2022 MLB Opening Day: Fantasy Baseball Closer Breakdown
This abbreviated MLB preseason has been one of the most active in recent memory. Fantasy baseball closer ADPs have skyrocketed and in some respects finding reliable sources for Saves and Holds has become as difficult as finding players who are expected to provide consistent stolen base production. As we’re on the eve of Opening Day 2022, we thought it would be a good time to review each MLB bullpen and identify some of the relievers who can best help you win a fantasy baseball championship.
With MLB teams continuously tweaking their rosters right up to Opening Day we’ll be providing up to the minute player updates on the Fantasy Alarm website, and our Closer Grid. Do yourself a favor and bookmark both sites.
American League East
Toronto Blue Jays
Jordan Romano seems firmly entrenched as the Jays’ closer and based on his previous closers experience Yimi García enters the season as his handcuff. Tim Mayza, Adam Cimber, Trevor Richards, and Julian Merriweather may get the occasional save opportunity but are best rostered for their ability to produce holds.
Boston Red Sox
Despite trying to play it off, it does seem that Red Sox manager Alex Cora is concerned with Matt Barnes’ decreased velocity this pre-season. Jake Diekman has had a tough spring but does have closer experience and will likely be in the mix for saves should Barnes struggle early on. The Sox have been strongly hinting that Garrett Whitlock could start the season in their starting rotation but with the uncertainty surrounding their bullpen it remains to be seen if that will still be the case. Matt Strahm has been a better reliever than starter and could be a sleeper working out of the pen.
Tampa Bay Rays
Andrew Kittredge is expected to open the season as the Rays’ closer, but with 14 different pitchers recording saves for them last season expect some fluidity in this bullpen. JT Chargois, JP Feyereisen, Matt Wisler, and Brooks Raley all may find themselves pitching in high leverage situations for the Rays this season.
New York Yankees
Aroldis Chapman’s grip on the Yankees closers job doesn’t seem as tight as we’ve become accustomed to. With his struggles last season and MLB expected to be increasingly focused on eliminating sticky stuff from the game, you should keep an eye on Jonathan Loáisiga and Chad Greene as possible Chapman replacements. Clay Holmes is another Yankee reliever who could have an increased role this season.
With the Orioles trading Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott to the Marlins, Dillon Tate, who has been dealing with a lingering (non-COVID) illness, appeared to have the inside track to becoming the team’s closer. Tate has had a strong spring and shown improvement this preseason, but O’s manager Brandon Hyde suggested that Jorge López has a good shot at being the team’s closer to start the season. With Paul Fry also having an opportunity to close out games for the Orioles this bullpen seems like it’ll be very fluid to start the season.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox
Liam Hendriks is one of the top closers in the game and he’ll be regularly preserving White Sox wins in the ninth inning. The Pale Hose have a very capable handcuff in Kendall Graveman, who saved 10 games for the Mariners last season. With Joe Kelly recovering from a bicep injury and Garrett Crochet requiring TJ surgery, Aaron Bummer and José Ruiz are projected to provide double digit hold production this season.
Emmanuel Clase, who saved 24 games for the Cleveland franchise last season, will once again provide stability at the top of their bullpen as the team’s closer. With James Karinchak sidelined with a muscle strain to start the season, Bryan Shaw will function as Clase’s handcuff. Shaw, Anthony Gose and Nick Sandlin should all be good holds resources.
Gregory Soto opens the season as the Tigers’ closer. Michael Fulmer, who has experienced a drop in velocity this spring, is set to be Soto’s backup. With Andrew Chafin, starting the season on the IL (groin), José Cisnero could also be in line for occasional save opportunities and is projected to provide double-digit hold production. Alex Lange is also projected to be a good resource for holds this season.
Kansas City Royals
Scott Barlow will begin the season as the Royals’ closer. Josh Staumont, who saved five games and held 16 others last season, is his very capable handcuff. Amir Garrett also has closer experience and he, along with Jake Brentz, could also be a good resource for holds. Keep an eye on this bullpen. Manager Mike Matheny doesn’t typically give his closers a long leash if they slump.
