In this week’s column we’ll focus on a couple of fantasy baseball closers who were among the league leaders in saves over the past week and have added some stability to what had previously been considered fluid or even volatile bullpen situations. Also, as we often do in this column, we’ll identify a couple of under the radar relievers who may sometimes provide better weekly fantasy production than some ordinary starting pitchers. Don’t forget to utilize our Closer Grid throughout the week. It’s a great resource for identifying bullpen closers, handcuffs, and sleepers.
(The statistics quoted in this article are accurate as of the morning of 7.5.2022)
Weekly Saves Leaders
Will Smith, Braves, 3
With Kenley Jansen hitting the IL due to a recurrence of an irregular heartbeat condition, Smith is temporarily back closing out games for the Braves. He saved 37 games for the world champs last season and was expected to resume his role as the team’s closer in 2022, but the Braves surprisingly signed Jansen to a free agent contract this offseason. A.J. Minter (17 holds, 1.59 ERA) picked up the first save for the Braves with Jansen sidelined, but Smith picked up the next three and will probably continue to get the majority of save chances in the near future. Jansen has maintained a throwing regimen and is expected to be reinstated when he’s first eligible to come off the IL.
Clay Holmes, Yankees, 3
Holmes has been phenomenal (16 games, 0.59 ERA, 11 saves, 1 BS) since taking over as the Yankees’ closer. He inherited the role from Aroldis Chapman when he was placed on the IL due to left Achilles tendinitis in late May. Chapman was activated from the IL this past Friday, but Holmes will hold onto his role as Yankees closer for the near future. The Yanks feel that the key to Chapman’s future success lies in him getting regular work. According to the Yankees, Chapman will have a regular role in the Yankees’ bullpen, and he’ll pitch in both high leverage situations as well as non-high leverage situations. Unfortunately, in Chapman’s first game back this past Saturday, he walked three batters and failed to record an out.
Josh Hader, Brewers, 3
Hader remains baseballs best closer.
Paul Sewald, Mariners, 3
Last week we talked about the fluidity within the Mariners’ bullpen (five different Mariners relievers have at least one save this season) but recently, Sewald has brought some stability to their closer situation. He’s converted five of the Mariners’ last six save opportunities over the past two weeks, giving up just one run and striking out eight batters. Sewald has walked just one batter during that time span.
Scott Barlow, Royals, 3
The bullpen hierarchy for the Royals has gotten more predictable as the season progresses. The Royals are a win challenged team, but Barlow has managed to save 12 games, good for 11th most in baseball. With Josh Staumont on the IL, Jose Cuas or Taylor Clarke would probably be next man up behind Barlow.
Weekly Holds Leaders
Devin Williams, Brewers, 3
We’ve previously referenced Williams in this column. He’s one of the best setup men in baseball and could probably effectively close for just about any MLB team. He leads the major leagues with 21 holds.
Taylor Clarke, Royals, 3
We mentioned Clarke in the previous section. He’s been hot of late, pitching to a 1.54 ERA with 14 strikeouts and just two walks in his last 10 appearances spanning 11.2 IP.
20 other pitchers held two games last week including:
Adam Ottavino, Mets
Ottavino, who has closer experience, has been very effective over the past month or so. He’s compiled a 0.71 ERA, seven holds, 10 strikeouts and just two walks in his last 12 appearances spanning 12.2 IP.
Joe Mantiply, Diamondbacks
Mantiply has had a solid season thus far, saving two games and holding eight others, while compiling a sparkling 1.13 ERA. Mantiply has climbed up the Diamondbacks’ bullpen depth chart now that Ian Kennedy has been placed on the IL (calf). With Kennedy sidelined, Mantiply should be considered Mark Melancon’s handcuff.
Bullpens To Take Note Of
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox announced that when Garrett Whitlock returns from the IL he’ll be working out of the bullpen. If you recall, there was some speculation that Whitlock might be groomed to become the teams’ closer earlier in the season. Instead, the Sox stretched him out and he became a valuable member of their starting rotation. Tanner Houck, should still be considered the Bosox’s closer with John Schreiber being his handcuff but baseball is a crazy game and injuries do happen. With Whitlock working out of the bullpen once again he may still have a chance to eventually close out games for the Red Sox. Keep Whitlock on your watch list.
Dylan Floro is another reliever who is moving up his team’s bullpen depth chart. Tanner Scott has been closing out games for the Marlins and will continue to do so (he picked up a save Tuesday night) but when the Marlins tried to unsuccessfully use him in a third straight appearance Floro came in, bailed Scott out and picked up the save. Floro also picked up a save in the Marlins’ next game as well. It appears that Floro has leapfrogged over Anthony Bass who has recently been used in the seventh inning of games. Floro saved 15 games for the Marlins last season and is likely considered to be Scott’s handcuff by manager Don Mattingly.
Middle Relievers Who Should Be On Your Radar in Deep Leagues
With starting pitchers averaging five innings per start so far this season, in some instances you might get similar, or even better production by using a top middle relief pitcher instead of a mediocre starting pitcher in a given week. The following are examples of three middle relievers who often make multi-inning relief appearances and might have deep league fantasy value based on their recent performance.
Mark Leiter Jr, Cubs
Leiter made two relief appearances for the Cubs last week and he pitched a total of 7.1 innings. He struck out nine batters and gave up just one earned run. He has made several multiple inning appearances this season. Leiter got roughed up in his first appearance of the season (7 ER in 3.1 IP) but since then he’s compiled a respectable 3.08 ERA in his last 10 outings.
Kutter Crawford, Red Sox
Crawford has pitched in short relief, long relief and he’s even started games for the Red Sox this season. On Monday he pitched 5.1 scoreless innings against the Rays in relief of starter Austin Davis. Crawford struck out eight batters and walked just one. Crawford has had his ups and downs this season. Rostering him may test your risk tolerance.
Jovani Moran, Twins
Moran has quietly had a very good season for the Twins. He may walk more batters than he should (5.5 BB/9), but Moran has an overall 1.23 ERA and 1.02 WHIP to go along with a gaudy 13.5 K/9. He pitched 4.1 scoreless innings across three appearances last week. Moran struck out seven batters while walking just two during that time span.
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