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Closers and Saves Report - Week 10 and Bold Predictions Revisited!

So this is it, huh? Playoffs after just 10 weeks of regular season play feels weird, but it's better than nothing, right? Congratulations to all of our readers who made it to the championship in their fantasy leagues, here's hoping this weekend goes well and helps you bring a title home!

This week, we'll take a look at the bullpen news for this last week of the regular season, then we'll go back and see how close and how far I was on some of my bold bullpen predictions from before the season started. Huge thank you to everyone who has kept up with Closers and Saves Report in this weird season, I hope it's been helpful!

Take a look at our Closer Depth Chart, which is updated daily. Let's jump in and take a look at what's been going on in the bullpens around baseball.


Bullpen News for Week 10

Los Angeles Angels

The Angels are...still not eliminated from postseason contention as of the writing of this article. They've gone with Mike Mayers in key late innings, and he seems like the best bet for saves over this weekend. He's been fantastic this year and has definitely worked his way into late-inning consideration for 2021. Mayers has a 1.52 ERA and a 35.9 K% in 29 2/3 innings. His 2.64 SIERA and 1.70 FIP back up his strong performance.

Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles have turned to veteran Cesar Valdez for a few saves down the stretch. Hunter Harvey is still the best pitcher in that bullpen, but Valdez looks like the leader of the Orioles committee for the last few games. Anyone desperate for maybe one more save can almost certainly find him on the waiver wire.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals closer committee is hard to predict, with Andrew Miller seemingly at the top, but Genesis Cabrera and Ryan Helsley also throwing good innings. Now, Giovanny Gallegos is back from the injured list and figures to mix in as well. It'll be hard to predict who the Cardinals will use in save situations, but they may be the team with the most games left to play. They have an "if necessary" double header against the Tigers on Monday, so fantasy owners desperate for saves may want to take a chance on a St. Louis reliever. The safest pick is likely Miller (assuming that your league will count stats accumulated from those potential Monday games, of course.)


Bold Predictions Revisited!

Before the season, I wrote a Bold Bullpen Predictions for 2020 article, then updated it in early July without making too many changes. You can see that article by clicking here: Bold Bullpen Predictions. Turns out, of my five predictions (all of which I caught TONS of flak for), two were correct, two could have been correct, and one was WAY off.

  1. Brad Boxberger leads the Marlins in saves and nets a legitimate prospect at the Deadline.
    • Okay, so that didn't quite happen, but Boxberger did pitch really well and could have likely been traded for a decent prospect at the deadline if the Marlins had been sellers. I don't think anyone could have predicted the Marlins being legitimate buyers at the deadline, but Boxberger has a 2.12 ERA in 17 innings, five holds, and a 24.7 K%.
  2. James Karinchak makes would have made the All-Star team.
    • Of course, there was no All-Star Game so this prediction was wrong from the get go, but still, the point made was that Karinchak was really, really good and not a lot of people knew who he was. The 25-year-old struggled somewhat with his command (15.1 BB%), as predicted, but he pitched to a 2.77 ERA (1.68 FIP) with a 47.2 K%. Would he have made the All-Star Team? Probably not, but he ended up fifth among all Cleveland pitchers in fWAR.
  3. Josh Hader exits the top tier of fantasy closers and is just OK.
    • This is the one that I got THE MOST side eye for. Ranging from "yeah, right" to [expletive deleted], people were just not ready to believe that Josh Hader might not be the top closer in 2020. Cut to the end of the season, and Hader has a 4.24 ERA, a career low strikeout rate and a career high walk rate. Sorted by fWAR, Hader is 146th on the lost of relievers in 2020. I'd say that's safely outside of the top tier, right?
  4. Edwin Diaz has a huge bounce-back season, gets Cy Young Award votes.
    • I don't expect Diaz to win the Cy Young, of course, but he may get some down ballot votes to make this prediction completely right. The important part though, was the "huge bounce-back season", which he definitely had. Diaz had a struggle or two earlier in the year, but his overall numbers are excellent: 1.50 ERA, 46.6 K%, and a .184 opponent's batting average.
  5. Luke Jackson will be the best pitcher in the Braves' bullpen.
    • This was my big miss. Jackson not only isn't the best pitcher in the Braves bullpen, he actually hasn't really been all that good at all. He has an ugly 5.33 ERA and a 16.4 K% to go with a 9.8 BB%. Meanwhile, the rest of the Braves bullpen has been the best bullpen in baseball by many measures, making this prediction not only wrong in terms of the individual player, but in terms of the whole team.

I guess we can play three true outcomes with my predictions. I either struck out (Jackson), walked (Karinchak and Boxberger), or hit a home run (Diaz and my Hader grand slam).


Best of the Season

This section is usually for our Best of the Week, but let's wrap things up with a Best of the Season instead!

Liam Hendriks, Oakland A's- 23 IP, 1.17 ERA, 14 SV, 39.8 K%, 1.2 fWAR

A's closer Liam Hendriks was the best fantasy closer again this year, posting 14 saves and a tiny 1.17 ERA. He was second among all relievers in fWAR with 1.2.

Brad Hand, Cleveland Indians- 19 2/3 IP, 2.29 ERA, 14 SV, 32.9 K%, 0.9 fWAR

Cleveland closer Brad Hand had a huge bounce back season that I certainly didn't predict. Hand had all kinds of issues last season, but he was great in 2020, saving 14 games while posting a 2.29 ERA that could have been even better when looking at his 1.45 FIP.

Alex Colome, Chicago White Sox- 21 1/3 IP, 0.84 ERA, 12 SV, 17.2 K%, 0.5 fWAR

White Sox closer Alex Colome doesn't strike guys out, but he just gets it done. He gets guys out, he saves games. Colome had a dozen saves and a microscopic 0.84 ERA.

Devin Williams, Milwaukee Brewers- 25 IP, 0.36 ERA, 0 SV (9 HLD), 55.3 K%, 1.4 fWAR

MLB's leader in fWAR among relievers in 2020 is Brewers rookie Devin Williams. Williams had a stunning season, allowing just one earned run and six hits all season long, all while striking out 52 and walking just nine. If he ends up in the closer's role, Williams could easily be the number one reliever in baseball next season.



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Week 10 MLB Closers & Bullpen Usage Report

Monitoring bullpens in 2020 will be a vital task each and every day. Because of this, we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used.

The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.


Around the American League

Chicago White Sox - Matt Foster and Jace Fry have each pitched in two of the past three. They have also alternated between pitching late in a game and facing big spots midgame. The rest of the Chicago pecking order is well enough rested.

Cleveland - Finally getting nipped for a run, Brad Hand has gone back-to-back days and three of four. Nick Wittgren and James Karinchak both pitched Monday but could go again. Wittgren, if he goes Tuesday, would then have pitched in three of the past four days. Cam Hill has already thrown in three of the past five.

Kansas City - Greg Holland has pitched in back-to-back games. Jesse Hahn could be called upon to close if Holland rests. He's been racking up holds and has looked good for a few weeks now. He's only been called upon to pitch the eighth once, though, in recent games. Josh Staumont is another option, as is Scott Barlow, though the latter was given the fifth inning on Monday.

Houston - Ryan Pressly grabbed two more saves over the weekend. He did get a day off after two straight outings but will likely need another day after another appearance. Brooks Raley is a likely fill-in if Pressly does rest.

Los Angeles Angels - It was multi-inning outings in two of the past three days for Mike Mayers as he cements his status as the current Angels closer. Los Angeles has found a little something in multi-inning relievers with Mayers and Matt Andriese. Both may need to rest, in which case LA may have to turn back to Ty Buttrey for a save opportunity. Felix Pena would also be an option.

Seattle - All of Yoshihisa Hirano, Kendall Graveman, and Casey Sadler pitched in back-to-back before a day off. Fortunately, Marco Gonzales went eight scoreless on Monday, and the team didn't need any of them. Look for better staggering of the three arms this week, with help from Yohan Ramirez, so all don't need to rest at the same time again.


Around the National League

Atlanta Mark Melancon has pitched in two straight. He is hardly alone in heavy recent usage. Will Smith has pitched in three straight; Chris Martin two straight; Shane Greene two of the past three. Greene also really got knocked around this past week. A.J. Minter would be a plausible fill-in if everyone needs a day. Darren O'Day is probably not, as he needed 24 pitches on Monday to get through his inning. Keep in mind that although Smith has gone in three straight, he needed just nine total pitches the last two outings.

Miami - Brandon Kintzler got a day off after two straight outings. James Hoyt is also worth keeping an eye on. He pitched in two of three, though needed just 15 total pitches to get through them.

New York Mets - Edwin Diaz and Miguel Castro both pitched Monday. Jeurys Familia didn't but did pitch both weekend games. All three players would need a day off after another outing. Look for Luis Rojas to stagger their usage to avoid that this week.

Washington - Will Harris and Kyle Finnegan, holds guys but not in the mix for saves, both may need some rest. Harris has gone in three of four; Finnegan in two of three. Daniel Hudson pitched Monday but hadn't gotten into a game for four days before that.

Chicago Cubs - Rowan Wick is on the IL and likely out for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, Craig Kimbrel picked up a save back on September 12 and has pitched just once since then, striking out two in a clean eighth. Jeremy Jeffress has been busy in that same timeframe, but it isn't clear why Kimbrel has been packed away. Jeffress pitched on Monday, so another entrance would require a day off. Maybe then Chicago finally calls upon Kimbrel once again, who, by the way, has been great for the entire month of September.

Cincinnati - In a flip of protocol, Raisel Iglesias pitched the eighth, picking up a hold, only to be followed by Nate Jones. Nothing to worry about though. Iglesias came out after the Reds extended the lead past a save situation. That makes it two straight for Iglesias, though just 11 total pitches. Jones has now thrown in two of the past three.

Pittsburgh - Richard Rodriguez pitched in back-to-back before a day off. Neither outing was a save opportunity, but if one does come when Rodriguez needs to rest, Nik Turley is the next man up.

St. Louis - Tyler Webb, who snuck a save last week, is the only Cardinal who's gone in two straight. Giovanny Gallegos is also back off the IL, so the backend of the bullpen could be in flux the final week of the season.

Colorado - Par for the course, the Colorado bullpen has been busy. Daniel Bard pitched in two straight before a day off, including throwing 35 pitches on Sunday. Mychal Givens has gotten into three consecutive ballgames. Tyler Kinley has pitched in three of the past four. It's been two straight for Yency Almonte. Carlos Estevez continues his struggles. He gave up another run Monday and probably won't be called upon in a close game, a la Jairo Diaz and Wade Davis.


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MLB Closers and Saves: Fantasy Baseball Depth Charts

Saves are an important component for many fantasy baseball leagues. Closers are one of the most volatile positions in fantasy baseball, and one of the highest turnover positions in MLB. Each year, closers drop like flies and many MLB teams make in-season changes due to injuries or poor performance.

In addition to closers and saves, relief pitchers are becoming increasingly important for fantasy baseball pitching staffs, especially in a volatile season like 2020. Bullpen arms with elite ratios will be relied upon heavily, especially for those in Holds (HLD) leagues or Saves+Holds leagues (SV+HLD) formats. But not to worry, the RotoBaller team is here every day to help you stay on top of all closer depth charts for the AL and NL, and dominate in saves, holds and bullpen arms this year.

We will be updating the MLB Closers & Saves Depth Charts every day, all season and off-season long. Be sure to also check out these quick-hit notes from @DavidMarcillo77 and @NMariano53 looking at the biggest daily bullpen news from around MLB:

  • 9/21: All bullpens updated for (maybe?) the last time in the regular season! Check it out and good luck in the fantasy finals!
  • 9/21: Cesar Valdez is all of a sudden seeing save opportunities in Baltimore and might be a good pickup for the last week of the season. The 35-year-old has earned two saves in the last two save chances the Orioles have had.
  • 9/16: Welp, so much for Ken Giles in Toronto. The closer is back on the injured list with the same injury he suffered before. Giles has dealt with issues in his throwing arm since last season and might not return until 2021. The Blue Jays pen will likely go back to being a committee led by Rafael Dolis.
  • 9/11: The Diamondbacks made it seem like Kevin Ginkel was going to get a chance to close, but today they optioned him back to the Alternate Site, so it certainly won't be him handling any ninth inning leads. Stefan Crichton and Travis Bergen look like the next possible guys up, but it could be a day by day thing in the desert.
  • 9/11: Giovanny Gallegos has landed on the IL with a groin injury. Andrew Miller looks like he's next in line, but it could end up continuing as a committee at least until someone stands out.
  • 9/11: Ken Giles is on his way back and could be activated this weekend. He'll get an inning or two of low-leverage work, but should be in the closer's role before long.
  • 9/11: Giovanny Gallegos was forced to leave Thursday's game with a groin injury. It's unclear if he'll miss extended time, but Andrew Miller, John Gant, and Ryan Helsley should step up if necessary.
  • 9/11: Bryan Garcia looks to be rising to the top of the Tigers bullpen committee. He's worth picking up in most formats for fantasy managers desperate for a few more saves.
  • 9/8: The Mariners bullpen is finally somewhat settled, but closer Yoshihisa Hirano still hasn't pitched in back-to-back days since returning from the IL. So yesterday, Yohan Ramirez saved his third game of the year. It's not quite a committee because Hirano will be in there when he's available, but he might not be as locked in as other closers until he can pitch in consecutive games.
  • 9/7: Almost nothing happened in bullpens for several days! That was a nice respite from this wild season.
  • 9/3: Hoby Milner is on the injured list with back spasms, meaning the recently-returned Cam Bedrosian should log several holds in September. If he looks sharp then he may see a save opportunity or two with Ty Buttrey's shaky 1.34 WHIP and poor 10/6 K/BB ratio over 18 2/3 IP treading water.
  • 9/2: Zack Britton is back in the Yankees bullpen and should continue as the primary setup man. Aroldis Chapman has been suspended for three games, and Britton should close if necessary for the games Chapman misses.
  • 9/2: Emilio Pagan landed on the injured list, so Drew Pomeranz and newcomer Trevor Rosenthal will continue atop the San Diego bullpen with a little less competition.

