Closer Rankings and Bullpen Depth Charts for Week 17
Due to the All-Star break, not much movement occurred this week with only four days of game action since the last closer rankings. Last year’s top two closers remain on shaky ground going forward, which goes to show the volatility of the position. The coming weeks will bring in trades and values are sure to change. Meanwhile, I bring you another edition of my closer rankings and bullpen depth charts along with a brief rundown of each team’s usage for the week.
AL Bullpen Depth Charts and Closer Rankings
+ Injury Concern
* Part of Committee
It was Paul Fry who converted the only save for the Orioles since the last update. Mychal Givens was held out after he dove for home plate trying to prevent a run last Wednesday but should be available to pitch once games resume. Givens has been pitching well just in time for the trade deadline and is a candidate to be moved. Although his value wouldn’t go up drastically unless he was made a full time closer for another team.
Future Red Sox closer Nathan Eovaldi had a successful bullpen session on Saturday and should be nearing a return to action in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, it continues to be anyone’s guess as to who will be picking up the saves for Boston. This week it was Heath Hembree picking up the save Sunday after Matt Barnes had pitched three consecutive days. Brandon Workman is in the mix as well and pitched the eighth inning after Barnes got an out in the seventh on Saturday.
Aroldis Chapman went one-for-two in save chances this week, blowing the save Thursday in Tampa Bay after giving up two runs on two walks and three hits. He went on to pick up the win and redeemed himself Friday notching his 24th save of the season. Chapman shut the door on the NL team in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s All-Star game, striking out J.T. Realmuto, Max Muncy, and Yasmani Grandal in order.
Jose Alvarado gave me hope that he’d be could come back to be the closer that began the season with four saves, no runs allowed, and 16 strikeouts in his first 10 appearances. Those hopes faded this week when he was diagnosed with an oblique strain that could keep him out six to eight weeks. Emilio Pagan has stepped in all season and picked up his fifth save on Sunday against the Yankees. Although he did blow a save Friday when he gave up a game-tying home run to Aaron Hicks. Colin Poche got the save opportunity the following day and was victimized by another Aaron Hicks game-tying home run in the ninth. Even when Diego Castillo returns I would expect manager Kevin Cash to play the matchups late in games.
After picking up his 13th save on Wednesday, Giles allowed the go-ahead home run from Marco Hernandez in the ninth on Thursday and was credited with the loss to the Red Sox. It was the third appearance in three days for the Blue Jays closer. Giles is a name to monitor as the trade deadline approaches as a move to a more competitive team could boost his value depending on the situation. Giles owns a 1.45 ERA on the season, good for seventh among all relievers and his 15.39 K/9 trails only Josh Hader and Matt Barnes.
Alex Colome continues to boost his trade value for the White Sox, picking up his 20th save on Sunday against the Cubs. The 3.99 FIP is nearly double his 2.02 ERA, so there’s potential for things to unravel at some point for Colome, but regression is hard to predict. At this point, Colome owners must be happy with the production they’ve received. His low strikeout rate won’t get him too high up the closer rankings, but as long as he continues to get saves he’ll remain in the top 20. Meanwhile, Aaron Bummer looks to have taken over as the next man in line, cleaning up the eighth inning in Chicago on Sunday against the Cubs. Bummer would make for a good speculative add as he won’t be available long in the event Colome is traded.
Brad Hand did not see any game action since the last closer rankings. At with 23 saves, 2.17 ERA, and 13.26 K/9, Hand has delivered on his draft day value with consistency having converted 23 of 24 save opportunities. With Cleveland in the mix for a wild card spot, I don’t envision Hand going anywhere at the deadline. Regardless, Hand should remain well within the top 10 in the closer rankings for the remainder of the season.
There’s not much reason for the second-worst team in baseball to keep an All-Star closer with one more year of control around. Detroit should be finding a new home for Shane Greene before the July 31 trade deadline. Greene made his first All-Star team this season, a vast difference from a 2018 season in which he posted a 5.12 ERA despite earning 32 saves. A 14% increase in ground ball rate has made a big difference in lowing his HR/9 from 1.71 to 1.09. Despite having the second-worst record in baseball at the break, Detroit is 11th in the league in save opportunities. So keep an eye on Joe Jimenez and Buck Farmer as candidates to take over closing duties if and when Greene is moved.
