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Two Weeks to the Season: Bullpen Updates

Let’s do a quick recap of contentious bullpens around the big leagues with a little more than ten days to go before Opening Day.  Excited yet?  Maybe you were more excited before losing top closer Edwin Diaz for the year this past week.  Egads.  A nightmare for so many fantasy players, and of course, for the New York Mets, their fans, and Diaz.  Best wishes for a full and speedy recovery!

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!

MLB Bullpen Update

AL East

Manager Brandon Hyde plans to get closer Felix Baustista “steady” work this week as players ramp up to open day in less than two weeks.  It sounds like Bautista, as of this moment, will break camp with the Orioles. Good news for those who rostered him.  Other names to keep tabs on in the Baltimore bullpen:  Cionel Perez, Mychal Givens, and Bryan Baker.

AL Central

There have been rumors in the Chicago White Sox bullpen:  Reynaldo Lopez or Kendall Graveman. New manager Pedro Grifol has spoken on it several times and has suggested that he is comfortable using a committee approach, which could also include lefty Aaron Bummer and veteran righty Joe Kelly. We have no word yet on the health of closer Liam Hendriks and when he may return from his cancer treatments. For what it is worth, I continue to lean Graveman as he has experience (16 career saves) and Lopez serves very well as a middle of the game fireman. We will see.

AL West

It appears that Carlos Estevez has won the job, for now, in Los Angeles.  Jimmy Herget could get save opportunities should Estevez falter, but veteran lefty Matt Moore is in this bullpen too, and it would not surprise me if he is in the mix as well.

Texas could become interesting as we near the season as well.  Jose Leclerc should be the closer, but the Rangers recently signed veteran lefty Will Smith and have other weapons in Joe Barlow and Brock Burke. Leclerc is the guy for now.

NL East

In Miami, general manager Kim Ng has added some pieces to the bullpen for new manager Skip Schumaker.  AJ Puk and Matt Barnes appear to be the best of the lot, but experienced arms like Tanner Scott and Dylan Floro remain there too.  Puk has the best arm, and Barnes the most experience, which we know, doesn’t mean diddly squat to those of us seeking saves.  My hunch, and could be dead wrong on this, is that Scott becomes something of a multiple-inning weapon, while Puk becomes the primary closer.  I don’t think Ng traded prospect JJ Bleday for Puk to have him languish as a middle-inning reliever.  And I may be one of the few who believes Barnes has a third act to him.  Watch and see.  If looking for a dart throw late in a draft, take a long look at Puk.

Closer Edwin Diaz appears to be lost for the season after tearing his patellar tendon in his right knee.  Speculation has centered on veteran righthander David Robertson becoming the closer.  Adam Ottavino and Brooks Raley could also be options. Do not be surprised if the Mets look for help at some point this season; pure speculation here, but maybe David Bednar becomes an option?  Free agents that remain: Corey Knebel, Zack Britton, and Ken Giles. What a mess for New York, but please don’t blame the World Baseball Classic for this freak injury.

Philadelphia manager Rob Thomson has no shortage of options and is looking at a committee approach with a new term he coined this spring: the “floating” closer.  Options include Craig Kimbrel, Gregory Soto, Jose Alvarado, and Seranthony Dominguez.  I lean towards Kimbrel getting the most opportunity; not because he has the most experience in a possible Hall of Fame career, but also because his mindset and skillset do not lend to pitching in any other inning but the ninth.

NL Central

Lots of early drafters were picking Brandon Hughes as the most likely candidate to open the season as closer, but the best guess thus far is that he is used in the “stopper” role and that veterans Brad Boxberger and Michael Fulmer get the first shot to open the 2023 season. Names to watch for: Adbert Alzolay, Codi Heuer (back maybe midseason from TJS), and Jeremiah Estrada.  Slight lean to me here for Fulmer.

NL West 

Erstwhile closer Mark Melancon will miss the beginning of the season for the Arizona Diamondbacks.   Manager Torey Lovullo was measuring the potential time missed in months, not weeks.  The Arizona bullpen has some players you might have interest in: Scott McGough and Andrew Chafin. Pundits are split on this one, and while I am no pundit, I have been leaning Chafin here.  But McGough did save 38 games in Japan last year, so…

In Colorado, Daniel Bard has the job nailed down.  But he’s also nearing 38 years old and could fade at any time.  Names to earmark late in drafts who could get saves:  Pierce Johnson and Dinelson Lamet.  They also recently, very quietly, signed lefty Brad Hand.

Looks like a committee in Los Angeles.  Maybe a slight lean to Evan Phillips? Others to consider:  Brusdar Graterol, Alex Vesia, and Daniel Hudson when he is healthy, which could be some time.

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