More Closer and Bullpen Articles

In addition to our bullpen depth charts below, be sure to also read our other articles on closers, relief pitchers, and bullpens:


AL EAST: 2020 Fantasy Baseball Closers & Saves

RotoBaller Stability Rating Team Name Current Closer Direct Backup More Holds  Candidates Immediate Waiver Add
Solid Yankees Aroldis Chapman Zack Britton Adam Ottavino N/A
Solid Red Sox Matt Barnes Ryan Brasier Phillips Valdez N/A
Questionable Blue Jays Rafael Dolis Anthony Bass A.J. Cole Rafael Dolis
Questionable Orioles Cesar Valdez Hunter Harvey Tanner Scott N/A
Questionable Rays Nick Anderson Diego Castillo Oliver Drake N/A


AL CENTRAL: 2020 Fantasy Baseball Closers & Saves

RotoBaller Stability Rating Team Name Current Closer Direct Backup More Holds
Immediate Waiver Add
Solid Tigers Bryan Garcia Gregory Soto Jose Cisnero Bryan Garcia
Solid White Sox Alex Colome Codi Heuer Jimmy Cordero N/A
Solid Indians Brad Hand James Karinchak Nick Wittgren,
Oliver Perez
Solid Royals Greg Holland Scott Barlow Jesse Hahn, Josh Staumont Greg Holland
Questionable Twins Taylor Rogers Sergio Romo Tyler Duffey, Trevor May N/A


AL WEST: 2020 Fantasy Baseball Closers & Saves

RotoBaller Stability Rating Team Name Current Closer Direct Backup More Holds
Immediate Waiver Add
Solid Rangers Rafael Montero Jonathan Hernandez Brett Martin N/A
Questionable Angels Ty Buttrey Felix Pena Cam Bedrosian, Mike Mayers N/A
Solid Athletics Liam Hendriks Joakim Soria Jake Diekman, Yusmeiro Petit N/A
Solid Astros Ryan Pressly Andre Scrubb Brooks Raley N/A
Solid Mariners Yoshihisa Hirano Yohan Ramirez Anthony Misiewicz N/A


NL EAST: 2020 Fantasy Baseball Closers & Saves

RotoBaller Stability Rating Team Name Current Closer Direct Backup More Holds
Immediate Waiver Add
Solid Braves Mark Melancon Will Smith,
Shane Greene
Chris Martin N/A
Solid Marlins Brandon Kintzler Yimi Garcia Brad Boxberger N/A
Solid Mets Edwin Diaz Justin Wilson Jeurys Familia N/A
Questionable Phillies Hector Neris Tommy Hunter David Phelps N/A
Solid Nationals Daniel Hudson Will Harris Wander Suero N/A


NL CENTRAL: 2020 Fantasy Baseball Closers & Saves

RotoBaller Stability Rating Team Name Current Closer Direct Backup More Holds
Immediate Waiver Add
Solid Cubs Jeremy Jeffress Craig Kimbrel Jason Adam N/A
Solid Reds Raisel Iglesias Archie Bradley Amir Garrett,

Nate Jones

Solid Brewers Josh Hader Devin Williams Alex Claudio N/A
Solid Pirates Richard Rodriguez Nik Turley Chris Stratton Richard Rodriguez
Questionable Cardinals Andrew Miller Alex Reyes Ryan Helsley Andrew Miller


NL West: 2020 Fantasy Baseball Closers & Saves

RotoBaller Stability Rating Team Name Current Closer Direct Backup More Holds
Immediate Waiver Add
Solid Diamondbacks Stefan Chrichton Travis Bergen Junior Guerra N/A
Solid Rockies Daniel Bard Mychal Givens Yency Almonte Daniel Bard
Solid Dodgers Kenley Jansen Blake Treinen Brusdar Graterol, Pedro Baez N/A
Solid Padres Trevor Rosenthal Drew Pomeranz Emilio Pagan N/A
Committee Giants Tony Watson Tyler Rogers Sam Selman N/A


