Closer Rankings and Bullpen Depth Charts: Week 5
Another week is in the books, and we’re at the halfway point in the season. It’s been wild so far, and it has been a crapshoot chasing saves between ineffectiveness, injuries, and COVID. But there’s still time to catch up if you’re falling behind. I’ve got you covered with another edition of my closer rankings and bullpen depth chart updates.
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AL East Bullpen Update
With the Orioles and Red Sox tied at three, Cole Sulser pitched a scoreless ninth on Saturday then allowed the go-ahead run to score in the tenth. Miguel Castro came in for the final two outs in the inning and was given a win after Baltimore walked off in the bottom of the frame. It was the only appearance for Sulser this week.
The Orioles found themselves in another save situation on Sunday, but Sulser was unavailable after throwing 33 pitches the previous day. Tanner Scott got the one-out save but gave up a solo homer in the process. Don’t look into that at all. Sulser will continue to get most opportunities with Mychal Givens next in line. Givens has been the most effective reliever with a 0.77 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 11.2 innings.
The Red Sox traded Brandon Workman to the Phillies last week. Workman did convert a save for Boston on Wednesday, pitching a clean inning against those same Phillies. Matt Barnes has taken over the closer role and converted his first save chance Friday but blew his second opportunity on Saturday. Barnes just hasn’t been good this season. He carries a 5.73 ERA going into Tuesday’s games with only 13 strikeouts in 11 innings. He did get his second save Tuesday night but allowed a solo homer to Teoscar Hernandez in the process. Barnes comes in low in the closer rankings and could be picked up if you need saves.
The Yankees are returning to game action Tuesday after their series with the Mets was postponed over the weekend. Aroldis Chapman is back and slots back in near the top of the closer rankings. Meanwhile, Zack Britton hits the injured list with a strained hamstring. Adam Ottavino could be next in line for now. My favorite non-closer in the bullpen is Chad Green, who carries an 0.71 ERA with two wins, five holds, and 17 strikeouts in 12.2 innings.
Nick Anderson hit the 10-day IL along with Jose Alvarado. Anderson expects his stay on the injured list to be a short one. Predicting saves on the Rays was hard before, and will be enough harder now that Anderson is out. Jalen Beeks and John Curtiss got a save each this week. I’d expect Diego Castillo and Pete Fairbanks to be in the mix as well. Fairbanks has really turned it on of late with six scoreless appearances and 21 strikeouts on the year in 12.1 innings. Edgar Garcia got his first save on Tuesday after Beeks was removed for an injury in the ninth.
Three different relievers picked up saves for the Blue Jays this week, with Jordan Romano converting the last two. Romano has been incredible and has all the makings of a closer. But Anthony Bass will continue to see some save chances. Romano would be the one to own for strikeouts. Meanwhile, Ken Giles continues to rehab at the alternate training site and could return in the next couple of weeks. Whether he regains his role as closer remains to be seen.
AL Central Bullpen Update
Alex Colome picked up his sixth save of the season last week and gave up one run in an outing Saturday against the Cubs with the White Sox up by four. Colome has been his usual, reliable self. Unspectacular as he may be with nine strikeouts in 10 innings, he just gets the job done. With Aaron Bummer still out for the foreseeable future, Evan Marshall would be the next man up should Colome be traded at the deadline.
Brad Hand recorded his eighth save on the year Tuesday, and while he’s gone seven appearances without an earned run, plenty of red flags remain. Hand has a 58.8% fly-ball rate but has not allowed a home run yet. And his 11% swinging-strike rate is well below the 13.2% he showed last season and would be the lowest since 2015. Hand is on shaky ground here, but he’s got the job and has been coming through. The underlying stuff could get better, and he’ll be ok, or things can get ugly for him soon.
James Karinchak is the real freakin deal. He’s got an MLB-best 53.6% strikeout rate. If things do unravel for Hand, Karinchak could take over and immediately slot into the top-five of the closer rankings.
