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Closers and Saves Report: Summer Camp Edition 2 - Handcuffs


It's a whole new ball game. Literally. Baseball is going to be weird this season, folks. Only 60 games. (Almost?) all in the same time zone. Tons of games against the same teams. The DH everywhere. Empty stadiums. Cardboard cutouts. Artificial crowd noise. 30-man rosters for a while. Then 28-man rosters for another while. It's going to be different.

One of the positions that may experience the most difference this season, aside from the National League designated hitter of course, is closer. We've all seen how important one game can be in a regular 162-game season. Divisions and Wild Card spots come down to a difference of one game all the time, so imagine how much closer things might end up in a season with 102 fewer games. Closers are going to be called upon to lock down wins and their roles will become even more critical to a team's success than before. Teams won't have the time to let a closer "work on things" if he struggles, the hook will need to come a lot quicker for teams planning on winning.

So that leads us to a term more often discussed in fantasy football: the handcuff. A player's handcuff is basically the guy who will step into his role if he is injured (or, say, is forced to quarantine) or if the player struggles and loses his role. It can be very clear cut on some teams, and a bit murkier on others. Let's take a look at who these guys might be across the league.

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AL East

The New York Yankees may already be looking toward their handcuff, as closer Aroldis Chapman tested positive for COVID-19 and has been away from the team. Zach Britton will be the primary closer if Chapman can't start the season on the mound, according to manager Aaron Boone. Britton doesn't get the strikeouts that Chapman does, but is an excellent reliever himself and should fare well closing out games until Chapman returns.

The Boston Red Sox will start the season with Brandon Workman in the closer's role. His top handcuff will be Matt Barnes, who can struggle with control sometimes, but misses plenty of bats. Barnes would step into the ninth inning and likely do a good job if called upon.

The Toronto Blue Jays will have Ken Giles trying to save their leads in the ninth inning to start the season. He's a prime trade candidate if the Blue Jays season doesn't start out as planned, and a trade would of course lead to a new closer in Toronto. Anthony Bass is next in line up north, and while he doesn't strike guys out at the same clip as Giles, he's a solid enough reliever to likely convert most of his save chances if given the role.

The Baltimore Orioles will reportedly start the season with Mychal Givens as closer. He's an obvious trade candidate if he does well, but also a risk to struggle and lose the job. In steps Hunter Harvey, the top handcuff in Baltimore. The rookie showed his upside in a brief 6 1/3 inning stint at the big league level last season. He has huge strikeout upside and could immediately become one of the better closers the Orioles have had in a while.

Rounding out the American League East are the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays don't really abide by the closer-handcuff model since their ninth inning is usually handled by a closer-by-committee type of setup. Still, Nick Anderson remains the top option in the Tampa Bay bullpen, so his handcuff would likely be Diego Castillo. However, as much as the Rays bullpen is likely to be a revolving door of strong-armed relievers, it'll certainly be even more of that if Anderson were to struggle or get hurt.

 

AL Central

The American League Central might be the most straightforward division in terms of how the bullpens are set up. The Detroit Tigers enter the season with Joe Jimenez as their closer, and Buck Farmer as his handcuff. Farmer has shown some swing-and-miss stuff, but the Tigers bullpen isn't very deep and would generally be in trouble if Jimenez went down.

The Chicago White Sox will have Alex Colome pitching their ninth innings. Working behind him as the primary setup man and likely handcuff is Aaron Bummer. The White Sox also have Steve Cishek and Kelvin Herrera, both who have plenty of closing experience. While Bummer seems like the logical choice to step in for Colome if necessary, manager Rick Renteria may choose to go with the experienced arms of Cishek or Herrera.

The Cleveland Indians have Brad Hand closing things out to start the season. He's a possible trade candidate and also a very streaky pitcher, so there's a chance his handcuff becomes necessary in 2020. The most exciting option in the Cleveland bullpen would be James Karinchak, but he's only logged a total of 5 1/3 MLB innings so far, so the closer's role might go to the more experienced Nick Wittgren if a change is necessary.

The Kansas City Royals go into the season with veteran Ian Kennedy as their closer. Kennedy completely refurbished his career last season and excelled in the closer's role. If he is ultimately traded or regresses, though, the Royals may choose to go back to Greg Holland or give Trevor Rosenthal another chance. Both Holland and Rosenthal have great track records with recent struggles, so if either of them can get back on track, the Royals may have a somewhat stronger bullpen than expected.

