Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Report: Who's stepping up for a struggling Josh Hader, and is Taylor Rogers back in a committee?
The Braves appear to have found their closer, but the Brewers and Twins couldn't be any further away. Scott White looks at eight bullpens in flux.
If you thought the closer carousel would come to a stop after the trade deadline, this is clearly your first time on board.
A pair of injuries have disrupted things in Colorado and Washington, and health considerations figure to have a greater say as teams fall out of the race. Closer committees are emerging in Minnesota and Milwaukee, and we still have no idea who the Marlins plan to use for saves, assuming they ever get any.
But let's break down what we know for eight of the bullpens in flux. As always, "pecking order" refers to rosterability in Fantasy and not necessarily who's in line for saves, though they're often one and the same.
Mark Melancon recorded two saves over the weekend, with Shane Greene setting him up each time, and it's been about a week now of him being the presumed closer (with, granted, a couple hiccups along the way). He has cut down on his walks over the past couple months, which is reminiscent of the Melancon of old, but anyone who doesn't miss bats at an elite rate is at risk of a meltdown, of course. Still, he's a competent pitcher in a favorable scenario.
You'll welcome clarity even from an unexpected source, especially when that clarity comes in the form of a 1.88 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 13.0 K/9. Those are closer numbers by any standard, and the source of them, Emilio Pagan, is now responsible for each of the Rays' past six saves. He didn't make a single appearance during that stretch that didn't include the ninth inning, which is also a good sign. Left-hander Jose Alvarado, meanwhile, has mainly functioned in a setup capacity since returning from an oblique injury.
Just when it looked like he had finally wrested the job away, Scott Oberg had to be shut down for the season because of a blood clot in his arm, turning the closer role back over to the capable hands of Wade Davis ... who has proceeded to allow six earned runs in two appearances. Still not getting it done, clearly. The Rockies may stick with him because they have no obvious alternatives, but left-hander Jake McGee has some closing experience and right-hander Carlos Estevez a respectable strikeout rate.
Sure looks like Sergio Romo is Blake Parker 2.0, splitting saves evenly with Taylor Rogers since coming over at the trade deadline. Nobody is denying Rogers is the better pitcher, just the notion that the better pitcher needs to preserved for the ninth inning. It's the modern way of handling things, and Rocco Baldelli is a manager for these modern times.
Anthony Bass wasn't exactly lockdown in the role, which is why Matt Magill handled the Mariners' most recent save chances. Smart money is still on Austin Adams long-term, I think. He's making progress in his recovery from an oblique injury and could be back on a big-league mound a week from now. It doesn't seem worth it to pursue any of the others if the Mariners opt to go the by-committee route, not with as few save chances are they're providing.
Josh Hader has had issues of late, allowing an earned run in six of his past seven appearances, but the Brewers had begun to shift him out of the closer role even before then, preferring (like last year) to use him in the most high-leverage role, be it the eighth or the ninth inning. The problem is they don't have Corey Knebel or a dominant Jeremy Jeffress this time around, which is why Matt Albers has gotten their last three saves. He's not an inspiring choice, but in some cases, you have to take saves wherever you can get them.
The Mets have pulled Edwin Diaz from the ninth-inning duties for now, allowing him to work on his slider on the side, and while they haven't presented any timetables or made any assurances they'll even go back to him, it seems like a probable scenario. Seth Lugo is a competent alternative in the meantime, in spite his five-run meltdown in a non-save chance last week. Such are the perils of pitching an inning at a time in 2019, it seems.
A series of disasters in August (two of which resulted in blown saves) ultimately landed Sean Doolittle on the IL with right knee tendinitis, but manager Davey Martinez has already said Doolittle will remain the closer when he returns. Martinez plans to mix and match until then, and seeing as there are no clear standouts among Fernando Rodney, Daniel Hudson, Hunter Strickland and Wander Suero, I suspect none will have a chance to make a real impact in Fantasy before Doolittle is ready to return.
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