Previous Closers and Saves News Updates

  • 8/31: TRADE DEADLINE UPDATES! Seattle sent Taylor Williams to the Padres, where he'll settle in somewhere in middle relief. Yoshi Hirano should close in Seattle. Archie Bradley went to the Reds, where Raisel Iglesias should still close, but he'll have much less room for error. Hector Rondon and Junior Guerra should split opportunities in Arizona. David Phelps went to the Phillies, where he might be a good candidate for holds, and Miguel Castro joined the Mets and could get some late inning hold chances too.
  • 8/31: There are sure to be several changes coming throughout the day as the trade deadline approaches, but for now, the Orioles are giving Cole Sulser a bit of a break after he's struggled a bit. There's no clear replacement, but Hunter Harvey seems like a strong candidate if he can get back up to speed and stay healthy.
  • 8/31: For those keeping an eye on committees, Gregory Soto seems to be moving to the top in Detroit, and rather surprisingly, Sam Coonrod got a save for San Francisco. Nothing is determined, but it's something to keep an eye on for managers desperate for saves.
  • 8/30: The Mariners and Padres completed a seven-player trade with some bullpen arms involved. Dan Altavilla and Austin Adams will head to San Diego in the deal. They should both pitch out of the bullpen, but likely won't mix into the late innings now that Drew Pomeranz is healthy and Trevor Rosenthal is a Padre.
  • 8/30: The Orioles traded Mychal Givens to the Rockies, and he should immediately be in the mix for saves in Colorado. Cole Sulser remains the top guy in the Baltimore pen.
  • 8/29: When asked about the closer situation after trading Trevor Rosenthal, Royals manager Mike Matheny hinted at Greg Holland, but also mentioned Scott Barlow and Josh Staumont. The dark horse? Matheny also said Jesse Hahn may get an opportunity. It's a full committee for now, it seems.
  • 8/29: Plenty of news for a Saturday! New closers in San Diego, Kansas City, and Toronto. The Royals traded Trevor Rosenthal to the Padres, making him the top option for the Padres and leaving Scott Barlow and Josh Staumont to likely work the ninth together in Kansas City.
  • 8/29: Drew Pomeranz was activated off the injured list today. He'll rejoin the Padres bullpen, but it's unclear if he or the newly acquired Trevor Rosenthal will work as closer.
  • 8/29: Jordan Romano landed on the injured list, leaving the Blue Jays back to a committee likely with Anthony Bass and Rafael Dolis working the ninth. Romano is expected to miss two to four weeks.
  • 8/29: Hunter Harvey has been on the injured list most of this season, but he'll be activated within the next day or two. He'll probably need time to get back up to speed, but he could work his way into the closer's role before long.
  • 8/27: Keone Kela has only pitched two innings this year and now he's heading right back to the injured list with tightness in his forearm. Richard Rodriguez should pick up whatever save chances the Pirates accidentally end up in.
  • 8/27: Andrew Miller has hit the IL with arm fatigue, which should solidify Giovanny Gallegos as the closer for the time being. This is a bullpen to monitor.
  • 8/26: Shakeup in the Tigers bullpen, as Joe Jimenez will get some time to get things ironed out. In the meantime, manager Ron Gardenhire says he'll play matchups in the ninth inning.
  • 8/24: Daniel Bard got the most recent save chance for the Rockies, and converted it with a perfect ninth inning. The Colorado bullpen is still a committee, but it looks like Bard may be taking over at least as the head of the committee.
  • 8/24: Jordan Romano picked up the save for the Blue Jays and looks to be the new closer in town.
  • 8/23: Nick Anderson is the latest Rays pitcher to hit the IL. He's dealing with a forearm strain, but it's not expected to keep him out for too long. Diego Castillo will probably see the most save chances, but this could be more of a ninth inning closer carousel.
  • 8/23: Just when the Pirates finally got their closer back on the mound, Keone Kela got hurt. He'll be out for a bit, but the Pirates likely won't have too many save chances anyway. If they do, Richard Rodriguez seems like the favorite for the ninth.
  • 8/23: Andrew Miller came in to pitch the eighth inning and Giovanny Gallegos had to bail him out and then pitch the ninth. It's still a committee until we see more consistent usage, but Gallegos seems to be atop the committee now at least.
  • 8/21: TRADE! The Red Sox and Phillies have worked out a trade to revamp the Phillies bullpen. Brandon Workman should immediately become the closer in Philly, moving Hector Neris into a setup role. Meanwhile, Matt Barnes should take over for Boston if they ever accidentally have a lead in the ninth.
  • 8/21: Drew Pomeranz is dealing with shoulder tightness and ended up on the IL, right when he was given the chance to take over the closer's role full time. There doesn't seem to be a ton of concern long term, but any shoulder issue with a pitcher could become a big deal. Emilio Pagan and Craig Stammen figure to fill in for Pomeranz in the meantime.
  • 8/20: Corey Knebel has landed on the IL thanks to a hamstring strain. David Phelps and Devin Williams will move into more prominent roles behind Josh Hader while Knebel recovers.
  • 8/19: Big news out of Queens, as Seth Lugo will be stretched out to become a member of the starting rotation. Edwin Diaz figures to get another shot to lock down the closer's role for the Mets, but Dellin Betances and Jeurys Familia could be involved as well.
  • 8/17: Padres closer Kirby Yates has been recommended for season ending surgery. Drew Pomeranz has been working as closer in his place and should continue to do so, although Emilio Pagan could get some chances as well.
  • 8/17: Andrew Miller got another save in Game 1 of Monday's double header, pitching after Giovanny Gallegos. It's two save situations in a row that have gone to Miller, and he's now listed as the head of the committee. This is all subject to change, of course, especially with the Cardinals playing tons of double headers coming up.
  • 8/16: Turmoil in the Rockies bullpen as Jairo Diaz made a mess on Sunday that got cleaned up by Carlos Estevez. Following the game, the Rockies announced that they would no longer use a designated closer, and that Estevez would be sent for x-rays of his throwing hand after taking a comebacker off his hand in the game. Daniel Bard may suddenly jump into save situations after an excellent start to the season.
  • 8/15: For some reason only Gabe Kapler could know, Trevor Gott was allowed into a game tonight after last night's disastrous outing. Gott was bad again and it's hard to see him having any confidence the next time he climbs the mound. Tony Watson and Tyler Rogers were good and may see the next few save chances for the Giants.
  • 8/15: In the first save situation since the Cardinals shutdown, Andrew Miller was on the mound and earned the save in Game 2 of a double header. It's hard to tell what that means going forward since Giovanny Gallegos pitched in Game 1, but Miller is someone to keep an eye on, all of a sudden.
  • 8/15: Craig Kimbrel had his best outing in a while on Friday, inducing more swinging strikes than he had in the entire rest of the season. It was also the first appearance where he didn't allow a run, after seven straight where he did. Rowan Wick still seems to be atop this committee, but Kimbrel could quickly work his way back in if he's Craig Kimbrel again.
  • 8/15: Trevor Gott got got on Friday night, allowing five runs and giving up the lead (bright spot? no blown save because the lead was so big. Okay, maybe not so bright.) He should still stay atop the San Francisco committee, but another bad outing from Gott could shift things around.
  • 8/15: Devin Williams is ascending in the Milwaukee bullpen, and could soon take over for Corey Knebel as Josh Hader's top setup man. Williams has been excellent and has elite swing-and-miss stuff.
  • 8/15: Huge news out of San Diego, as closer Kirby Yates is heading for an MRI after leaving Friday's game. He threw just six pitches and has seemed hurt pretty much all season. Drew Pomeranz will take over the closer's role and could easily be one of the best closers in the game, much like Yates was last season.
  • 8/13: Edinson Volquez is done for the season (and maybe for his career?) after being placed on the injured list with an oblique strain. Rafael Montero has a hold on the ninth, but Joely Rodriguez will move into a position where he could earn some holds.
  • 8/13: Keone Kela has been activated and will be back on the mound for this weekend's series. He's likely to be the closer right away and although the Pirates may not win a ton, Kela is solid enough to be worth owning in most formats.
  • 8/12: Aroldis Chapman will pitch in a simulated game on Friday and that may be the last step before he's activated. He should take over the closer's role pretty soon, but might get a few lower leverage innings when he first gets back on the mound.
  • 8/11: Padres closer Kirby Yates was unavailable on Monday due to "soreness in his body" which to be honest: same. Drew Pomeranz got the save, but Yates should be back on the mound the next time the Padres have a lead to lock down.
  • 8/10: Cole Sulser still looks like the main guy in Baltimore, but Miguel Castro has been pitching important innings and earned a save on Sunday. It's another committee for the Orioles, with Sulser still holding a slight edge.
  • 8/10: The Mariners bullpen continues to be a day-to-day event, but Taylor Williams has three saves while all of the other options have just one. Williams came in to bail Dan Altavilla out of a rough situation and it looks like Williams has moved into the top spot for right now. With Carl Edwards Jr. now heading to the IL, Williams should have a bit of a leash, but this will be a fluid situation all year long, though.
  • 8/10: Looks like Rafael Montero is the guy in the Texas bullpen. We'll keep it as questionable for now just to be sure, but he's a must-add in most formats at this point.
  • 8/10: Oliver Drake ended up on the IL thanks to biceps tendinitis, so Nick Anderson should be the top choice in the Rays pen once again. Jose Alvarado and Diego Castillo will be in the mix as well.
  • 8/10: Trevor Rosenthal needed a day off so Scott Barlow earned the save on Sunday. Rosie is still the guy here right now, but Barlow may have moved into the top setup role.
  • 8/9: Seth Lugo has taken over as the closer for the Mets, based on usage over the past few games. Edwin Diaz has been much better lately and should get any chances that Lugo doesn't. Lugo needs more days off than most relievers, so this is still kind of a committee, but Lugo is the clear head.
  • 8/9: Trevors around the league have moved into closer's roles, with Trevor Rosenthal taking over in Kansas City and Trevor Gott in San Francisco. Rosenthal is the better fantasy bet thanks to his strikeout upside.
  • 8/8: The Marlins placed Richard Bleier on the injured list on Saturday because of a mild left elbow triceps strain. He was looking like a solid source of holds in deeper leagues, but won't be back on the mound for at least 10 days.
  • 8/8: When Wade Davis hit the injured list for the Rockies, we knew it would be either Jairo Diaz or Carlos Estevez taking over. While it's still likely to be a committee to some extent, it does look like Diaz has jumped ahead and will be the best bet at least until Davis returns.
  • 8/8: We're seeing more and more committees forming in bullpens around the league. The Mets ninth inning will be split between Seth Lugo and Edwin Diaz for now, and the Cubs will go with a combo of Craig Kimbrel and Rowan Wick. There's a chance these committees could be temporary, but if none of the pitchers separate themselves, then it could remain a group effort going forward.
  • 8/8: Taylor Williams and Carl Edwards Jr. seem to be the current best bets for saves in the Seattle bullpen. This has already been one of the most volatile bullpens in the league and should continue to be. There are some decent arms here, but the overall situation makes it a bullpen likely best left alone in most fantasy formats.
  • 8/8: Who knows when the Cardinals will play again, but when they do, it won't be Ryan Helsley taking the ball in the ninth, as he's on the IL with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. It looks like Giovanny Gallegos may end up closer by default.
  • 8/7: Rafael Montero was activated off the IL and immediately picked up a save. He has moved to the top of the Rangers bullpen depth chart. Montero was a promising prospect who dealt with multiple injuries over the years but definitely has the stuff to be a solid closer.
  • 8/7: Trevor Rosenthal picked up the save and has been moved to the top of the Royals bullpen depth chart. Meanwhile, Ian Kennedy continues to struggle after his surprisingly great 2019.
  • 8/5: Shake up in the Cardinals bullpen, as Kwang-Hyun Kim will leave the closer's role and enter the starting rotation. For now, the Cardinals will go with a committee, but Giovanny Gallegos and Ryan Helsley seem to be the best bets for save chances.
  • 8/5: The Pirates placed Nick Burdi on the 45-day injured list, so his season is over. Keone Kela will close as soon as he returns, and the Pirates will probably mix and match until then.
  • 8/5: With Hansel Robles struggling, the Angels will make their way to a committee. Ty Buttrey got the first save of the post-Robles era, and he's the best bet to get the most chances going forward.
  • 8/4: Updates on Astros closer Roberto Osuna show what manager Dusty Baker said to be correct: the team will be without their closer for a long time. Osuna has been recommended for Tommy John Surgery, which would knock him out of this season and likely most of next season as well. Ryan Pressly will work the ninth innings in Houston for now.
  • 8/4: The Pirates confirmed that Keone Kela would be the closer once he was back with the team. Kela has been dealing with COVID-19 but has been cleared to return to workouts and is working his way back. Nick Burdi is currently the closer in Pittsburgh, but that will change soon.
  • 8/4: Astros manager Dusty Baker said about closer Roberto Osuna's injury, "Doesn't look real good, actually." We can expect a long absence from Osuna, leaving Ryan Pressly to serve as closer. Pressly has dealt with his own arm issues, though, so Blake Taylor could be the backup's backup in Houston.
  • 8/2: Astros closer Roberto Osuna was officially placed on the IL with a case of elbow soreness. Ryan Pressly just got back on the mound after dealing with elbow issues of his own, but he's still the best bet to be on the mound in the ninth inning for Houston.
  • 8/2: Big shake up in the Colorado bullpen, as Wade Davis landed on the IL with a shoulder strain and Scott Oberg was transferred to the 45-day IL. Carlos Estevez and Jairo Diaz will likely share save chances until one of them stands out.
  • 8/1: Roberto Osuna had to be removed from a save situation due to an injury later reported to be "discomfort" in his throwing arm. He is scheduled for an MRI, but it appears he will miss some time. Ryan Pressly is next in line, but he's been dealing with his own health issues as well.
  • 8/1: Hansel Robles blew another save in grand fashion on Saturday. Robles was solid and consistent last season, but he's having a lot of trouble getting outs in 2020. It's unclear who'd be next in line in Anaheim, as top setup man Ty Buttrey has been struggling this year as well.
  • 8/1: Cole Sulser has jumped to the top of the Orioles committee. He is extremely effective against lefties, so manager Brandon Hyde may choose to use him more in a fireman role rather than limiting him to the ninth inning, but Sulser is the top of this committee for now.
  • 8/1: The Marlins and Orioles made a trade, with Richard Bleier heading from Baltimore to Miami in exchange for a player to be named later. Bleier will likely work in the late innings for Miami if they play another game this season.
  • 8/1: Dan Altavilla looked like he was taking over the Mariners bullpen, but he got lit up in a save opportunity and Taylor Williams earned another save on Friday. The Seattle bullpen will probably feature a carousel of closers this season, but for now, Williams seems like the top dog.
  • 8/1: Kirby Yates, baseball's best closer by a decent margin last season, is on the hot seat already this season. He's allowed four earned runs after allowing just eight in all of 2019. His biggest issue seems to be control, as he usually keeps his BB% under 8%, and it's at 25% right now. Drew Pomeranz got a save on Friday, and is more than just knocking on the door of the ninth inning.
  • 8/1: The Royals bullpen looks like an all-out committee, we'll say Trevor Rosenthal is at the top for now, but that can change from one day to the next.
  • 8/1: Surprising literally no one in baseball, Wade Davis hasn't been great this year. Scott Oberg has been hurt but is on his way back and would be next in line. For now, it's Carlos Estevez and Jairo Diaz at the end of the Rockies pen, along with Davis.
  • 7/31: Will Smith feels "really really good" according to manager Brian Snitker. He'll face live hitters in a couple of days, then throw in a sim game. After that, he should be activated and quickly become the top setup man in Atlanta.
  • 7/31: Sean Doolittle is working on things right now, making Daniel Hudson the choice for saves in Washington, at least temporarily. A good showing from Hudson could keep him in the ninth inning for a while though.
  • 7/31: The Blue Jays sound optimistic about Ken Giles, saying they hope to have him pitch again "relatively soon".
  • 7/31: Aroldis Chapman was dealing with COVID-19 but has been cleared to rejoin his teammates. He'll probably get a few normal innings to get his feet wet before jumping back into the closer's role full time.
  • 7/31: Mets manager Luis Rojas said "we need to talk" about removing Edwin Diaz from the closer's role. It sounds like Diaz is on extremely thin ice, or that he's lost the job already. The Mets have several closer-type arms to choose from, including Seth Lugo, Dellin Betances, and Jeurys Familia.
  • 7/30: Lots to look at in Thursday night's games. James Karinchak got the save for Cleveland. He may be next up if Brad Hand continues to struggle with his velocity. Trevor Rosenthal got the save for Kansas City, but the Royals bullpen still looks like a committee of veterans, including Ian Kennedy and Greg Holland as well. Daniel Hudson got the save for Washington, and he's been off to a much better start than current closer Sean Doolittle. The two Nationals may switch roles before too long.
  • 7/30: Rangers closer/fireman Jose Leclerc is dealing with the same injury as his teammate Corey Kluber. They both have a Grade 2 strain of the teres major muscle in their throwing shoulders. Neither will be on a mound again likely until the postseason. Nick Goody picked up the save on Wednesday night, but it was mostly due to game circumstance. If Leclerc misses more time, the Rangers could send Jonathan Hernandez or Edinson Volquez to the mound in the ninth innings.
  • 7/29: Oliver Drake looks like he's earned the "hot hand" in the Rays bullpen. He earned his second save in a row on Tuesday night and should continue to get save chances until his hand is less hot.
  • 7/29: Nick Burdi earned his first career save last night and will be the favorite for saves in Pittsburgh, but manager Derek Shelton admitted he'd be careful with Burdi because of his previous injury history. Burdi should still easily have the most fantasy value, but Richard Rodriguez and Michael Feliz will find themselves on the mound in the ninth inning when Burdi is deemed unavailable.
  • 7/29: Sergio Romo earned a save last night for the Twins, and Taylor Rogers still hasn't pitched this season. Manager Rocco Baldelli says that Romo was already up and warm when the Cardinals turned the game into a save situation by adding a run. It's a bit concerning for fantasy owners, but it seems Taylor Rogers is fine and should be on the mound soon.
  • 7/28: More injuries in the Pirates bullpen have led to Kyle Crick joining Keone Kela on the injured list. That leaves Nick Burdi as the favorite for saves in Pittsburgh. He's one of the top relief prospects in the game and should be added immediately.
  • 7/28: Many people expected some turmoil in the Mets bullpen, but maybe not this early. On Monday night, Seth Lugo earned a four-out save, bailing out Jeurys Familia in the eighth then pitching a clean ninth to lock down a 7-4 win. Edwin Diaz has already blown a save and the Mets bullpen could be fully on its way to a committee at this point.
  • 7/27: Blue Jays closer Ken Giles officially landed on the injured list with elbow soreness. It's unclear how long he'll be out, but it could be a while. Toronto figures to go with a committee for now, featuring Jordan Romano, Anthony Bass, and Rafael Dolis. Keep an eye on how Toronto uses their bullpen to see if any of those guys are worth a waiver claim.
  • 7/27: Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel did almost nothing right on Monday, walking four and giving up two runs while getting just one out. He threw 34 pitches, just 13 for strikes. Kimbrel was clearly not right last season, and it seems like he's not much different in 2020. Jeremy Jeffress came in to rescue Kimbrel and earned the save, and would likely be next in line if Kimbrel loses his ninth inning role.
  • 7/27: Astros top setup man Ryan Pressly is dealing with elbow soreness. For now, he's listed as "day-to-day", but it'll be important to keep an eye on him. Roberto Osuna remains at the top of the Astros bullpen, but Chris Devenski will likely move into Pressly's spot.
  • 7/26: The Giants (somewhat surprisingly) had two save opportunities this weekend against the Dodgers. Both went to Trevor Gott. With Gabe Kapler as manager, it's almost impossible to say anyone has a leg up on the ninth inning, but Gott does seem like the early favorite, as he was able to save both games he came into.
  • 7/26: Lots of news today, as Will Smith has been cleared to rejoin the Braves after throwing a side session in Atlanta. He'll likely slide into the eighth inning/fireman role and should be an excellent roster piece in any holds leagues for now.
  • 7/26: Trevor Gott earned the save for the Giants last night. Tony Watson and Tyler Rogers pitched in the eighth inning right ahead of him. It'll likely be a full on committee for San Francisco this season, with recent usage and opposing batters determining the closer's role each game.
  • 7/26: The Mariners pretty much had a bullpen day on Sunday, with seven pitchers pitching against the Astros. When a save situation finally came around, though, Seattle gave the ball to Taylor Williams, who earned the save by striking out three in the inning despite allowing a run.
  • 7/26: Blue Jays closer Ken Giles was forced to leave the game today due to an injury. It's unclear how much time he will miss, but the Blue Jays could choose to go with Anthony Bass in the ninth inning, or with a committee that includes Bass, Rafael Dolis, and a few others.
  • 7/26: Some interesting bullpen usage last night, as Greg Holland earned the save for Kansas City and Oliver Drake earned one for Tampa Bay. Ian Kennedy was used in the 6th and 7th innings, and Nick Anderson came in as a fireman in the 7th and 8th.
  • 7/26: Edwin Diaz blew a save on Saturday, an all too common sight for Mets fans after last season. He was used as the closer in Games 1 and 2, but his leash will likely be very short.
  • 7/23: A couple of bits of good news in the Phillies bullpen, as Tommy Hunter and closer Hector Neris are healthy and ready to go for Opening Day. With Joe Girardi serving as manager this year, Neris should have a more solid role in the ninth inning.
  • 7/23: Astros closer Roberto Osuna will be on the Opening Day roster. He got a late start at Summer Camp, so there was reason to wonder if he'd start the season on the injured list, but he's far along enough in his training that he'll be on the team from the outset. Ryan Pressly will likely still get the first few save chances while Osuna gets up to speed, but it's ultimately Osuna's job once he's set to go.
  • 7/22: Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman is still testing positive for COVID-19 despite remaining asymptomatic. He'll need two negative test results before he can rejoin the Yankees. Zach Britton is expected to handle the bulk of the save opportunities in the meantime.
  • 7/22: Rockies reliever Scott Oberg will begin the season on the injured list. He was set to be the main setup man for Colorado and the handcuff for the volatile Wade Davis. At least for now, it seems like Oberg won't be on the shelf for too long.
  • 7/22: Pirates closer Keone Kela revealed that he has been away from the team due testing positive for COVID-19. He says he has been asymptomatic, but continuously tests positive or inconclusive. He'll need two negative tests before he can rejoin his teammates.
  • 7/22: Orioles rookie reliever Hunter Harvey is "very doubtful" to be ready for Opening Day. He's dealing with soreness in his throwing elbow, although the team is reportedly "not concerned about it at all". Mychal Givens will open the season as the Orioles closer, but Harvey should take over once he's healthy.
  • 7/22: More mess in the Mariners bullpen, as Austin Adams looks like he'll start the season on the injured list. Adams is dealing with a knee injury, but should be right back into the ninth inning mix once he's back on the mound.
  • 7/22: Rays reliever Colin Poche is out for the year and likely most of next year as well. He was diagnosed with a torn UCL and will likely undergo Tommy John Surgery.
  • 7/21: Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said that Hunter Harvey is dealing with, "a little bit of arm fatigue". It's unclear if he'll just need a couple of days off or if he'll need a stint on the injured list to start the season. Harvey should be a ninth inning option for the Orioles this season once he's healthy.
  • 7/21: Just as the Cardinals bullpen seemed to be settling down, manager Mike Schildt announced that lefty Kwang-Hyun Kim would be starting the season in the bullpen and would likely be the primary closer. Kim does not have the kind of "stuff" you usually see in an effective closer, but his role will give him plenty of fantasy value.
  • 7/20: The Astros bullpen has been downgraded to Questionable as closer Roberto Osuna may not be ready to go when the season starts. Manager Dusty Baker has said that Ryan Pressly will "probably" be the closer until Osuna is able to return.
  • 7/20: The Phillies released Anthony Swarzak, presumably so he'd have a chance to pitch elsewhere. He's more of a middle reliever at this point, but he could work his way into fantasy relevance if he signs with a club with a shallow bullpen.
  • 7/19: Astros manager Dusty Baker said that he is "not sure" if closer Roberto Osuna will be ready to go for Opening Day. Osuna is behind after reporting late to Summer Camp. Ryan Pressly is the top option to take his place, but Osuna's job is safe once he returns.
  • 7/18: Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos (undisclosed) is finally on his way to St. Louis to join the team. He hasn't been with the club since Summer Camp opened, so he's unlikely to be ready to go on Opening Day. Still, he shouldn't be too far behind and will play a key role in the Cardinals bullpen this season.
  • 7/17: Pirates manager Derek Shelton said that he plans to mix and match for his closer's role while Keone Kela is away for "undisclosed" reasons. Kyle Crick is the most likely one to get chances, but he's a bit behind in Summer Camp so Nick Burdi could get some chances as well.
  • 7/16: The Royals and Padres have agreed to a trade that will send Tim Hill to San Diego. Hill will be buried in the Padres bullpen, but should provide solid middle relief and situational outings against lefties.
  • 7/16: Phillies closer Hector Neris was activated from the injured list and cleared to return to action. He should be ready to go on Opening Day.
  • 7/14: Astros reliever Joe Smith has opted out of the 2020 season.
  • 7/13: Jordan Hicks was expected to get a late start to the season after finishing his recovery from Tommy John Surgery, but he's chosen to opt out of 2020 all together. Ryan Helsley seems like the the highest upside add, with Giovanny Gallegos slightly safer, although there's plenty of risk there too.
  • 7/13: Diego Castillo was back in Rays camp on Monday and believes he could pitch in back-to-back games right away. He missed three days of workouts due to a "personal matter" but seems right on track and should have a key role in the Tampa Bay bullpen this season.
  • 7/11: Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman has tested positive for COVID-19 and is showing symptoms. Manager Aaron Boone says he is doing okay, but he won't be around for a while of course. The Yankees bullpen is strong enough to take care of things while Chapman recovers, with a mix of Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino likely handling the ninth.
  • 7/8: Cardinals president John Mozeliak was asked about his team's closer role and the first person he mentioned was Ryan Helsley. He also mentioned Giovanny Gallegos, who hasn't joined the team just yet, and Carlos Martinez if he is unable to stretch out into a starting role. Helsley has the most upside and is worth keeping an eye on.
  • 7/7: The Baltimore bullpen looks like it could be a committee between Mychal Givens and Hunter Harvey. Harvey has the higher upside, but Givens has the experience that managers crave.
  • 7/7: Trevor Rosenthal slides into the backup/handcuff role in Kansas City. He was terrible last season in 15 1/3 innings, but now reunited with manager Mike Matheny, Rosenthal should be given the chance to climb up the depth chart.
  • 7/7: Jose Leclerc is the best reliever in the Texas bullpen, which is this case might not be the best thing for his fantasy value. Leclerc may be used in more of a fireman role than in a classic closer role, making him much more valuable to the Rangers, but potentially much less for fantasy owners.
  • 7/7: Austin Adams works his way into the top spot in the Seattle bullpen, but that whole bullpen looks to be a work in progress, with Hirano, Magill, and perhaps even a few more likely mixing in for saves based on matchups.
  • 7/7: Corey Knebel looks set to be the main handcuff for Josh Hader in Milwaukee, but Knebel may get a slightly late start. He's recovering from Tommy John Surgery and has reportedly been throwing well, but he's not a sure thing to be ready for New Opening Day.
  • 7/7: Nick Burdi sneaks into the Pirates bullpen hierarchy and while he'll likely start somewhere in a middle relief/7th inning role, he could have huge upside as closer if the Pirates move Keone Kela before the deadline.
  • 7/7: John Brebbia was a key part of the Cardinals bullpen and was set to be again this year, but he was forced to undergo Tommy John Surgery and will miss all of whatever the 2020 season is, and likely a big part of 2021 as well. Ryan Helsley could have a huge year in a role somewhat like Brebbia's, although he could move up in the pecking order if he pitches well.
  • 7/7: Speaking of the Cardinals, Jordan Hicks should be ready to pitch at some point this season, but he won't be ready to start the year. Giovanny Gallegos should take the closer's role, but he's currently on the injured list as well. The Cardinals expect Gallegos to be ready to go, but if he's not, that bullpen will be mixing and matching to start the season.
  • 7/6: Baseball is back! Maybe? The season is still a work in progress, but bullpen depth charts have been updated to reflect a few recent pieces of news, including a few closers landing on the injured list due to positive COVID-19 tests.
  • 7/6: Key relievers currently dealing with positive COVID-19 tests include Will Smith of the Braves, Giovanny Gallegos of the Cardinals, and Hector Neris of the Phillies. There are reportedly 31 players who have tested positive so far, with more tests and certainly more positives to come. Bullpens could be more of a revolving door than ever before this season.
  • 7/6: New Mets manager Luis Rojas is already making waves, refusing to commit to Edwin Diaz as closer when asked. The end of the Mets bullpen has a lot of great arms in Diaz, Dellin Betances, Seth Lugo, and Jeurys Familia. Diaz should still lead the committee, but may not end up taking the role for himself.

