Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Report: Who fills in at closer for Craig Kimbrel, and how solid is Edwin Diaz for saves?
Are Jose Leclerc and Archie Bradley their teams' first choice for saves? Who takes over for the Tigers, Mariners and Marlins following the trade deadline? Scott White looks at the biggest bullpen questions.
And thank goodness. There's enough turnover happening as it is.
One unlikely pillar of stability: the Red Sox, who just awarded Brandon Workman another save Monday. He has three of the team's past four, and the one he didn't get was only because he couldn't quite make it the two innings to do so. Nathan Eovaldi hasn't gotten off on the right foot. Matt Barnes has faded. Ryan Brasier is out of the picture entirely. Hard as it may have been to believe just a few weeks ago, Alex Cora appears to have settled on a guy, and it's Workman.
Note: "Pecking order" refers to rosterability in Fantasy and not necessarily who's first in line for saves, though it's usually one and the same.
On the first day after the Rangers traded Chris Martin to the Braves, seemingly leaving Jose Leclerc as the only plausible choice to fill in for an injured Shawn Kelley (strained biceps), they instead turned to Jesse Chavez for the save. Leclerc has since gotten two saves, but not in particularly dominant fashion, giving up two runs in the first of those chances and failing to record a strikeout in the second. It may not be quite enough to convince manager Chris Woodward that he's ready to claim the job outright, not with Kelley gearing up for a rehab assignment and possibly back by the end of the week.
But Leclerc absolutely should be the closer. Since the disastrous April that cost him the role in the first place, he has a 3.46 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 13.6 K/9, which should be enough to tip the scales when his only competition is a 35-year-old who gives up about a hit per inning.
This one was a long time coming. It seemed plainly evident when Wade Davis was first making his way back from an oblique injury in early June that Scott Oberg had earned the chance to replace him outright. But Davis' ERA was actually OK at that point despite all the walks, and of course, he was owed a bunch of money over the next two years.
Three meltdowns of four-plus earned runs and a 10.00 ERA later, manager Bud Black is ready to relent. Sure, he's saying it's only "for the time being," but that's what he has to say. Who actually foresees Davis, with all his struggles over the past two years, unseating a guy with a 1.50 ERA? Maybe some Royals fan.
I suppose you could point to Oberg's middling strikeout rate as an indication he's not quite all he's cracked up to be, but since about the point when he first filled in for Davis in mid-May (29 appearances), he's at 11.1 K/9.
For all the times over the past couple years when it looked like Archie Bradley was in line to inherit the closer role, wouldn't you know it'd finally happen when he had a 4.00 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP? He's been much better than that lately, it's worth pointing out, going 11 appearances without allowing a run while contributing a 0.91 WHIP and 11.9 K/9. Meanwhile, the other two hyped as closer candidates following Greg Holland's ouster, Yoan Lopez and Yoshihisa Hirano, have been confined to the middle innings.
"I know everyone wants me to say that he is officially our closer, but I don't want to put that on these guys right now," manager Torey Lovullo said of Bradley, according to Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
It's clear enough, though, that it doesn't seem worth stashing Lopez and Hirano anymore. In fact, Holland himself might be the most likely choice to usurp Bradley, not that he's particularly close to doing so after allowing four earned runs in his first appearance outside the closer role.
Not even two days after saying the Mets "have to be open-minded" about what they do in the ninth inning, manager Mickey Callaway confirmed that Edwin Diaz is and is going to remain their closer. So that's fun. Diaz, of course, has been on thin ice since about mid-June, putting together an 8.84 ERA across 20 appearances during that time. He did strike out two over a scoreless inning in the first game of Monday's doubleheader, but he also walked a batter and hit a batter.
Seth Lugo, meanwhile, recorded a two-inning save in the second game of that doubleheader, striking out two without allowing a hit or a walk. In fact, that's now 11 straight appearances without a hit or a walk, making him seemingly a ready-made closer replacement. The Mets have a great deal invested in Diaz, though, and his struggles don't make a ton of sense when you consider the high strikeout rate, the inflated BABIP and the 3.25 xFIP. Still, in spite of Callaway's vote of confidence, it's fair to assume the 25-year-old is still on thin ace.
Craig Kimbrel went on the IL Monday with inflammation in his right knee (i.e., not the one that had cartilage damage a couple years ago), which is frustrating since he just seemed to be finding his groove after waiting until midseason to ink a deal. It doesn't sound like it'll cost him much more than the minimum 10-day stay, though, so pinpointing replacements may be a fool's errand.
