The first weekend of June is upon us, and baseball season is in full swing, both in MLB and the Little League level. A sweaty doubleheader awaits me later this morning, but not before we talk MLB bullpens for a few minutes.
My DMs are always open to anyone who has a bullpen question or just needs someone to talk to. My Twitter handle is @mdrc0508 and I will get back to you. Hang in there. Summer can be a hard time with mental health for so many of us.
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MLB Bullpen Depth Charts
News and Notes
- Emmanuel Clase leads MLB with 17 saves despite having five blown saves on the season. Felix Bautista has 15 saves, while Camilo Doval and Jordan Romano have 14 saves each.
- There are now 115 pitchers with at least one save in MLB this season. It’s the first week of June. A whopping 196 pitchers have had at least one save opportunity already.
- Peter Strzelecki (14), Brooks Raley (13), and Erik Swanson (13) lead MLB in holds. Directly behind them: Yennier Cano, Matt Moore, and Carl Edwards Jr. with 12 each.
In Boston, there has been some speculation that Kenley Jansen might be in danger of losing the top gig. Jansen has five saves in May but that came with a ghastly 6.43 ERA and 2.14 WHIP, and eight walks to go with only six strikeouts. The damage was done in two back-to-back outings in which he gave up six runs. He has had four unscored-upon outings in a row the last two weeks However we should be watching out of the corner of our eye, as his walk rate is troubling at 14.7%. Those who have roster room and desire could stash Chris Martin here, but my expectation is that Jansen will get every opportunity to right the ship.
Clay Holmes quietly improved in May for the New York Yankees: in 15 appearances, he earned three wins, a save, and struck out 18 batters while posting a 2.63 ERA with a not-great 1.39 WHIP. Michael King was outstanding, with a win, two saves, 18 punchouts and 1.80 ERA, and 1.07 WHIP. Wandy Peralta chipped in with a win and three saves, a 1.93 ERA, and a 1.14 WHIP. I point these stats out because right now, it’s just about impossible to determine who might get the next save in the Bronx. If you feel the need to roster a Yankees closer, I would lean toward King, but personally, I am staying away from this one.
With Pete Fairbanks back to the IL in Tampa with hip inflammation, the expectation would be that Jason Adam would get the bulk of the opportunities. And that might end up being the case, but this is Tampa we are talking about, where there is always a chance someone you have never heard of gets a save this week. Case in point: the Rays used Colin Poche and Adam in the seventh and eighth innings on Wednesday, leaving the save for Kevin Kelly. When he got in trouble, they brought in their Swiss Army knife, Jalen Beeks, who got the last out for the save.
I was able to attend Liam Hendriks’ first game back on Monday night, and the atmosphere was charged despite a brutal White Sox team around him. He had some command issues, but who cares? Just to see him back on the mound was worth the price of admission after defeating Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The White Sox could really use the bullpen boost despite the recent good work by Joe Kelly and Kendall Graveman. Reynaldo Lopez has improved some since he was removed from the closing mix; he never looked comfortable in the role and may be best suited for a middle-inning stopper role. Hendriks will be the closer when he lets the team know he is ready. Graveman got the save last night against Detroit.
Word on the street according to MLB Trade Rumors is that the Kansas City Royals will listen to trade offers for closer Scott Barlow. Likely they will listen on Aroldis Chapman as well.
I was able to see Ben Joyce pitch in his debut this past week against my moribund White Sox. And the stuff was electric: 11 of his 12 pitches on Monday night were clocked at 101 MPH. The Angels could have something very special in Joyce. Obviously, Carlos Estevez has been excellent, and he should not be in danger of losing his hold on the closer’s job, but Joyce is a name to know in this bullpen. A high-leverage role appears to be well within reach for Joyce, and quickly. Chris Devenski has quietly worked his way into a leveraged role again; you may recall his successful seasons as a Houston Astro going back a few years. Good to see him back!
Washington remains an interesting bullpen to watch. Would-be closer Kyle Finnegan pitched the seventh in a game this week in a game where perennial prospect Hunter Harvey ended up getting the save. Are we ready to call this a committee?
Adbert Alzolay. Can we stop the insanity and just let this guy close? The Chicago Cubs only have seven saves on the year. Alzolay was lights out on Tuesday night, striking out four in the last two innings to close out the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s the only guy I am interested in rostering in the Cubs’ bullpen at this time. We all know that can change quickly.
Alexis Diaz has been a gem for the Cincinnati Reds. He’s 1-1 with a sparkling 1.69 ERA and .89 WHIP and has been perfect in all 13 save chances. The 41 strikeouts in 21.1 innings catches the eye. Continue to set and forget.
A name to file for holds in Milwaukee is Joel Payamps. Payamps has two wins, a save, and 31 strikeouts for the Brewers. This is a guy who really limits hard contact (85,7 MPH exit velocity) and has raised his K% from 17% last year to 27.9% in 2023. Payamps has eight holds as well. Sneaky add if you need an arm.
I talked about St. Louis on the Fantasy Baseball Beat this week, a podcast I cohost with Chris Torres (@torrestakes). Ryan Helsley was arguably the best relief pitcher in baseball last year. Yet Giovanny Gallegos has one more save (seven) than Helsley (six) with three in a row this week. My lean right now is Gallegos based on the usage pattern and the fact that Helsley might have some issues to sort out.
I think it is fair to say that Arizona is a committee/matchup closer right now between Andrew Chafin and Miguel Castro. Slight lean would be Chafin, but that can and will change daily based on matchups.
I have been suggesting that Colorado is a bullpen to watch, and maybe it is, but Pierce Johnson still appears to be the closer despite an ERA near 7.00 and a 1.88 WHIP. Jack Carter has pitched better than that of late for the BYB Majors Dodgers! All kidding aside, Daniel Bard has been excellent since his return from the IL due to anxiety, but is he well enough to close games again? We don’t have that information and it is none of our business. A change would do everyone good in Denver.