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Closers and Saves Report - Week 9 Waiver Wire

It feels like the season just started. Remember drafting your team? Remember how excited you were about your roster? Well, I hope you're still excited, because it's time for playoffs (in most leagues). This has been a weird season and 40-something games was not nearly enough to determine what fantasy managers deserved an appearance in the digital  playoffs, but that's what we were given this year and it's what we have to play with.

Despite the shortened season, this year seemed to have more bullpen drama than any year I can remember. We had days where it seemed like half of the teams in the league made some kind of bullpen change. Then we had the trade deadline, which of course changed things as it always does. It's been a fun season, and I'm going to go ahead and assume that bullpens are going to be key parts in determining many fantasy championships. So let's make sure you're ready!

Take a look at our Closer Depth Chart, which is updated daily. Let's jump in and take a look at what's been going on in the bullpens around baseball.


Bullpen News for Week 9

Arizona Diamondbacks

Before the trade deadline, the Diamondbacks had one of the more solid bullpen situations with Archie Bradley holding things down. Ever since Bradley was sent to the Cincinnati Reds, though, the Arizona bullpen has been a mess. This week it looks like there finally might be some settling going on in the desert though, as Stefan Crichton seems to have taken the ninth inning and run with it. He was atop a messy committee last week, but his usage this week makes it seem like he might be the full-fledged closer. Crichton doesn't have eye-popping numbers in any category, but he should be more than solid enough to keep the job at least until the end of the season. Fantasy managers hurting for saves might want to take a look at him.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays bullpen has seen Ken Giles and Jordan Romano both installed as closers and then both removed due to injury. Giles was finally able to come back this week, but didn't last thought the week, going right back on the injured list with the same elbow injury that sent him there in the first place. It's a tough break for Giles and the Blue Jays, but it likely means Anthony Bass and Rafael Dolis will continue to share save chances, with Dolis getting the larger share at least for now.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates bullpen has also dealt with some injuries up top, as the team announced this week that Keone Kela is unlikely to pitch again this season. Kyle Crick also ended up going back on the injured list on Monday, leaving Richard Rodriguez with little competition in the ninth inning. Rodriguez won't get too many save chances most likely, but he can help with ratios, making him a potentially valuable pick up who could be on the waiver wire for the fantasy playoffs.



Short Relief

  • The Marlins made a quick switch in their bullpen, having Brandon Kintzler set up for Yimi Garcia. It seems like it was just a one-time thing though, as they went back to Garcia setting up for Kintzler later in the week.
  • The Phillies bullpen, historically bad, is shifting around some more, as Hector Neris got a save chance this week while Brandon Workman pitched in the seventh inning. It's definitely a bullpen to just completely avoid if at all possible.
  • Daniel Hudson has been really bad, with an ERA north of seven, but he's still getting save chances and has little competition in the Nationals bullpen now that Tanner Rainey might be done for the year.
  • Veteran reliever Matt Andriese got two saves in two days for the Angels, so that's another name to throw in to the committee in Anaheim.


Roster Moves of the Week


Stefan Chrichton, Arizona Diamondbacks- Crichton looks to be the guy in the desert, so he's worth picking up down the stretch in hopes of a few saves.

Richard Rodriguez, Pittsburgh Pirates- Rodriguez pitches for the Pirates, which means he might not get a ton of save chances. But when the Pirates do have a save chance, it'll be him on the mound. He has good enough ratios to make him worth having in a fantasy lineup even if he isn't getting consistent saves.


Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays- It looks like Giles is done for the year, and at least for the remainder of the fantasy baseball season. No reason to hang on to him in any kind of redraft leagues.


Best of the Week

Matt Barnes, Boston Red Sox- 3 IP, 3 SV, 5 K, 0.00 ERA, 3 base runners allowed

Red Sox closer Matt Barnes had a shutdown week, saving three games while striking out five and allowing only two hits and a walk.

Stefan Crichton, Arizona Diamondbacks- 2 2/3 IP, 3 SV, 1 K, 0.00 ERA, 0 base runners allowed

New Diamondbacks closer Stefan Crichton was great this week, saving three games while not allowing a hit or a walk. He only struck out one, but he certainly got the job done.


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Be sure to also check out all of our other daily fantasy baseball articles and analysis to help you set those winning lineups, including this new RotoBaller YouTube video:

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Week 9 MLB Closers & Bullpen Usage Report

Monitoring bullpens in 2020 will be a vital task each and every day. Because of this, we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used.

The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.


Around the American League

New York Yankees - The Yankees received a much needed day off. Aroldis Chapman, Zach Britton, Chad Green, and Jonathan Holder had all pitched in back-to-back games. Fortunately, none of them had thrown all that many pitches. The highest total was Green's at 35 pitches between the two outings.

Toronto - Rafael Dolis pitched in two straight before an off day. If he goes again, another day of rest will follow. That may be the opening for the Blue Jays to transition back to Ken Giles to close, though Dolis and Anthony Bass have been so solid.

Chicago White Sox - Alex Colome has pitched in two straight and three of four. He will need at least one day, and maybe multiple days off early this week. Codi Heuer and Evan Marshall both pitched early in Monday's game. Steve Cishek could be an option to vulture a save while Colome rests.

Minnesota - Taylor Rogers will need some rest after pitching three of the past four days. If Tyler Duffey and Matt Wisler get called upon again, they will each need days off as well, as that would make it three in four for them.

Los Angeles Angels - Matt Andriese picked up two saves over the weekend. As the team looks for a new plan to combat the Ty Buttrey struggles, it still seems unlikely Andriese factors into that. On Saturday, he pitched the 11th inning after all the main arms had already thrown. On Sunday, he grabbed a two-inning save with Buttrey, Felix Pena, and Mike Mayers having all gone in back-to-back.

Oakland - After a week of losses and blowout wins, the A's bullpen is pretty well rested. Joakim Soria is likely to be the only arm unavailable. He needed 29 pitches to get through Monday's outing.

Seattle - For a while there, Yoshihisa Hirano was not pitching on back-to-back days. Then he was and actually went three straight. So much for easing his arm load. You'd have to imagine Yohan Ramirez gets the next save chance, though, if it comes anytime soon.

Texas - Both Rafael Montero and Jonathan Hernandez went in two straight before the team's off day. If either one pitches on Tuesday, they would need another day of rest.


Around the National League

Cincinnati - All of Raisel Iglesias, Archie Bradley, and Nate Jones have pitched in back-to-back games. Amir Garrett could be the next man up if all three get a day off. He's only pitched once since September 6 though, indicating the coaches may have lost trust in him. Not sure why that would be, as Garrett has pitched well this season and was pitching well recently before his last outing.

Milwaukee - Josh Hader's entrance into Monday's game meant he pitched in three of the past four days. Devin Williams got into action on the same three days as Hader. Both will need days off. Alex Claudio can pick up the slack in the immediate future, though he has pitched in two of three. Oh by the way, the Brewers have another double header scheduled for Wednesday.

St. Louis - Tyler Webb grabbed an extra-inning save, pitching for the third time in four days. Alex Reyes has now gone in back-to-back. Genesis Cabrera has pitched in three straight. Andrew Miller was unavailable for Monday's double header, so at least he should be ready to roll.

Colorado - A group of arms in front of Daniel Bard had all pitched in two straight before a day off. That includes Yency Almonte, Jairo Diaz, and Carlos Estevez. Bard himself is rested, as are Mychal Givens and Tyler Kinley.

Los Angeles Dodgers - Kenley Jansen got the day off after going in two straight. If he enters another game here right away, he will likely need another day of rest. Blake Treinen will be in the same boat. He's gone in two of three currently.

San Diego - The Padres got back into action, and only Drew Pomeranz is ready for some rest. He's gone in two straight games.

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Closers and Saves Report - Week 8 Waiver Wire

It seems like the season just started, but we're already talking fantasy playoffs in most leagues. That's something we expected with such a short season, but it still seems way too soon for playoffs. One bad week of injuries could have knocked a really good team right out of the playoff picture in some leagues (complaining for a friend...)

Things in the bullpens around the league did seem to settle down a bit after the trade deadline, but there's still plenty to look at and talk about. Fantasy managers prepping for a playoff run need to be as on top of their bullpen as possible, and that's why we're here!

Take a look at our Closer Depth Chart, which is updated daily. Let's jump in and take a look at what's been going on in the bullpens around baseball.


Bullpen News for Week 8

Toronto Blue Jays

The Jays bullpen has been a committee for most of the season, usually led by Anthony Bass. Bass has struggled lately though, right at the same time that Rafael Dolis has been pitching very well. Dolis saved two games in a row earlier this week and could be making his way to the top of the committee in Buffalo for Toronto. Bass appeared in a six-run game, which is not a spot you'd usually see a team's closer. For now, we'll leave Bass atop the committee, but Dolis is essentially the 1B at worst.