The Tigers had no save chances this week. Joe Jimenez did make an appearance, hitting one batter and striking out one in an inning of work Sunday. Jimenez sits at five saves on the year, four of them coming in the first week.
Gregory Soto has been the best reliever behind Jimenez. He had a 31.6% K-BB rate going into Tuesday and had not allowed a run. It couldn’t last forever, though. Soto struggled for the first time this season Tuesday night as he could not retire any of the four batters he faced.
Trevor Rosenthal keeps raising his trade value. He converted his seventh save of the season Tuesday, striking out two in the inning. Josh Staumont continues to impress in the seventh. He’s up to 25 strikeouts in 12.1 innings with only one earned run to his name. Scott Barlow is typically the eighth inning man and could have the first crack at the closer job if Rosenthal is traded.
In last week’s closer rankings, I cautioned not to worry about Taylor Rogers. He came through this week with two saves, bringing him to seven on the year. He still carries a 2.07 FIP and 2.84 xFIP against his 4.76 ERA. More good weeks are coming. Sergio Romo could still vulture a save here and there, so he’s worth rostering in deeper leagues. Checking in with Tyler Duffey, his walk rate remains clean at 0%. And he leads the league in holds at eight, tied with Romo.
AL West Bullpen Update
Ryan Pressly is starting to come around. He picked up two more saves, including his forth on Tuesday against the Angels. Given the situation, he could move further up the closer rankings with a few clean outings. Blake Taylor is clearly the number two in this bullpen.
Ty Buttrey recorded his third save Saturday then took the loss on Sunday. While the closer job is Buttrey’s, Felix Pena has been the most effective reliever in the bullpen with a 1.84 ERA in 14.2 innings. If the Angels had a record better than 10-22, I’d call them buyers, and would expect them to trade for a reliever. They still can, but it’s not as likely. It’ll be a situation to monitor at the deadline, whether they’re buyers or sellers.
The Athletics are on the opposite side of the standings with a 21-10 record. Liam Hendriks and the rest of the bullpen are a significant contributor to that. Hendriks picked up a win and two saves this week, bringing him to nine saves on the year. Hendriks has been every bit as good this year as last. He’ll be a fixture in the top-five this year and likely going into next year should he remain with the team.
Taylor Williams had himself a good week, picking up three saves for a total of six on the year. Outside of one blowup outing where he gave up three runs, Williams has been outstanding. Williams is proving to be one of the more valuable pickups for saves.
Rafael Montero picked up his sixth save of the season Monday. He’s been a value himself since making his season debut on August 7th. Behind him, Jonathan Hernandez has been lights out with a 1.56 ERA in 17.1 innings. Hernandez was a starter in the minor leagues but has transitioned well into the bullpen. He’d be next up to close.
NL East Bullpen Update
Mark Melancon blew the save on Saturday against the Phillies but was credited with a win after the Braves walked off in the ninth. He’s gotten the job done as the Braves closer for the most part up to this point. Though, he leaves much to be desired in the strikeout department with only five in nine innings. Meanwhile, Will Smith is still getting his legs under him. He’s got a 3.86 ERA with only 3 strikeouts in 4.2 innings. Melancon should hold on to the job for the remainder of the season unless he puts together a few blown save chances.
The Marlins are winning some ball games these days. Brandon Kintzler has benefitted from that with three saves on the week to bring him to six on the year. He’s another one that isn’t particularly flashy with high strikeout numbers but just gets the job done. He does so with a 62.2% ground ball rate. Nick Vincent got the save on Tuesday after Kintzler pitched in three of the previous four games and was unavailable.
The Mets played their first games in a week on Tuesday due to COVID-19. They failed to score a run in either doubleheader game. Seth Lugo made a start and will continue to pitch out of the starting rotation for the rest of the season. This opens up the ninth inning for Edwin Diaz to reclaim his closer role. If he can keep the walks and home runs in check, he’s got the stuff to be a top-10 closer again.
