With nearly a week of baseball in the books, we can start to piece together many of the bullpens. Some, unfortunately, are not as simple as we would like. As saves become spread via committees, it makes finding the correct ninth-inning pitcher incredibly difficult. The main focus of the Bullpen Notebook is to keep a running track of who the current closer is, along with the potential suitors as next in line.
Also, we need to establish where each team is with the bullpen. Are they relying on one person to closer the games? Is there a committee in place? Is there someone that could lose the closer role in the near future? Who could take the closer role much later on? We will define each league into three baskets: Safe, Committees, and Hot Seat. As the season progresses, teams will move in and out of the baskets. Rest assured, we will help keep you updated!
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American League Bullpen Notebook
|AL EAST||Closer||In The Mix||In The Mix||Stash / *IL|
|BAL||Cesar Valdez||Paul Fry(L)||Tanner Scott(L)||Cole Sulser|
|BOS||Matt Barnes||Adam Ottavino||Darwinzon Hernandez(L)||Garrett Whitlock|
|NYY||Aroldis Chapman(L)||Jonathan Loaisiga||Chad Green||Wandy Peralta(L)|
|TB||Diego Castillo||Peter Fairbanks||J.P. Feyereisen||Ryan Thompson|
|TOR||Jordan Romano||Rafael Dolis||Tyler Chatwood||A.J. Cole|
- New York Yankees: Aroldis Chapman is back from suspension with a firm grasp on the role. In Chapman’s brief absence, Chad Green closed a game and should be considered the next in line. The great thing about Chapman is year in and year out he provides plenty of strikeouts and saves.
- Chicago White Sox: Liam Hendricks was given a huge contract to be the clubs closer. He will get a long leash in the role. In 2020, Liam put up a 40% K-rate and only walked 3.3% of batters. It’s very difficult to see a scenario, besides health, that would stop Hendricks from being the full-time closer.
- Houston Astros: Ryan Pressly impressed plenty in 2020 as he ran away with the closer duties. The Astros didn’t bring any competition in during the offseason, so the job is all his. Pedro Baez and Josh James linger as potential arms that could be closers, but any situation involving them is very far away. It’s Pressly’s job for a while.
- Los Angeles Angels: Trading for Raisel Iglesias all but cements him in the ninth-inning role. He did blow a save already but until further notice, consider him safe. Looking for that next man up though? In 2020, Mike Mayers had a 35% K-rate over 30 innings pitched, while also looking impressive in Spring Training.
- Baltimore Orioles: Many assumed Tanner Scott would get first crack at the closer duties but in both save opportunities it has been Cesar Valdez. Valdez is the likely favorite to continue grabbing saves for the future with Tanner Scott next in line.
- Boston Red Sox: Matt Barnes is the incumbent closer so he will likely be leaned on to close games out. Newly acquired Adam Ottavino could overtake that job fairly quickly if Barnes goes back to his old ways of walking too many batters.
- Cleveland Team: Terry Francona has yet to name a true closer. It’s a three-headed monster of James Karinchak, Emmanuel Case, and Nick Wittgren. Karinchak has the “closer stuff” and gaudy strikeout totals to do the job but the command issues are concerning. A wait-and-see approach is probably best before scrambling to get a piece of this bullpen.
- Kansas City Royals: The bullpen has several arms that could be a closer. Jesse Hahn and Wade Davis have collected a save on the year. This bullpen is very messy at the moment and should be deal with from afar. Darkhouse to earn the closer role at some point this season is Josh Staumont. He has elite stuff but can be too wild.
- Oakland Athletics: The terrible news of Trevor Rosenthal’s injury bumps Jake Diekman to the front of the line. Diekman has terrific strikeout numbers but control issues have bitten him throughout his career. After being hit hard in his opening act, Sergio Romo could step in, as he has been a closer in the past.
- Seattle Mariners: Rafael Montero looks like the first man up for the closer duties in Seattle. At this exact moment, I wouldn’t put all my Easter eggs in Montero’s basket. Kendall Graveman is still lurking around and looking good so far. Give it another week to see how things get used.
- Tampa Bay Rays: The team that always has a revolving door of closers finds themselves with Diego Castillo getting all the chances so far. Peter Fairbanks is in the mix as well and is not a bad speculative relief pitcher to consider on your bench. I am not 100% ready to consider Diego Castillo a safe closer, yet.
- Texas Rangers: Bitten by the injury bug, the Rangers are forced to close down games with either Ian Kennedy or Matt Bush. Kennedy looked slightly better in Spring Training but Matt Bush has a legitimate shot to overtake Kennedy. We should know which one fairly shortly.
- Toronto Blue Jays: Kirby Yates gets Tommy John surgery and everyone assumes the next man up is Jordan Romano, but so far both saves have gone to Julian Merryweather. I suspect the Blue Jays split the saves between both Romano and Merryweather. It might be hard to predict who will get the saves each week but if they go with just one it will be a huge return on investment.
- Detroit Tigers: Gregory Soto notched his first save of the season but has struggled immensely. In his only game on the mound, he gave up two hits (one HR) and walked a batter. There is not much in the way of options but keep an eye on Bryan Garcia and my darkhorse candidate, Jose Cisnero.
- Minnesota Twins: The team brought in former White Sox closer Alex Colome to be the closer. He has already blown a save and yet to strike a batter out any of the 10 batters he has faced. They already have Taylor Rogers, who is a serviceable arm in the bullpen. If Colome struggles more, he could lose his job quickly.
