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Finding Bullpen Help Can Be a Part-Time Job

I have developed an odd habit these days in scouring bullpens.

Similar to what I did as a preteen growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I devour box scores.  I look at the same stuff everyone does in these situations, but actively map out what happened with the bullpen usage. I would say it’s become a slight obsession for me.  And I hope that I can turn that habit into news you can use as you determine your weekly bullpen usage.  If you have thoughts or suggestions on how I can improve this space, please DM me and talk to me.  I appreciate it.

MLB Bullpen Updates

AL East

Closers 6-19 AL East

Last week we suggested that Boston did not seem sold on using Matt Strahm or John Schreiber, both of whom have pitched well, as their closer.  We also said at that time that wise managers would pick up Tanner Houck.  Houck now has three saves since last Friday night and appears to have the role for now.  It really seemed inevitable that he would get the role.  Kudos to those of you who picked him up or had him stashed weeks prior on your bench.  The other nice thing about Houck is that in leagues that use the designation, he has both SP and RP delineation, making him even more useful in leagues with daily moves.

Things could get messy in the Bronx.  Clay Holmes has been an absolute revelation this season and has closed games for the Yankees since they lost Aroldis Chapman to Achilles tendinitis. Manager Aaron Boone said this week that Chapman will be closing “some” games when he returns, leading to speculation that he might not be the full-time closer anymore, or that he may be in a timeshare with Holmes. Holmes has four wins, 11 saves and hasn’t given up a run since Opening Day.  Either way, the return of Chapman gives Boone another high-leverage arm at the back end of the bullpen for a team with an embarrassment of riches already. One to watch for sure.

I know many people ask about Tampa Bay and the situation there now that Andrew Kittredge had TJS and is out for the year and into 2023.  Colin Poche appears atop the hierarchy now, but that can change at a moment’s notice.  For those who like to speculate, Jason Adam and Brooks Raley also reside here. Anyone with a working arm is liable to get a save this week here. Keep in mind that Nick Anderson may be returning in August, and so any situation in Tampa is usually arbitrary and subject to the managerial dexterity of Kevin Cash.  This is a team you hate for fantasy purposes in many ways, but love to watch in real baseball, don’t you think?

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AL Central

Closers 6-19 AL Central

One of the bright spots in the Chicago White Sox otherwise disappointing season thus far has been closer Liam Hendriks.  GM Rick Hahn said he would miss the next three weeks with a right forearm strain.  This sounds ominous, especially for a guy who revealed again this week that he has pitched with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament for the better part of ten years. For his part, Hendriks agreed with Hahn’s assertion; time will tell us. In the meantime, add Kendall Graveman in your leagues if he is on the waiver wire.  He should get the bulk of any save chances.  Also of note: Joe Kelly came off the IL this week, and due to the war of attrition, could be in a high leverage role again.

AL West

Closers 6-19 AL West

I am watching the Oakland situation carefully.  Dany Jimenez helped so many early on, but has run aground with rough times lately. He has two losses and a grotesque 14.54 ERA in June. All that said, he did convert a save opportunity on Thursday. I would snatch A.J. Puk off your waiver wire and stash him if you can.  The A’s are likely to be dealers this summer and I would be willing to bet that former closer Lou Trivino gets dealt.  This could be a wide-open situation, and soon.

Seattle: this appears to be a shared role between Paul Sewald and a resurgent Diego Castillo.  Ken Giles is on a rehab assignment but got shellacked the other night, giving up three homers, and showing he may not be that close to being ready for MLB action. Drew Steckenrider was designated for assignment, a surprising move given that he was one of their best relief pitchers last year.  But that is how quickly fortunes can change in baseball.

In Texas, it may be noteworthy that former closer Jose Leclerc was activated off the IL after missing two years of baseball. He has yet to pitch in a big league game yet and joins a bullpen anchored by Joe Barlow. Don’t be surprised if Leclerc gets a higher leverage role quickly and eventually supplants Barlow. Why?  It’s not because Barlow hasn’t been good: 2-1, 3.09 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 12 saves.  But Leclerc has the contract and pedigree, and Barlow’s skill set seems to better suit a setup role.  Another thing to know:  fireballer Jonathan Hernandez is nearing return as well and is on a rehab assignment currently.  Things could get really interesting in the Lone Star state very soon.

NL East

Closers 6-19 NL East

In Miami, Tanner Scott blew a save opportunity on Wednesday. Keep in mind that there have been some injuries and ineffectiveness here that make it look like Scott will keep the job.  Cole Sulser hit the IL, Dylan Floro has been less than stellar in his return, and Anthony Bass and Steven Okert have been mostly good, but feel better-suited as setup guys.  My best guess is that Scott is safe in the role for now.

Oh, Philadelphia…I am so sorry for the long-suffering Phillies fans.  This bullpen has been a mess dating back three years, an arbitrary number, I know.  It was hard to know how things would work out with Corey Knebel, having not closed for a long period of time until this year. He’s earned 11 saves but walks have been a bugaboo and interim manager Rob Thomsen announced that Knebel would be taking some time off from the ninth inning. Speculation here would be that Seranthony Dominguez and Brad Hand may split the role.  Jose Alvarado is recently back from his demotion to AAA and could be in the mix too.  Keep in mind that all three have at least some experience closing, with Hand the most, and that this could be a committee for the near future. Hand is back to limiting hard contact and has yet to surrender a home run this year; Dominguez is striking guys out at a 35.4% clip.  Quite the double-headed monster that could become Cerberus if Alvarado joins the club.

NL Central

Closers 6-19 NL Central

Cincinnati lost part-time closer Tony Santillan to a back injury this week.  This looks to be a full-time committee now; Hunter Strickland, Alexis Diaz and Joe Kuhnel all registered saves this week. My best guess if you are interested?  Diaz.  He has the best stuff of the three and has gotten the opportunity first in the last two games to earn saves.  Forced to make a FAAB bid on one guy here, he would be my choice. I hope my friend Doug Dennis isn’t in much despair at the moment over his favorite team’s bullpen.

Don’t read into Brad Boxberger getting a save for Milwaukee this week; closer Josh Hader was on the paternity list and will likely return at some point this weekend.

In Pittsburgh, a slight hierarchy change sees Wil Crowe move ahead of Chris Stratton into a higher leverage eighth-inning role.  David Bednar is the man to roster here for save opportunities, but for those desperate for holds, take a look at Crowe.

The St. Louis situation is intriguing. We have suggested it is a committee situation between Ryan Helsley and Giovanny Gallegos.  However, manager Oli Marmol seems to feel that Helsley is the higher leverage guy right now, and could use him anywhere between the sixth and eighth, which could leave Gallegos for the ninth.  As I have mentioned before, I desperately need for that to happen, as Gallegos is one of my closers in #GLARF.  I lost Kittredge already, and have Jhoan Duran and A.J. Puk in reserve.  If I hope to stay in the middle of the pack, I am going to need help.  I lost out on Tanner Scott last week by $1 in FAAB.  I am unhappy.  🙂

NL West

Closers 6-19 NL West

Nothing brewing in Colorado, but a tip of the hat to veteran Daniel Bard, who has been terrific for the Colorado Rockies: three wins, a robust 2.05 ERA, a .95 WHIP, 13 saves, and 34 punchouts in 26.1 innings.  Kudos to those of you who drafted him or rostered him with a low-budget FAAB bid this season!

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