Closer Rankings and Bullpen Depth Charts: Week 23
It has been a rough stretch for a couple of the game’s top relievers. Meanwhile, it looks like a two-man race to the top of the closer rankings as the season comes winding down over the final month. With each edition of the bullpen depth charts, we go division-by-division and examine the bullpen usage for each team. As the weeks go by, I’ll be adding in my thoughts on some 2020 draft outlooks.
AL Bullpen Depth Charts and Closer Rankings
+ Injury Concern
* Part of Committee
Mychal Givens picked up his 10th save of the season Tuesday against the Royals allowing one hit and striking out one. The only thing consistent about this situation is that it’s been consistently one I’ve avoided all season. The outlook doesn’t look much different for the month remaining.
Brandon Workman made two appearances this week without a save opportunity. Workman was called upon in the ninth inning Saturday against the Orioles with Boston up by four runs. With the Red Sox training by two in the ninth inning Wednesday against the Phillies, Workman allowed a run to score at the top of the frame. While the job is Workman’s, he’s only recorded two saves over the last month due to lack of opportunities. Matt Barnes has worked as the setup man behind Workman since Nathan Eovaldi’s move to the starting rotation.
Aroldis Chapman is neck and neck with Kirby Yates for the MLB lead in saves. Chapman picked up two more saves for a total of 35 on the year. Chapman has not allowed a run in eight appearances this month, collecting a save in each of them. A continued run like this could make Chapman the first closer off of draft boards come next season.
The Tampa Bay Rays have leaned heavily on Emilio Pagan to close out games and for good reason. Pagan has totaled 13 saves in what has been a committee for the better part of the season with a 1.88 ERA and 12.99 K/9. Pagan has five saves in August, but was off his game Wednesday night against the Mariners. After allowing three runs in the top of the ninth to put Seattle up by one, the Rays walked it off, giving Pagan the win. Nick Anderson has not allowed a run since joining the Rays at the trade deadline. In eight innings, Anderson has struck out a ridiculous 18 batters.
No save chances arose for the Blue Jays this week. Ken Giles did make one appearance, striking out two batters in a clean inning of work against the Mariners on Friday. Derek Law has worked the ninth inning in the time Giles has missed. Additionally, the Blue Jays should be taking things easy with Giles given the elbow issues he’s dealt with this season.
Alex Colome made one appearance this week, recording his 24th save on Sunday. The outing was a shaky one, allowing a run on three hits. Nonetheless, Colome has provided more value than expected overall on the season. Meanwhile, Aaron Bummer has performed nearly identically to Colome, recording 17 holds with a 1.80 ERA and 7.74 K/9.
The struggles continue for Brad Hand as he’s blown his last three save opportunities. Hand had been as good as any closer in the game for most of the season, not having a blown save until his first on June 25. But Hand is in the midst of a major slump right now with seven runs allowed in his last four appearances. I have to think Hand has the job security that will let him work through his issues, and in the end, I think he will. Hand still has one of the better K%-BB% in the league at 29.2% and his 3.04 ERA comes with a 2.56 FIP, 3.29xFIP, and 2.78 SIERA.
Who would have thought Joe Jimenez would be performing better than Brad Hand right now? Jimenez was 2-for-3 in save chances over the week and has four saves since taking over the ninth-inning duties at the trade deadline. Jimenez is still walking a high rate of hitters so he could be volatile. That along with the team context will keep him lower in the closer rankings.
Ian Kennedy recorded two saves or the Royals, bringing his total up to 22 on the year. Kennedy has been one of the best mid-season pickups for saves this season. It will be interesting to see what the Royals do with Kennedy this offseason but I imagine he will be entering the 2020 season as the team’s closer should he remain with the club. Outside of Kennedy, no one in this bullpen has been worth owning.
The Minnesota Twins have essentially made the closing situation a two-man job between Taylor Rogers and Sergio Romo. Each recorded a save over the week, bringing their season totals up to 19 and 20 respectively. Rogers would be my preferred choice of the two as he’s provided the better strikeout numbers.
Roberto Osuna makes a jump in the rankings this week with saves on three consecutive days, bringing him to 29 on the season. Osuna has been as solid as they come over the season and should be one of the first relievers taken in drafts next season. Ryan Pressly recorded two holds behind Osuna and has been valuable in holds leagues with 27 on the season.
