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Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Report: Hot Seats in Chicago, New York

Happy Memorial Day weekend to all. This weekend seems to kick off summer here in America, so let’s start off this weekend with a deeper dive into every fantasy player’s favorite subject, closers, saves, and holds (if you use them).

If you have questions please don’t hesitate to DM me @mdrc0508 and I will try to help, or just listen to your tale of woe on your bullpens.  With summer being here, it is also important to keep your mental health at the forefront of everything you do. Please take care of yourselves!

Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Report

AL East

The concern in Baltimore over who is closing seems to have subsided with a three-save week for veteran Craig Kimbrel, running his total to 11 on the season with a nice 36.8K%. Yennier Cano (11) and Danny Coulombe (10) are the best bets for holds here.

Clay Holmes finally gave up an earned run and lost a game.  Holmes gave up four runs on four hits and two walks against Seattle on Tuesday. He did bounce back with his 14th save two days later. He continues to be one of the best closers in the game at this time, with a win, a 1.64 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and a 26.6 K%. Continue to use him with confidence. Luke Weaver and Caleb Ferguson have been learning holds, but the return of Tommy Kahnle from injury could shake things up in the hierarchy leading to Holmes.

AL Central

Emmanuel Clase continues to dominate in Cleveland, earning three more saves and a win this week. Clase now has 15 saves to go with a sparkling .36 ERA. He’s a tick lower with strikeouts (only 24 in 25.1 innings) than other closers, but that seems to be nitpicking at this point.  Clase is throwing his cutter 81.6% of the time and seems to be turning into Mariano Rivera.  Scott Barlow has 12 holds, and Hunter Gaddis has 10 in support of Clase.

Surprise in Detroit where last year’s closer Alex Lange (and someone I have told you to keep tabs on) was sent to AAA to work on his control issues. With Shelby Miller on the IL, that leaves holds for veteran lefty Andrew Chafin and former prospect Alex Faedo. Lange will likely be back at some point but has some work to do. Jason Foley has 11 saves and sits atop the bullpen in Detroit.

Jhoan Duran has struggled to a 4.22 ERA in earning his five saves since returning from injury. He’s surrendered three home runs in 10.2 innings thus far after only allowing six all of last season. Those three home runs came in three consecutive games last week. With his stuff, you have to think he will figure it out. Griffin Jax remains a prime candidate for holds in Minnesota.

AL West

In Los Angeles, we have not spoken much of Carlos Estevez, yet it looks like he is in danger of losing his job to Luis Garcia. Estevez has seven saves, but a 5.06 ERA and three losses in 16 games. Interestingly, his K rate is down to 25.8% from 27.8%, but he has also cut his BB rate to 4.5%. Home runs have been an early issue, with Estevez giving up three thus far after only surrendering seven in 2023. His 63.3 left-on-base percentage is the worst of his career, as is the 21.7 groundball percentage. Garcia has a matching ERA with three saves and five holds. I am not sure that the 37-year-old veteran is the answer at closer, but he earned two saves this week and could be a stopgap as they figure out Estevez’s woes.

Andres Munoz earned three saves this week for Seattle and is up to 10 on the season. The peripherals are great too: a 1.69 ERA, a .98 WHIP, and a 34.5K%. Ryne Stanek continues in the top setup role for the Mariners.

NL East

Raisel Iglesias has 12 saves for Atlanta now despite a shocking 17.7 K%. A.J. Minter (7) and Joe Jimenez (10) get the holds here.

In Miami, concern over Tanner Scott seems to have quieted. He had a win and a save this week, running his total to six saves on the season. Use caution, however: the 23.2K% is ten points lower than last year, and his walk rate is a staggering 18.9%. How long can he keep that up? The good news is that he has only five walks in eight May appearances. Tread carefully, my friends. The bigger issue in Miami has been the rest of the bullpen, which has been mostly putrid.

New York: Edwin Diaz has been demoted to a middle relief role. Diaz did earn a hold last night. Adam Ottavino and Reed Garrett figure to get the save chances in the short-term.  Garrett did earn a save this week but then also suffered two losses in back-to-back games. Ottavino has more experience in the role with 46 career saves. Manager Carlos Mendoza called Diaz’s role “fluid” last weekend. One thing to keep in mind: my good friend Greg Jewett always factors in salary questions, and with Diaz signed to a nine-figure contract to close games, he will be back in the role before too long. I would push Ottavvio slightly ahead of Garrett at this time. The team also announced that veteran lefty Brooks Raley needs Tommy John surgery.

Philadelphia: we continue to watch the action here.  Lefty Jose Alvarado had a bizarre Triple Crown of sorts this week: a save, a hold, and a loss. Jeff Hoffman had two holds and a save. Lefty Matt Strahm had a win and a hold. Seranthony Dominguez and Gregory Soto have been bumped into middle relief roles with the emergence of Hoffman, Strahm, and rookie Orion Kerkering. I think we can call Alvarado and Hoffman co-closers at this point, and look for Strahm and Kerkering to have expanded roles at this time.

NL Central

We’re watching the Chicago Cubs bullpen situation with keen interest. Hector Neris is the closer now but he didn’t have an opportunity all week. With injuries to Adbert Alzolay and Julian Merryweather, youngster Hayden Wesneski could be in the mix sooner rather than later. Fellow rookie Ben Brown has been moved back to the rotation with veteran righty Kyle Hendricks moving to a long relief role in the bullpen.  How long Brown stays in the rotation, we do not know. With Jordan Wicks nearing a return, Brown could find himself back in the bullpen quickly. Do not be surprised if Wesneski and Brown are in high-leverage roles and sooner than you think. If the Cubs think they are in the NL Central race long-term, this bullpen screams for a trade for a closer.

Milwaukee’s Trevor Megill earned their only save of the week. Based on usage patterns these past ten days, I feel comfortable putting Bryan Hudson and Elvis Peguero as the top setup men for holds.  Joel Payamps and Hoby Milner have been pitching more in middle relief. Adjust accordingly.  Megill has seven saves now and a 31.5K%. He’s the sure-fire closer at this time. Until he’s not…

Ryan Helsley has been terrific in St. Louis, leading the major leagues with 15 saves. The 1.23 ERA and 28.9K% help out, too.  And we can’t leave out JoJo Romero and Andrew Kittredge, who have 17 and 14 holds already, respectively. As long as Helsley stays healthy, there is no reason to overthink using him as a top closer in your league.

NL West

The Jalen Beeks experiment in Colorado appears to be coming to an end with two blown saves this week. Justin Lawrence, who I champion all the time, hasn’t been any better and blew a chance this week too. Tyler Kinley had a trifecta this week: a loss, a hold, and a win, but his ERA is a whopping 7.97. As my friends Jeff Erickson and Chris Torres said on the Rotowire podcast this week, good fantasy players stay away from the Colorado bullpen. Every year.  All the time.

Los Angeles: closer Evan Phillips should return from the IL early next week and push veterans Daniel Hudson and Blake Treinen back into setup roles.

In San Francisco, Camilo Doval remains the closer with nine saves. For those watching, Tyler Rogers earned his first save this week, but Doval had been used in three consecutive days, and this appeared to just be a night off for him. A name to watch here for holds is Ryan Walker, who had two holds and a win this week and is up to eight holds on the season with a 34.8k%.

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