Being on vacation with the family for Spring Break does not stop the news coming out of MLB bullpens. Thus, we will not rest until we get week one updates out to you, replete with overreactions and underreactions to the first games of the season.
What do we know so far? In typical fashion in this weekly piece, not much. Bullpen folks try to read the tea leaves and listen to what managers are saying each week, but the facts are still very often the facts: we do not know exactly what is going to happen each night in roughly two-thirds of all MLB bullpens. Bear with us. Mistakes will be made, but please be sure to know this is a labor of love meant to try and help other fantasy players. Nothing we write here is law, and likely will change all season.
Let’s get to it.
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Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Update
As suspected both Dillon Tate (flexor strain) and Mychal Givens (knee inflammation) started the season on the 15-day IL for the Baltimore Orioles. Felix Bautista did earn the save on Opening Day despite a shaky ninth inning. Cionel Perez and Bryan Baker got the seventh and eighth, with Logan Gillaspie getting the last out of the eighth inning, earning a hold ahead of Bautista. We would expect Perez and Baker to be the primary setup men at this time.
An interesting move on the South Side for the Chicago White Sox. General manager Rick Hahn revealed that Liam Hendriks would not be placed on the 60-day IL (as was expected) as he battles non-Hodgkins lymphoma. While the White Sox have respected Hendriks’ right to privacy during his ordeal, was this telling us that Hendriks might not be far off from a potential return, or was this just an aspect of roster manipulation? Hard to say but we continue to wish Hendriks the best in his cancer fight.
An interesting thing to note in the first game of the season for the Sox as Kendall Graveman got the eighth inning and Reynaldo Lopez the ninth inning. The Statcast data was eye-popping as Lopez hit 100 MPH multiple times, despite an absolute missile home run from Yordan Alvarez, and earned the save in a 3-2 Sox win. New manager Pedro Grifol has repeatedly said he will play matchups in the bullpen and that he is comfortable manipulating a pitching staff. This will be one to watch in the coming days to see if we detect a usage pattern here.
Jorge Lopez got the last two outs in the seventh inning before ceding to Griffin Jax in the eighth, all setting up Jhoan Duran for the save in the ninth inning. I don’t believe in victory laps, really, and don’t make fantasy baseball decisions off one game, so please don’t @ me. I think this will be a fluid situation all year despite Duran’s clear abilities and talent to pitch the ninth inning. Manager Rocco Baldelli has said that he may mix and match all season. Be prepared for a rollercoaster ride.
In case you were not paying attention (Carlos Marcano may be one of the only people paying attention), the Oakland Athletics were victorious on Opening Day. Trevor May pitched the eighth and Dany Jimenez pitched the ninth for his first save.
Moving north to Seattle, Paul Sewald took the eighth inning and Andres Munoz pitched the ninth for his first save of the season.
With Raisel Iglesias out for a brief period of time, manager Brian Snitker mentioned that AJ Minter would be at the top of the food chain for the Braves. Minter was coming into a 4-2 game for the save on Opening Day before Travis d’Arnaud knocked in two runs in the top of the ninth. Minter did pitch the final frame but it was no longer a save situation. Bump Minter slightly ahead of Joe Jimenez…for now.
One situation to watch is in Miami. The Marlins have a bevy of options to choose from here with Tanner Scott, Dylan Floro, and the recently acquired AJ Puk. Puk got the ninth yesterday and got the save despite surrendering a long home run to slugger Pete Alonso. Matt Barnes looks like he will be in middle relief at this time. This looks like it could be a committee, but I am higher on Puk than Floro for a season of value.
Many of us were wondering and speculating on who would get the first crack at the New York Mets’ job with Edwin Diaz sidelined for the year. In game one, that opportunity went to veteran righty David Robertson, who converted for his first save of 2023. Drew Smith and Brooks Raley pitched ahead of Robertson setting him up.
Lefty Brandon Hughes starts the season on the 15-day IL with knee issues for the Chicago Cubs. Much was made in the winter about him being the closer on the North Side, but it truly looks like (again, never certain) that Brad Boxberger and Michael Fulmer will get the first cracks at saves here. Stay tuned.
Joe Mantiply will join veteran closer Mark Melancon on the 15-day IL, leaving closing duties to Scott McGough and perhaps Andrew Chafin. Mantiply did not appear in line to close games, but his injury could cause a hierarchy change in Arizona. Chafin did get the first save for the Dbacks last night. McGough came on in the eighth but walked two, including Betts to lead off the ninth. Chafin came on to face Freeman/Smith/Muncy to earn the save, and two of those hitters are left-handed, so it might have been the plan all along to play the matchup here.
Daniel Bard of the Colorado Rockies starts the season on the 15-day IL due to his continued battle with anxiety. As a special education teacher and administrator for almost 30 years, I tip my cap to Bard: he has not backed down from his treatment for this issue he is battling, and kudos to him for using his platform to shine a bright light on mental health. I have seen firsthand (as have many of our readers) the crippling impact anxiety can have on people. Please don’t make light of it. The way we treat mental health in this country is an absolute outrage and the scourge of our society. Best wishes to Bard as he works through his mental health. As far as the closer for the Rockies goes, they have options in Pierce Johnson, Dinelson Lamet (who could be a secret weapon here), and veteran closer Brad Hand. Johnson got the first save last night for the Rockies and I would lean here if I were a gambler.