Closer Rankings and Bullpen Depth Charts for Week 18
We have a full week of games in the books now after the All-Star break to evaluate the closer landscape. A former ace and World Series hero could find himself as a primary save source. While no injuries or blowups have me moving any top closers, we have some surging young hurlers making their way up the rankings this week. Now is the time to pay attention to who might be next in line for saves as the trade deadline draws nearer. Week 18 is upon us and so are my closer rankings and bullpen depth charts along with a summary and my thoughts on each team’s usage.
AL Bullpen Depth Charts and Closer Rankings
+ Injury Concern
* Part of Committee
Having not pitched in 10 days, Mychal Givens picked up a two-inning save for the Orioles on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays. Richard Bleier pitched a clean seventh and gave up the leadoff walk to Austin Meadows in the eighth before Givens took over to close out the game. It was only the seventh save of the season for Givens, who’s had an up and down year sporting a 4.50 ERA. Givens and the Baltimore situation remains one to avoid.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora believes Nathan Eovaldi could be activated over the weekend. Boston acquired Orioles pitcher Andrew Cashner to add to the rotation. Eovaldi is expected to take over closing duties upon his return. For now, the Red Sox continue to play the matchups as Brandon Workman picked up his fourth and fifth saves of the season this week against the Blue Jays. If Eovaldi is available in your league he could be a valuable pickup for saves going forward. If the Eovaldi owner in your league has been holding him all season, I would see how they are doing in saves and inquire about a trade. Chances are they drafted Eovaldi as a starter and have other save sources.
Aroldis Chapman had a repeat of last week as he went one-for-two in save opportunities for the Yankees. Chapman needed only eight pitches to get through the Blue Jays on Sunday to record his 25th save of the season, tying Brad Hand for the AL lead. Chapman was called upon again Monday against the Rays and wasn’t nearly as sharp, allowing two hits and striking out two batters before allowing the go-ahead three-run home run to Travis d’Arnaud. Zack Britton remains the primary setup man in New York and has value in holds leagues, where he is tied for fourth in the league with 19 holds recorded.
The Rays have been searching for consistency in the 9th inning all year with little luck. Diego Castillo made his return from the injured list, but it’s been Emilio Pagan getting the save opportunities. Pagan picked up his 6th save of the season on Sunday in Baltimore before entering the game against the Yankees on Monday in the 7th inning. Pagan gave up the game-tying home run to Gio Urshela. Castillo pitched the 6th inning and two outs in the 7th before Pagan entered. It’s anyone’s guess right now how the situation will play out going forward. I expect both Castillo and Pagan to receive some save chances but manager Kevin Cash clearly isn’t afraid to use either one earlier on. Both are worth owning in deeper leagues but the situation is probably one to avoid in shallow 10 to 12-team leagues.
The lone save chance for the Blue Jays came on Saturday against the Yankees but it was Daniel Hudson and not Ken Giles that came out for the ninth. There was much speculation that perhaps Giles was traded but it turned out he had been experiencing nerve inflammation in his elbow. Giles has since been cleared to return and pitched the ninth inning Wednesday against the Red Sox with Toronto down by two runs. Giles gave up two hits and a walk with a run scored in the non-save situation. It’s clear who the next man up is going to be if and when Giles is moved. With his recent string of injuries, Hudson is at least worth picking up in deeper roto leagues as a stash for saves.
It was a quiet week for White Sox relievers with no save opportunities. Evan Marshall was credited with a blown save after giving up the game-tying run in the seventh on Sunday against the Athletics. Anyone who has owned Alex Colome all season has enjoyed the value he’s provided with 20 saves on the season. But it could all come to an end at the trade deadline as many teams will be looking for bullpen help and Colome could be on the move. Aaron Bummer is someone you should be looking to stash right now in leagues where you need saves in case Colome is moved.
Brad Hand’s lone blown save of the season back on June 25th seems like a distant memory. Hand picked up his 24th and 25th saves this week against the Twins and Tigers. Hand is tied for the AL lead in saves with Aroldis Chapman. Cleveland finds themselves only five games back of the Twins in the AL Central and playing much better lately. Expect plenty of save chances for Hand as he should remain among the top five closers in my closer rankings all season.
Detroit has won 29 games this season and Shane Greene has 20 saves. Detroit isn’t winning many games these days and save opportunities have been few and far between. Since June 1, Greene has only four saves. It’s probably too late to sell him for anything now and will likely only be valuable in holds leagues after the trade deadline.
Ian Kennedy sure has settled into his relief role nicely. Kennedy picked up three saves this week for the Royals and now has 15 saves on the year. The Royals will look to be in sell mode this season and Kennedy could be on the move should the Royals find a trade partner. I imagine teams will be looking for relievers slightly cheaper than the 14 million dollars Kennedy is owed this year and next unless the Royals would be willing to pay some of his contract. Should he be moved, Jake Diekman looks to be next in line for saves in Kansas City.
