Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Report: Emerging Closers
Published: Apr 30, 2021
While most big league bullpens seem to have at least temporarily stabilized, there are still a few that remain in flux. A Royal (and it’s not Harry) has emerged this week, the Twins have told Mr. Rogers “it’s you we like”, and Cincinnati fans have got to be seeing red over the state of their bullpen. Welcome to the Bullpen Report for the fourth full week of the season.
Weekly Save Leaders
Alex Reyes , Cardinals, 3
While many believe he is simply keeping the Cardinals’ closers seat warm for Jordan Hicks , on the surface Reyes has been doing a fine job thus far. He has six saves on the season, three of which were recorded in the past week, and he has yet to give up a run in 11 appearances. However, while he’s struck out 11 batters in 10.1 IP, he’s also walked 10 batters. Reyes has a 100% LOB rate so far this season and sooner or later some of those runners are going to come around to score. Once that happens, his 0.00 ERA will probably start to creep up towards his 6.22 xERA.
Matt Barnes , Red Sox, 3
We’ve already covered Barnes in this column this season, but he continues to impress. Barnes recorded back-to-back saves on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Mets. He now has six saves, 25 strikeouts and just three walks on the season.
Héctor Neris , Phillies, 3
Neris’ three saves last week gives him five on the season. With a 1.69 ERA and .200 BAA he’s already been pretty effective but look for him to slowly reintroduce his slider that he reworked this offseason as this season progresses. The Phils believe that adding a third pitch to his fastball/splitter combo will give him a better advantage against opposing hitters. According to Phillies manager Joe Girardi, he has no plans to remove Neris from the closer’s role, even with Jose’ Alvarado’s return to the team after spending seven days on the COVID-19 injured list.
Josh Staumont , Royals, 3
Please see below.
Richard Rodríguez , Pirates, 2
Nine other pitchers had two saves over the course of the past week, but Rodriguez has been especially good of late. The Pirates have gotten off to a surprisingly good start, winning 12 of their first 24 games and Rodriguez has been a big part of their resurgence. He’s nailed down four saves this season, two of which came in the past week. Rodriguez owns an MLB best 21 inning scoreless streak that dates back to last season. He’s been able to enjoy great success despite throwing his 93.8 MPH fastball 89.7% of the time. He mixes in his slider the rest of the time, but even though opposing batters usually know what’s coming, Rodriguez often still gets the best of them. Despite the simplicity of his strategy, his 0.83 xERA suggests that his recent success is no fluke and should continue.
Weekly Hold Leaders
J.P. Feyereisen, Brewers, 3
Feyereisen has become a fixture in the seventh and eighth innings for the Brewers, and they’ve gradually started using him in high leverage situations. He’s generating a 58.3% whiff rate on his changeup and is yet to give up a barrel or a run in any of his 13 appearances. Feyereisen recorded three holds last week and has six on the season.
Devin Williams , Brewers, 3
Williams got off to a slow start this season, giving up at least one run in three of his first four appearances. In order to help Williams find the rhythm that made him the reigning NL Reliever of the Year/Rookie of the Year, the Brewers started using him in regularly scheduled outings as opposed to only using him in high leverage situations. Williams seems to be back on track, pitching to a 1.80 ERA with eight strikeouts and just one walk in his last five outings. He registered holds in his last four appearances, three of which were recorded in the past week.
Sixteen pitchers recorded two holds last week. Let’s highlight a few that haven’t been covered in this column yet this season:
Jonathan Loaisiga , Yankees, 2
Loaisiga has been on fire of late, occasionally hitting 100 mph on the radar gun and recording a win, save and two holds in his last four appearances. Loaisiga has struck out 16 batters and walked just two in 14.2 IP this season. He’s been given opportunities to pitch in late inning high leverage situations of late, but once Zack Britton returns off of the IL Loaisiga is likely to resume his role as a long reliever and spot starter.
Sam Howard , Pirates, 2
Howard may not be a household name and you might not think the perpetually rebuilding Pirates would be a good resource for holds but as we mentioned earlier, they’ve been competitive this season. Howard has five holds on the season, two of which were recorded in the past week. He hasn’t given up a run in his last nine appearances and Howard has struck out 14 batters in 10 innings on the season.
