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The Closer Catch-Up: Keeping Up with Kenley

We’re two weeks into the season, and Kenley Jansen has just one save to his name. The bizarro baseball doesn’t stop there. Would you believe the Yankees are also sporting one of the worst bullpens right now? Their 4.93 ERA ranks alongside that of the Marlins, the same team that was blanked 20-1 by the Phillies on Saturday!

Opening Week is always good for some melodrama, but is there really any point in losing sleep over Jansen, as well as the Yankees’ arms? The Dodgers are in the grips of a serious World Series hangover, so much so that it’s cost Jansen three mph on all three of his pitches. The Yankees, meanwhile, have surrendered 36 runs through nine games this season, with 20 of them coming from the pen. Blame it on the long postseason and the cold all you want, but both of these underperformers have some serious warming up to do.

As for everything else, compared to years past, it’s been a fairly quiet week to start the season. Here’s your weekend catch-up:

The Big Board

Team Closer Next in Line Plan C
 Arizona Diamondbacks Brad Boxberger Archie Bradley Yoshihisa Hirano
 Atlanta Braves Arodys Vizcaino A.J. Minter Jose Ramirez
 Baltimore Orioles Brad Brach Darren O’Day Mychal Givens
 Boston Red Sox Craig Kimbrel Joe Kelly Matt Barnes
 Chicago Cubs Brandon Morrow Steve Cishek Carl Edwards Jr.
 Chicago White Sox (C) Joakim Soria Nate Jones Danny Faquhar
 Cincinnati Reds Raisel Iglesias Jared Hughes Wandy Peralta
 Cleveland Indians Cody Allen Andrew Miller Nick Goody
 Colorado Rockies Wade Davis Bryan Shaw Jake McGee
 Detroit Tigers Shane Greene Alex Wilson Joe Jimenez
 Houston Astros Ken Giles Chris Devenski Will Harris
 Kansas City Royals Kelvin Herrera Brandon Maurer Justin Grimm
 Los Angeles Angels (C) Blake Parker Keynan Middleton Jim Johnson
 Los Angeles Dodgers Kenley Jansen Josh Fields Tony Cingrani
 Miami Marlins Brad Ziegler Kyle Barraclough Drew Steckenrider
 Milwaukee Brewers (C) Jacob Barnes Matt Albers Josh Hader
 Minnesota Twins Fernando Rodney Addison Reed Trevor Hildenberger
 New York Mets (C) Jeurys Familia A.J. Ramos Robert Gsellman
 New York Yankees Aroldis Chapman Dellin Betances David Robertson
 Oakland Athletics Blake Treinen Liam Hendriks Yusmeiro Petit
 Philadelphia Phillies (C) Hector Neris Pat Neshek Adam Morgan
 Pittsburgh Pirates Felipe Rivero George Kontos Michael Feliz
 St. Louis Cardinals Greg Holland Dominic Leone Jordan Hicks
 San Diego Padres Brad Hand Kirby Yates Craig Stammen
 San Francisco Giants Hunter Strickland Tony Watson Sam Dyson
 Seattle Mariners Edwin Diaz Juan Nicasio Nick Vincent
 Tampa Bay Rays Alex Colome Sergio Romo Jose Alvarado
 Texas Rangers Keone Kela Kevin Jepsen Alex Claudio
 Toronto Blue Jays Roberto Osuna Ryan Tepera Aaron Loup
 Washington Nationals Sean Doolittle Ryan Madson Brandon Kintzler

** C=closer by committee. Red=unstable bullpen. Blue=stable bullpen. Green=elite bullpen **

The DL D-Low

  • The big loss this past week was Corey Knebel, who went down with a leg injury on Tuesday. He hit the 10-day DL with a not exactly 10-day hamstring injury, one that will require the Brewers’ star closer to miss around six weeks. It likely throws the rest of Milwaukee’s arms into a closer-by-committee situation, which isn’t helpful to anyone right now considering nobody other than Josh Hader seems worth owning. If you’re going to take a stab at someone, Jacob Barnes might be your best bet.
  • Other Notables: Anthony Swarzak.