Kansas City Royals

The Royals traded away their closer, Trevor Rosenthal, to the San Diego Padres before the deadline. Based on comments and history, it was assumed that manager Mike Matheny would go with Greg Holland as his new closer, but for the three saves the Royals have had since the trade deadline, we've seen three different relievers. Scott Barlow, Jesse Hahn, and Holland have notched the three saves in what looks to be an all-out committee for now. Nothing in Matheny's history shows that he wants it to continue that way though, so look for him to ride the hot hand and the person that hand is attached to to eventually become the outright closer. Kyle Zimmer has also been solid out of the Royals bullpen lately, so there could be one more contender for the ninth.

Chicago Cubs

Nobody in the Cubs bullpen has the official label of closer, according to manager David Ross, but Jeremy Jeffress has recorded the last four saves for the team and is “probably the guy that’s going to be on the back end for a little bit" so like...Jeremy Jeffress is the Cubs closer. He may not get as many chances to mess up as a team's closer usually gets, but as long as he's pitching well, it's hard to see anyone but Jeffress coming into the ninth inning for the Cubs any time soon.

Los Angeles Angels

The Angels opened the season with Ty Buttrey as their closer, and all of his numbers from previous years showed that he should be a very solid if not maybe even excellent closer. But, it's 2020, so nothing goes as planned. Buttrey had a 28.6 K% in 2018 and a 27.2 K% last year. This season, somehow, that's gone all the way down to 14.9%. Not coincidentally, his ERA this season sits at 5.14 after never posting anything above 4. He's blown three saves and recorded five, so the Angels are making their way into some kind of committee instead of just relying on the new-and-definitely-not-improved version of Buttrey. Felix Pena got the first chance and it didn't go well. Manager Joe Maddon said that Pena and Buttrey would both get chances. Buttrey, despite his season-long struggles, has been decent lately while Pena blew his first chance. It's a committee for now, but it might not be long until Buttrey jumps back on top, as long as he can remember the pitcher he was last season.


Short Relief

  • The Mariners settled on Yoshihisa Hirano as their closer after jettisoning much of their bullpen at the trade deadline. Hirano's coming back from an injury though, so he hasn't pitched in back-to-back days yet.
  • The Giants bullpen hierarchy is still anyone's guess, but Tony Watson is rocking a 0.75 ERA, so...maybe he should see some more save chances going forward?
  • The Diamondbacks bullpen looks like it now features a guy with a near-7 ERA as its closer. Kevin Ginkel has struggled a lot this year, but it seems he's the head of the committee.


Roster Moves of the Week


Jeremy Jeffress, Chicago Cubs- Jeffress is the closer in Chicago even if his manager won't say so yet. He's worth picking up in most formats, especially with fantasy playoffs approaching.

Rafael Dolis, Toronto Blue Jays- Anthony Bass has been leading the Buffalo Bullpen, but Rafael Dolis looks like he could be taking over. It'll still be a committee, so some shallower waiver wires may have better options, but Dolis should be a decent fantasy reliever going forward.


Ty Buttrey, Los Angeles Angels- Buttrey may very well hang onto his job as Angels closer, but the Angels aren't winning enough and Buttrey isn't striking guys out enough to be worth a spot in most fantasy bullpens.


Best of the Week

Daniel Hudson, Washington Nationals- 4 IP, 3 SV, 5 K, 4.50 ERA, 1 Blown Save

Hudson wasn't great this week by any means, but he was the only closer to save three games, so he earns a spot in Best of the Week. He blew a save and allowed two runs on two hits and a walk while striking out five.

Rafael Dolis, Toronto Blue Jays- 3 1/3 IP, 2 SV, 7 K, 0.00 ERA, 1 BB

Blue Jays reliever/closer (maybe?) Rafael Dolis had a near-perfect week. He saved two games and struck out seven while allowing just one batter to reach base.




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Week 8 MLB Closers & Bullpen Usage Report

Monitoring bullpens in 2020 will be a vital task each and every day. Because of this, we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used.

The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.


Around the American League

Toronto - Anthony Bass has pitched in three of four. Rafael Dolis grabbed the save on the day Bass rested. Bass has allowed runs in his last two appearances, so Dolis might get the next save chance regardless of rest.

Chicago White Sox - Jimmy Cordero pitched in back-to-back games (grabbing holds in both) before an off day. He may be ready to throw again though, as he only needed three pitches to complete that first outing.

Cleveland Brad Hand pitched three straight days, picking up two saves and a win. His early season troubles are behind him, though he will need rest for sure. Nick Wittgren pitched in two straight but had Monday off. Phil Maton is the only other taxed arm in the pen. He pitched in two straight and three of four. He now has four holds in the last eight days.

Detroit - After one slip-up, Gregory Soto was brought on in the seventh inning of his next appearance. Jose Cisnero was given the save opportunity...and promptly blew it. One would figure Detroit goes back to Soto. Everyone is pretty well rested other than Joe Jimenez. Jimenez has pitched in three of four as Ron Gardenhire tries to get him back on track. (It isn't working.)

Houston - Blake Taylor and Chris Devenski were both placed on the IL. This could open up more hold opportunities for the likes of Brooks Raley and Andre Scrubb.

Los Angeles Angels - Before a day off, Ty Buttrey had pitched in three straight games. He grabbed one save, one hold, one loss, and got blasted twice. He is leaking runs fast, and the Angels may turn to a new face like Cam Bedrosian or Mike Mayers. The latter also pitched three straight days before a day off. Felix Pena would have been the next man up, but he is also struggling and pitched back-to-back before the day off.

Oakland - Liam Hendriks' setup men are getting a lot of work lately. Jake Diekman pitched in two of the past three days; T.J. McFarland pitched in two of four; Yusmeiro Petit pitched in two straight before a day off. All three can still be used early this week but will need to rotate through rest.

Seattle - Yoshihisa Hirano isn't pitching in back-to-backs. He's been rotating days with Yohan Ramirez, and the surging Mariners have supplied them with three save chances in the past four outings. They each should continue getting chances moving forward.


Around the National League

Miami - Brandon Kintzler has pitched three straight days. Brad Boxberger would be the logical fill-in to close, but he will also need some rest. He's pitched back-to-back days. Nick Vincent or James Hoyt could be options, though both pitched Monday as well.

New York Mets - All of Edwin Diaz, Miguel Castro, and Jeurys Familia have pitched on two of the past three days. Diaz is the most likely to go again right away, as he only needed 12 pitches last outing. Justin Wilson is also well rested.

Chicago Cubs - Rowan Wick now seems to be ahead of Craig Kimbrel yet behind Jeremy Jeffress in the pecking order. Wick has pitched in two straight and three of four and will need a day or two as the other arms pick up the slack.

Cincinnati - Amir Garrett and Michael Lorenzen both pitched in two straight before an off day. They may need another day if they pitch early in the week, though both Archie Bradley and Raisel Iglesias are on normal rest. Just keep an eye out if Iglesias has another long outing. He needed 29 pitches to complete Sunday's game.

Arizona - As the Diamondbacks hunt for a committee order to settle on, Junior Guerra has pitched back-to-back and three of four sixth innings, grabbing one hold. Joe Mantiply and Keury Mella have each pitched in two of three, though they don't appear to be in the late inning plans for close games. Kevin Ginkel, the only Diamondback to pick up a save over the holiday weekend, is well rested since that outing.

Colorado - Everyone in Colorado is tired. Yency Almonte has pitched in three straight games; Daniel Bard pitched in two straight before a day off; Carlos Estevez pitched in two straight and three of four, though he couldn't even record an out in his last outing. Mychal Givens has also pitched in two straight and three of four. After Givens gets some rest, he may move ahead of Estevez on the hierarchy. Estevez may soon join Jairo Diaz in the doghouse. Diaz, by the way, hasn't pitched since September 1, which was the third straight appearance he gave up multiple runs.

San Diego - Trevor Rosenthal pitched in two straight before needing a day. Drew Pomeranz has now pitched two straight. Interestingly, Taylor Williams and Dan Altavilla have made only one combined appearance since being acquired by the Padres. Williams didn't even make the active roster when he first joined the team.

San Francisco - We expected it all year, but Gabe Kapler's bullpen is finally a mess, both in terms of results and usage. Sam Coonrod has pitched in three of the past four games and four of the past six, allowing runs in three of four outings. Tyler Rogers pitched back-to-back, allowing another run after blowing the game last week. Tony Watson was clean in his two consecutive outings but then promptly ceded the next save chance to Rogers anyway.

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Archie and the Gang: Navigating the New-Look Cincinnati Bullpen

As of August 31st, the day of the 2020 MLB Trade Deadline, the Cincinnati Reds sat at a record of 15-19, placing them at fourth-place in the NL Central and well outside of the NL postseason picture in this year of the expanded playoff format. While the Cincinnati offense has been far from elite through August and past the season's halfway point, the main problem has been with the Reds bullpen as evidenced by their 4.09 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in innings 1.0-6.0 (top-10 in MLB) in contrast with their 5.42 ERA (eighth-worst in MLB) and 1.32 WHIP from the seventh inning on.

It was billed as a year prime for the organization to go all-in following their high-profile offseason in which many placed them on the short list of National League contenders, and the Redlegs were desperate for a bullpen boost if they were to make a competitive bid for the postseason. Finally, in a last-second deal on Deadline Day with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Reds acquired electrifying righty Archie Bradley in exchange for 25-year-old utility-man Josh VanMeter and minor league outfielder Stuart Fairchild (top-15 organizational prospect).

Of the range of hurlers dealt this year, Archie Bradley might be the most exciting name, and considering the fact that he won't hit free agency until 2022, he brings the potential to make a huge impact in Cincinnati for years to come. But with Raisel Iglesias eligible for arbitration and free agency at the same times as Bradley, how will Manager (for now) David Bell distribute responsibilities between the resident closer and the new big-name gas with mounting pressure to win in the short term?


Who Will Save the Day?

Raisel Iglesias remains the only relief arm to record a save this season in a Reds uniform, having notched five in six opportunities with a 2-2 record through 13.0 IP. Notably, the Cuban native had accumulated 102 saves with the Reds from 2016-2019 and possesses a 3.21 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 400.2 IP with the club. In comparison, Archie "Hollywood" Bradley came to the Queen City after netting six saves in seven chances with a 1-0 record in 10.2 IP for the Diamondbacks; not to mention his 18 saves, seven holds, and four wins with the D-Backs in 2019 and 59 combined holds through 2017-2018, earning him a rare 20th-place finish in the 2017 NL MVP voting (in conjunction with a dominant 1.73 ERA and 1.04 WHIP).

In short, these are two pitchers that are extremely comfortable with high-leverage work and have achieved substantial success from those positions. Interestingly, since Bradley was brought in this past Monday, David Bell has thrown Iglesias into play several times while apparently trying to gradually ease 28-year-old Archie into the fold as the Reds have gone 2-3 with a -14 run differential. In that brief window, Iglesias has allowed four hits, three walks, and zero ER with three strikeouts, one win, and one save across 3.1 IP; while Bradley was deployed just once during the 16-2 loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday, only allowing two hits with two strikeouts in a robust 1.2 inning stint.

Basically, the first week of the new-look Cincy bullpen hasn't highlighted much other than the fact that Bell and the Reds tend to stick with whom they are most comfortable and are hesitant to remove Raisel from closer duties (as he tends to make a stink of it when they do), but we already knew this. The real question is: who is most likely to receive the bulk of save chances, both for the remainder of 2020 and the 2021 season, and who is most likely to thrive in the role they are assigned? To drastically complicate this matter, Iglesias and Bradley are two pitchers who seem to be performing far better than their surface numbers would indicate.

30-year-old Iglesias has steadily worked down to a 4.50 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, and sports such figures as a 0.8 HR/9, 3.0 BB/9, and 12.8 K/9 which combine for an impressive 2.64 FIP. His opponents hold a .310 BABIP, which frankly, seems outrageous. His barrel rate and hard-hit rate are down by 1.1% and 5.6% to 6.7% and 26.7% respectively, his hard contact rate on batted balls has fallen by 12.2% to 26.7%, his line drive rate has plummeted from 26.2% to 13.8%, and his ground ball rate has made a massive leap from 29.9% to 48.3%. The sole caveat comes from his soft contact on batted balls rate falling from 22.8% to 13.3%. His changeup still hovers at 89 MPH, his slider is back to 85 MPH, and his fastball once again clocks in over 96 MPH, and through the body of his peripheral numbers, Iglesias should truly be well on his way to a career-season for 2020.

If you can wrap your head around it: you can say almost exactly the same things about Bradley, except that Bradley's numbers may be even more promising. In total for this season, the former consensus top-10 prospect has produced a 3.65 ERA and 1.46 WHIP off of 10.2 K/9, zero allowed home runs, and a career-best 2.2 BB/9 in 12.1 IP. His FIP currently sits at 1.84, which is currently the best measure of his six-year career by a significant margin (0.77). Now, while his BABIP is sky-high at .441, his barrel rate has risen seven ticks to 11.8%, his hard contact on batted balls rate is up to 47.1%, and his ground ball and line drive rates have practically flip-flopped to 32.4% and 38.2%. Still, his walk rate is down from 11.4% to 5.8%, his hard-hit rate is 35.3% (down 3.3%), he is forcing 6.2% more batted balls into center field, and his batted-balls soft contact rate is up from 14.8% to 20.6%. While there are some numbers packed in that mix that inspire trepidation, the career-best 5.8% walk rate is optimistic enough, and not allowing a single dinger thus far while calling Chase Field and Great American Ball your home is emphatically impressive.

Ultimately, this is all good news for the Reds: everyone loves a decision with two correct choices. With the way that this first week since the trade has unfolded, David Bell seems set on easing Archie into the high-leverage equation without the urgency that the Reds' current standing would probably demand, and that is a luxury that he has been temporarily afforded with Iglesias finding the groove that he had lost around late-July and mid-August. Let there be no delusions though: the Reds are 2.0 games behind the Brewers for second place in the NL Central and are within arm's reach of the Marlins, Mets, Cardinals, Rockies, and Giants for the NL Wildcard spots. If Raisel Iglesias stumbles even one more time, there is a very good chance that Bradley slowly starts to eclipse him in the ninth inning.