Finally in the AL Central, we have the Minnesota Twins. The Twins will send Taylor Rogers to the mound when they want to close out a win. Rogers is an excellent, sturdy closer whose handcuff will almost certainly only be needed in case of injury. In that case though, the Twins have veteran Sergio Romo ready to step in. It would be a downgrade from Rogers, but Romo would be able to hold his own and keep the Twins winning.

 

AL West

Our tour of the AL West starts off with the Texas Rangers, whose bullpen will be led by Jose Leclerc. He may not be pigeonholed into the ninth inning though. Instead, Leclerc may work in more of a fireman role, leading the Rangers bullpen into a committee. Still, he remains the preferred option in the Rangers bullpen, and he will be backed up by Rafael Montero and perhaps Cody Allen. Allen has struggled lately, but has plenty of closing experience and may jump into the ninth inning if he proves he's able to get guys out again.

The Los Angeles Angels could have a sneakily strong bullpen in 2020, led by closer Hansel Robles. Robles is a solid closer unlikely to lose his job for performance reasons, but in case of injury, he'll be handcuffed by Ty Buttrey. Buttrey may ultimately fare better in a fireman role, so look to Keynan Middleton or Cam Bedrosian as possible closer options if necessary.

The Oakland A's had some bullpen issues last year, but they all came to an end when Liam Hendriks stepped up and had an incredible season. Hendriks will continue to shut things down this season, but if he is forced to miss time, veterans Joakim Soria and Yusmeiro Petit will be around to back him up. Lefty Jake Diekman could mix in as well against lefty-heavy innings.

The Houston Astros bullpen will have Roberto Osuna returning to his ninth-inning role. Much like the other closers in this division, his job should be safe unless illness or injury strike. In that case, Ryan Pressly would be next up and would actually have more fantasy upside than Osuna. If the Astros decide to keep Pressly in a fireman role, then Chris Devenski or Josh James could be next to step into the ninth.

Wrapping up the American League are the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners seem like they will enter the season with a committee situation for their ninth inning. This seems like it could be a true committee with no set roles, so it's impossible to decide on a handcuff. All of Austin Adams, Matt Magill, Yoshihisa Hirano, Brandon Brennan, and Carl Edwards Jr. are possible ninth-inning options. Keep an eye on our Depth Charts to see if things change as the season goes on.

 

NL East

The National League East has a few solid bullpens and a couple of questionable ones. Let's start with one of the latter, the Atlanta Braves. The Braves finished last season and will enter this one with Mark Melancon as their closer. He was one of the only truly effective relievers in Atlanta last season, but the Braves went out and signed Will Smith, who was even better. It seems like for now the team plans on using Smith in a more versatile role, leaving Melancon to man the ninth. However, if Melancon falters or misses time, Smith is sure to be the one to step in.

The Miami Marlins bullpen has some question marks, but there's a chance it may end up being one of the team's strengths. Veteran Brandon Kintzler will close things out for the fish and while his strikeout numbers have never been particularly impressive, he has experience and knows how to get guys out. Ryne Stanek and Yimi Garcia are likely the next arms in line, although the Marlins do seem to like Drew Steckenrider and could give him a shot to close if he proves to be healthy and Kintzler is not an option.

Next, we have the New York Mets, who seemed to have Edwin Diaz locked in as closer, but manager Luis Rojas refused to name Diaz outright. So, at least for now, it looks like there may be a committee forming in Queens. Diaz is still the most likely pitcher to be called upon for saves, but Dellin Betances, Seth Lugo, and Jeurys Familia could all see some ninth inning action in what could be one of the unexpectedly best bullpens in the National League.

The Philadelphia Phillies had a bit of a scare when closer Hector Neris had to be placed on the 10-day injured list, but he has already been cleared to return and should be good to go for Opening Day. Neris should maintain the ninth inning, but if he unexpectedly struggles or ends up back on the IL, Adam Morgan would be the next guy up in the Phillies pen.

Wrapping up the NL East are the World Champion Washington Nationals. The Nats will kick off the season with lefty Sean Doolittle in the closer's role. This may be a more fluid situation than expected, as Daniel Hudson has proven he is capable of closing out the biggest games. So it'll be Doolittle most likely, but Hudson is one of the stronger and perhaps most likely handcuffs to remain relevant.

 

NL Central

Much like the AL Central, the National League Central is more or less solid in the bullpen department, although some recent news has changed that for two of the teams. Let's start with the solid teams, one of which is the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs didn't get much from Craig Kimbrel last season, but they are hoping that getting to spend time with the team and starting the season at the same time as everyone else will bring back the old Craig Kimbrel. He's locked in for the ninth-inning role, but if he struggles again, the Cubs aren't likely to have as long of a leash. Rowan Wick is the next in line, and Jeremy Jeffress brings some veteran experience that manager David Ross might like.