The Worry Warts

Wade Davis: Prior to Saturday’s game against the Braves, Davis had thrown only one inning at Coors Field to start the season. Resuming his duties in the ninth, Davis entered the ballgame protecting a 2-1 lead, only to unravel in a matter of minutes. It started with a Kurt Suzuki walk, followed by a Dansby Swanson single, and then another single, this time by Ryan Flaherty, to tie the game. Fortunately for Davis, the Rockies went on to win that game in the 10th, but it’s become painfully clear that his usually reliant cut fastball has a tendency to hang over the plate a little longer than he’d like in the Colorado air. If you own shares, make sure you pay careful attention to Davis over the coming home games. With the Cubs coming to town in a week’s time, you may want to consider sitting him.

Kenley Jansen: It doesn’t help when the team is batting a lousy .206, but there’s something to this side of Kenley. The velocity is a concern, yes, but there are some mechanical misfires at play here. Jansen gave up two lazy hits during the Dodgers’ extra-inning loss to the Giants again on Saturday, and after looking at his alarmingly low swing rate on pitches thrown outside the zone (20.3%), it’s obvious that the mixture of low velocity and lack of command isn’t creating the same kind of issues for hitters when Jansen throws his cutter or his slider. Of course, with all of this in mind, here comes Kenley with a three strikeout bounce-back against the Giants on Sunday, earning his first save of the year. You weren’t really going to drop a guy that struck out 109 hitters last year, were you?

Middle of the Pack

Adam Ottavino: For the second week in a row, Ottavino earns a mention here. He’s allowed just one hit in five appearances for the Rockies, striking out 11 batters and earning the win on Saturday (thanks to Trevor Story’s brilliant catch, of course). It’s a small sample size, but Ottavino looks like an entirely different man, which is impressive considering he’s 32. He’s been added in over eight percent of leagues since last weekend, and you can guarantee it’s due to that 11.00 K/BB ratio. Sooner or later, the Otto-man is going to force himself and the Rockies’ hand into a much more involved role in the bullpen. For the meantime, go ahead and add him if you’re scrounging for holds.

David Robertson: The Yankees have some serious trust issues going on. Dellin Betances settled down last week, striking out four and allowing zero hits in two innings pitched, but it still looks like Robertson is going to receive the save opportunities when Aroldis Chapman is unavailable. So far it’s good news for fantasy owners, because Robertson’s four-strikeout appearance on Saturday against the Orioles was nothing short of a masterclass. At the same time, it’s confusing, though, because the Yankees’ middle-relief remains a guessing game. With Betances struggling with runners on base and the home run ball, Robertson is probably your guy for the time being.

Bud Norris: There’s certainly no fantasy relevance here, but as a side note, I watched Norris’ outing against the Diamondbacks on Saturday, and his command was fantastic. He consistently targeted the outer part of the plate, and although he got a lucky call on his fastball to strike out Nick Ahmed, his slider down low in the zone to blank Paul Goldschmidt was nasty. All of that was enough to earn Norris his first save of the season, and all of a sudden, this Cardinals bullpen doesn’t look half bad.