Cincinnati gave up a young, MLB-tested utility bat in VanMeter and a highly regarded outfield prospect in Fairchild to land him, and he is now the blue chip backup plan that they have lacked for several seasons. Not to mention that Raisel surprisingly remains the more expensive of the two even though Archie is younger and probably more marketable (from a popularity perspective), and it wasn't that long ago that the Reds were floating Raisel's name around the trade deadline market.

Putting up career-best marks for walks and HR allowed is a fantastic formula for success in a dinger-friendly venue like GABP, and while he may hit the mound from the sixth to the eighth inning and could grab zero to five holds in the meantime, all it will take is a high-key slip-up from Iglesias for Bradley to grab the reigns at closer for the rest of 2020, and by extension, carrying over into 2021. Raisel Iglesias has been a fixture in Cincinnati for years, but the circumstantial body leads me to believe that Archie Bradley is the arm with a future as a Redleg. Raisel Iglesias is currently rostered in 88% of leagues, while Archie Bradley is rostered in 77% of leagues, and that number has fallen by 10% in the last day. If you are down for a roll of the dice and could use some holds, wins, or strikeouts to pass the time, he could be an ultra-sneaky buy-low candidate with one-third of the season to spare.


Loose Ends Before the Last Inning

The Reds only have 12 holds on the season through 37 games, accumulated by seven different players, one of whom (Pedro Strop) is no longer with the team, with at least half of the remaining field still struggling to find their rhythm on the mound. Strop, Tyler Thornburg, Robert Stephenson, and Michael Lorenzen each have one; Lucas Sims has two, with Nate Jones and Amir Garrett leading the field with three apiece. Additionally, the only Reds relievers to pick up a win during this campaign have been Sims (two), Joel Kuhnel (one), and Lorenzen (one).

Two-way athlete Mikey "Biceps" Lorenzen becomes a FA in 2022 with Iglesias and Bradley. Lorenzen is a former college outfielder and 98+ MPH slinger who has accumulated seven HR, five steals, and a .235/.284/.432 slash in 132 AB over six years in Cincinnati. After his 21-hold/seven-save showing of 2019, Lorenzen was slated as the go-to setup man behind Iglesias in 2020, and while that was derailed after his horrendous seven-game start, he has bounced back big-time with a 2.77 ERA and 1.31 WHIP over his last 13.0 IP (which took him just five outings to rack up). Lorenzen can still see high-leverage work. A week ago, this meant receiving moderate looks at the eighth and ninth innings. Now, with Archie in town and each appearance stretching 2.0-4.0 IP, that's likely diminished to the occasional long hold or extra-long save. When noting that Lorenzen tallied eight wins in a similar role for 2017, that capacity is nothing to sneeze at.

Nate Jones (6.39 ERA and 1.66 WHIP) has struggled this season compared to years past with the White Sox (3.12 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, nine saves in 291.1 IP), but has been an economical asset with his $100K salary, and is set to hit the FA market after this year. Despite being tied with Garrett, the former Northern Kentucky Norseman hasn't notched a hold since August 14th, and is likely a non-factor in the category moving forward. Still, a player like Jones (and Thornburg for that matter) shouldn't be easily dismissed: teams always need a couple of guys like him for the thrifty experience and volume of work.

Amir Garrett has improved every year since debuting in the big leagues, posting a 2.31 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, and 13.9 K/9 through 11.2 IP this season. The fiery on-field presence and former St. John's hooper has shockingly yet to earn a save in 201.1 MLB IP, and has seen his role become far less transparent over the last three seasons, netting 43 combined holds from 2018-2019 yet capturing just three this year, which is quite mysterious considering he is actually staying in games longer this year than in years previous. Fortunately, as Jones began to falter, Garrett began bulldozing back into his previous slot, hammering all three of his holds of 2020 from August 20th onward.


ROS Outlook

For the rest of this shortened season, there are just three Reds RP that you want any part of: the obvious combo of Bradley and Iglesias, and Garrett (rostered in 5% of leagues) either as an insurance policy or a second-half surger in leagues incorporating holds. I would love to have confidence in saying that this trajectory indicates a 2021 bullpen pecking order of Bradley/Iglesias, Garrett, Lorenzen, etc. where each arm earns their neatly divided portion of saves, holds, and wins for the rest of 2020 running into 2021, but that's rarely how the Reds (or any other MLB club) run the show. Each offseason brings a new wave of budget-friendly vets, platoon specialists, and big-league ready farmhands; which for the Reds, could feature the likes of Nick Lodolo, Ryan Hendrix, Hunter Greene, and even the three college arms of the 2020 draft class as soon as Opening Day 2021.

You've got to love the annual chaos brought on by the Trade Deadline. While major trades, especially those involving the bullpen, can certainly throw a monkey wrench in best-laid plans, it is through these shake-ups that windows of opportunity open, and the same goes for the heated closer battle opened up by the Cincinnati Reds this week.

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Richard Rodriguez (RP, PIT) - Week 8 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues

ROSTERED IN: 12% of leagues

ANALYSIS: With just three weeks remaining this season, fantasy managers are scrambling to boost stats wherever they can and no more so than searching for saves. So the fact Richard Rodriguez is rostered in just 12% of leagues is surprising. Granted, the Pirates have the worst record in baseball but a save is a save no matter where it comes from and Rodriguez is the undoubted closer in Pittsburgh so will be the guy called upon to lock down any win the team manages to pull off.

Rodriguez has pitched well in 2020 with a 3.78 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 22 K in 16.2 IP. His underlying numbers back-up his performances too with a 2.60 SIERA, 3.74 FIP and 3.51 xFIP. Rodriguez has only walked three batters this year too so has demonstrated good control, hence the exceptional WHIP. Due to a lack of save opportunities, Rodriguez does get called upon in non save situations with only six of his 17 appearances coming with a save in order, meaning he has enough of a workload to not be a saves only addition to your roster. He'll tally up good strikeout numbers each week while helping in WHIP and ERA so even if he can only chip in with one save a week until the end of the season, Rodriguez is still worthy of being rostered in 12+ team leagues.

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Closers and Saves Report - Week 7 Waiver Wire

In the wild 2020 season, it made sense that we had a somewhat wild 2020 trade deadline. The trade deadline is a legitimate baseball holiday, and without an All-Star Game this year, it became the most exciting day in the regular season. The Padres went wild and made all the headlines, acquiring basically a whole new team. But plenty of smaller trades were made before the deadline as well, changing things around in bullpens throughout the league.

Some trades that weren't made changed things around for bullpens too. Guys who were almost 100% sure to get traded just...didn't. Bullpens that needed improvement ended up just...not improving. With no non-waiver/waiver trade deadline to think about now, what teams have today is what they'll have for the rest of the season and the playoffs. There will still be injuries and unexpected (or maybe somewhat expected) struggles, but there won't be any more trades, so we can look more confidently at what bullpens will look like for the last month of the regular season.

Take a look at our Closer Depth Chart, which is updated daily. Let's jump in and take a look at what's been going on in the bullpens around baseball.


Bullpen News for Week 7

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners bullpen was quite a mess before the trade deadline. They went ahead and traded a bunch of relievers without really acquiring any and...made it less of a mess? Taylor Williams, Austin Adams, and Dan Altavilla all went to the Padres at the deadline, leaving the Seattle bullpen with Yoshihisa Hirano at the closer's role. It's the first time all year the Mariners bullpen has been Solid instead of Questionable or occasionally even volatile. So Hirano sits atop the hierarchy, with Yohan Ramirez next in line and Anthony Misiewicz behind him. Matt Magill could return from a shoulder strain at some point and work some late innings, but he won't be much of a threat to Hirano's role. Hirano isn't the high-upside closer fantasy managers want, but he should provide consistency and will have some mixed league value.

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks made a few trades at the deadline, with news of the one that changed their bullpen around coming a bit after the deadline had passed. Archie Bradley, who had been pitching well as the closer in Arizona, was sent to Cincinnati. Someone still needs to close for the Diamondbacks though, and for right now it looks like we'll see a committee made up of Junior Guerra and Hector Rondon. Guerra has a decent 3.14 ERA but he's walked almost as many batters as he's struck out. Rondon is missing way more bats, but also walking a ton of hitters and pitching to an ugly 9.00 (mostly backed up by his 7.21 FIP). Neither reliever looks like a great fantasy asset right now, but if one of them manages to start pitching well and take over the role, that would make him worth rostering in deeper mixed leagues.

San Diego Padres

The Padres went wild at the trade deadline, re-shaping most of their team and adding several arms to their bullpen. Besides all that, Drew Pomeranz came off the IL too. The Padres picked up Trevor Rosenthal from the Royals, and then seemingly half of the Mariners bullpen as well. "Rosie" will continue in his ninth inning role for his new team, and Pomeranz should be the main setup man, occasionally earning saves if Rosenthal needs some rest. Emilio Pagan landed on the injured list, so newly acquired Taylor Williams may slide into the third spot in the Padres bullpen hierarchy.

Kansas City Royals

The rebuilding Royals traded closer Trevor Rosenthal, as expected. They were also widely expected to trade some other relievers, but ended up keeping everyone else around. Rosenthal's departure did leave an opening for the closer's role, however. Manager Mike Matheny loves his veterans, so Greg Holland is the head of what is a committee for now, but may end up being just Holland's job as long as he pitches well. Josh Staumont, Jesse Hahn, and Scott Barlow should all pitch late game situations and could be considered part of the committee for now as well. Holland is the one to pick up right now, but only in deeper leagues and for fantasy players struggling with saves.

Baltimore Orioles

Cole Sulser was doing a pretty good job as closer in Baltimore, but he had a few rough outings in a row and manager Brandon Hyde decided to take Sulser out of the ninth and give him some lower-leverage outings to try to get him right. In the meantime, Mychal Givens was traded to the Rockies and Miguel Castro went to the Mets, which cleared some room in the Orioles bullpen for exciting young arm Hunter Harvey to come off the injured list. Harvey hasn't pitched much this year, but he has the upside to be one of the better closers in the league. For now, he seems set to head the committee in Baltimore at worst. He'll compete with Tanner Scott and Evan Phillips, but Harvey is the best arm by far in the Baltimore pen.


Short Relief

  • The Reds picked up Archie Bradley, but it looks like he'll work behind closer Raisel Iglesias for now. Iglesias will have much less room for error with a proven guy like Bradley in the bullpen with him, though.
  • Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman was suspended for three games, so players in daily leagues may want to check on when he will serve that suspension so they don't include him in their lineups on those days.
  • Gregory Soto continues to solidify himself as the head of the committee in Detroit, but it's still a committee for now, with Buck Farmer and Jose Cisnero involved.
  • The Cubs bullpen keeps trying to get Craig Kimbrel to work, but it's not working. Rowan Wick and Jeremy Jeffress have been much more effective, with Jeffress taking over as head of the committee at this point.
  • The Rockies picked up Mychal Givens at the trade deadline and he should factor into their late inning situations, but Daniel Bard seems to remain atop the committee with Carlos Estevez around as well. Jairo Diaz has quickly fallen out of favor and won't likely see significant innings for a bit.
  • The Giants bullpen is a revolving door in a windstorm, but for now it looks like Tyler Rogers sits atop the committee, with Sam Coonrod and Tony Watson helping out.


Roster Moves of the Week


Yoshihisa Hirano, Seattle Mariners - Hirano sort of fell backwards into the closer's role in Seattle, as essentially everyone else is either injured or got traded away. Hirano won't put up elite closer numbers, but he seems to have the ninth inning to himself and that will always bring some fantasy value.

Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals - Holland looks like the favorite for saves on Mike Matheny's Royals. He's the head of the committee for now, but it shouldn't be long until he takes over full time as long as he pitches well.

Someone on the Diamondbacks, Arizona Diamondbacks - There don't seem to be too many good options left in the Diamondbacks bullpen, but someone will need to be on the mound if they have a lead in the ninth inning. Keep an eye on Junior Guerra and Hector Rondon, both have been pretty bad this year but pretty good in the past. One of them could take the ninth and run with it if they start throwing more strikes.



Archie Bradley, Cincinnati Reds - There's a decent chance Bradley will take over the closer's role in Cincinnati before the end of the season, but at least for now, he's working in a setup role which will severely limit his fantasy value in standard leagues.

Any Ex-Mariners Relievers, San Diego Padres - All of the former Mariners now pitching out of the San Diego bullpen will be pitching in more of a middle relief role, leaving them with very little value in the vast majority of fantasy formats.


Best of the Week

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

3 1/3 IP, 3 SV, 7 K, 0.00 ERA

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen appeared in four games this week, saving three of them while striking out seven and allowing just an unearned run.

Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros

4 IP, 3 SV, 7 K, 2.25 ERA

Astros closer Ryan Pressly got off to a rough start this season, but he was strong this week, saving three games and striking out seven while allowing just a solo home run and one other hit.

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Week 7 MLB Closers & Bullpen Usage Report

Monitoring bullpens in 2020 will be a vital task each and every day. Because of this, we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used.

The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.


Around the American League

Baltimore - What's left? Miguel Castro and Mychal Givens were shipped out. Cole Sulser was demoted. Hunter Harvey returned from the IL and got banged around just a bit. Tanner Scott has pitched in back-to-back games, though needed only 12 total pitches. Looks like Evan Phillips is the last man standing. Harvey is obviously the arm to own for the long-term, but who knows how long it will take him to settle into the season.

Toronto - Anthony Bass has pitched in three of four, allowing runs in back-to-back contests. With both Ken Giles and now Jordan Romano on the IL, this feels like Bass' job for a while. He'll need rest anyway though. Rafael Dolis and A.J. Cole are somewhat more rested, though they pitched Monday in front of Bass. Cole needed just five pitches for his outing; he's the best bet for a save if it comes.

