Closer Rankings and Bullpen Depth Charts: Week 3
Keeping track of all the bullpen moves this year has been wild. Relievers are getting hurt and blowing saves left and right. Who can we really rely on in this short season for those much-needed saves? I try to keep you up-to-date with my weekly closer rankings and bullpen updates. Don’t fall behind as we cross the quarter mark of this short season.
AL East Bullpen Update
Cole Sulser converted the first three saves for the Orioles, but it was Miguel Castro’s turn this week. Castro walked one and struck out two for his first save Saturday against the Nationals. Sulser pitched the eighth and walked a pair and struck out two. It’s unclear if Castro will be taking over the closing duties, and it’s likely still a committee. But Castro has been downright impressive. Armed with a 98mph sinker, Castro has shown some considerable skill improvement this season with 10 strikeouts to only two walks in 7.1 innings. Castro had yet to allow a run and had an impressive 1.12 FIP and 1.87 xFIP going into Tuesday’s game.
But, of course, we can’t have nice things in 2020. Castro ran into some trouble against the Phillies. Protecting a two-run lead in the eighth, he allowed a game-tying home run to Bryce Harper and then the go-ahead solo shot to Jean Segura. Sulser pitched the ninth and got the win after Baltimore pulled ahead in the tenth.
The Boston situation has actually been one of the most consistent and predictable ones after the rollercoaster that was 2019. Brandon Workman notched his third save of the season Friday against the Blue Jays. Workman has seven strikeouts to three walks through five innings. Matt Barnes has worked behind Workman and has been unspectacular so far after having one of the highest strikeout rates among relievers last season. Barnes has six walks to seven strikeouts with a 5.14 ERA in seven innings but has been better of late with three scoreless appearances.
Zack Britton picked up his MLB-leading sixth save of the season Tuesday against the Braves. Meanwhile, Aroldis Chapman faced live hitters on Tuesday at the Yankees’ alternate training site. He should be returning to the team soon. The closer will be a much-welcomed addition to many fantasy teams.
Nick Anderson got his second save of the season Saturday against the Rays in a seven-inning game. Jalen Beeks was in to finish the game with Tampa Bay up by four runs, but he ran into some trouble. With the game-tying run at the plate, Anderson needed just one out to end the night.
With the Rays protecting a one-run lead in the ninth inning Monday, Jose Alvarado remained in the game to face a fellow lefty, Alex Verdugo. Nick Anderson time after that, right? Wrong, of course. It was Andrew Kittredge that came in for the final two outs. Anderson did strike out the side Tuesday with the Rays up by six.
Anthony Bass was another reliever that saw his good fortune end on Tuesday night. Bass had not allowed a run and had collected three saves going into the day. With only three strikeouts in 6.1 innings, it was bound to happen. Bass gave up the game-tying three-run home run to Francisco Cervelli in the ninth inning. Jordan Romano has been pitching great behind Bass, with 11 strikeouts in eight innings and no runs allowed. Ken Giles will get his forearm checked out Wednesday to see when he can resume throwing, so his return probably isn’t close.
AL Central Bullpen Update
Alex Colome just keeps rolling as one of the most reliable closers in baseball. He picked up his fourth save on Friday. His setup man, Aaron Bummer, was building on his 2019 success before suffering a biceps strain that landed him on the injured list. Codi Heuer is an intriguing arm out of Chicago, as he’s just one of a handful of relievers with at least a 15% swinging-strike rate and no walks allowed so far.
Perhaps we were quick to just write-in James Karinchak as the Indians’ closer. Brad Hand is proving he’s not done yet with three straight scoreless outings. Hand has four saves on the season. Karinchak’s time is coming, though, sooner or later. He’s been a blast to watch. Karinchak struck out the side against the White Sox on Sunday night.
Joe Jimenez blew his first save opportunity Friday against the Pirates, but came back to redeem himself Sunday and converted his fifth save of the season. Gregory Soto might be a middle reliever to add as he’s pitched nine scoreless innings so far and has allowed only one walk to 11 strikeouts. Soto transitioned into the bullpen after making seven starts last season as has raised his pitch velocity across the board. This has helped Soto see an uptick in his swinging-strike rate from 8.1% to 12.8%.
Trevor Rosenthal is the man to own in Kansas City, converting two saves this week. After pitching back-to-back days, Rosenthal was unavailable Sunday, so it was Scott Barlow that filled in for the ninth. Who would have thought that a bullpen with Rosenthal and Greg Holland having prominent roles would have the sixth-best bullpen ERA in baseball to this point?
Taylor Rogers was 1-for-2 on save chances this week, converting his fourth of the season on Monday against Milwaukee. Rogers continues to be one of the top closers in the rankings, with Sergio Romo clearly working behind him. Tyler Duffey has been one of the best middle relievers to own in all leagues with 10 strikeouts, no walks, no runs allowed, five holds, and a -0.31 FIP. That’s just nuts.
AL West Bullpen Update
What a mess this bullpen has been. With Osuna out, it was reasonable to believe that Ryan Pressly would step in and be top-five closer. Well, he’s blown two saves and has a 9.82 ERA. Clearly, something isn’t right with Pressly. The problem is, there hasn’t been a clearly better option to step up in Houston. Blake Taylor had been pitching well until Tuesday night when he gave up a walk and a home run. Andre Scrubb pitched the eighth inning Tuesday and has yet to allow an earned run. Taylor and Scubb are names to watch.
Hansel Robles is officially out as the closer, and it was Ty Buttrey earning the save on Monday against Oakland. Buttrey has had his share of struggles on the year, with three blown saves on his record. Felix Pena has actually been the more impressive reliever in Anaheim, with only one run allowed in 8.1 innings.
