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Bullpens in the Doldrums of August

We are almost two weeks past the trade deadline but one thing is for sure: many bullpens still have murky situations.  One might come to expect a lack of clarity for teams that traded assets at the deadline and are now working their way through committees and sorting out a new pecking order.  However, even teams with playoff aspirations are struggling to get their closer situations sorted out with less than 50 games to go in the season.  Let’s take a look at what this week brought to MLB bullpens.

MLB Bullpen Updates

AL East

In Baltimore, it sure appears that Felix Bautista is the guy.  Kudos to those of you who picked him up a month ago anticipating this.

Boston lost erstwhile closer Tanner Houck to a bad back and the IL this week.  Speculation is that this will be a committee situation between Garrett Whitlock and John Schreiber. From a pure stuff perspective, it would be easy to think that Whitlock would be the clear choice for save chances, but because he is the best arm in their bullpen, manager Alex Cora also like to use him in those stopper/fireman situations.  This will be one to watch. Houck is to undergo further testing in the coming days, as Cora said the timeline is unknown for his return.  A back injury doesn’t usually bode well if it’s taking this much time to be diagnosed.  If you roster Houck like I do in many places, you may want to make other plans this weekend and try to find some help on the waiver wire.

Dateline New York: is the bloom off the Clay Holmes rose? Holmes was shaky as July drew to a close, having given up eight walks and seven runs in ten appearances.  The difficulty has extended into August as well, with runs surrendered in three of his last four outings, and two more walks causing damage on Friday night while blowing the save. It was the third straight blown save for Holmes.  The most obvious choice would be a return to Aroldis Chapman, who has been unscored upon in his last eight outings, albeit in lower leverage situations.  Lou Trivino was recently acquired as well and has closing experience, and Wandy Peralta has also been a gem this season. Best guess?  They go back to Chapman, although they could also play matchups and split the role between Trivino and Chapman until Holmes figures it out again.  I recently picked Chapman off the waiver wire in several leagues with the hope he gets his old job back.

AL Central

No big news here this week.

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AL West

Ryan Pressly is working through a sore neck in Houston, which led to a converted save chance for Hector Neris on Thursday night. As of this morning, Pressly was not expected to miss significant time, but this is something to monitor.  If he should miss time, I would expect Neris and Rafael Montero to get some save opportunities.

The Los Angeles Angels have used Ryan Tepera to fill in as closer since the somewhat surprising departure of Raisel Iglesias. Tepera did earn a save this week, but offers little in the other categories to warrant a roster spot unless you are completely desperate for saves. He sports a 3.86 ERA and 1.10 WHIP right now.  It’s admirable that he can step in for the Halos, but I would avoid in most situations for your fake teams.

The Seattle bullpen has been a wild ride all year.  While we feel safe saying Paul Sewald is the closer, Diego Castillo returned from injury this week, and the Mariners also jettisoned Ken Giles. Andres Munoz has been dominant and devastates hitters with a two-pitch mix featuring a fastball that has hit 103 MPH this year and an absolute wipeout slider. Interesting side note: the Mariners’ bullpen arms throw sliders on 50.3% of their pitches, leading a to a sickly .163 batting average against that pitch, per beat reporter Adam Jude.  All that being said, Sewald is the closer, and Castillo and Munoz are the top setup guys.  This week.  Ha ha.

NL East

Nothing to report on the New York Mets, but my word, I looked at Edwin Diaz’s numbers on the year, and they are frighteningly good. I don’t usually put any Statcast data in these pieces (maybe I should do more of that?), but take a look at this.  Have you ever seen anything like it?

Diaz has an absurd 52.9% K rate, which is like a video game stat.  His K/9 rate is 18.1, which would be the all-time highest in MLB history should he keep this pace up.  Not bad for a guy who had lots of questions around him going into the season.  The 26 saves help, too.  Hats off to a great season thus far for Diaz!

Philadelphia has been an interesting situation as both recent acquisition David Robertson and recent closer Seranthony Dominguez alternate save chances.  On Friday night, Dominguez pitched the ninth in a tie game, earning the win when Robertson closed down the Mets on Friday night.  Since the trade bringing Robertson to Philadelphia, both Dominguez and Robertson have two saves each.  Of interest as well has been the seeming demotion of Brad Hand to a lower leverage role and the escalation of Jose Alvarado to the setup role vacated by Hand. Hand has not had a hold since mid-July. I say it often in these articles, but it is important to listen to what the manager says, but also to then watch what actually happens.  Manager Rob Thomson initially said that Robertson would not close, but that he had high trust on him based on his pedigree and having pitched in the World Series.  Ten days later, he appears to be sharing the role with Dominguez, who has been a fantastic revelation this year.

The Washington bullpen has been under the radar the last few weeks since Tanner Rainey went down to injury.  The assumption was that Kyle Finnegan was the next man up, and it worked that way a for awhile, with Finnegan earning four saves in the process.  However, manager Davey Martinez has been using Finnegan as the stopper, calling on him in the seventh inning yesterday.  This usage has led to Carl Edwards, Jr. getting a chance to close games, and he did that yesterday, earning his second save on the season. Hard to say how this will go, but it appears the Nationals have two useful weapons at the back end of games right now. Also of note is that Hunter Harvey has pitched well as he battled back from injury.

NL Central

Rowan Wick appears to be the closer in Chicago.  Do with that what you may!

In Cincinnati, Alexis Diaz appears to have a sort of hybrid role.  Manager David Bell said he would use Diaz in almost any situation; obviously we as fantasy players would like him to close, but if he gets used as a stopper some days, guys like Joel Kuhnel, Hunter Strickland and Reiver Sanmartin could get opps. Strickland was informed this week he is no longer the closer, but if Diaz gets used in the stopper role, opportunities could be there for this trio. Buck Farmer has also been outstanding this year stranding inherited baserunners.

Things got interesting in Milwaukee with the unexpected trade of ace closer Josh Hader to San Diego. In return the Brewers got Taylor Rogers and prospects; Rogers was almost immediately nursing a knee injury that needed a cortisone injection. The Brewers also acquired Trevor Rosenthal, who is rehabbing injuries right now, and Matt Bush, who earned a save this week with a clean inning and two punchouts.  Manager Craig Counsell revealed that closer Devin Williams will need periodic rests in the job, and that was why Bush was called on for the save on Tuesday night.  It appears that the job firmly belongs to William right now,  but Bush could get some vulture opportunities.

In Pittsburgh, closer David Bednar remains on the IL but is working through his back injury with light exercises.  The hope is he will start throwing in 4-5 days. Wil Crowe has filled in for him, and has a win and a save since the injury.  On a night where Crowe got into trouble after pitching an inning and a third, rookie Eric Stout earned a save in one third of an inning.  That was a more chance occurrence and should not be the trend moving forward.  When/if Bednar is ready, he will return to the closer role, and Crowe will return to his setup role.

NL West

The Arizona bullpen is a full-blown committee of Mark Melancon, Ian Kennedy and Joe Mantiply. It appears they will rotate the opportunities for now, providing little value to our fantasy teams unless someone wrests the job from the other guys.  Don’t count on that happening.

In Colorado, we have quietly seen a change in the pecking order.  Daniel Bard remains the closer, but Carlos Estevez has supplanted Alex Colome as the top setup option.  This might be helpful for those of you in leagues that count holds.

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