Man, these bullpens….holy smokes! Take a look below and see the tides shifting in major league bullpens. There hasn’t been much change of closer roles over the last two weeks, but things are brewing i many. See below for some new names to consider adding in your leagues.
MLB Bullpen Update
The watch is on in New York, where Aroldis Chapman has returned from his Achilles injury. In his first outing off the IL, Chapman walked three guys in a row. In his next outing, a mop-up situation in Pittsburgh, he retired three in a row while hitting 101 on the speed gun. That’s not to take anything away from current closer Clay Holmes, but Chapman lurks and maybe the break refreshed him? Obviously, Holmes has done nothing to lose this job, but this could end up in a timeshare at some point if (a big if) Chapman is able to keep those recent gains.
Liam Hendriks was activated last Monday for the confusing White Sox, who continue to scuffle and not be able to hit with runners in scoring position. In two innings this week he struck out five and looked good. However, save chances have dwindled given that the White Sox are struggling to win many games at this point. That said, he will get all of the save chances.
Minnesota is no longer a committee. Jhoan Duran is clearly their top option, as evidenced by their usage of sometimes closer Emilio Pagan in the sixth and seventh innings this week. But here’s the real problem: Duran has only one save since June 26th. While he is the ninth-inning guy, can we trust that the Twins are going to have many opportunities moving forward? They will, we think. Even if he does not get saves he is helping you with ratios until he does start getting saves again: a 1.95 ERA, .84 WHIP, and 48 punchouts in 37 innings fit nicely in most fantasy bullpens.
The big news in Texas is that manager Chris Woodward announced that Joe Barlow would be removed from the closer role for the time being. We have suggested in this space that Barlow is likely a setup guy masquerading based on team need as the closer. The dreaded committee tag is now in use in Texas. On Friday night, they used Brett Martin in the ninth to close out the save opportunity, and he converted it. He was set up by the valuable Dennis Santana. Neither really seem to profile as a closer long-term. Matt Moore and Brock Burke could also get chances. Digging a little deeper, former closer Jose Leclerc was activated in the last two weeks, and while rusty, let’s remember that he is getting paid to be the top reliever in their bullpen. Context means something… sometimes. Also, Jonathan Hernandez could return soon from his rehab stint and make this bullpen interesting. For now, edge Martin ahead of the others, but I stashed Leclerc in a couple of places in hopes that he recovers his old role. But who knows?
Atlanta has been interesting since Kenley Jansen went down with his heart ailment; we hope he is healthy and safe, and back in the top job soon. The heart is a scary thing. The Braves have not missed a beat with Will Smith and AJ Minter picking up the slack; Smith has three saves in the last two weeks, and Minter two. Look for this timeshare to continue until Jansen is ready; his return date is unknown.
Tanner Scott earned his eleventh save last night and continues to be the guy in Miami. Kudos to those of you who added him earlier in the season.
Philadelphia continues to use a two-headed monster approach with Seranthony Dominguez and Brad Hand. Hand got the save last night against the Cardinals; Dominguez got the save on Thursday night. Both should continue to get opportunities based on matchups. Wild times in Philly.
For those of you who may have shared my belief in Lucas Sims, I apologize to you. He’s out for the year now with surgery for a herniated disk in his back. Alexis Diaz was activated yesterday from the IL and could get consideration in the closer role, where Hunter Strickland is the current guy in that spot. Diaz is clearly the best arm in this pen and should be dog-eared for you if you need help. I do not expect Strickland to last in the job all season.
In Pittsburgh, David Bednar, who has been a revelation this year, was nursing a back injury the last ten days, and it showed in his performance. He seems to be over it now, having earned two saves this week to give him 14 on the year, including three in the last week. Wil Crowe remains the top option right now for holds.
It appears that things are settling some in St. Louis, where manager Oli Marmol seems to prefer using Giovanny Gallegos in the eighth inning and Ryan Helsley in the ninth inning. Ace lefty Genesis Cabrera was activated off the IL on Friday and should be inserted back into a high leverage role again.
I know many fantasy players on the Mark Melancon death watch, but he remains the closer in Arizona. For those in holds leagues, it’s important to note that Ian Kennedy hit the IL last week, which moves Sean Poppen into a higher leverage role with Joe Mantiply being the prime eighth inning guy right now.
San Diego…wow! Nick Martinez has more saves than Taylor Rogers in the last three weeks. That said, it was another of the three-inning variety. Rogers is in no danger of losing the job, but Martinez is an interesting option for leagues with daily moves and an open SP slot some days.
In San Francisco, there is no doubt that Camilo Doval is the top ninth-inning option. However, it’s interesting to note that Jake McGee is out of the hierarchy for now as he struggles to find his command and control. Faced with needing to replace Doval earlier this week late in a game, manager Gabe Kapler turned to lefty Sammy Long, not McGee. I would rate John Brebbia and Dominic Leone ahead of McGee right now. LATE NOTE: McGee was designated for assignment on Saturday night. My how the once mighty have fallen!