Liam Hendriks continues to dominate near the top of the closer rankings as he picked up two more saves this week for a total of five on the year. Joakim Soria has been pitching great behind Hendriks with 13 strikeouts in 7.2 innings and no earned runs allowed.
Taylor Williams stuck out three of four batters or a four-out save Sunday against Colorado. Williams appears to be at the top of the pecking order for saves in Seattle. Matt Magill hasn’t allowed a run yet but is being used mostly in the seventh inning.
Rafael Montero was activated off the injured list and has wasted no time building on his 2019 success, picking up three saves on the week. Montero should be added everywhere right now. Jonathan Hernandez has been impressive as well, with 14 strikeouts in nine innings.
NL East Bullpen Update
Mark Melancon picked up his third save of the season, and he’s been steadily getting the job done since he was acquired from San Francisco at last year’s trade deadline. Meanwhile, Will Smith was activated from the injured list and made an appearance in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Phillies. He walked one and recorded one out. I wouldn’t expect Smith to enter into the picture for saves at this time.
Despite the Marlins missing a week of play, Brandon Kintzler has been a decent source of saves with three on the year. He picked up two this week and made three straight appearances. He was unavailable on Friday and it was Nick Vincent who converted the save chance.
For now, Seth Lugo is the closer in New York. Lugo needed only 10 pitches to finish the eighth inning on Saturday against the Marlins, so he was available to close out the game on Sunday and pick up his third save. Edwin Diaz has been getting work in behind Lugo in non-save situations. Perhaps it’s working. Diaz has made four consecutive scoreless outings and has eight strikeouts in his last four innings with only one walk.
Hector Neris blew the save Tuesday, allowing three runs on two walks and three hits against the Orioles. He had only pitched 2.1 innings before Tuesday and has two saves on the year.
Daniel Hudson got his second save of the season Tuesday, striking out two in a clean inning. This after he gave up three runs to blow a save chance on Saturday. Nonetheless, Hudson seems to have a firm grasp on the job in Washington.
NL Central Bullpen Update
The Cubs played for the first time since last Thursday due to their postponed series against the Cardinals. No saves chances this week, but Rowan Wick is the reliever to own with two saves on the year. Craig Kimbrel is droppable everywhere.
Raisel Iglesias has really bounced back strong after his slow start to the season. Iglesias made his fourth consecutive scoreless outing on Tuesday, striking out two in 1.1 innings. Iglesias owns a career-best 20.2% swinging-strike rate on the year and has yet to walk a batter.
It’s probably felt like a wasted pick so far, taking Josh Hader so high in drafts. The fact is, the Brewers just haven’t been as good this year as they have been the last few years. Hader struck out the side on Tuesday against the Twins for his third save of the year. With Christian Yelich finally heating up, perhaps Hader will be in a position to save a few more games here soon. Hader remains at the top of the closer rankings, but should the save opportunities continue to come few and far between, he may need need to get a bump down a spot or two.
Nick Burdi was unfortunately shut down for the season with an elbow injury. Keone Kela is expected to take over the closer role once he returns from the injured list as he recovers from COVID. Kela could be making his return soon as the team is expected to give an update on Wednesday, so keep a lookout for that.
Another week has gone by with no games for the Cardinals as they deal with their COVID outbreak. Kwang Hyun Kim will be giving up the closer role to go to the rotation once they resume play, so the ninth inning will be open. Ryan Helsley was placed on the injured list with COVID along with Kodi Whitley and Junior Fernandez. Perhaps it will be Giovanny Gallegos’s time in St. Louis. Alex Reyes was also activated and could pitch himself into a high-leverage role. I’d be looking out for Gallegos on the waiver wire. John Gant and Andrew Miller could figure into the mix as well. If Gallegos is given the job and performs like he did last season, he could move into the top-10 in the closer rankings in short order.
NL West Bullpen Update
Archie Bradley is having himself a successful short season so far and moving up the closer rankings with four saves, a 1.59 ERA, and eight strikeouts in 5.2 innings. Bradley does seem to be overperforming right now, with only a 16.7% ground ball rate but a 0% HR/FB rate. Still, you’ve got to be happy with the production and hope it continues on for just another month and a half.
Jairo Diaz picked up his third save on the year last Thursday after taking over the closer role from Wade Davis. Davis was placed on the injured list with a strained shoulder. Diaz did run into some trouble Tuesday night after recording only one out and allowing two runs on three hits and two walks. He failed to finish out the inning, and Daniel Bard came in to pick up his first save since 2011.
There were no save chances this week for Kenley Jansen. But he did pitch a clean ninth inning Sunday with the Dodgers up four runs to the Giants. Jansen is back among the top of the closer rankings as one of the best, more reliable closers in baseball. Caleb Ferguson has been extremely impressive in middle relief with 10 strikeouts to one walk in 6.2 innings of work.
Kirby Yates picked up his second save of the season Friday but hasn’t really been the same after his incredible 2019 campaign. Yates was unavailable Monday due to soreness in his body, and Drew Pomeranz picked up his third save. Pomeranz should be universally owned at this point. He’s yet to allow a run in 7.1 innings and has been the most reliable reliever in the Padres’ bullpen.
Trevor Gott recorded his fourth save of the season Saturday against the Dodgers. He then pitched the ninth inning Tuesday and was credited with the win after Ryan Pressly gave up the lead for the Astros. Taylor Rogers came in for the save in the tenth inning. Gott is the man to own in San Fransisco, but Taylor Rogers or Shaun Anderson could be the next up if Gott were unavailable.
Feeling good with Jorge’s closer rankings? Now it’s time to address your rotation with a look through Jake Devereaux’s starting pitcher rankings for Week 3.
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