Hansel Robles recorded two more saves for a total of 18 on the year. Robles was called upon in the eighth inning on Wednesday with two runners on and no outs to protect a one-run lead. Robles allowed the game-tying run to score and was credited with the blown save. It was the fourth appearance in five days for Robles, so it’s hard to blame him for the outing. Robles has been solid since taking over as the closer with a 2.81 ERA, 18 saves, four wins, and only two blown save chances.
Liam Hendriks might be the most valuable free-agent pickup among closers. Hendriks picked up two more saves for a total of 15. Called upon in the eighth inning Wednesday, Hendriks recorded a five-out save against the New York Yankees, striking out three batters and not allowing a baserunner. Perhaps no reliever has fallen more than Blake Treinen considering how high he was drafted. Meanwhile, one of the A’s top prospects A.J. Puk was called up to work in relief for the remainder of the season. Puk recorded one out in his debut Wednesday and allowed two base runners on before being replaced by Liam Hendriks. The young A’s pitcher is likely best left on the waiver wire this season but he’s an interesting arm to watch and follow as we could see his electric stuff in the rotation next season.
The Seattle Mariners have gone to a committee with Matt Magill picking up two saves on the week. Magill and Anthony Bass figure to get most save chances, and both have two on the season now. This situation is much like Baltimore’s as its one I’m completely avoiding.
Jose Leclerc went five consecutive scoreless outings before giving up a solo home run on Tuesday to blow the save. Even with him being named the closer for the season, he sits at only eight saves on the year with a 4.28 ERA and has been one of the more disappointing closers drafted. Leclerc still posts good strikeout numbers with a 13.17 K/9 and could be a late-round bounce-back candidate next season.
NL Bullpen Depth Charts and Closer Rankings
+ Injury Concern
* Part of Committee
Manager Brian Snitker stayed true to his word and sent Mark Melancon to the mound for two saves over the week. If Melancon is indeed the full-time closer going forward, it’s a situation I’m still carefully monitoring. The team had also acquired Shane Greene and Chris Martin at the trade deadline. Greene has pitched the eighth as the primary setup man and could retake the role should Melancon, with a 4.02 ERA on the year, falter down the stretch.
Last week, I anticipated Ryne Stanek getting the next save chance. He did, and he blew it. Put this situation down with the Mariners and Orioles as ones I want no part of.
Both Edwin Diaz and Seth Lugo recorded a save over the week. Lugo did pitch the eighth and ninth innings Wednesday against the Indians and looks to be the primary closer at this time. At the very least, he’s the one Micky Callaway trusts most right now. I do think Diaz could eventually retake the role if he puts together a good stretch as he does have 25 saves on the year.
Hector Neris picked up two more saves and sits at 23 on the season. Neris has recorded five saves and lowered his ERA from 4.20 to 3.25 since his last run allowed on June 18. Neris has been great as a solid mid-tier closer. A 17% spike in groundball rate has helped Neris with home run suppression from last season to now. Neris is having a nice year after an abysmal 5.10 ERA and only 11 saves in 2018.
Sean Doolittle was placed on the 10-day IL with knee tendinitis. Injuries have always been a concern for Doolittle and the 52 innings this season are the most he’s thrown since his 62 in 2014. After allowing four runs twice and two runs once over his last six outings, it was clear something was wrong. As things stand, the closing situation will be by committee. The only save chance this week went to Daniel Hudson, who could not hold on to convert the save opportunity. Hunter Strickland and Fernando Rodney figure to be in the mix as well.
Craig Kimbrel returned from the IL this week and recorded two saves for the Cubs. Kimbrel is up to 10 saves now since making his season debut for the Cubs on June 27. Kimbrel has had 13 of 17 scoreless appearances while a couple of rough outings give him a bloated 5.65 ERA. While he may not be among the best in the game at this point, I still believe Kimbrel will be a valuable contributor down the stretch and could come as a value in drafts next season due to the late start to his 2019 campaign.