Everything Else I’ve Seen

  • Two weeks in, and Seth Lugo is one of the top headlines, how ’bout that? The Mets walked away with a win following Sunday’s 12-inning showdown against the Nats, and it was in large part due to Lugo’s ninth-inning clinic. After Bryce Harper earned a free pass, Lugo intentionally walked Howie Kendrick and Trea Turner to load the bases. What followed next was miraculous. He struck out Michael Taylor and caught Pedro Severino looking on a 95 MPH fastball to send it to extras. Gutsy strategy, Mets, and welcome to your 15 minutes, Seth Lugo.
  • So Brandon Morrow is off the mark in the Windy City. He entered Saturday’s game having thrown just two pitches all season, but he took care of business against the Brewers, striking out Ryan Braun on the way to his first save. Morrow has always been known as more of a groundball type pitcher, and that kind of ability to induce weak contact came into play when he earned his second save on Sunday. Don’t take his 97 MPH fastball lightly, however; that thing was switched on all weekend.
  • Shoutout to Juan Minaya for finally clearing up the White Sox confusion … I think? His four-walk, one earned run blunder against the Tigers on Saturday has cemented Joakim Soria in the closer role for now. But really, don’t count on it lasting. Soria and the White Sox came back down to earth last week when he surrendered three earned runs against Detroit, and after things seemed to be going steady-eddy, the Sox are now back in the red in terms of bullpen stability.
  • Life without Corey Knebel is already pretty rough in Mil-town. The Brew Crew should’ve had a victory over the Cubs at home on Saturday, but Jacob Barnes went and messed everything up. Ahead 2-1 in the ninth he loaded the bases, giving up the tying hit to Javy Baez, the go-ahead hit to Ian Happ, and then get this, a bunt to Jon Lester! Barnes was slapped with the loss, one that he certainly earned after a 21-pitch marathon.
  • It’s hard not to love what the Astros’ entire pitching staff are doing right now. Gerritt Cole tossed a gem on Saturday, only for Chris Devenski to steal the win following a dazzling ninth-inning display. There were plenty of brilliant breaking balls on offer all game, but Devenski’s notched him two strikeouts during Houston’s hilarious 1-0 win.
  • Shame on you for doubting Brad Boxberger. The Diamondbacks’ closer has easily been the most underrated treat to start the season, now leading the league in saves. On Sunday against the Cardinals, Archie Bradley does what Archie Bradley does best, throwing another scoreless eighth inning, while Boxberger backed it up in the ninth with a strikeout and a game-ending double play against Jose Martinez. Don’t look now, but Arizona’s 1.78 ERA is currently the fourth lowest in the league.
  • Looks like Cam Bedrosian is out in LA. Three earned runs and a 7.36 ERA in five appearances will do that to ya, as the Angels now turn to Jim Johnson to take over behind Blake Parker and Keynan Middleton. Mike Scioscia continues to mess with us early on, and since Parker’s ERA looks no better than Bedrosians’, we could see Middleton get the next save chance. By the way, fantasy life-hack: Middleton is a name you’ll want to jump on right now.
  • Not that anyone cares, but Tyler Olson is worth a mention this week. He’s got some work to do if he’s to force his way into a day-to-day role with the Indians’ pen, but he looked cool, calm, and collected on Saturday, throwing two strikeouts in a 1-0 ball game. Right now, though, he’s nothing more than a footnote to keep an eye on if any kind of injury pops up in Cleveland.
  • Oh, and since we’re talking about “deep sleeper” type guys, go ahead and throw Tyler Glasnow in the mix. He’s looked solid in relief so far, clocking eight strikeouts in three appearances. The multi-inning availability also makes him an interesting watch going forward.
  • Good luck trying to figure out the future of the Marlins’ bullpen. All I know is, stay well away from Brad Ziegler. Sure, he earned his first save of the season on Sunday, but if Saturday’s 20-1 schmozzle against the Phillies is anything to go by, those kind of opportunities are going to come far and few between. It’s a frustrating situation with so much talent waiting in the wings, but until Kyle Barraclough or Tayron Guerrero have a more involved role, there’s no value to be had here.
  • Talk about a quiet achiever. Blake Treinen, anybody? I watched as he landed himself in some serious trouble on Saturday with men at second and third, but after throwing 30 pitches, Treinen struck out Ryan Schimpf to earn his second save. He hasn’t allowed a single earned run in four appearances and has seven strikeouts to go with it. Treinen is still out there in around 30% of leagues.

Buy: Brad Peacock

Owned in close to 70% of leagues, you’d be fortunate to find Peacock on the wire, but he is simply a must-own right now. His versatility as a starter or a relief option for Houston is huge, and it’s big for fantasy purposes, as well, because when Ken Giles is unavailable, like he was on Sunday, Peacock looks like a K machine. He struck out Manuel Margot on an 80 MPH curveball during the Astros’ 4-1 win, putting him at eight strikeouts on the year. Already that’s more than a guy like Sean Doolittle, and since he’s yet to walk anybody, this is a player that needs a spot on your roster.


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