Ian Kennedy cleaned up the ninth inning on Thursday against the Indians after not pitching for three days prior. The following day, he blew the save opportunity against the Nationals after giving up two runs on three straight hits. Wily Peralta later earned the save in the 11th inning. Jake Diekman failed to record the hold in the eighth inning on Sunday and was charged with a blown save. Kennedy’s job seems to be safe for the time being but it’s possible a team could come calling for Kennedy’s services before the trade deadline. The situation had been a volatile one before Kennedy held things down.
The Twins beat the Rangers at home on Saturday and Taylor Rogers earned his 12th save of the year. It appears the job is Rogers’ to lose at this time after converting the previous save opportunity for the Twins and posting an impressive 1.82 ERA on the year. With Blake Parker on the paternity list, Trevor May pitched a clean ninth inning on Sunday with the Twins trailing by one. The Twins have been a popular potential destination for trade candidates and have been linked to closers Kirby Yates, Ken Giles, and Will Smith.
Though no save opportunities arose for the Astros since last week’s bullpen update, Roberto Osuna and Ryan Pressly continue to shut opposing teams down late in games. Osuna pitched the ninth inning of a tie game Sunday against the Angels while Pressly pitched the 10th inning and later earned the win. In the same game, Collin Mchugh gave up his first run in seven appearances since returning to action out of the bullpen on June 25.
Angels closer Hansel Robles picked up save number 12 on the year on Friday against the Astros. Sunday, he came on in relief of Ty Buttrey after Buttrey allowed the tying runs to score in the eighth. Robles recorded six outs before the game went to extra innings. Since June 1, Robles has been one of the best relievers in baseball with a 0.52 ERA in 17.1 innings and six saves.
Only five relievers have had a better ERA than Hansel Robles since June 1, and Oakland closer Liam Hendriks is one of them with a 0.45 ERA. In fact, Hendriks leads all qualifying relievers on the year with a .0.77 ERA in 46.2 innings. Hendriks has taken over the closer role from last season’s ERA leader Blake Treinen. Hendricks earned two more saves since last week’s closer rankings, closing out the ninth inning on Friday and Sunday against the Mariners on the road. Blake Treinen has taken a step back as he has struggled to find his control. While he will see action in low leverage situations for now, I wouldn’t rule out Treinen regaining his role as closer at some point this season. Although, the way things have looked this season I’m not so sure it’s likely.
A terrible situation isn’t looking any better with Roenis Elias struggling in Seattle of late. Elias gave up a home run to Ramon Laureano on Saturday when he came on in the ninth up by four, so it wasn’t a save situation. It was his only appearance since blowing a save last Wednesday. Hunter Strickland could return by the end of the month so he could be someone to monitor for saves late in the season.
Shawn Kelley continues to run with the job of Rangers’ closer, pitching the eighth inning on Saturday with the Rangers down by one after Jose Leclerc pitched the seventh. Kelley did give up a home run to Marwin Gonzalez. The Rangers find themselves in the thick of the Wild Card race so at this point, it’s hard to say whether they will be buyers or sellers at the deadline. Jose Leclerc hasn’t done much to earn the job back and the Rangers could go looking for a closer if they continue to win going into the trade deadline.
NL Bullpen Depth Charts and Closer Rankings
+ Injury Concern
* Part of Committee
Who needed Craig Kimbrel when you have Luke Jackson? The Atlanta Braves closer is having a stellar year, picking up his 14th save on Sunday against the Marlins. Jackson has an elite 66.4% ground ball rate, helping him achieve a 2.66 ERA with a 12.07 K/9. In a scoreless game Friday, A.J. Minter pitched the eighth inning, striking out two batters, before Jackson pitched the ninth. A walk-off single by Brian McCann earned Jackson the win that night.
Sergio Romo converted his 16th save on Saturday against the Braves. Nick Anderson meanwhile, pitched the eighth inning and should get the closing opportunities should Romo be traded. Anderson has a 4.10 ERA, but his 2.69 FIP and 2.98 xFIP to go along with his 13.98 K/9 suggests he’s been pitching better than that. Ideally, he’d have a higher ground ball rate than 29.4%, especially in today’s offensive environment. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Anderson take over the closing duties later this season even if Romo isn’t traded.
Edwin Diaz collapsed in the ninth yet again on Friday and slips a bit in this week’s closer rankings after allowing four runs to the Phillies and blowing the save. He did manage to pick up the save the following day, but he’s been massively inconsistent. The trade for Diaz and Cano hasn’t quite worked out for the Mets. There’s still plenty of time for Diaz to turn it around, and Mets manager Mickey Callaway indicated that Diaz is to remain the closer for now. Diaz is going to have a long leash given how much the Mets gave up to acquire him.