"It's committee time," manager Joe Maddon told the Chicago Tribune.
Steve Cishek has the closing experience and had the numbers before entering in the eighth inning Monday and serving up two home runs. Brandon Kintzler bailed him out to complete the inning. Left-hander Kyle Ryan began the ninth but needed David Phelps to bail him out for a one-out save. I'd be surprised if Phelps got another during Kimbrel's absence.
For now, Taylor Rogers seems to have been spared slipping back into a closer committee, but the way the Twins used Sam Dyson in his one and only appearance before hitting the IL with a sore biceps should give everyone pause. He began the ninth inning in what was a save situation but needed Rogers to bail him out. Rogers couldn't and ended up with a blown save, but all three of the runs to score that inning were charged to Dyson.
The Twins acquired two righties with closing experience, Dyson and Sergio Romo, just before the trade deadline, and seeing as Rogers throws left-handed, it'd kind of make sense to move him back to a more versatile and occasionally multi-inning role, which is how the Twins were using him at the start of the year. There's no doubting he's a more effective reliever than either Romo or Dyson, but if Dyson's stay on the IL turns out to be a short one, things could get messy again.
While Mychal Givens is still the Orioles' best reliever (which isn't saying much, but he does have a 2.79 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 12.6 K/9 in 17 appearances since the start of June), rookie manager Brandon Hyde's reluctance to use him as purely a closer -- a philosophy he gave voice to way back in April -- appears to be at the forefront again. Shawn Armstrong has recorded two of the Orioles' past three saves, with the other going to left-hander Paul Fry. It's worth noting Givens didn't pitch in either of the games Armstrong saved -- and one of those saves was of the two-inning variety -- but still, each of Givens' past three appearances, including Monday's, have seen him depart before the ninth inning.
Armstrong has a solid strikeout rate but is nothing special overall. I doubt he'll out-save Givens the rest of the way, but if the two are splitting the role in some form or fashion, neither will have a high enough saves count to move the needle in Fantasy. It's the Orioles, after all.
Joe Jimenez was long billed as the closer-in-waiting for the Tigers, and now that Shane Greene is out of the picture, he's the most obvious choice to step into the role. In fact, manager Ron Gardenhire has even gone so far as to declare it. Is Jimenez certain to stick in the role? Well, for all the talk of how good he could be, he hasn't been yet. Granted, his 2.90 FIP was much better than his 4.31 ERA last year, but both have gotten worse this year.
Jimenez may have turned a corner here recently, allowing just two hits in his past seven appearances. He also has 12.6 K/9 this season, which is nice. Mostly, though, he's getting this chance by default. The Tigers' only other real hope is that Trevor Rosenthal suddenly figures out how to throw strikes again.
"I mean, he's got the velo. He's got the pitches. So now, we just have to see if he can do it," Gardenhire said of Jimenez, pointing out that he can't afford to miss over the plate anymore. "It'll be a learning experience for him. It'll be interesting to see what happens."
The Mariners haven't had a save chance since shipping Roenis Elias to the Nationals. Since then, they did use Anthony Bass in the eighth inning of a two-run loss, but that's his only appearance. The 31-year-old wouldn't be any team's first choice to close, but he seems like the most logical candidate of what they have left, having struck out 10 without walking anyone in his past seven appearances.
Austin Adams might be getting this chance if he wasn't presently sidelined by a strained shoulder. He had 15.9 K/9 in 22 appearances before getting hurt. There was a walk issue but also the kind of unhittable stuff that can help make up for it. You shouldn't lose sight of him in deeper leagues, particularly if you have an available IL slot.
Nick Anderson was the Marlins' closer for all of three days, following Sergio Romo out the door at the trade deadline and leaving the team with no obvious replacements. Ryne Stanek, who the Marlins acquired from the Rays in the Anderson deal, would seem like the safe choice. He has solid all around numbers and has served as an opener -- a role normally reserved for one of a team's best relievers -- an astonishing 27 times this season.
Austin Brice is interesting, though. The 27-year-old right-hander, who is currently rehabbing a forearm strain, hopes to be back later this week. He had a 1.88 ERA and 1.07 WHIP with about a strikeout per inning in 29 appearances for the Marlins earlier this season.
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