.

Chicago White Sox: Don’t look now but Hendriks has lowered his ERA to 2.50 and has nine saves for the White Sox. 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. Hendriks will have no competition here and has been lights out in May with four saves and no ERA. Deploy with confidence.

Kansas City Royals: What to make of the Royals? They have been streaky all season. No matter to those of us looking for closers and saves; Josh Staumont has taken the job from Greg Holland and shows no signs of relinquishing it. One bad outing last night should not hurt that.  Staumont got two more saves this week. Scott Barlow is a candidate for holds here.

Washington Nationals: Brad Hand was signed to be the closer in the winter and that has been the case so far. He’s struggled in May: 0-2, with an 8.59 ERA, while also tabbing three saves. Not a big strikeout guy anymore, Hand relies on limiting hard contact to get by. Other options in Washington include Daniel Hudson, who we talked about last week, and Tanner Rainey. Hudson is throwing 97 MPH again and has a 1.13 ERA. He should be next in line if Hand cannot get things…back in hand. I am sorry I couldn’t stop myself from that one.

Miami Marlins: So we have championed Garcia all year. He has eight saves and has been getting the job done for Miami…right? A deeper dive shows us some potential scary moments could be ahead. The xERA is 4.71 while the real-time ERA is 1.37. Egads!  However, he’s a got a win and a couple of saves this week. Start mining for other options to protect yourself, both in case this goes south, and for the limited opportunities Garcia gets in Miami. See more on Yimi below:

St. Louis Cardinals: Alex Reyes has 14 saves and just keeps producing. The Statcast data is blood red, but there are signs of a potential issue: walks abound. He has a staggering 20 walks in 24 innings but gets away with it because he has only given up 10 hits on the year. That’s wild.  He’s one of the top guys out there right now and continue to use him with confidence.  Giovanny Gallegos (nine holds) backs him up. Ryan Helsley is a name to dog ear as well, should Reyes falter or have his innings limited. Genesis Cabrera quietly has seven holds.

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 all three appearing in more than 20 games. Petit is 5-0, and Diekman and Trivino have continued to split opps. Melvin has said he will continue his trend. This one is tough and you may want to punt on it based on the inconsistency of the choice here, unless you roster both…which I am betting some of you do! Cam Bedrosian recently was signed and will get some chances to rest this highly used pen.

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 is stuck on one save. AJ Cole, who was quietly effective last year, 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. Don’t sleep on Travis Bergen and Tyler Chatwood, who has nine holds. Chatwood pitched the ninth the other night while Romano got the seventh…Rafael Dolis is in the mix again too.  What a headache.

Philadelphia Phillies: People love to hate on Hector Neris, but I feel he’s an underrated source of saves for your fantasy teams. He’s got seven saves and chips in with 26Ks in 20.2 innings. You could do worse than have Neris as your second closer. Jose Alvarado is another big arm in the Phillies’ bullpen as well who will contribute with holds and the odd save opportunity when Neris needs a break. Sam Coonrod has five holds.

Atlanta Braves: I know Will Smith gets the job done, but isn’t he hard to be excited about? Seven saves and 4.50 ERA will erase that good feeling for you. Chris Martin is healthy and they also just signed Shane Greene, who will help out at the back end as well. AJ Minter has 10 holds and is among the league leaders; Tyler Matzek has six holds.

Marginal

Seattle Mariners: Kendall Graveman has done well when he has had chances; he just doesn’t get many. He has five saves and 17 strikeouts in 16 innings. I like him but now that he has been placed on the IL the job could go back to Rafael Montero. Still, the 21-25 Mariners just don’t give him enough chances to merit having him on my roster right now. Will Vest has five holds and Anthony Misiewicz gets them too, but is currently on the IL.

Minnesota Twins: We said as the season began that we foresaw a 60/40 split for save opps between Alex Colome and Taylor Rogers. The Twins are mired in last place in the AL Central at 16-29. Did not see that coming. Hansel Robles got a save last Thursday. Don’t touch this one; last night Colome got tagged with a loss and has an ERA of almost 5.00. Rogers has been better than that but there seems to be no confidence in any role in this bullpen right now. Pass.

Detroit Tigers: I am so happy for Michael Fulmer to land on his feet and take the closer role in a competition that has been wide open for almost two years. He has four saves and should continue to get chances. Gregory Soto and Bryan Garcia are here and could get holds; Jose Cisnero does, too, but the bloated peripherals will hurt you more than they help. Grab Fulmer if he is on your waiver wire.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Richard Rodriguez just quietly goes about his business and saves games. He is stuck on six but he’s been great when he’s gotten the chance. How much longer will he be a Pirate? We don’t know, but should he get traded soon, guys like Sam Howard (seven holds) and David Bednar could get chances.

Unacceptable

Colorado Rockies: Just can’t do this. Daniel Bard has fives saves but the peripherals really hurt here, despite the fact he has shown some ability to still miss bats. Great story, but great stories don’t win you championships. Pass.

Los Angeles Angels: Raisel Iglesias is the closer and before the season I was championing him as a top five candidate based on his stuff and the golden opportunity. The whiff percentile is 97th. The walk percentile is 93rd. The xERA is 4.35. What’s the problem? He is giving up lots of hard contact and giving up hits and home runs at a high pace. Cannot roster him unless he is better than this.

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. I have both Sims and Garrett stashed in many places. Someone needs to step up and soon; looks to be a committee for now, although I still think it will be Sims at some point, even though he got shelled earlier this week.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks:  No.