While a save opportunity did not come up for the Phillies since last week, Hector Neris has continued to pitch the ninth inning. In Friday’s game against the Mets, the teams were tied at two runs apiece going into the ninth before the Phillies got to Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia for five runs. Neris cleaned up the ninth inning in the non-save situation.
Sean Doolittle needed 33 pitches to close out the ninth inning for his 19th save last Wednesday, which explains why it was Fernando Rodney picking up the save for the Nationals on Thursday. On Sunday against the Royals, Doolittle came into the game with two outs in the eighth inning after Rodney gave up a run and left a man on second base. Alex Gordon doubled off Doolittle, scoring Mondesi and giving Doolittle the blown save. He finished off the ninth inning and earned the win later in the game. Doolittle has been one of the lone bright spots in the Nationals bullpen and while they remain in the Wild Card hunt, they could acquire some relief help.
Craig Kimbrel made his fourth appearance for the Cubs on Saturday against the White Sox and recorded his second save, striking out the side. Those who held on to Kimbrel or picked him up where available should enjoy the benefits of a top 10 closer in the closer rankings going forward.
Raisel Iglesias picked up his second save in as many days on Thursday, his 16th on the year. Iglesias has been a bit of a disappointment to many fantasy owners with a 4.06 ERA and seven losses to his record. There was thought that Michael Lorenzen could steal some saves from Iglesias but he’s done little to prove he can take on ninth-inning duties after giving up two runs in two innings Saturday against the Indians.
Josh Hader sits atop the closer rankings for another week. While he didn’t record a save, he did record a hold on Friday, coming into the game during the seventh inning after Jeremy Jeffress ran into trouble. Hader recorded four outs with one strikeout. Deolis Guerra came on in the ninth up by four runs but gave up three singles, a sac fly, and a three-run home run to Josh Bell. Junior Guerra then gave up the game-tying home run to Jung Ho Kang.
Felipe Vazquez picked up his 20th save of the season on Sunday against the Brewers. The Pirates find themselves only two and a half games out of the division lead. I don’t imagine Vazquez is going anywhere as he’s been dominant with a 2.11 ERA and 14.09 K/9.
Months of holding Carlos Martinez looks to be finally paying off as Martinez earned his third save of the season on Thursday against the Mariners. Martinez should be picked up in any leagues where he is available as he looks to be the permanent closer this season for the Cardinals going forward.
Greg Holland picked up saves number 13 and 14 on the year over the weekend against the Rockies in Arizona. It was a much-needed weekend for Holland as he had blown his previous two save chances, although he remained shaky. Holland gave up two hits in his outing Saturday and a solo home run to Trevor Story in the ninth on Sunday. Should Holland be removed from the closer role, Yoan Lopez is a name to watch as he pitched the eighth in Saturday’s game and has a 1.59 ERA on the year.
Colorado didn’t find themselves with any save chances to convert, and they seemed to give Wade Davis a needed break with no appearances since last Wednesday. Scott Oberg did pitch the bottom of the eighth inning on Sunday with the Rockies down by four runs, lowing his ERA to 1.24, good for fourth in the league among relievers with at least 30 innings pitched.
By the numbers, Kenley Jansen looks to be the same closer he was last season with a 3.19 ERA and 11.78 K/9. That’s not quite as dominant as he was the previous three seasons. Nonetheless, he’s been one of baseball’s top closers with 23 saves for one of the best teams in the league. The Dodgers will probably acquire some relief help come the trade deadline, but no one that would threaten Kenley Jansen for saves.
No team in the league has found themselves with more save opportunities than the San Diego Padres with 51. Kirby Yates has converted 30 of those saves chances including three saves in three days to close out the first half of the season. Yates has a 1.15 ERA and 13.85 K/9. We could see a repeat of the Brad Hand situation if the Padres decide to move Yates to a closer-needy team and get a haul. Next in line would be Craig Stammen, who has been pitching the eighth innings. But Trey Wingenter is a name to keep an eye on as well.
The San Francisco Giants’ lone representative in the All-Star game could be finding a new home soon as the trade deadline approaches. Will Smith recorded his 23rd save of the year on Sunday against the Cardinals. It’s hard to tell whether this is a good time to buy Smith or a good time to sell as a lot could change depending on where he’s playing at the end of the month. Regardless, he’s providing elite ratios with a 1.98 ERA, 13.13 K/9, and 0.80 WHIP. I’d be inclined to buy Smith as the deadline nears if his owner is concerned about his role. Reyes Moranta and Sam Dyson are names to watch for the Giants should Smith be traded.
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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