Chicago White Sox - Alex Colome will need some rest after pitching in two straight and three of four. Steve Cishek pitched in back-to-back before a day off. Matt Foster somehow managed to receive back-to-back calls two days after throwing 37 pitches. Granted, that first return outing was just three pitches long, but he should need some rest for sure. Meanwhile, Jace Fry has actually thrown in three straight, and Jimmy Cordero did the same before a day of rest. It may take some piecing together to get through the early portion of this week.

Cleveland - Nick Wittgren and James Karinchak have each pitched in two of three. So has Phil Maton, who grabbed a hold on Monday. Fortunately, Brad Hand is very well rested. He's thrown only three total pitches since last Wednesday.

Detroit - A cursory watch of Gregory Soto's usage is needed. He pitched in two straight before an off day. He can go again early in the week but then may rest in favor of Buck Farmer.

Kansas City - Welcome back to high leverage, Greg Holland. Since the team traded Trevor Rosenthal, Holland pitched on three consecutive days and will now need at least a day of rest. It seemed like Ian Kennedy would be next in line, but he's had a tough time of things. Jesse Hahn is an option, but before picking up a surprise save, he hadn't even entered a game where KC was leading in weeks. He has also pitched in three of four days. Josh Staumont is another name to watch for holds and fill-in saves and is the most rested of the group.

Minnesota - Taylor Rogers needed 33 pitches to get through Monday's outing. In fact, everyone outside of Sergio Romo who pitched Monday got some good work in. Look for Romo to cover the slack until Rogers is rested.

Los Angeles Angels - Ty Buttrey has thrown on three of the past four days. Felix Pena has pitched in back-to-back. Keynan Middleton would have been next. Instead, he pitched only twice in the past 12 days, giving up runs in both outings, and was subsequently demoted to the LAA training site. Hansel Robles hasn't allowed a base runner since August 24...mostly because he hasn't gotten into a game since then. The Angels did activate Cam Bedrosian from the IL. He may be that late-inning option the team now needs.

Seattle - The Seattle bullpen is just Yoshihisa Hirano doing the Vincent Vega meme.


Around the National League

Atlanta - Mark Melancon has pitched in two straight games, rebounding nicely from his slip-up last week. Will Smith and Chris Martin have pitched in two straight as well; the former throwing 41 pitches. If all three need to hit the bench, Shane Greene is next in line for important usage. He pitched Sunday but only needed 12 pitches.

New York Mets - Edwin Diaz has pitched in three of four. Jeurys Familia pitched in three straight before a day off. Justin Wilson pitched in back-to-back before a day off. The addition of Miguel Castro couldn't come soon enough.

Philadelphia - Like their New York peer, a valuable bullpen addition was well timed here. Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree both pitched on three of the past four days. Hopefully David Phelps can supply some stability.

Washington - Sean Doolittle pitched in two straight; his first two outings since returning from the IL.

Cincinnati - The acquisition of Archie Bradley throws the back end of the Cincy bullpen into flux. Raisel Iglesias probably holds onto the closer job, but Amir Garrett certainly will lose some high-leverage spots in favor of Bradley. That bumps Nate Jones and Lucas Sims down another peg, perhaps out of serious holds consideration on most nights.

Milwaukee - With the Brewers trading David Phelps, it opens up more opportunities for Devin Williams and Alex Claudio. However, all of Williams, Claudio, and Josh Hader have pitched in two of the past three days. Do they dare recall Corey Knebel from the training site? Probably not, instead attempting to balance rest between the three arms.

Arizona - After trading away Archie Bradley, Arizona likely turns to a combination of Hector Rondon and Junior Guerra to get the late outs in games. Both men had pitched twice in a row heading into Monday. Another visit to the mound would then mean another day of rest needed. The Diamondbacks may be inclined to give newly acquired Humberto Mejia an early chance in that scenario.

Colorado - Everyone is rested; it's anyone's guess what the pecking order will be in this pen after the trade deadline. Daniel Bard still leads the committee, but with Jairo Diaz dropping out of favor, where does Mychal Givens slide in? Givens currently has a career-best 37.3 percent K-rate, but it goes along with a career-worst 11.8 percent walk rate. I'd guess Givens settles second in line after Bard, but they may not start him out that high as he learns opponent and ballpark tendencies these first couple weeks.

San Diego - No bullpen beefed up more at the deadline than San Diego. The Padres added Dan Altavilla, Taylor Williams, and Trevor Rosenthal, while activating Drew Pomeranz from the IL. The pecking order seems to be anyone and everyone, followed by Pomeranz to set up, and Rosenthal to close. Poor Emilio Pagan righted his season only to see his stock plummet right after getting a real chance to close.

San Francisco - Before an off day, all of Tony Watson, Tyler Rogers, and Sam Coonrod had pitched in back-to-back games. Coonrod seems the most likely to need a full day rest; the other two threw a low enough pitch count where they should be ready to roll next game.

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Closers and Saves Report - Week 6 Waiver Wire

We've only had about 30 games per team (or way less for some), but it's already almost the trade deadline! This season's trade deadline is on Monday, August 31st, and while there have already been a few trades made, there will certainly be a flurry before Monday afternoon. One thing we as baseball fans can always rely on, even in a season as strange as this one, is an active trade deadline.

Bullpens continue to fall apart at what has to be a record pace (citation needed, maybe, but like...common sense, I think?) Pitchers keep getting injured and guys who seemingly never struggle are certainly struggling this year. We've had about as much bullpen news this season as we would have had by late August in a regular baseball season, it seems.

Take a look at our Closer Depth Chart, which is updated daily. Let's jump in and take a look at what's been going on in the bullpens around baseball.


Bullpen News for Week 6

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers were one of the seemingly few teams with a pretty solid bullpen situation. Joe Jimenez, their closer since Opening Day, has struggled lately, posting an overall 12.10 ERA despite officially blowing only one save so far. Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said he will use a committee to close out games, at least for now. Jimenez figures to get another chance in the ninth if he starts pitching well, but Buck Farmer, Jose Cisnero, and Gregory Soto will split those chances for now.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays didn't have a full-on closer, but Nick Anderson was about as close as they'd get. With Anderson now on the injured list (and Jalen Beeks joining him there), Tampa Bay will likely go right back into a rotating committee approach. Diego Castillo seems like maybe the best best, but John Curtiss and Edgar Garcia could see some ninth inning work as well. Castillo may be the one worth owning, especially for fantasy managers desperate for saves.

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies are in committee mode for their ninth innings, but Daniel Bard has risen to the top lately. It's still a revolving door, but Bard seems to be at the top of the hierarchy (ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage: Mixed Metaphor!) Jairo Diaz, Carlos Estevez, and maybe even Jeff Hoffman should mix in for save chances now and then, but as long as he keeps pitching well, Bard might carve out a role as a full time closer.

"Toronto" Blue Jays

Another team in all-out committee mode seems to have a bit of clarity, as Jordan Romano has risen to the top of the Buffalo/Toronto closers hierarchy. Romano has a 0.64 ERA and misses plenty of bats. He saved two games in three days this week, and more of that will potentially lead to him taking over the ninth inning all on his own. For now, he'll lead a committee that also features Anthony Bass and Rafael Dolis.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates had their closer, Keone Kela, join late after he dealt with COVID-19 issues at the beginning of the season. He pitched just two innings before ending up back on the injured list, leaving a mess in the Pirates bullpen again. Richard Rodriguez figures to be in there for any save chances the Pirates end up with, but Chris Stratton and Geoff Hartlieb will mix in as well. Only players in the deepest leagues should consider any Pirates relievers.


Short Relief

  • The Giants bullpen remains unclear after Trevor Gott struggled his way out of the closer's spot. Tony Watson, Tyler Rogers, and Jarlin Garcia are the likely arms to get ninth inning shots when the situations arise.
  • Emilio Pagan has taken over in the San Diego bullpen, and he should hold down the role until Drew Pomeranz comes back. He's worth having in the lineup of most fantasy rosters.
  • Giovanny Gallegos looks like he's finally worked his way up to the head of the Cardinals committee. There still doesn't look like there's a solid closer in St. Louis, but Gallegos is as close as it gets there for now.
  • Trevor Rosenthal had a rough outing this week, but should still be one of the top trade targets before Monday's deadline. He may close for his new team, but he could also slide into a setup role, depending on where he ends up. Now is a good time to sell high in fantasy leagues just in case he loses his ninth inning spot at the deadline.


Roster Moves of the Week


Jordan Romano, Toronto Blue Jays - Romano has taken over as the top of the committee, and may soon take over outright. He's been excellent this season, with a high strikeout rate and a manageable walk rate. He should be owned in most formats.

Emilio Pagan, San Diego Padres - The Padres are on their third potentially-elite closer of the season. They started with Kirby Yates, who wasn't good then got hurt. Then they went to Drew Pomeranz, who was excellent but then got hurt. It's Emilio Pagan's turn, and he has the stuff to be very good as well.

Giovanny Gallegos, St. Louis Cardinals - Gallegos was expected by many to be the Cardinals closer all season, and it looks like he's finally worked his way at least into the front of the committee.

Daniel Bard, Colorado Rockies/Diego Castillo, Tampa Bay Rays - Both of these righties could be good if they keep pitching well, but they don't have a locked-in role just yet. If you're desperate for saves, they're worth an add in standard leagues now, and both should be owned in holds leagues already.

Richard Rodriguez, Pittsburgh Pirates - Only for the most desperate fantasy owners who might need a save every 10 days.



Keone Kela, Pittsburgh Pirates - Kela could be done for the year, and is at least out until past the trade deadline.

Joe Jimenez, Detroit Tigers - You might have already dropped Jimenez just based on how bad he's been this year, but now that he's been removed from the closer's role, there's no real reason to hold on.


Best of the Week

Brad Hand, Cleveland Indians

3 IP, 3 SV, 3 K, 0.00 ERA, 0 base runners allowed

Cleveland closer Brad Hand was perfect this week, facing nine batters and retiring all nine while saving three games.

Brandon Kintzler, Miami Marlins

4 IP, 3 SV, 1 K, 0.00 ERA, 4 base runners allowed

Marlins closer Brandon Kintzler doesn't get it done with strikeouts, but he gets it done most of the time. He saved three games, getting just one strikeout but not allowing any runs.

Liam Hendriks, Oakland A's

4 IP, 2 SV, 5 K, 0.00 ERA, 1 base runner allowed

A's closer Liam Hendriks allowed just one base runner this week while saving two games and striking out five.

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Week 6 MLB Closers & Bullpen Usage Report

Monitoring bullpens in 2020 will be a vital task each and every day. Because of this, we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used.

The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.


Around the American League

Baltimore - Both Mychal Givens and Miguel Castro pitched in two straight ballgames before a day off. If either one gets into a game the beginning of the week, they will likely need another day off. Of the two, Castro would be fresher regardless, as he threw 23 pitches in his two outings, compared to 42 for Givens. Closer Cole Sulser threw a whopping 33 pitches in his last outing, which was why Tanner Scott cleaned things up for a sneaky save on Sunday, but Sulser's gotten multiple days off since then and should be ready to roll.

Tampa Bay - Next man up in Tampa Bay. John Curtiss pitched in two straight before a day off. Pete Fairbanks did as well. Aaron Loup has gone in two straight and three of four. Jalen Beeks may start getting more late-inning appearances. Either way, the Rays need to start getting some arms back from the injured list.

Toronto - Just when we thought Anthony Bass would be slotted back into the closer's role, he seems to have been usurped by Jordan Romano. There is some possibility that Bass remains the head of the committee, and he just needed extra rest after returning from a minor injury and pitching back-to-back over the weekend. Even still, Romano has converted two straight saves. The latter may get a day off now for the former, but Romano is the arm to own for saves...for the time being.

Cleveland - Nick Wittgren and James Karinchak have both pitched twice in three days. Expect another day of rest for either if they make an appearance the beginning of this week.

Detroit - As the Detroit bullpen (unsurprisingly) implodes, Jose Cisnero sneakily picked up both a hold and a save over the weekend. The save came after another horrendous Joe Jimenez outing. Buck Farmer and Gregory Soto had both already entered the game earlier, so they remain ahead of Cisnero in the pecking order, but Jimenez's closer security is waning. He now has a 1.85 WHIP, and 7.63 FIP, along with his lowest K-rate since his rookie year and a career-worst 9.5 percent walk rate. Interestingly, all of Cisnero, Farmer, and Soto have pitched in two of four days. None could likely go more than one more outing without another day off.

Kansas City - Greg Holland has pitched in three straight games. He does not seem to be a factor even for holds anymore though, let alone save chances. His last six outings have all seen him enter games where KC was losing. It doesn't help that he's allowed a run in four of his last six appearances.

Minnesota - The Twins continue to get great work out of the pen, but their arms remain busy, busy. Tyler Clippard pitched in two straight before an off day; Taylor Rogers, Sergio Romo, and Trevor May have all pitched in two straight. Tyler Duffey is the rested arm likely to get a chance if the team needs him.

Los Angeles Angels - Closer Ty Buttrey pitched in two straight before a day off. Noe Ramirez and Hansel Robles have both pitched in two straight heading into Tuesday. Incidentally, Robles continues to struggle and will not regain his closer role anytime soon. If Buttrey needs another day off, look for Felix Pena to perhaps get a chance.

Texas - Rafael Montero needed 31 pitches to get four outs Monday. He will likely get a day. Jonathan Hernandez has gone two straight. Everyone else is pretty available though. Joely Rodriguez would be next in line to fill in.


Around the National League

Miami - Brandon Kintzler has picked up three saves since Friday. Brad Boxberger picked up three holds in the same time frame. Both have thus pitched in three of the past four days and could need multiple days of rest this week. Richard Bleier and James Hoyt have been turned to in the seventh in recent days, so they could be used later in games, though Don Mattingly would likely try his best to rotate through and at least have one of Kintzler or Boxberger available in the coming days.

Philadelphia - Brandon Workman pitched in two straight before a day off. His Philadelphia start hasn't gone well, which means he fits perfectly into the Phillies bullpen.