The Cincinnati Reds also feature a solid bullpen lineup, starting with closer Raisel Iglesias. Iglesias had some struggles last season, but was mostly solid and occasionally outstanding. If he were to have an extended period of struggles or be forced to miss time, Michael Lorenzen would likely step in, although a good start to the season from Pedro Strop could land him in the ninth inning so that Lorenzen's versatility can remain in play.

Next up are the Milwaukee Brewers. Josh Hader regressed a bit last season but was still incredible and will return as the top ninth-inning option in the division. If his struggles are amplified or if he misses time, Corey Knebel would likely take his place, assuming Knebel himself is healthy (he is returning from Tommy John Surgery). Otherwise, the Brewers could turn to David Phelps or Brent Suter in the ninth.

Now we get to one of the more uncertain bullpens in the NL Central. The Pittsburgh Pirates were expecting to enter the season with Keone Kela at closer and Kyle Crick as his top setup man and handcuff. Kela has yet to join the team, and Crick has yet to be able to throw live pitches, so both are far behind in their preparation for Opening Day. Exciting rookie Nick Burdi was expected to get some save chances later this season, but at this point he may end up entering the season as the top option in Pittsburgh. He'd be an excellent closing option if he earned the role.

The St. Louis Cardinals expected to have Giovanny Gallegos keeping the closer's seat warm for Jordan Hicks while Hicks finished up his recovery from Tommy John Surgery. But now Hicks has chosen to opt out of the 2020 season, and Gallegos found himself on the injured list. When asked about his bullpen, manager Mike Shildt immediately named fireballer Ryan Helsley as his closing option. It's a committee for now and might be a work in progress to start the season, but Helsley seems like the best bet, with veteran Andrew Miller lurking behind. Gallegos should still have a chance as well, as long as he can stay on the field.

 

NL West

The National League West wraps up our tour of the league's bullpens. The NL West has four pretty solid bullpens and one enormous (you might even call it giant) question mark. Let's start with the solid ones. The Arizona Diamondbacks will have Archie Bradley closing things out in the desert this season. He should be solid in the ninth, but he'll be handcuffed by higher-upside Kevin Ginkel and more experienced Hector Rondon.

Up in the mountains, the Colorado Rockies are going to give Wade Davis another chance. Davis was almost unbelievably awful last season, but the Rockies must have seen something they thought they could fix. They seem committed to him, so we can say his role is solid, but his leash likely won't be too long, given what he did last season. Backing up Davis will be Scott Oberg, who already showed an ability to close out games last season and may be one of the most likely handcuffs in a solid bullpen to take over the role.

Further out west, the Los Angeles Dodgers will have another season of closer Kenley Jansen shutting things down. He's not the same Kenley Jansen he used to be, but he's still a very solid, consistent closer. He has had some health concerns in the past, however, so his handcuff could be important. That'll likely be Pedro Baez at the beginning of the season, but could end up being Blake Treinen if Treinen can show that he's back to the pitcher he used to be.

Just south of there, the San Diego Padres bullpen will be anchored by the guy who is arguably the best closer in baseball, Kirby Yates. Yates seems as good a bet as any to keep his job all year, but injury and illness can hit anyone. His handcuff will be the newly acquired Emilio Pagan, who has plenty of upside himself, along with lefty Drew Pomeranz. The Padres somewhat quietly built what could be the best bullpen in the division.

Finally, we'll wrap things up with the biggest question mark in the division and maybe in the league: the San Francisco Giants bullpen. The career leader in saves in the Giants pen is Tony Watson, with 30. He's the best bet to close things out in San Francisco, but manager Gabe Kapler is very likely to use a committee approach that will also include Tyler Rogers, Trevor Gott, and Jarlin Garcia. This is a bullpen best avoided in fantasy, but Watson's primary competition could be in the form of Tyler Rogers.

