Bullpen Depth Chart and Closer Rankings for Week 16
Coming to you a bit early as I take over for Mick Ciallela, I bring you this week’s bullpen depth charts and closer rankings along with a brief summary of each team’s usage. Not much has changed since the last update but as we move into July, the trade deadline is sure to shake things up.
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AL Bullpen Depth Charts and Closer Rankings
+ Injury Concern
* Part of Committee
You can’t get any saves without any save opportunities. Mychal Givens converted two of three save chances for the Orioles in the month of June and I don’t envision the situation getting any better. At the very least, Givens has been able to provide good ratios over the last month with a 17.36 K/9 and 2.89 ERA.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora recently stated that Nathan Eovaldi could be used as the team’s closer upon his return from the injured list. The situation has been one to avoid as the man in the ninth inning changes by the day. Eovaldi could be activated soon after the break and makes for a good speculative pickup if available.
Leading the AL in saves with 23, Aroldis Chapman continues to enjoy an excellent season. One of the best closers in baseball, Chapman currently has a career-low 1.36 ERA for the Yankees. Setup man Zack Britton would be next in line for saves in the event of an injury to Chapman. Adam Ottovino came in for eighth-inning duties on Tuesday up by one against the Mets and blew the save after giving up two runs. Dellin Betances is getting closer to returning from the injured list and will resume a throwing program in the next week.
The Rays activated Jose Alvarado over the weekend after taking time off to deal with a family situation. Alvarado looked to have taken over as the primary closer with Diego Castillo on the IL as he picked up the save on Monday while striking out two Orioles. Although the situation could be up in the air as Alvarado proceeded to blow the save Wednesday, giving up five earned runs in the ninth and taking the loss. Emilio Pagan could continue to get his share of save chances and has been the most reliable of the three potential closers. Pagan picked up his last save on June 21 and has nine straight scoreless appearances, not giving up a run since June 11.
Ken Giles picked up save number 13 on the season for the Blue Jays on Wednesday, pitching a perfect ninth against the Red Sox. It’s the second save he’s picked up since coming back from a minor elbow injury. Giles is looking like the top five closer he was being taken as going into the 2018 season. A new situation come the trade deadline could boost his value significantly. Now may be the time to buy.
Alex Colome continues to get the job done for the White Sox, picking up his 19th save on the season Wednesday. A 7.01 K/9 and 4.71 xFIP are less than ideal for a closer but Colome seems to be getting away with it by limiting baserunners with an outstanding 0.66 WHIP. Kelvin Herrera, on the other hand, has inspired no confidence that he should be given a chance to close if Colome is traded. Herrera gave up two runs on a walk and a hit while striking out two before Colome took over for the save Wednesday. Meanwhile, Aaron Bummer pitched two innings in the Wednesday doubleheader, striking out two and allowing one baserunner via walk. Bummer has a 1.71 ERA on the season with a 9.19 K/9. If Colome is indeed moved at the deadline, he’d likely be the arm to own in the White Sox bullpen.
Brad Hand tied Aroldis Chapman for the AL lead in saves on Sunday picking up his 23rd save against the Orioles. It didn’t come easy for Hand as he loaded the bases with two hits and a walk before eventually striking out the side. You’d like to see things go more smoothly after giving up five runs to the Royals last week but you’ll take it. Hand made an appearance Wednesday with the Indians up by four, pitching a scoreless ninth with one strikeout. Hand wasn’t the only reliever the Royals got to. Nick Wittgren gave up three runs in three innings last week. Hand has been one of the best closers in baseball and should continue to hang around the top five in my closer rankings.
Yoan Moncada took Shane Greene deep in the 10th inning during game two of Wednesday’s doubleheader, handing Greene only his second blown save of the season. Twelve of Greene’s 22 saves had come by the end of April, which was probably the best time to sell high. The Tigers continue to struggle, bringing to question how many more save opportunities Greene will get. Joe Jimenez has impressive strikeout numbers on the season with a 13.36 K/9 but has struggled with the long ball with a 1.99 HR/9, leading to a 5.12 ERA. Should the Tigers move Shane Greene before the deadline, Jimenez should get the chance to close.
