Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Report: Will Felipe Rivero and Bud Norris stay in the closer role?

All set at closer? Good. Pity those who aren't.

Some teams are making it especially difficult to fill that need, refusing to offer any clarity and continually flipping between options based on performance, health or nothing more than a whim.

Specifically, I count five teams for which I can't confidently say who'll get the next save. I have an idea -- or at least a hope -- but absent any real assurances, I don't feel like I can depend on any of these teams' relievers.

But there's strength in numbers. The more people who agree with you, the more self-assured you'll be. And if my position as CBS dude makes my opinion count times 100, then hopefully you can react like you know what's coming ... even if I don't.

Here's how I see these five bullpen situations shaking out, beginning with the most questionable of all.


I honestly have no idea who'll get the next save for the Nationals. Not a clue. It could even be Koda Glover if they go a week without another save chance and he serves just the minimum 10 days on the DL. We still don't have a timetable for him. That's how in the dark we are.

I would guess since his lower back stiffness seemed to be impacting his performance, he won't be back so soon, and so the Nationals will have to continue their patchwork approach to the late innings. Matt Albers seemed like the obvious choice when Glover first went down seeing as he had the best numbers of any Nationals reliever and they had already tried Shawn Kelley in the role. But Albers got knocked around for three earned runs Monday and, at 34, has never demonstrated closer ability.

Still, it has to be Albers or Kelley next, right? The Nationals are so desperate that they moved top pitching prospect Erick Fedde to the bullpen at Double-A and are speeding him to the majors, but surely not to fill this role right away. No need to get too attached to any Nationals reliever. They're making a trade sooner than later.


You know who the Nationals would like to have is Felipe Rivero, who they flipped to the Pirates in the Mark Melancon deal last July, But right now the Pirates themselves are discovering everything the left-hander brings to the role. Of course, they'd never say as much.

"We're going to use the bullpen to win games. There's not a closer," manager Clint Hurdle told after removing Tony Watson from the role Saturday. "Depending on the lineup, depending on the game situation."

That night, Felipe Rivero recorded a four-out save, striking out three without allowing a baserunner. The next night, Rivero recorded another four-out save, again facing the minimum. Juan Nicasio, who's supposedly splitting the role with him, worked the eighth inning on the first night and the seventh inning on the second.

OK, Clint. Whatever you say, Clint.

Rivero has been far and away the Pirates' most effective reliever this season -- compiling a 0.78 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings -- and Hurdle even acknowledged recently that they always saw him eventually becoming their closer. Supposedly, Watson will get a chance to win back the role at some point, but considering he wasn't even a reliable closer down the stretch last year, I'm skeptical it'll actually happen.

Pecking order Bud Norris LAA RP Cam Bedrosian LAA RP

I've gotten a lot of questions about this one on Twitter, and I understand why it's confusing. We rooted all spring for Cam Bedrosian to win the job, and when he went down, we never imagined a journeyman starter like Bud Norris would be the one to take over for him. And now that Norris has recorded only one save in June, with David Hernandez picking up the team's latest Wednesday, it's not even clear that Norris is still the one filling in.

But rest assured, he is. The Angels have just been light on opportunities recently, and when they finally got one Wednesday, Norris had pitched each of the last three days and was unavailable. While we may have never envisioned Norris as a closer, he has given the Angels zero incentive to remove him from the role, compiling a 2.59 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings and converting 11 of 12 chances since taking over in late April. And seeing as manager Mike Scioscia never wanted to confine Bedrosian to the ninth inning anyway, preferring to use him more like the Indians use Andrew MIller, I suspect we're stuck with Norris for the foreseeable future.

I say "stuck" because while Norris has performed admirably, he's not the Angels best reliever. He may not even be their fourth-best given Blake Parker's 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings and Hernandez's 1.75 FIP, and the cream tends to rise to the top in these situations. I'm sticking with Norris, but I'm keeping Bedrosian close. 


Remember how the Phillies were planning to give Hector Neris a break from closing duties so he could work on his splitter? Well, Pat Neshek was the one who was supposed to make it possible, emerging as the Phillies' most reliable reliever with a 0.75 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings. As recently as a week ago manager Pete Mackanin said Neshek would be the Phillies' choice to close a game if the opportunity presented itself.

Well, no opportunity has presented itself, but Mackanin has used Neshek in the seventh inning twice since. Neris' one appearance during that same span came in the eighth.

Part of the frustration here is an overall lack of opportunities. No pitcher has established himself in the role because doing so would require something in the way of repetition. Together, Phillies relievers have combined for nine saves, so how much should we care really?

Joaquin Benoit is back from the DL and was in the mix for saves when he sprained his knee in late May, but seeing as he has allowed three earned runs in two appearances since returning, he's a distant third choice for Mackanin. 

Pecking order Brandon Maurer SD RP Brad Hand SD RP

Brad Hand entered May 24 with a 1.80 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings, this after emerging as one of the most reliable setup men in baseball in 2016. And so, with Brandon Maurer struggling, manager Andy Green turned to Hand for the save that day.

He converted it, but hardly with ease, allowing three baserunners. Still, Green was emboldened, hinting that a switch could be coming and indeed turning to Hand the next day. And again, Hand converted the save, but he allowed a run this time. He hasn't worked the ninth inning since.

Meanwhile, Maurer has converted seven straight save chances, his only blemish being a four-run disaster in a non-save chance at Arizona June 8. But then, Hand had a four-run disaster of his own as recently as Saturday against the Royals.

For the year, Maurer's 6.15 ERA still dwarfs Hand's 3.03, and again, the cream tends to rise to the top in these situations. But seeing as Hand, being a left-hander, is one of the hottest commodities on the trade market right now, we shouldn't get to attached to the idea of him closing anyway.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Raised in Atlanta by a board game-loving family during the dawn of the '90s Braves dynasty, Scott White was easy prey for the Fantasy Sports, in particular Fantasy Baseball, and has devoted his adulthood... Full Bio

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