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We are now more than a third of the way into the fantasy football season and a seemingly clearer picture is available across the landscape. After a pandemic-shortened offseason and lack of preseason exposure, there were plenty of worries headed into the first month specifically. Thus far, one of the most prevalent topics with regards... Read More


Fantasy Football Warning Signals for Week 7

The warning signals get brighter by the week since we have more data to work from. The larger the sample size the easier it is for us to connect the dots from the latest trends. Football is a game of small samples and many variables, making it one of the hardest sports to predict. How... Read More


How to Value Clyde Edwards-Helaire with Le'Veon Bell in KC

Clyde Edwards-Helaire or Jonathan Taylor? Coming into the season this was the biggest question for fantasy GMs, both dynasty managers who were thinking long-term and redraft managers who wanted to know who would be better for this season. There were many different theories and believe me when I say, both sides thought they were 100%... Read More


NextGen Stats - Quarterback Breakdowns and Takeaways

It's been a month since the last time we took a look at our beloved quarterbacks. Numbers are numbers, and numbers don't lie. You can twist them, but looking at them objectively, numbers say that no matter what, rushing the ball is almost always a worse option than passing it in today's game. That's why... Read More


Fantasy Football Risers and Fallers - Week 7

Whether due to their own play, the play of others, or injuries, players' stock increases and decreases on a weekly basis. Perhaps more than any other, the NFL is a league that experiences ups and downs at a rapid pace. With only 16 games, there’s little room for error and seemingly endless opportunities for improvement.... Read More


Coaching Matters: Offenses That Will Improve From Week 6

This series continues into its sixth week of where I dive into offensive areas that will improve or decline based on coaching in order to glean insight as to fantasy football value. In Week 6, we saw performances such as Ryan Tannehill throwing for 364 passing yards, the Houston Texans running backs combining for 66 rushing yards, and the New... Read More


Tape Tells All: D'Andre Swift's Week 6 Performance

Welcome to another edition of Tape Tells All. I've been thinking of rebranding as just TAPE. All-Caps like that. Probably wouldn't be a good idea for SEO purposes, right? Anyways, this week we'll be discussing Detroit Lions rookie running back D'Andre Swift. Swift set a lot of career highs this week, with bests in carries... Read More


Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups & Adds

Week 6 was like the 2020 of fantasy football weeks. All those great matchups meant nothing, those studs let you down, and your bench likely went crazy. The good news is that we didn't have any season-ending injuries to running backs or games canceled due to COVID, so in retrospect maybe we shouldn't complain. The... Read More


FAB Bidding - Week 7 Waiver Wire Targets

Whether it's injuries, bye-week blues, or simply poor performance, we've got the waiver-wire cure...but it just might cost you! Alongside our famous waiver wire pickups list and our weekly waiver wire columns by position, this column focuses on suggested waiver wire bidding percentages for fantasy football owners in leagues using a Free Agent Budget (FAB). In... Read More


Waiver Wire Express - Week 7 Lightning Round

Week 6 was relatively healthy and had no coronavirus delays, so let's just take a moment to bask in that. That said, we still saw Miles Sanders (knee) and Zach Ertz (ankle) go down, while Mark Ingram (ankle) has a bye to get healthy. Week 7 byes are Baltimore, Indianapolis, Miami, and Minnesota. Let's get... Read More


Running Back Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Fantasy GMs are to be commended for rising to the unique challenges that have unfolded during this regular season. Injuries to critical players is an unwelcome reality that occurs every year. This is also the case for backs that were expected to operate as RB1s, but have been relegated to committees. However, this season has... Read More


Wide Receiver Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Six weeks of NFL football are behind us, aside from a pair of Monday games, including a late afternoon game between the Bills and the Chiefs. In terms of wide receiver production this week, we didn't have the huge breakouts like we had in Week 5. Chase Claypool didn't score four touchdowns. In fact, only... Read More


More Recent Articles

 

Dissecting Contact Quality In Search Of Fantasy Bargains

Of the 1,015 hitters sampled(1) between 2015 and 2019, there were only 14 instances of hitters making more productive contact against pitches outside of the strike zone than against pitches inside of the strike zone based on xwOBAcon. Based on the same sample, the average hitter was a whopping .116 points better against pitches inside... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 23rd, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 23rd, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Lineup Order Risers and Fallers: AL West 2020 Review

It’s the offseason and there are about to be a bunch of moving parts. This allows for speculation in terms of players gaining or losing playing time, moving up or down a batting order and much more. The idea here is to highlight some lineup situations for each team and some potential winners or losers... Read More


2021 1st & 2nd Year Players with James Anderson - Benched with Bubba (Episode 317)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by James Anderson (@RealJRAnderson) on episode 317. The guys will go over 30+ first and second-year players. They will discuss their current ADP's in the 2 Early Mocks, what to expect of the players in 2021, and much more. They also go over some listener questions, compare Juan Soto to Mike... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 21st, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 21st, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 20th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 20th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 54: 2 Early Mocks APD Player Debates - Benched with Bubba (Episode 316)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They go over some of the positions and look at players with similar ADPs and debate. Going around the diamond discussing some players people are high on and some they are down on with a... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 18th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 18th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 17th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 17th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


2021 Early Mock ADP Values & Reaches: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More