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Bullpen Updates: The Weekend Before It All Starts

We are five days away from the start of the 2022 baseball season, and many bullpen situations are still muddled with only a handful of Spring Training games left to impact manager decisions.

Rejoice! There will be baseball in 2022! Why not celebrate with one of our Fantrax Classic Draft contest? Get a jump on the season with a Best Ball league or maybe a Draft and Hold. Or put some green on the line with a new season-long league to try and conquer. There’s no better time than now to get your baseball on!

Latest MLB Bullpen Notes

The biggest news of the week was the trade of erstwhile closer Craig Kimbrel from the Chicago White Sox to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday for outfielder AJ Pollock. Kimbrel should immediately slot in as the closer in Los Angeles, a team that saw longtime closer Kenley Jansen jump to the World Champion Atlanta Braves. Manager Dave Roberts stated last week that he was not going to use a traditional closer, dumping cold water on all those fantasy players making Blake Treinen a priority for their rosters. It would appear now that with the acquisition of Kimbrel, Treinen will go back to a stopper role; interestingly, Treinen had mentioned last week that he actually preferred not to close. It will be intriguing to watch and see if Kimbrel can regain his outstanding form from the first half of 2021 when he was with the Chicago Cubs: 20 saves, .57 ERA, and 54 punchouts in 31.2 innings.  If he is that Kimbrel, the Dodgers have added a serious weapon to the back end of their bullpen, which also contains high octane arms like Brusdar Graterol and Daniel Hudson. Thus bullpen has insane depth with David Price, Alex Vesia and also Phil Bickford, Danny Duffy, Tommy Kahnle, and Jimmy Nelson when all are healthy.

For those in leagues that have holds as a category, you may want to bump up Kendall Graveman and Aaron Bummer from the White Sox as a result of yesterday’s Kimbrel trade.

In injury news, the Seattle Mariners revealed on Friday that Ken Giles has a tendon issue in his right hand that will cause him to start the season on the IL.  It sounds like they are shutting him down from any throwing for the next “few” weeks. This opens the door for Paul Sewald and Drew Steckenrider, who were both mainstays of a very successful bullpen last year.  Diego Castillo could also get some looks in the ninth inning.  And of course, waiting in the wings is the youngster Andres Munoz, who should have a prominent role in setup this year. Stay tuned here to see how this shakes out in the days leading up to the start of the season.

Chicago Cubs’ manager David Ross appears undecided on who will close there. Many analysts had Rowan Wick and Codi Heuer battling for the job, with an upper hand to Wick.  However Heuer went down with Tommy John surgery, unfortunately, and Wick may be seen more as a stopper for the retooling Cubs.  Looks like the dreaded committee is coming to Chicago’s North Side, with some mixture of David Robertson, Chris Martin, Mychal Givens and maybe even youngster Manuel Rodriguez getting opportunities.  Stay away from this one until it sorts itself out in the coming weeks.

It was confirmed this week that the following closers will also start the season on the IL: the Cincinnati Reds’ Lucas Sims and the Miami Marlins’ Dylan Floro.  Who’s in the conversation for closer in both cities? Looks like Luis Cessa and Hunter Strickland in Cincy, and would seem to favor Anthony Bender in Miami, although former closer Anthony Bass is there with slightly more experience…and we know how much MLB managers favor relievers with experience in the closing role.

Other injuries impacting bullpens: James Karinchak in Cleveland has been shut down for at least ten days, and Tampa’s Pete Fairbanks will miss at least six weeks with a partially torn lat.  In Cleveland, that could push Bryan Shaw and Nick Sandlin into more holds, but watch out for former outfielder Anthony Gose, who could become a valuable weapon for the Guardians. In Tampa…who knows?  Guys like Brooks Raley, J.P. Feyereisen, Jeffrey Springs and Ryan Thompson could all be pushed into more significant roles with Fairbanks out.

One of the most-watched bullpens this spring has been that of the San Diego Padres.  It seems like Emilio Pagan and Robert Suarez are the favorites right now.  There has been rampant speculation that Pierce Johnson would win this job, and other analysts favor Drew Pomeranz when and if he returns from his injury.  Throw in the names of starters like Chris Paddack and Dinelson Lamet, and you have a delicious recipe for conversation and controversy.  When names start floating around, it’s important for us as fantasy players to separate the wheat from the chaff, and isolate on what usage patterns tell us.  Also, always listen to what the manager is saying; this seems like a “duh” moment but it’s really important to get their insights.  San Diego is a team expecting to contend, and they have a veteran manager in Bob Melvin who has proven adept at managing bullpens, and who has not been afraid to mix and match.  But he has favored those with experience in the past, causing me to lean more Pagan at least to start the season.  One to watch here, especially with the Padres seemingly constantly involved in trade talks.

When Alex Colome signed in Colorado, most assumed (as did I) that he would be the closer. Not so fast, maybe; manager Bud Black said this week that he prefers a closer with strikeout capability. Colome had a 20% K percentage last year, which is less than ideal, as well as a 4.82 xERA. Black raised eyebrows with this one; those who want to speculate may want to look at Daniel Bard (egads) or Robert Stephenson, who both have solid K potential. Carlos Estevez appears to not be in the closer mix right now.

Pittsburgh will be a timeshare between David Bednar and Chris Stratton to start the season. I still like Bednar more as the season progresses.

Jake McGee has been named the closer for San Francisco as well.  Don’t worry, those who roster Camilo Doval.  He will get chances too, especially given McGee’s rampant injury history.

Manager Chris Woodward announced in Texas that he prefers not to use Joe Barlow as the closer, rather as a stopper to begin the season.  Who does that leave?  The closer with nine lives, that’s who: Greg Holland. This bullpen could get interesting with Jonathan Hernandez and Jose Leclerc returning at various points from injuries this season.

We will keep watch weekly for you on the bullpen fronts, and hope our chart comes in handy for you as a fresh season begins. A word of further explanation that I left out last time: closers-in-waiting are assumed to be the top guys to have for holds as well.  I did not make that clear and some folks called me on that.  I apologize for any confusion I may have caused on that.

Update MLB Bullpen Depth Charts

American League Bullpen Depth Chart

National League Bullpen Depth Chart

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