I am not sure if anyone likes to see these quick summaries of these bullpen numbers, but I find them stark, and I keep trying to quantify them in my head somehow.
There are now 120 pitchers in MLB with saves this season through June 9. There are 209 pitchers who have had at least one save opportunity over the same time frame. Pitching usage continues to evolve and change, with relief pitchers getting more and more innings, limiting the usage of starting pitchers. I will be doing more research on that as time allows, but it’s fascinating to watch for me. We see what we used to call closers coming on in the fifth inning sometimes. We see little-known pitchers (Ryan Weber, anyone?) closing out the tenth innings of games to get saves.
This makes our task even tougher: where do we find saves and holds, and how do we find that next batch of arms coming that might make big differences in our fantasy seasons? Let’s take a look.
The top five pitchers by saves this year:
- Emmanuel Clase at 20
- Felix Bautista, Carlos Estevez and Jordan Romano at 17
- Camilo Doval at 16
In the last 15 days, Romano is a perfect 7-7 in his chances. Bautista continues to post video game numbers with a whopping 64 strikeouts in 31 innings, a 50.8 K%. That is astounding.
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Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Report
Is Clay Holmes back in New York? Michael King blew a save and took a loss Thursday, while Holmes has two saves and a win over the last week of games. I would edge Holmes over King at this time. This one may continue to be a nightmare for fantasy players all season. Chin up, cheer up. It’s just a game we play, right?
Liam Hendriks has had quite the last two weeks. He showed some rust coming back from his cancer scare, but earned two wins and a save this week, returning quickly to a high-leverage role for the somewhat surging Chicago White Sox. If they are to continue this better streak of play, they will need him in the closer role. He will continue to gain velocity the more he throws. The guy is a total competitor and wants the ball. Kudos to him on his comeback. The trio of Kendall Graveman, Joe Kelly, and Reynaldo Lopez are a huge reason the Sox have been playing better; they are getting key outs and Graveman may get the save chances when Hendriks needs a breather. But I do expect Hendriks to be their ninth-inning guy the bulk of the chances moving forward. If he is on your bench, get him active for next week.
Los Angeles Angels’ phenom Ben Joyce left the game last night in the sixth inning with what is being described as right-hand irritation. More testing will take place today, but Joyce also reported numbness and tingling in his hand as well. This doesn’t sound promising for the flame-throwing righty. And I just spent precious FAAB on him in my reliever-only league. And so it goes for the fantasy squads run by Mike Carter. In better news, Carlos Estevez continues to shine as the closer here.
I am a huge Trevor May fan even if he never threw another pitch in MLB. He has been upfront and honest about his struggles with anxiety, readily submitting to interviews about this and using his platform to talk about mental health. Since returning from the IL late last month, May has only surrendered two runs and earned two saves this last week. Granted, the A’s are 15-50, but May should get the bulk of the scant chances here until he gets traded at the deadline.
Andres Munoz returned this week to the Seattle bullpen and contributed a scoreless inning with two strikeouts. The struggling Mariners can use any boost they can get. It’s uncertain how they will use Munoz, with Paul Sewald doing his job at closer with two wins and 12 saves. Look for Munoz to return eventually to his stopper role. The Mariners also activated bullpen stalwart Penn Murfee this week.
Grant Anderson is a name to bookmark in Texas. He opened eyes in his MLB debut with seven punchouts in 2.2 innings last week, followed by another scoreless inning in his next outing. He did give up two runs in his last outing to blemish his good start. While Will Smith is firmly entrenched as the closer now, manager Bruce Bochy described Anderson as a man with “no fear” and may continue to use him in high-leverage spots. Very quietly, the Rangers have put together a nice bullpen after a rough start to the year; since May 20th, their bullpen ERA is a more manageable 3.83. Possible additions Danny Duffy and Kyle Funkhouser are rehabbing injuries right now. Josh Sborz, Brock Burke and Jose Leclerc have been useful. Jonathan Hernandez was optioned to AAA this week. Keep an eye out here.
The Miami Marlins activated A.J. Puk from the IL, and after watching Dylan Floro give up two hits, a wild pitch, and take the loss against the White Sox last night, I expect Puk to be the closer again in very short order.
Jose Alvarado is back in Philadelphia. He returns to a bullpen that was solidified by veteran Craig Kimbrel in his absence. The Phillies have an embarrassment of riches this year after having a bullpen that became a punchline for years: Kimbrel, Alvarado, Gregory Soto, and Seranthony Dominguez lead a stable that also includes Andrew Vazquez, Jeff Hoffman, and Yunior Marte. Looking for holds? Look to Soto and Dominguez. It will be interesting to watch how Alvarado and Kimbrel are used in conjunction with each other. One to watch for sure.
Pittsburgh: a find in Colin Holderman. Save for one bad outing last weekend, he’s been a key component of the Pirates’ surprising start to the season. He’s got 12 holds and a save on the ledger. Do watch the peripherals here, though: the 1.35 WHIP is bordering on being a problem for me in leagues where I need to fiercely protect my delicate ratios. But Holderman flies under the radar in many leagues. If you need holds, he’s a good addition.
Pierce Johnson is out as the closer in Denver. You might think it will go to Daniel Bard, but right now, it looks like Justin Lawrence and Jake Bird will fight over the chances. Manager Bud Black was coy about who would replace Johnson. The best guess is that it is Lawrence and Bird.
As stated earlier in my piece here, what happened with Lawrence the other night is a perfect example of a closer type being used in a different situation. Lawrence was brought on to get the Rockies out of a jam in the seventh inning. While that is a great usage of him by Black, it doesn’t help fantasy players get the stat they need from Lawrence the most, which is the save. Black doesn’t care about that as he is trying to win the game in front of him. I simply look at Lawrence’s usage as a headache we need to manage as competitive fantasy players. The best arm in the bullpen doesn’t always get the stat that we need.