As we wind through the long days of Spring Training, some bullpens are beginning to take shape. Some are still in a state of flux, with managers being tight-lipped on plans. Of course, we also have to look at how injuries, poor performance, and late starts to game action will invariably impact the bullpen landscapes.
I have been working on a draft of a bullpen worksheet to share with any interested folks. Click on the link if you would like to see it. I am not super tech-minded, so let me know if you have suggestions on how to improve this or make it more useful: Closer Workbook.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the situations that are leaving many fake team owners wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth during this second week of March.
Baltimore: Hunter Harvey is down with an injury, again. This poor guy cannot catch a health break. This time it is an oblique. This opens the door to the closer role for erstwhile eighth inning option Tanner Scott. We talked about Dillon Tate also being a potential factor. Cesar Valdez, he of the 86 MPH change-up, does not seem to profile as a closer. Manager Brandon Hyde had spoken of Valdez as a multi-inning option earlier this month. If you are looking for saves late take a flyer on Scott. Scott’s slider is lethal See below:
New York Yankees: Zack Britton went down with bone chips in his left elbow, succumbing to surgery last week. Bump Chad Green up in your rankings. Justin Wilson, too. Who knows how long Britton will be out? If something were to befall Aroldis Chapman, there would be a great opportunity for someone else to step up. I think Green gets a bump in value but do not sleep on Wilson either. Lots of red on Green’s chart below:
Philadelphia: I continue to be an apologist of sorts for Hector Neris. Philadelphia has added a plethora of bullpen options: Jose Alvarado, Archie Bradley, and Brandon Kintzler to shore up their historically awful bullpen. Word out of camp is that Neris has developed a slider. It’s important to point out that Neris had two brutal outings last year that imploded his statistics. While many pundits predict Bradley gets the role, he has never been a lights-out closer either. I still expect Neris to start the season as the closer. Of course, time may prove me wrong. But look below and tell me what you see:
I see two lousy outings in August that nuked his month. Now, look at September. Much more closer-worthy, other than the WHIP. I am willing to take a shot on Neris late.
Cincinnati: Amir Garrett came down with a sore forearm this week. Yikes. This looked to be a battle between Garrett and one of my late-round darlings, Lucas Sims. But as of March 13th, neither had pitched in a game yet. Garrett did not seem to think the forearm stiffness an issue, but that made the hair on the back of my neck bristle. It could be fine, or he could be heading to the shelf. If you do choose Garrett in your drafts, be sure to have a back-up plan. Sims is throwing now after having a sore elbow, but if he pulls ahead here in the coming week, he could in fact be the closer for the Reds. Please don’t draft Sean Doolittle.
Pittsburgh: Skipper Derek Shelton mentioned this week that the bullpen remained fluid. We had mentioned that Blake Cederlind was a deep sleeper here, but he went down with a dreaded ulnar collateral ligament injury this week, unfortunately. It’s assumed that Richard Rodriguez would be the closer, but Shelton mentioned that he may use him earlier in games depending on the situation. Kyle Crick has added three MPH to his fastball this spring, from 91 MPH to 94 MPH. Could it just be Spring Training noise? Could be, but this situation is one to watch, especially if Rodriguez is traded as expected. Shelton also mentioned that Chasen Shreve could get some late looks too, especially when facing a left-handed lineup. Vulture saves are possible. Michael Feliz spent time at Driveline this offseason working on his slider.
A name to know? David Bednar. He was acquired in the Joe Musgrove trade and has 303 strikeouts in 219 minor league innings, with a 2.70 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. I would not draft him unless something further happens here, but definitely dogear for a FAAB pick up later this year.
Interesting stat: the Pirates had a 10.1 K/9 rate last year, seventh-best in baseball. They walk far too many but this bullpen could become interesting as it has a Tampa Bay vibe to it.
St. Louis: This bullpen situation is not for the fantasy owner who is faint of heart. While plenty of options abound here, what will manager Mike Shildt do here?
There was some clarity this week, perhaps, when the team announced that wonderkid Alex Reyes would be in the bullpen this year on a 100 innings limit. This implied that he would have a multi-inning role, in which he could be very effective. Jordan Hicks has been impressive in camp thus far, but he is also coming off injury. Early rumors are that he may not pitch back-to-back days. Although he looked ready for the full-time gig against the Mets, where he was pumping easy 100 MPH stuff and a nasty slider. That could open the door for Giovanny Gallegos, who more than held his own in 2020. Draft Hicks as the closer, as we said earlier, but Gallegos isn’t a bad handcuff, especially if St. Louis exercises caution with Hicks. I have been snapping up Gallegos late in anticipation of save opportunities should Hicks falter or not be used daily. Andrew Miller is also here, but he’s on the downside of his career and may just be a LOOGY guy now. There are some potential tools here for fantasy owners, but caveat emptor on this situation. But how enticing is Hicks? You want this, don’t you, fellow owners?
Minnesota: Colome. Rogers. Rocco Baldelli. Best guess remains here that Baldelli, raised in the Tampa school of bullpen management, will refuse to anoint a closer. Rogers will be used as a fireman, and Colome will close, unless he is ineffective. Hansel Robles may also have some value, as may Jorge Alcala.
Texas: The closer job belongs to Jose LeClerc. For now. Jonathan Hernandez seemed to be the closer-in-waiting, but he went down with a UCL sprain and is going to be shut down for at least four weeks. This doesn’t sound good at all. But it opens a door for the next man up, which interestingly, could be Hunter Wood. Other names that may cause you to raise an eyebrow: Matt Bush and Ian Kennedy. Grab Wood late as he looks to have made some early changes to his pitch mix and reworked his fastball. This is one based on gut rather than anything manager Chris Woodward has said this spring.