Happy Fourth of July weekend to all of you who celebrate it! This weekend marks a kind of halfway point of the summer, and almost the halfway point of the baseball season. By this time, we have a pretty good idea of our fantasy teams’ performance thus far and start making some key decisions: are we in it to win it? Are we also-rans, building for next year in a keeper league? Here’s hoping you are in it: the goal is to win every league you possibly can. Below, we have looked at some contentious or moribund bullpens in an attempt to help you grind out a few extra saves or holds as we head into the dog days of summer. If you have questions always feel free to hit me up on the Twitter machine @mdrc0508. Thanks for reading if you do and have a great weekend!
MLB Cloers Update
Interesting note to share about Boston: manager Alex Cora revealed to reporters this week that Garrett Whitlock, soon to be activated from the IL, will return to a bullpen role. Could this muddy the water for erstwhile closer Tanner Houck? Time will tell, but if last year is any indication (and it may not be), Whitlock could be used as the stopper to kill a rally or be used in a multiple-inning role again. Houck was brilliant in June, converting six saves with 15 punchouts in 11.1 innings while surrendering only one walk and two runs. Best guess: Houck remains closer, and Whitlock moves to a stopper role. But what do I know?
The White Sox are waiting on the return of Liam Hendriks from the IL. Hendriks threw a simulated game in San Francisco on Friday afternoon and pronounced himself well. Manager Tony La Russa hopes to have Hendriks back in the captain’s chair for the next homestand, which starts Monday with a critical series against the Minnesota Twins. With Hendriks out, Kendall Graveman has converted two saves and has given up only one run in June and July thus far. The White Sox will need both pitchers to be sterling if they hope to climb back into the AL Central race; they have been hot garbage all year. Joe Kelly looks to be rounding into shape as a setup guy with holds potential.
I feel comfortable now calling Jhoan Duran the closer in Minnesota with his insane 34.3% K rate. Emilio Pagan, who has nine saves, has not had one since June 13. Many observers would likely call this a committee, but it feels as if Duran has edged past Pagan. Lefty Caleb Thielbar and steady righty Griffin Jax are good holds candidates.
What a mess in Oakland. With Dany Jimenez on the shelf, we gobbled up A.J. Puk and Zach Jackson, but also reminded everyone that Lou Trivino was laying in the weeds. And lo and behold, Trivino converted three saves this last week, while Puk and Jackson struggled. The Athletics figure to be sellers at the trade deadline, and Trivino will be moving. This move could build value as they look to trade him to a contender looking for middle relief help. Maybe Puk and Jackson will pitch well enough to be considered for that role. Things are tough in Oakland right now and there do not figure to be too many chances. Keep in mind that Trivino has struggled mightily to this point, and could again. One bullpen to watch for sure.
It remains a committee in Seattle right now. Paul Sewald and Diego Castillo appear to be the best candidates for saves right now, but keep in mind that Andres Munoz and Ken Giles reside here too. Pay attention to Erik Swanson as well, who picked up a save this week on a night off for Sewald and Munoz. Things could get really murky here.
In Atlanta, Kenley Jansen is going to miss some time with an irregular heartbeat. Jansen suffered from this years ago in Los Angeles, and we hope he gets it figured out soon; we all know hearts are nothing to mess around with and hope for a speedy recovery. In the meantime, many thought that Atlanta would turn to Will Smith. Instead, manager Brian Snitker revealed they will use a committee of Smith and AJ Minter. Each guy has a save in the interim. Tyler Matzek is also on the IL, which could mean more hold opportunities for Collin McHugh, who only surrendered two runs in June.
Things are interesting in Philadelphia. While much of the news has been about Bryce Harper’s injured thumb, developments have happened in the bullpen. Seranthony Dominguez and Brad Hand appear to be in a timeshare. Hand got his third save last night, and Dominguez has earned two in the last two weeks. Last night in a game against the Cardinals, Dominguez got the eighth, and Hand the ninth. That being said, this remains a committee with no clear-cut favorite as manager Rob Thomson plays the matchup game. Looking for holds? Don’t sleep on Andrew Bellatti, who now has five holds and earned a save himself last week. And Corey Knebel resides here too…
Watch for developments this weekend in Pittsburgh’s bullpen. David Bednar has been trying to avoid an IL stint but didn’t look healthy or good in his last outing Thursday night. Should he in fact need an IL stint, look for Wil Crowe to jump into the closer role; I feel he has surpassed Chris Stratton right now and could get the first opportunity should Bednar be on the shelf.
Ryan Helsley proved that he is a human being after surrendering his first two earned runs since May 30 this week. Giovanny Gallegos continues to pitch effectively as well. Helsley blew the save on Wednesday night, in a game where Gallegos pitched the eighth inning. Look for Helsely to get the next opp too, but if he falters, Gallegos is there and has proven he can handle the role too.
It looks like Jake McGee is going to be given an opportunity to work out some issues in a lower leverage role for the time being. His ERA has ballooned to almost 7.00 and his K rate is down to 12.9%. Camilo Doval remains the closer in San Francisco; bump Dominic Leone and John Brebbia up if you are looking for holds.