The Twins have been an attractive destination for trade candidates as it has appeared that they’d have a closer role open on a competitive team. Taylor Rogers, on the other hand, appears to have something to say about it. Rogers picked up his 13th save of the season on Friday against the Indians. Rogers has the ninth-best ERA among qualifying relievers this season at 1.69. A more established closer could still take over the role should the Twins trade for one but Rogers has to be keeping his name in the mix with his recent performance.
Roberto Osuna has had a shaky week after taking the loss in Texas on Friday. Hector Rondon had given up the game-tying run in the eighth and Osuna allowed the walk-off run to score in the ninth. Osuna was called upon on Saturday as well to protect a two-run lead in the eleventh inning. Osuna gave up a run on two hits and a walk before getting out of the inning with his 20th save. Ryan Pressly, as impressive as he’s been this season, isn’t a threat to take over closing duties but he does lead the league in holds with 22, making him very valuable in leagues that count holds.
Angels closer Hansel Robles is creeping up the closer rankings and continues to perform well picking up two saves for the Angels this week. Robles struck out two batters in both outings and has given up only one run in his last 18 appearances combined.
Like Robles, Oakland closer Liam Hendriks has also given up only one run since June 1 to go along with 31 strikeouts in 21 innings. Hendriks picked up his sixth save of the season on Friday after taking over for Blake Treinen, who spent some time on the IL this season. Treinen was recalled and has struggled since. Manager Bob Melvin suggested Treinen could see some opportunities in low leverage situations for the time being until he gets right. Hendriks should be picked up everywhere but I wouldn’t suggest dropping Treinen just yet as I believe he could get another chance to earn back the closer role.
Losers of six straight games now, Seattle did not see any save opportunities arise this week and the situation remains one to mostly avoid. Roenis Elias is the primary closer for the time being and has picked up 11 saves on the year. Hunter Strickland could get his name in the mix when he returns but I would go picking up anyone on this team in anything other than deeper roto leagues.
Shawn Kelley picked up a win for the Rangers on Friday, pitching the ninth inning against the Astros in a tie game. Jose Leclerc pitched the 8th inning of that game and also pitched the ninth on Sunday with the Rangers down by eight runs. It’s still possible that Leclerc could win the closer role back. It’s still to be determined what the Rangers will do at the deadline but Leclerc to his credit has been pitching better lately than he did at the beginning of the season with a 3.54 ERA and 12.39 K/9 since June 1.
NL Bullpen Depth Charts and Closer Rankings
+ Injury Concern
* Part of Committee
Three more saves in the books this week for Luke Jackson, who has 17 now on the year and has been one of the most valuable pickups of the season. Much of Jackson’s success can be attributed to the gains he’s made in both strikeout rate and ground ball rate. Jackson is inducing ground ball at an elite 65.8% rate, up from 47.8% last season. His strikeout percentage is also up from 25% to 32%. The 27-year-old has made some great strides this season for a good Braves team and could creep into the top 12 in my closer rankings if his performance continues.
No saves this week for Sergio Romo as the Marlins continue to be one of the worst teams in baseball. Romo could be someone on the move at the deadline. To echo last week’s thoughts on the situation, Nick Anderson would be next in line for saves and has pitched better this season than the results say with a 3.01 FIP and 3.16 xFIP despite a 4.46 ERA.
There were talks that perhaps Edwin Diaz could lose his closer role for a while but he’s seemed to put that notion to bed with two saves this week. Diaz now has 21 saves on the year and an excellent 14.37 K/9. Although the 5.20 ERA is bad, the 3.60 FIP and 2.94 xFIP seem to indicate that better days are coming for Diaz. It would be hard for me to move him outside of my top 12 in the closer rankings and make him a second closer in standard 12-team mixed leagues. I believe in the skills and think Diaz should be a fine closer going forward. Seth Lugo has been used as a setup man in high leverage situations and could pick up saves in days that Diaz is unavailable but I don’t imagine Lugo being valuable to anyone outside of an extended absence for Edwin Diaz.
It was a rough week for Hector Neris as he blew two saves. The most recent outing against the Dodgers proved to be most costly as he was suspended for three games for throwing at the head of David Freese. The Philadelphia bullpen has been decimated with injuries this season and Neris had been a stabilizer for the most part. His recent struggles bring in to question his season-long viability to hang on to the job once someone like David Robertson makes his return. For the short term, Adam Morgan could pick up the save chances while Neris is serving his suspension.