Ian Kennedy has done a good job of solidifying a volatile position for the Royals since taking over as primary closer. Kennedy notched his 11th save on the year Sunday in Toronto. Since May 30, Kennedy has locked down nine of his 11 saves and has an impressive 0.87 ERA and 0.68 WHIP.
The Twins beat the A’s on Wednesday in extra innings by one run, allowing Taylor Rogers to pick up his 11th save of the season. It was his only save opportunity of the week so far. Blake Parker pitched two scoreless innings behind Rogers. The Twins have been linked to other closers on the trade block, most notably Will Smith of the Giants. Unless someone is acquired to take over the ninth inning duties, Rogers should get the bulk of the save chances with Parker getting a few opportunities.
As one of the best closers on one of the best teams in baseball, Roberto Osuna remains inside the top five in the closer rankings. Osuna recorded his 19th save in Colorado Wednesday, pitching a perfect ninth while recording two strikeouts. The young closer has converted 19 of his 22 save chances with a 2.00 ERA and 9.50 K/9. Hector Rondon got the hold behind Osuna after Ryan Pressly was used in four of the Astros previous five games. Pressly should be the primary reliever behind Osuna and has picked up three saves himself on the year and would be near the top of the closer rankings if he were to get the job.
The Angels have yet to see a save chance this week but Hansel Robles did pitch the ninth inning up by four runs against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday. Both Robles and Ty Buttrey recorded two strikeouts in an inning of work. It seems to be Robles’s job until he gives the Angels a reason to replace him. He’s given up one run in his last 13 innings dating back to June 1 with five saves in that span.
Blake Treinen was activated from the IL today but Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin iterated that Treinen would be eased into action. Treinen gave up three runs on two hits and two walks in his last outing against the Rays on June 20 before going on the IL and has had a down year with a 4.08 ERA despite picking up 16 saves. Liam Hendricks has done a good job of stepping into the closer role while Treinen has been out, picking up three saves in Treinen’s absence. Expect Treinen to resume as the closer shortly after the All-Star break but any sign of struggles could see Hendricks assume the ninth inning duties as dominant as he’s been.
After picking up his 11th save Tuesday against the Cardinals, Roenis Elias blew the opportunity on Wednesday. Elias was also handed the loss Saturday after allowing the game-winning run in the tenth innings against the Astros. I still believe this is Elias’s job for the time being but Hunter Strickland could find himself in the mix once he returns from a lat strain that has kept him out nearly all year.
Jose Leclerc continues to struggle after showing signs of hope, giving up a run in each of his last two outings. Shawn Kelley has remained the Rangers’ closer and I’m starting to lose hope that we see Leclerc get the job back. It will take a run of good outings from Leclerc or Kelley completely blowing up before we see that happen, especially with Texas being as competitive as they’ve been.
NL Bullpen Depth Charts and Closer Rankings
+ Injury Concern
* Part of Committee
A.J. Minter was charged with the blown save on Sunday after giving up two runs on two hits and a walk without recording an out against the Mets, further cementing Luke Jackson as the team’s closer. Jackson has been solid again after hitting a rough patch through the first half of June, giving up one run in his last eight outings.
Sergio Romo converted his 15th save on Saturday against the Phillies. Nothing looks pretty for Romo with a 4.35 ERA, 5.56 xFIP, and 7.26 K/9. The underlying numbers look better for Nick Anderson with a 14.52 K/9, 4.33 ERA, and 2.80 xFIP. Still one of the worst teams in the league, the situation remains one to avoid in any shallow format.
Edwin Diaz got back on track this week after his meltdown in Philadelphia with two saves in the last three days. In both outings, Diaz struck out two batters. I still trust Diaz to be one of the game’s top closers for the rest of the season.
Hector Neris also got right as Tuesday he struck out all three Atlanta batters on his way to picking up his 17th save of the season for the Phillies. It’s hard to trust anyone with the job given Gabe Kapler’s tendencies with his bullpens but for now, it’s Neris’s job. He should continue to be a solid option given the team context and his performance this season outside of a few recent blowups.