Workman hasn’t quite impressed his new team, who desperately needs some stability in the bullpen. He’s still walking a lot of batters, but his strikeouts rate is at 22.2%, much lower than the 36.4% he produced last season. And he’s giving up more hard contact than in 2019. Workman locked down one save and blew another with his new team. He should remain the closer on a team that theoretically should give him more opportunities than the Red Sox did.
Daniel Hudson made one appearance this week and needed only nine pitches to convert the save Saturday against the Marlins. Tanner Rainey gave up only his second run of the season on Tuesday with the Nationals down by three runs but has otherwise been incredible in a setup role with 19 strikeouts in 13.1 innings.
NL Central Bullpen Update
Craig Kimbrel might just be working his way back into the closer role, as he’s been put in high leverage situations of late. He pitched the eighth inning on Sunday before Jeremy Jeffress worked the ninth inning for a save. Rowan Wick’s time as the closer might be done. He gave up a walk, a home run, and a double on Saturday against the White Sox before striking out Edwin Encarnacion for his only out before being replaced by Casey Sadler.
Raisel Iglesias picked up his third save of the season on Friday. It was a nice bounceback effort after blowing a save the previous night. The Reds got a vital piece to their bullpen back this week when Robert Stephenson was activated from the injured list.
Just when I was really getting down on Hader’s usage, he comes through with saves on back-to-back days. He’s up to seven on the year and has yet to allow a run. The top reliever in the closer rankings is as dominant as ever right now. Meanwhile, Devin Williams has been dominant in his own right. He’s done an incredible job in a setup role with a 52.3% strikeout rate that ranks second in baseball behind only James Karinchak. He should be rostered in all roto leagues and any leagues that count holds.
Keone Kela made his return from the injured list and threw only five pitches before he was removed with yet another injury. This one didn’t require a stint on the IL, but I’d be very hesitant to pick him up regardless. Richard Rodriguez picked up a save in Kela’s absence. He could be the one the target right now with Kela’s issues and the trade deadline coming. Kela could be on the move.
Giovanny Gallegos got the only save for St. Louis over the last week. The way Gallegos, John Gant, and Andrew Miller have been used, it’s clear that Gallegos will get the majority of the save chances going forward. Miller will be used to face tough lefties and will get an opportunity here and there, but Gallegos is the reliever to own.
NL West Bullpen Update
Archie Bradley saw no save chances this week, but did make an appearance on Tuesday against the Rockies with the Diamondbacks down by a run in the ninth inning. Arizona is in last place in the NL West but they are still within reach of a playoff spot with a 13-18 record. It will be interesting to see if any moves are made at the trade deadline.
It looks like Daniel Bard is indeed the Rockies closer. He locked down his third save of the season on Tuesday against the Diamondbacks. Bard could be added where saves are needed but this is otherwise a situation I’m avoiding.
With the Dodgers and Rockies tied at three in the ninth inning Saturday, Kenley Jansen recorded one out. He struck out Elias Diaz on five pitches before Cody Bellinger walked it off with a home run, giving Jansen the win. He wasn’t as fortunate Tuesday. Jansen blew the save on a Brandon Belt solo home run that tied the game. Jansen remains firmly in the top-three and is one of just a few elite closers this season.
The idea of Pomeranz as the closer was fun while it lasted. He was placed on the injured list with a strained shoulder. With both him and Kirby Yates out, Emilio Pagan is left as the best option to close. He was actually effective this week, picking up two saves. He should be an immediate add for a team that needs saves, at least until Pomeranz returns.
There were no save chances for the Giants this week. While there’s no confirmed closer, Tony Watson continues to be the most reliable and effective reliever in the bullpen. He’s given up only one run in 11 appearances. Tyler Rogers and Shaun Anderson are a couple other names to watch.
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