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One Week Until the Season: Bullpen Updates

Let’s do a quick dial-around of the closer situations around MLB, shall we?

Anyone see the World Baseball Classic? Ha.  Was that fun or what?  Now if the MLB brain trust could only figure out a way to not have the games compete against the NCAA March Madness.  Or determine a way to let youngsters not have to stay up until midnight to watch the game.  Come on, folks; the future of the game is our kids, not me, and if we want kids to play the greatest game on the planet, we need them to be able to watch games and interact with it differently.  Rant over.

Full disclosure: I watched the WBC over the March Madness games, except when Indiana University was playing.

The season is not here yet, but why not get a head start and jump in a Fantrax Classic Draft contest? Get a jump on the season with a Best Ball league or maybe a Draft and Hold. Or put some green on the line with a new season-long league to try and conquer. There’s no better time than now to get your baseball on!

Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Update

AL East

AL East Bullpens 3-25

Felix Bautista will be ready for Opening Day for the Baltimore Orioles.

Kenley Jansen had a scare last night when he left a game with trainers complaining of being light-headed.  Luckily, according to manager Alex Cora, it appears that Jansen is ok.  That is the good news; we hope it is not tied to illness or related to Jansen’s heart troubles from a couple of seasons back. The bad news is that the batter prior to leaving, Jansen had given up a game-tying home run to a minor league catcher who will play in A-ball this season.  Spring Training?  Sure.  Cause for possible concern?  Sure. Should anything happen to Jansen, be it either injury or ineffectiveness, Chris Martin (not of Coldplay) and John Schreiber could be options to get saves for Boston.

AL Central

AL Central Bullpens 3-25

Liam Hendriks will begin the season on the IL as he continues to battle non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Reports are that he is continuing to work out and be around the team, which is great news. New manager Pedro Grifol has discussed that he is unafraid to use a committee and play matchups as they navigate an unknown future for Hendriks in 2023.  At the top of the committee would be Kendall Graveman, Reynaldo Lopez, Aaron Bummer, and Joe Kelly.  The lean here for me all along has been Graveman, although many fantasy drafters have selected Lopez.  Lopez is the better arm, but the White Sox have historically used him in the stopper role in the middle innings when they need to stifle an opponent’s rally.  My thought has been he continues in that role he has excelled at, and that Grifol mixes and matches the others.  Graveman has 16 career saves, ten in a past role with the Seattle Mariners, and six last year when Hendriks was unavailable for the White Sox.  I continue to go with Graveman even though I know opinions are mixed on this.

Much has been made of the situation in Kansas City and the signing of Aroldis Chapman. Scott Barlow was really good for them last year in the closer role, and I would argue that the Royals have two better homegrown candidates in Josh Staumont and Dylan Coleman before they would turn to the erratic Chapman. I expect Barlow to get 25 saves this year, and I think you should, too, unless they somehow trade him. I do not expect Chapman to be the full-time closer even if he gets the scant opportunity.

AL West

AL West Bullpens 3-25

Carlos Estevez should be the primary closer in Los Angeles.

Trevor May should be the primary closer in Oakland.

NL East

NL East Bullpens 3-25

The Atlanta Braves let the aforementioned Jansen walk via free agency this winter, and ceded the role to Raisel Iglesias, who is more than equipped to be able to do the job.  However, it was revealed this week that Iglesias will begin the season on the IL with a shoulder injury.  He has been shut down for the next 7-10 days, which means even if misses the minimum, he will need some time to ramp back up again.  Speculation ranged that early saves could go to Joe Jimenez and AJ Minter.  Yesterday manager Brian Snitker mentioned in his media briefing that the chances “obviously” would go to Minter. Later he walked that back a little to include Jimenez and say that it could be matchup-based.  We all know that much can go into making the ninth-inning decision, but it’s so important to listen to what managers and beat writers have to say on these topics.  My lean here, a week before the season starts, is Minter. But the Braves also have an embarrassment of riches to choose from should they not use Minter or Jimenez.

I was hoping a clear-cut closer would emerge in Miami and that his name would be AJ Puk.  while I still think that is a highly possible outcome, this looks to be a committee, and any of Puk, Dylan Floro, Tanner Scott, and Matt Barnes could all get looks, especially early on, as new manager Skip Schumaker gets a feel for his job and his comfort with his bullpen.  Egads.  I used the old adage to draft skills and not roles, and I still believe Puk could be one of the most dominant closers in baseball with a focused opportunity.  We will see.

Nothing has changed my mind that the New York Mets will be looking to David Robertson and Adam Ottavino with a sprinkle of Brooks Raley to get the last three outs for manager Buck Showalter. My lean would be Robertson first.  Ottavino and Raley are both highly effective setup men and my best guess is that is where they remain, especially given Robertson’s experience at closer.

NL Central

NL Central Bullpens 3-25

In Chicago, it feels safer this morning to suggest that free agent acquisitions Brad Boxberger and Michael Fulmer will get the save opportunities to start the season. Lefty Brandon Hughes may have been in that mix earlier, but a knee injury has sidelined him a bit.  Boxberger and Fulmer seem good speculative plays right now.

NL West

NL West Bullpens 3-25

Daniel Hudson will start the season on the IL for the Los Angeles Dodgers, which could open up a bigger opportunity for Evan Phillips.  Or Brusdar Graterol. Or Alex Vesia. My hopeful lean is for Phillips to start the season.

Aren’t bullpens funs, said no one.  Ever.  Except maybe Greg Jewett and Doug Dennis.  Saints, both.

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