Sean Doolittle picked up his 19th save of the season Wednesday after getting credited with a win on Tuesday. Doolittle has been great this season, it’s the rest of Washington’s bullpen that’s the problem. Fernando Rodney has closing experience and will probably continue to be used when Doolittle in unavailable but no one else is really worth owning.
In his second save opportunity for the Cubs on Wednesday, Craig Kimbrel allowed two runs on a hit, a walk, and a game-winning sac fly. Kimbrel was charged with the blown save and the loss. I don’t expect Kimbrel to lose the job anytime soon as he takes some time to get going this season. Some struggles are to be expected early on with how late he started so I would be patient. He should climb his way up the closer rankings as he works into his usual form.
Giving up seven runs between two outings will not inspire any confidence in a closer. But Raisel Iglesias did his part Wednesday to right the ship, picking up his 15th save of the year. Iglesias also pitched a scoreless inning Tuesday and was credited with the win. I would still expect to see Iglesias get the majority of the saves for the Reds but Michael Lorenzen could get the call on occasion.
Number one in my closer rankings, Josh Hader gave up his first two runs since June 1 on Monday when he came out in the eighth inning to face the top of the Reds lineup. Hader has a ridiculous 16.85 K/9 to go along with his 20 saves for the Brewers. There’s no reason anyone else would be sit atop the rankings and I don’t foresee anyone bumping him off this season.
Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez has been one of the elite closers in baseball this season with a 14.25 K/9 and 2.00 ERA while converting 20 saves. I imagine teams may want to go after other relievers that may come cheaper such as Will Smith and Shane Greene, as Vazquez would command a good return for the Pirates. If the Pirates are swayed by an offer to move him, keep an eye on Kyle Crick as the next in line for saves.
Dominic Leone picked up the last save for the Cardinals on Sunday in an extra-inning game against the Padres, but it’s former ace Carlos Martinez who has been named the closer following the Hicks injury. John Gant was another name in the conversation to assume the closer role, so I imagine he would be next in line.
Greg Holland blew his second save in as many days in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. Tuesday’s mishap came via the walk, Wednesday’s came via a Kike Hernandez double followed by a game-tying single by Matt Beaty. Of Holland’s 12 saves, only six have come since May 1, so these last two days stings a bit for Holland owners. While the recent outings have come against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, it is a bit worrisome. We’ve seen Holland completely fall off after a good start before. Still, I would be patient. No one else in the Diamondbacks bullpen has really made a case for the job.
The Colorado situation remains one to monitor as Bud Black recently indicated that he may go to Scott Oberg in the ninth given Wade Davis’s struggles. Davis pitched a clean ninth inning down by two against the Astros on Wednesday and Oberg pitched two clean innings the night prior. Oberg looks to be the guy for the time being and has had an excellent year with a 1.90 ERA.
After not having pitched in nearly a week, Dodgers closer Kenly Jansen gave up a go-ahead home run to Carson Kelly in the ninth inning Wednesday. Still, with 23 saves on the year Jansen remains near the top of MLB’s closer rankings.
Kirby Yates finds himself as number two on the closer rankings and one of draft day’s biggest values with an MLB leading 27 saves. Yates has been lights out this season with a 14.26 K/9 and 1.27 ERA.
Suddenly, the San Francisco Giants find themselves on a roll after sweeping the Padres. Perhaps one of the most sought after arms at the trade deadline, Will Smith recorded his 22nd save of the season Wednesday. The Giants are still considered to be sellers at the deadline despite being only five and a half games out of the wild card. Smith has been phenomenal since his return from Tommy John surgery dating back to last season. The Giants have plenty of bullpen arms with closing experience such as Tony Watson, Sam Dyson, and Mark Melancon. Any one of them along with Reyes Moranta could find themselves picking up saves for the team in the second half.
Hopefully, you found Jorge’s Clser Rankings and Bullpen Depth Charts useful. For more of his take make sure to follow him on Twitter @Jmontanez.
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