Raisel Iglesias picked up three more saves for a total of 26 on the year. Iglesias has turned things around greatly over the second half of the season. This is in part due to his first to second half jump in strikeout rate from 28.7% to 37.5% and lower walk rate from 10.4% to 5.4%. With an improved second-half Sonny Gray and trade acquisition Trevor Bauer, the Reds’ pitching staff should keep them in the game, giving more opportunities to Iglesias over the final month. After recording six saves in July, he already has six in the month of August with over a week left.
Wednesday night’s game between the Brewers and Cardinals was called in the eighth inning due to rain with the Brewers up by two runs. This might have saved me from what has been the stress of Josh Hader in the late innings. Hader, like Brad Hand, is one of the top relievers in the game in the middle of a rough stretch. Hader has now given up at least one run in six of his last seven appearances including five straight. The strikeout rate is still unmatched along with the swinging strike rate, so I think things will get right soon here for Hader. It’s just a matter of holding on at this point, rough for those in head-to-head leagues during this time.
Felipe Vazquez inherited two baserunners as he replaced Joe Musgrove on the mound Friday against the Cubs. Tony Kemp hit a two-RBI triple to put the Cubs up by one. It was the only save chance for Vazquez, who has otherwise been one of the best relievers in baseball with a 1.65 ERA, 22 saves, and 13.59 K/9.
It hasn’t been the cleanest at times but Carlos Martinez has gotten the job done for the Cardinals in the ninth inning. Martinez picked up his 14th save on Sunday against the Reds despite giving up two runs. Andrew Miller picked up the save the following day for his fifth of the season. With 20 holds, Miller has value in saves and holds leagues as he could pick up a few more saves along the way from this point on.
Archie Bradley picked up two more saves this week for the Diamondbacks. Bradley had put together an impressive scoreless stretch lasting from June 26 to August 12, earning Bradley the ninth-inning job after the team released Greg Holland. Bradley is now up to six saves on the year. After a couple of years of speculation of Bradley’s role, we may see him go into 2020 as the unquestioned closer for the Diamondbacks.
After putting together a solid season and taking over closing duties for Colorado, unfortunate news hit as Scott Oberg was placed on the 60-Day IL with a blood clot in his arm. Now with Oberg out, the Rockies will go with a committee approach as Wade Davis continues to struggle mightily this season. Davis was credited with a blown save and a loss over the week. Carlos Estevez and Jairo Diaz were mentioned by Bud Black as relievers that could see save chances over the remainder of the season.
Kenley Jansen had a repeat of last week as he blew the only save opportunity on Wednesday night, giving up a game-tying home run to Rowdy Tellez. Jansen has converted 26 of 32 save chances on the year and should still be regarded as one of the better closers in a fantastic situation, although his days among the top in the closer rankings are likely over.
It’s a two-man race to finish the season atop the closer rankings between Kirby Yates and Aroldis Chapman. Yates, like Chapman, converted three saves on the week. Yates leads all of MLB with 36 saves. Save total aside, Yates has been one of the best pitchers in baseball with a 1.24 ERA and 14.47 K/9 over 51 innings. Twenty-year-old Andres Munoz has pitched well in a high leverage setup role behind Yates with 18 strikeouts and only three runs allowed in 15 innings of work.
Giants closer Will Smith made one appearance this week, blowing the save chance against the Diamondbacks on Friday. With 29 saves, 13.01 K/9, and 2.80 ERA, Smith has been one of the more valuable closers in fantasy and I would expect more of the same. Reyes Moranta had been a popular speculative add earlier this season but blew the save Wednesday and took the loss to the Cubs. Should Smith be unavailable, Moranta, Tony Watson and Trevor Gott figure to be in the mix for saves.
Hopefully, you found Jorge’s Closer Rankings and Bullpen Depth Charts useful. For more of his take make sure to follow him on Twitter @Jmontanez.
Jorge Montanez is a lifelong sports fan but new to the fantasy industry, joining Fantrax HQ as a writer in June of 2019. Jorge co-hosts the Bases Loaded Podcast, a fantasy baseball podcast covering everything fantasy baseball on a weekly basis. He was raised in Stockton, CA but now resides in Los Angeles, where you can find him at a ballpark playing catch with his two sons on the weekends. Follow Jorge @jmontanez90 on Twitter where he’ll be happy to give his take and answer questions on all things fantasy.
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