Sean Doolittle picked up his 20th save of the season on Saturday against the Phillies. With the lead in the wild card standings and in need of bullpen help, I could see the Nationals acquiring someone to back up Doolittle. Whoever that may be could be a good source of holds and a handcuff in case Doolittle suffers an injury.
Craig Kimbrel is starting to settle in after a rocky start to his season. Kimbrel picked up his third save on Friday against the Pirates, pitching a scoreless 9th in a tie game on Tuesday, and picked up his fourth save on Wednesday against the Reds while striking out two. Pedro Strop was the closer before Kimbrel was activated and I believe he’d be the next man up once again but isn’t worth owning anywhere at the moment unless something happened to Kimbrel.
Raisel Iglesias picked up his 17th save of the season on Monday against the Cubs then suffered the loss the following day. Iglesias looks to have control of the closing gig in Cincinnati but was placed on the paternity list Wednesday. For the time being, Michael Lorenzen would be used as the closer while Iglesias is out.
Josh Hader likely isn’t moving from the top spot in the closer rankings anytime soon despite blowing a save on Friday against the Giants. Hader redeemed himself on Wednesday picking up his 21st save of the season. Almost all of the runs Hader has given up this season have come via the home run. Home runs are up from Hader this year with a 1.80 HR/9 but his strikeouts are up and walks are down so the damage has been limited. Because of the strikeouts he gets, the team context, and his usage, there’s no reason to move him from number one in the closer rankings.
Felipe Vazquez picked up his 21st save of the season on Tuesday against the Cardinals. The Pirates are in the thick of the playoff race and while teams have come calling for the services of Felipe Vazquez, their price had rightfully been extremely high. Vazquez has been one of the best closers in baseball, ranking fifth among relievers with a 14.06 K/9 to go along with a 2.01 ERA. In the end, I don’t think Vazquez gets moved this season.
Carlos Martinez recorded three more saves this week but has also seen his share of struggles. Martinez pitched the ninth inning of a tie game on Tuesday against the Pirates and gave up two runs, earning the loss. He then gave up three hits and allowed a run to score on Wednesday before locking up his sixth save. The Cardinals are reportedly open to trading Martinez, which would open the door to a possible committee situation with John Gant, Andrew Miller, and Giovanny Gallegos in the mix.
Greg Holland picked up his 15th save of the season on Friday against the Cardinals. It was his only appearance since the All-Star break. The Diamondback have seemingly overachieved all season and find themselves in the playoff hunt, only a half-game back of the second wild card spot. Should the Diamondbacks move on from Holland, Yoshihisa Hirano and Yoan Lopez would be in the mix for saves.
Colorado’s Wade Davis had a mixed bag this week with two saves and a loss. The two saves give him 14 on the season. Davis has been struggling this year as his walks are up, strikeouts are down, and his ERA sits at 6.04. Davis has a 0.79 ERA on the road and a 9.53 ERA at home, so a move from Coors field would be great for Davis, but I don’t imagine the Rockies being able to move him. Should they go to a committee situation, Scott Oberg could get some save opportunities.
Kenley Jansen blew the save on Tuesday against the Phillies, allowing the walk-off double to Bryce Harper. Jansen was hit by a comebacker on his ankle Tuesday and proceeded to pitch through it. He admitted after the game that it probably would have been smarter to come out of the game. Jansen hopes to be available Thursday after getting the day off Wednesday. The Dodgers will be looking for bullpen help at the deadline to work behind Jansen so they will be a team to monitor.
Kirby Yates converted his 31st save of the season on Wednesday, which tops the major leagues. Yates struck out three Marlins batters to close the game. He’s been one of the best draft values all season and continues to dominate the opposition with a 1.10 ERA and 14.05 K/9. Should the Padres decide to trade Yates, they could be looking at a return similar to what they got for Brad Hand or even better. Meanwhile, Craig Stammen has done an excellent job pitching the eighth inning and is among the league leaders in holds with 19.
Will Smith is doing his best job of avoiding a trade or at least sabotaging the Giants’ return. Smith was one for three this last week in save chances since the All-Star break. One of the blown saves came in Coors, so it’s excusable. He did pick up the win in both instances. Recent hiccups aside, Smith has been lights out this season recording 24 saves.
The Giants are one of the hottest teams in baseball at the moment and find themselves in the wild card hunt after winning 12 of their last 15 games. Despite the better play, expectations remain that the team will move Smith before the deadline. Mark Melancon picked up his first save of the season on Wednesday in Colorado. Melancon could be a name in the mix for saves if and when Smith is moved. For now, Tony Watson and Sam Dyson are next in line but they too are trade candidates.
Hopefully, you found Jorge’s Clser Rankings and Bullpen Depth Charts useful. For more of his take make sure to follow him on Twitter @Jmontanez.
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