We’ll have to wait and see who gets the first crack at earning a save for the Twins now that Taylor Rogers has been traded to the Padres. Tyler Duffey had been considered Rogers’ handcuff but the newly acquired Emilio Pagán has closer experience, having saved 20 games for the Rays in 2019. Jorge Alcala, Joe Smith (who has some closer experience as well) and even Jhoan Duran could be used in late game high leverage situations at some point this season as well.
American League West
Ryan Pressly, who saved 26 games for the Astros last season, is a stable force at the top of their bullpen. He did have a bit of a drop in velocity in his spring debut compared to last season, but Pressly reportedly is not concerned about it. Ryan Stanek and Héctor Neris, who has 84 career saves, will be backing Pressly up and should also be a good resource for holds this season.
There are a lot of good pitchers in the Mariners’ bullpen and manager Scott Servais has suggested that matchups and game situations will determine how he’ll use them. Paul Sewald and Drew Steckenrider will be in line for high leverage late-inning work, but former Rays closer Diego Castillo, and Andrés Muñoz will also likely be brought in to get important outs this season as well.
There probably won’t be too many wins to save for the A’s this season but Lou Trivino, who converted 22 of 26 save opportunities last season, will start this season as the team’s primary closer. Don’t be surprised if he’s not traded to a contender at the trade deadline. With Deolis Guerra undergoing forearm surgery, Domingo Acevedo and A.J. Puk have secured bullpen spots. Keep an eye on Dany Jiménez. He has a live arm and has looked good this spring.
Los Angeles Angels
Raisel Iglesias provides the Angels with a reliable option to close out their victories. Mike Mayers and Ryan Tepera will work behind Iglesias in a setup role. Aaron Loup and Archie Bradley, who has closer experience, are expected to be a good source for holds.
Manager Chris Woodward surprisingly suggested that Joe Barlow would not be the Rangers’ primary closer to start the season. Greg Holland, and Matt Bush were mentioned as potentially having the opportunity to pitch in high leverage situations for the Rangers this season. This bullpen’s composition is very fluid as this article is being written.
National League East
The Braves have a deep bullpen headed by the newly acquired Kenley Jansen. Will Smith, who closed out games for the Braves last season, is now one of the best handcuffs in baseball. Collin McHugh, Tyler Matzek and A.J. Minter (who has closer experience) round out the rest of this formidable stable of relievers and all make for good resources for holds.
New York Mets
Mets closer Edwin Díaz is widely considered one of the best in the game and yet there are times when his performances make you cringe. The Mets have solid bullpen options behind Diaz in Trevor May, Adam Ottavino and Seth Lugo. All three have saved games in their career but Ottavino has the most closer experience.
Corey Knebel is expected to be the Phillies closer this season. The Phillies’ bullpen was one of the weakest parts of their team last season, but with José Alvarado, Jeurys Familia and Brad Hand all having closer experience, that may no longer be the case.
With Dylan Floro set to open the season on the IL, the Marlins bolstered their bullpen depth by trading for former Orioles closer Cole Sulser and reliever Tanner Scott. The Marlins were expected to start the season using a mix and match closer by committee approach and Sulser, who saved eight games for the O’s last season, will likely join Anthony Bender and Anthony Bass in sharing save opportunities while Floro is sidelined.
The Nationals are another win-challenged team, but even the worst teams will likely win somewhere around 60 games and it appears that Kyle Finnegan will be the first option that manager Dave Martinez will use to save those wins. Finnegan has had a rough spring and the Nationals have other pitchers in their bullpen who have closer experience including Tanner Rainey, Steve Cishek, Sean Doolittle, and Will Harris.
National League Central
The Brewers have one of the most stable bullpens in baseball. Josh Hader is widely considered one of the top closers in MLB and Devin Williams is one of the top setup men in the game as well. Adding to the Brewers’ bullpen depth are Brad Boxberger, Brent Suter and Jake Cousins who are all projected to provide double-digit hold totals this season.