Adam Ottavino , Red Sox, 2
Ottavino is another reliever who struggled at the start of the season. However, with five straight appearances without giving up an earned run he seems to have settled into his set-up role. Ottavino has struck out 12 batters in 8.1 IP this season, but his seven walks are a bit concerning. He has four holds on the season, two of which were recorded in the past week.
More Bullpen News
Alex Colomé ’s time as the Twins’ closer is over, at least for the short term. Manager Rocco Baldelli confirmed earlier in the week that Colome’ will have a lower-leverage role moving forward. In his past 3 appearances spanning 2.1 IP Colome’ has given up eight runs (four earned), five walks, and pitched to a 15.43 ERA. Expect Taylor Rogers to get the majority of save chances for the Twins. Rogers has yet to give up a run and has 11 strikeouts and one walk in 9.1 IP this season. Look for Tyler Duffey to be in the mix for save opportunities as well.
Six different pitchers have saved games for the Royals this season. While they may still continue to use a committee approach, Josh Staumont saved three games for the Royals over the past week, and it appears he may be headed for a more prominent role in their bullpen. Statistically, Staumont and Scott Barlow have been the Royals’ best relief pitchers this season. Opposing hitters have an .079 BAA Staumont this season, and to his credit he’s been able to maintain his effectiveness despite losing about a MPH off of his fastball this season. Both Barlow and Greg Holland , who recently spent a day on the COVID-related injury list, will likely remain in the mix for save opportunities, but Staumont has the skillset that could help him to take over the Royals’ closer’s role by the end of the season.
Amir Garrett , Lucas Sims and Sean Doolittle have all struggled at some point this season, making the Reds bullpen resemble a committee of ineptitude. Teejay Antone has been the lone bright spot in the Reds’ bullpen, but it seems that the Reds may consider him as more of a future starter and not a closer. Other than Antone, Sims is probably best qualified to be the Reds’ closer. He’s equally effective against left and right-handed batters and while he owns a bloated 6.23 ERA, according to his 1.83 xERA, he’s pitched much better than that. Unlike Garrett, who’s allowed a 17.4% barrel rate (league average is 6.4), and Doolittle, who’s allowed an 8.3% barrel rate, Sims has yet to allow a single barrel this season. With the league’s .370 BAA him, Garrett should probably work through his issues in non-high leverage situations moving forward. Doolittle has been very effective against left-handed batters and can be called upon for the occasional save opportunity. If you’re looking for a couple of extremely deep sleepers who might eventually get a crack at save opportunities with the Reds, Heath Hembree and Ryan Hendrix, who were recently promoted from the Reds’ alternate site have some experience in closing out games. In his short time on the roster, Hembree has already worked the eighth inning in two games thus far.
The Giants’ trade of Wandy Peralta allows us to add rookie reliever Camilo Doval to our closer grid. Jake McGee has a stronghold on the Giants’ closer role but Doval is a name to familiarize yourself with. He throws a 98 MPH fastball and a hard slider, and the Giants have been using him in the seventh and eighth innings. He’s already picked up three holds since his debut on April 18th.
If you've been a subscriber here at Fantasy Alarm, you've seen the Fantasy Baseball Closer Grid before. If you're new, it's very simple. We not only list who the closer is for each team, but we then go another two-deep into the bullpen to let you know who would be next in line to accrue saves should there be an injury or a change, as well as which relievers you may want to target if your league scores for holds. This isn't about how the teams' depth charts always reads, so keep that in mind. Sometimes the heir-apparent is an obvious one, but in many cases it is not. We look for things like skill set, contact rates, pitch-command, pitch-mix, how many lefties are in the bullpen, who has worked as a closer before and who has the experience in high-leverage situation among other things.
GREEN will be those with strong talent, abundant opportunities and a high-level of job security. The tier below will be in YELLOW followed by ORANGE and lastly RED to indicate who may have the job right now but could lose it with one bad hiccup.