Padres closer Josh Hader is looking like his old self. He leads the Major Leagues with nine saves, five of which were earned in the past week. Pirates closer David Bednar and Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano are right behind Hader with eight saves each on the season. Colin Holderman has seemingly come out of nowhere and is tied for the league lead in holds with eight. Except for Tuesday night Holderman has been locking down the eighth inning as Bednar’s setup man.
The Orioles and Mariners bullpen features a couple of baseball veterans who are coming into their own this season that you should know about, and the Rangers have been using their own veteran reliever in the ninth inning as of late. We’ll explain it all in this week’s Fantasy Baseball Closer Report.
Statistics quoted in this article are accurate as of Wednesday morning April 26, 2023.
Ryan Helsley leads Cardinals relievers with three saves but unfortunately, he also leads the team with three blown saves. Helsley’s 1.93 ERA is well within the range that we’ve come to expect from him, but his fastball has been uncharacteristically hittable (.333 BAA) and has contributed to his career high 9.6 H/9. He’s also had some issues with his control as evidenced by his 3.9 BB/9. Last season his BB/9 was just 2.8. With Giovanny Gallegos (1 save, 2 holds) occasionally vulturing his save opportunities Helsley isn’t the typical closer who has a shot at compiling 30 saves, but Cardinals’ manager Oliver Marmol will continue to use him in high leverage situations, even if it’s not in the ninth inning. This past Sunday Marmol summoned Helsley to pitch the seventh and eighth innings in a non-save situation but it was against the Mariners’ 2, 3, and 4 hitters and two runners were on base. Helsley didn’t give up a run and picked up his first hold of the season. Like last season, both Helsley and Gallegos will be given the chance to close out games, but Helsley is likely to once again lead the team in saves and Gallegos will be the better resource for holds.
Even with Andres Munoz (shoulder strain) on the IL the Mariners’ bullpen has the sixth lowest ERA in baseball. In large part, their bullpen’s success can be attributed to Paul Sewald who is tied for having the second most saves in baseball with seven. However, 32-year-old Justin Topa has been the real surprise in the Mariners bullpen. Various elbow injuries and two Tommy John surgeries have limited Topa to just 27.1 big league innings pitched but he has found a home in Seattle. With Diego Castillo struggling early on the Mariners have been using Topa as Sewald’s setup man and he’s been phenomenal. Topa hasn’t given up a run in his nine appearances and he leads the team with five holds. Trevor Gott has also established himself as a major player in the Mariners’ bullpen. He’s pitching to a 2.31 ERA and is second on the team with four holds. Once Munoz is reinstated from the IL, he’ll reclaim his role as the Mariners’ co-closer, but Topa and Gott will continue to be used in late inning high leverage situations.
Yennier Cano is yet another middle-aged reliever who has burst onto the scene this season. With Dillon Tate (forearm) on the IL all season, Cano has taken over as Felix Bautista’s setup man. With the Orioles looking to rest an overworked Bautista on Monday, Cano pitched a scoreless ninth inning, striking out two batters and picking up his first big league save. Cano has four holds and he’s yet to give up a run, a hit or issue a walk in seven appearances spanning 8.2 IP this season. In addition to featuring one of baseball’s best closers in Bautista, the Orioles are blessed but a few other live arms in their bullpen which has the third lowest ERA (2.88) in the game. Bryan Baker has been a good resource for holds this season, leading the team with five. He's also struck out 16 batters in 12 innings pitched.
As a team the Rangers only have three saves so far this season. Manager Bruce Bochy has been reluctant to name a primary closer, but many expected that Jose Leclerc would get the majority of the team’s save opportunities. So far Leclerc has one save on the season and while he’s yet to give up a run he’s had issues with his control. He’s issued seven walks in his first 8.2 IP and has two blown saves on the season. Bochy has been giving Will Smith the ball in the ninth inning of late. Smith has extensive experience as a closer, most recently saving 37 games for the Braves in 2021 and he picked up the Rangers’ most recent save on Sunday. Smith has also been a good resource for holds sharing the team lead (4) with Jonathan Hernandez.
Middle Relievers Who Should Be On Your Radar
The following are a few relievers who provide good ratios, can be good resources for holds and occasionally make multiple inning appearances. They might be worth streaming in place of mediocre starting pitchers:
The Brewers have used Wilson in long relief this season and he’s already picked up two three inning saves. He’s pitched 15.1 innings across seven appearances, striking out 17 batters and compiling a 1.17 ERA.
Rogers has given up just one run in 13.1 IP this season across 10 appearances. He’s struck out 12 batters and walked just two, and has a save and two holds on the season.
Bird hasn’t given up a run in his last six appearances, pitching 10 innings and striking out 15 batters during that time span. Lefty hitters are batting just .103 against him.
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