St. Louis Cardinals
Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol was said to be toying with the idea of having a fluid bullpen free of defined roles. We’ll have to watch early-season box scores to find out what that really means but Giovanny Gallegos, who is having a strong spring and saved 14 games for the Red Birds last season, would probably be the logical choice to get a big chunk of the late-inning high leverage opportunities. If the Cardinals do use a committee approach, Génesis Cabrera, Ryan Helsley, and Jordan Hicks could all potentially be candidates to close out games for the Cards this season. Nick Wittgren has five career saves but he and T.J. McFarland can both be counted on to provide more holds than saves.
Manager David Bell is notorious for keeping fantasy baseball managers guessing who he’ll use as his closer. According to Bell, Hunter Strickland, Luis Cessa, Art Warren, Justin Wilson, and Tony Santillan could all be candidates to pitch in high leverage situations. Strickland, Cessa and Warren are the most likely to pitch with the game on the line this season. This is another fluid bullpen that will need to be monitored once the regular season starts.
The Cubs have three pitchers capable of closing out games for them in their bullpen in Rowan Wick, David Robertson and Mychal Givens. This is another fluid situation that needs to be closely monitored once the regular season starts.
David Bednar and Chris Stratton will begin the season as co-closers. Anthony Banda and Heath Hembree, who saved nine games last season (8 for the Reds and 1 for the Mets), will function as setup men and are projected to provide double-digit hold production.
National League West
San Francisco Giants
Many fantasy managers were drafting Camilo Doval as if he were going to be the Giants’ closer early in the preseason, but in a quote heard around the fantasy world, manager Gabe Kapler told an interviewer that "Right now, if we were starting on Opening Day, Jake McGee would be our closer,". That doesn’t mean that Doval won’t have an opportunity to close out any games for the Giants, and it doesn’t mean that Tyler Rogers won’t close out a few games for the Giants either…but it is worth noting.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Fantasy managers and analysts alike spent much of the preseason speculating that if Kenley Jansen didn’t re-sign with the Dodgers, Blake Treinen would be their closer this season. Once Jansen signed with the Braves, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts suggested that they would use a committee approach in managing their bullpen. That all changed when the Dodgers traded for Craig Kimbrel, with Roberts anointing him as his closer. The Dodgers do have a deep bullpen and Treinen and Daniel Hudson, both of whom have closer experience, will be setting up for Kimbrel. Alex Vesia and Brusdar Graterol, who were expected to be part of the closer committee prior to the Kimbrel trade, are both projected to produce mid-teen range hold numbers.
San Diego Padres
The Padres’ trade for LHP Taylor Rogers helps to balance out their bullpen and gives them a pitcher with closer experience who dominates left-handed batters. Right-handed hitters batted .287 against him last season and Robert Suarez, who has extensive closer experience while pitching in Japan, will also be used in late inning high leverage situations against tough righty batters. Manager Bob Melvin did announce that Rogers would open the season as his closer but both he and Suarez could prove to be good resources for saves this season. We’ll have to watch Padres box scores early in the season to see where Dinelson Lamet and Pierce Johnson fit into the equation, but they will likely be a good source for holds.
Although manager Bud Black has not made an official announcement as this article is being written, Rockies beat writer Thomas Harding projects Daniel Bard to be the team’s closer to start the season. He further expects Alex Colomé to be Bard’s setup man with Carlos Estévez working the seventh inning. With both Estevez and Colome having closer experience, if Bard should slump like he did last season, either can step into the closer’s role if need be. Robert Stephenson and Jhoulys Chacín are projected to provide double-digit hold production.
Mark Melancon is set to lead the Diamondbacks bullpen, with Ian Kennedy serving as his setup man. Noé Ramirez and J.B. Wendelken are projected to be a good resource for holds this season with double-digit production expected.