NL Bullpen Notebook
|NL EAST||Closer||In The Mix||NL CENTRAL||Closer||In The Mix||NL WEST||Closer||In The Mix|
|ATL||Will Smith||A.J Minter, |
|CHC||Craig Kimbrel||Alec Mills, |
|ARI||Stehan Crichton||Kevin Ginkel,
|MIA||Yimi Garcia||Dylan Floro, |
|CIN||Amir Garrett||Lucas Sims,|
|COL||Daniel Bard||Mychal Givens,
|NYM||Edwin Diaz||Trevor May,|
|MIL||Josh Hader||Devin Williams,|
|LAD||Kenley Jansen||Blake Treinen,
|PHI||Hector Neris||Jose Alvarado,|
|PIT||Richard Rodriguez||David Bednar,|
|SD||Mark Melancon||Emilio Pagan,
|WAS||Brad Hand||Tanner Rainey, |
|STL||Alex Reyes||Giovanny Gallegos, Jordan Hicks||SF||Jake McGee||Matt Wisler,
- Atlanta Braves: The Braves should win a boatload of games this year, which could lead to someone racking up a ton of saves. That someone is going to be Will Smith. He is getting paid closer money and there shouldn’t be any concern with his current role.
- Chicago Cubs: Craig Kimbrel has carried a great Spring Training into the regular season. The fastball looks like it has the zip needed to continue striking batters out. The bullpen behind him is very lackluster and the club will give him every chance to close. Alec Mills record a save on Monday but that is only because Kimbrel had pitched back-to-back games.
- Los Angeles Dodgers: The World Series champs still have Kenley Jansen. Sure they have loaded up the rest of the bullpen with lots of depth. Former closers Blake Treinen and Corey Knebel may vulture some saves because the Dodgers could win an abundance of games and try to keep Jansen fresh for a playoff run.
- Milwaukee Brewers: Josh Hader is one of the most dynamic pitchers in the game. You will get a ton of strikeouts and the lion’s share of saves for Milwaukee. Unless Hader gets injured, I wouldn’t consider Devin Williams in play to take the closer job away.
- New York Mets: The Mets may have loaded up the bullpen with a few new arms but the closer role is Edwin Diaz’s job to lose. He has been prone to blow-ups in the past but if he can maintain control of the slider, it’s all his.
- Philadelphia Phillies: Hector Neris officially won the closer role over Archie Bradley and Jose Alvarado. His new slider is helping solidify the position. As long as he doesn’t resort back to last season, it will be paydirt for you.
- Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates are not contending in 2021 but they can still showcase Richard Rodriguez’s skills as a very useful bullpen arm for a future trade. David Bednar has looked very intriguing with a wipeout slider doing damage. Even so, it’s Rodriguez as the main man until further notice.
- San Francisco Giants: The Giants had a bevy of arms, albeit not the greatest already in the bullpen before acquiring Jake McGee. McGee will challenge hitters with his fastball nearly every pitch. He throws his fastball 97% of the time. He has looked good so far and clearly has the job with little to no competition.
- St Louis Cardinals: What seemed like out of nowhere, the Cardinals named Alex Reyes the closer. He has an amazing arsenal to put away hitters over 30% of the time but also walks too many. There are quite a few other options in this bullpen to turn to in the ninth inning so tread lightly. Eventually, Jordan Hicks might take this job back, but that would be much further down the line.
- Arizona Diamondbacks: Chris Devinski picked up the team’s first save. Very unexpected, and there is a solid chance he is on your waiver wire. He could get another crack at the closer job or they could elect to try Joakim Soria again. Soria is nursing a strained calf so next up could be Stefan Crichton, who many thought might get the job before the season began. A stash pick for much further down the line is Kevin Ginkel. His command is not great but the stuff could be useful as a closer.
- Cincinnati Reds: Injuries to Amir Garrett and Lucas Sims have slowed this race down. I would lean on Garrett to get first crack at being the Red’s full-time closer. Tejay Antone lurks in the bullpen but the club is dying for starters. Sean Doolittle is very interesting if Garrett and Sims can’t figure it out.
- Colorado Rockies: This is the last place you should be looking for a closer. The team is not going to win many games and the bullpen is a mess. Daniel Bard is a great story and should finish the season with the majority of Rockies saves. However, that could be very few but may come with a bunch of strikeouts.
- San Diego Padres: Another very frustrating bullpen as most thought Emilio Pagan would open the season as the closer, but not so much. The team has used Mark Melancon for two early save opportunities. Ryan Weathers chipped in one as well, but that is only after Melancon pitcher two straight days. I still believe Pagan is worth the stash in case Melancon can’t hold onto the job.
- Miami Marlins: I have been on the Anthony Bass hype train all offseason, so watching him flounder right out of the gate is very disheartening. Many had speculated that Yimi Garcia might get first crack to finish games off for the Marlins. Both have settled down somewhat, but things could escalate quickly against Bass.
- Washington Nationals: The Nats brought in Brad Hand specifically to be the closer but there has been an issue with his fastball velocity down a couple of ticks. Hand noted this was something he was working on in the offseason to prepare. I know I am being a little harsh putting an established closer on the hot seat before they even pitch but Tanner Rainey looked terrific last year with a nearly 43% K-rate.
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