Chicago Cubs - On Sunday, Craig Kimbrel needed Jeremy Jeffress to save him in the eighth. Jeffress allowed three base runners but eventually got the save. Presumably, Rowan Wick was unavailable after throwing the day before, though he also got knocked around in that outing. Kimbrel still hasn't allowed a run or a hit since August 6, but he walked two in this latest performance. Best guesses can't even nail down who is currently in charge of this committee. Kimbrel is the one to own, but that doesn't mean he'll get the next save chance.

Milwaukee - David Phelps blew the save Sunday but rebounded for a hold Monday. He will need some rest after pitching in two straight. Josh Hader may also have a day off very soon. He threw 22 pitches Monday. This would be the perfect spot for Corey Knebel if he hadn't fallen completely out of favor. He will come nowhere near the ninth in a close game even if both Hader and Phelps need rest. Instead, look for Devin Williams to get a shot.

St. Louis - Alex Reyes is trying to iron out a late-inning role. He's pitched in two straight. Andrew Miller and John Gant both pitched in two straight before resting Monday.

Colorado - After failing to even record an out in his previous appearance, Daniel Bard was tabbed for, and nailed down, the save on Monday. Jairo Diaz was available, so this was a hunch or a matchup play by manager Bud Black as he works his closer committee. Carlos Estevez pitched earlier in the game, making it two appearances in three days. He'll need a day of rest.

San Diego - Emilio Pagan is the last elite arm standing in the Padres pen. He's pitched in two of four days. If he goes again and needs another day off, Craig Stammen could be a closer replacement. Matt Strahm and his zero walks are also interesting, though his 13.7 percent K-rate isn't what you want from a closer fill-in.

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Yankee Yo-Yo: Bronx Bombers to Buy or Sell in Fantasy

For most teams, we've now reached the 20+ game mark of the season meaning we are over one-third of the way through this shortened season. There are of course some exceptions with teams needing to make up games missed after Covid-19 outbreaks but for the most part, we have enough data on how things are going to start making roster decisions based on statistics rather than where you drafted a certain player.

One team which has avoided much disruption from the Covid-19 outbreaks is the New York Yankees, which is good news for us fantasy players as they represent one of the most fantasy-friendly offenses. Although the Yankees have missed most of the schedule disruption so far, the last two weeks have seen some significant roster problems with a flurry of key injuries coinciding with their star closer return from the Covid-19 restriction list.

We're going to take a look at the fantasy impact of the recent Yankees news, how the injuries will affect your rosters and ways to capitalize on the activity both short-term and long-term.



This is the more complex portion of the Yankees' current roster dilemma but also has the potential to be the most impactful in fantasy. The Yankees outfield sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton both hit the IL within a few days of each other. Stanton is expected to be back in early September from his hamstring injury, while Judge was only placed on the IL as a precaution with the most minor of minor calf strains and is expected back as soon as eligible this weekend.

When Stanton hit the IL, the expectation was for Mike Tauchman to get everyday playing time. This seemed optimistic however as Stanton had been exclusively used as a DH and since he went on the IL, the DH spot has been used by Mike Ford (four times), Clint Frazier (twice), Gary Sanchez (once) and Miguel Andujar (once). Only when Frazier is the DH, does that open up any more playing time for Tauchman. In fact, from the time Stanton went on the IL, Tauchman didn't start a game until Judge got hurt (August 12th). Since then, Tauchman has only started in four of the Yankees' six games.

Frazier has started in all six games in which Judge and Stanton have been on the IL and has been the Yankees best hitter in that span putting together a .409/.458/.818 slash line with two homers, eight RBI and scoring three runs. Tauchman has been no slouch himself this year as he's put up a .333/.412/.444 slash line with four stolen bases but is yet to hit a home run. It has been clear that Frazier's benefitted more from the slugging duo's injuries than Tauchman has so far and Frazier's power shouldn't be in question at this stage.

When Judge returns (potentially this weekend), I expect the Yankees will use him as a DH more going forward as a precaution especially as the calf issue was blamed on playing three days running on turf. Given that will mean less playing time for Ford and allows the Yankees to utilize the plethora of outfielders they have, it seems like the best option for them to put the most productive lineup on the field.

That will free up the spot in right field which Tauchman and Frazier will likely share time at. Although Tauchman does have the stronger side of a potential platoon and is the better defensive outfielder of the two, the Yankees appear to favor Frazier's bat. When Judge does play the outfield, Frazier is more likely to be the DH than Tauchman so I expect Frazier to have a significant role in some form when Judge returns.

There is another wrinkle in the Yankees outfield as Brett Gardner's bat continues to run cold and Aaron Hicks is still working his way back from Tommy John Surgery. As long as Hicks is healthy, he will be the regular center fielder for the Yankees. His plate discipline (21.3% BB%) alone is enough to keep him in the lineup and being a switch hitter should prevent any possible platoon. Gardner is still hitting below .200 and despite a 15.5% BB%, still only has a .167/.293/.396 slash line. He's sat out the Yankees first two games to start this week and appears to be losing his spot in the lineup if he hasn't already. That should open up more playing time for Tauchman and Frazier too, who have similar Major League career numbers at this point.

Mike Tauchman 157 416 13 62 56 12 .264 .352 .448
Clint Frazier 129 453 18 59 64 2 .263 .316 .482

Going forward, if you roster Judge and/or Stanton, you keep them and hope they can stay healthy for the remainder of the season. I understand frustrations with their health and wanting to trade them but you get so much less for players on the IL. And did you really expect either of them to go through this season without an IL stint at some point? If you do want to move on from either, you're better off waiting until they return, play a handful of games and then look to flip them. Depending on your trade deadline, that might be too late for teams rostering Stanton.

Hicks is playing almost every day and hits in the top half of the lineup so should be rostered in all leagues, especially those counting walks/OBP. Frazier looks in line to play regularly until Stanton returns, especially if Judge sees more time as the DH. When Stanton returns, Frazier should still see action in left field, especially against left-handed pitchers. Tauchman appears poised to take over Gardner as the regular left fielder for now but could find himself in a timeshare with Frazier when Stanton returns.

Frazier is a must-add in all league sizes while Tauchman is more of an option in 12+ team leagues. Both are having productive seasons and when they are in the Yankees lineup, you likely won't have better options to warrant them not starting for your fantasy teams. It is entirely feasible the Yankees lineup consists of Stanton as the DH, Judge in right, Hicks in center and Frazier/Tauchman platooning in left when (or if) all are healthy.


Second Base

The Yankee injury bug didn't stop at Stanton and Judge, as DJ LeMahieu left Saturday's game with a sore left thumb which was later diagnosed as a sprain. He joined Judge and Stanton on the IL and is expected to miss 2-3 weeks, although there is still a small possibility of season-ending surgery. If LeMahieu needs surgery he's an obvious cut in redraft leagues, but until such time, he's someone you put on your IL and keep until he returns.

Now, what about LeMahieu's replacement? Miguel Andujar took his spot on the active roster and there was a school of thought that Andujar would play third base, Giovanny Urshela moves across to shortstop and Gleyber Torres shifts to second base. That hasn't happened in the three games since LeMahieu's injury. Tyler Wade started at second base the first two games and Thairo Estrada filled in the next two days. In all four games, LeMahieu's replacement has hit ninth in the lineup.

Although this could pan out as a platoon with Wade being a left-handed hitter and Estrada hitting right-handed, both have started against a rightie and leftie on the mound. Wade is still more likely to get the greater share of playing time at second base in LeMahieu's absence given he started the season on the active roster, but Estrada did homer on Monday night while playing third base to give Urshela a day off which is likely why he got the start at second base the following two days. Estrada didn't take advantage of the opportunity, going 1 for 6 with four strikeouts in those two games. Both replacements are predominately a glove-first player and you may be forgiven in thinking neither has any fantasy relevance. But that isn't strictly true.

If as I suspect, Wade gets the greater share of starts at second base, he can help tally some stolen bases and some runs in the time LeMahieu is out. Last season, Wade appeared in 43 games (28 starts) and stole seven bases without being caught. Despite just five starts this year, Wade has scored four runs with two of them coming as a pinch-runner so the Yankees have faith in him on the basepaths. The Yankees also haven't been afraid to get Wade to bunt for a hit during his time in the Majors which will help his average and stolen base opportunities.

While Wade isn't someone I consider a must add, if you are in need of steals then Wade should certainly be on your radar in leagues of 14+ teams. Although batting ninth isn't ideal, it does mean when he gets on base he'll have the top of the Yankees lineup coming up behind him. Wade will need to improve on his .190/.292/.238 slash line, but he's unlikely to hit a home run and his value comes from what he can do once he gets on base. As long as he can improve his OBP to nearer last year's .330 mark, Wade can bring you some fantasy value with steals and runs.

If Estrada finds himself in front of Wade in the pecking order, he too is someone worthy of consideration in deeper leagues as a stolen base contributor. He's tallied 52 steals in 454 Minor League games and also has a career .280/.337/.389 slash line in the minors. While Estrada isn't much of a power threat either, he does hit for a solid average as shown by his .274 Major League batting average in his 78 career plate appearances so could find himself a better real-life and fantasy option than Wade.



Aroldis Chapman returned to the bullpen this week after missing the start of the season due to a positive Covid-19 test earlier at the preseason camp. Now healthy, Chapman came on to pitch in the ninth inning on Monday night with a four-run lead. After inducing a soft lineout, he gave up a triple and a double before striking out the next two hitters to seal the victory, albeit without getting a save. Importantly for Chapman, his fastball velocity was where it usually is with six of the 11 fastballs he threw topping 100 MPH. Chapman threw 14 of his 20 total pitches for strikes so while the two extra-base hits weren't ideal, there doesn't appear to be any concern stemming from his first outing of the season.

With Chapman back, where does that leave the interim closer Zack Britton? Britton had been exemplary closing games during Chapman's absence, converting all eight save opportunities with his one loss coming after entering a tie game and giving up the winning run. That changed on Wednesday night when he was tagged for his second loss after giving up two runs (one earned) in the eighth inning of a tie game. Britton stuck out Austin Meadows to end the seventh before coming back out in the eighth. The unearned run was due to Britton failing to catch a soft toss while covering first base to lead off the inning which was followed by a walk, a fielder's choice out and two singles.

After the games, it emerged that Britton had a hamstring issue and now could head to the IL himself. Given Britton had a 1.08 ERA from his 8.1 IP before Wednesday night, the hamstring issue does appear to have been the cause for his disappointing outing against the Rays. Britton has thrown his sinker 80% of the time this season and if we look at the pitch percentage by location prior to Wednesday, you will see why hitters find it so difficult to get hits against Britton.

Compare this to Britton's pitch chart against the Rays on Wednesday night:

The two green "in play" dots up in the zone were the two base hits Britton coughed up before leaving the game so the outing was pretty out of character given his usual pitch location. Because of this, I'm prepared to put down the bad outing to his apparent hamstring injury.

For fantasy purposes, we'll assume Britton has to go to the IL. If he does, then Adam Ottavino is likely the next in line to be Chapman's setup guy. So far this year, Ottavino has a near-identical line to Britton's before Wednesday; 8.1 IP, 1.08 ERA and nine strikeouts. Because of Aaron Boone's refusal to have anyone pitch three days running, Ottavino could see save opportunities as long as Britton is out. In leagues counting holds, he is someone who should be rostered and is a viable option in 12+ team leagues for the help he'll offer in your ratios alone.

If Britton does avoid the IL (or when he comes back from a potential IL stint), he should be back as the next in line for saves and should resume as the everyday setup guy for the Yankees, bumping Ottavino back a place in the queue. If you have a spare IL spot available to use on Britton, do so but he's certainly not a must keep and can be cut in any league if he misses time.



Any roster change with the Yankees demands fantasy consideration purely based on their collective production. When three players who were all drafted inside the first 70 picks all go on the IL at the same time, that will garner even more attention when looking for their replacements. The Yankees outfielder replacements carry the most fantasy intrigue as they both have hit well and been productive when they play, opening a door to more playing time which will only inflate their value. All of the current IL players we've covered should return in time to contribute throughout the final third of the season and there's no reason to suspect their production will diminish so should be held on to as potential fantasy title winners down the stretch.

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Closers and Saves Report - Week 5 Waiver Wire

The best closer in baseball last year is done for the year, but he's been replaced by a guy who looks like he could be the best closer in baseball this year. Must be nice. One of the best closers of this generation finally looked a little more like himself this week, but is it enough for his manager to trust him with a close lead?

One of the most consistent relievers in the game will now be a starter, a role in which he hasn't excelled in the past. One of the bullpens that was expected to be the most solid in the game, even after losing its closer, is seeing even more turmoil now. In other words, there was a lot this week. So let's get started.

Take a look at our Closer Depth Chart, which is updated daily. Let's jump in and take a look at what's been going on in the bullpens around baseball.


Bullpen News for Week 5

San Diego Padres

Kirby Yates was the best closer in baseball last season by almost any metric. He never looked right this year, though. He struggled out of the gate and now he's done for the year due to an elbow injury that required surgery. In steps Drew Pomeranz, which means the Padres may have 2020's "Best Closer in Baseball" even after losing 2019's. Pomeranz is nearly unhittable out of the bullpen and should step into Yates' ninth inning role. Emilio Pagan will be around for the occasional save, but it should be Pomeranz more often than not.

UPDATE: Drew Pomeranz is dealing with shoulder tightness, right when he was given the chance to take over the closer's role full time. There doesn't seem to be a ton of concern, but any shoulder issue with a pitcher could quickly become a big deal. Emilio Pagan and Craig Stammen figure to fill in for Pomeranz in the meantime.

New York Mets

The Mets had a bit of a mess in their bullpen earlier this season, with Edwin Diaz struggling out of the gate. He's been much better lately and seems to have inspired confidence in the Mets. Seth Lugo, who was closing games while Diaz struggled, will be moved to the rotation, leaving Diaz as the favorite for saves once again. The Mets also have Dellin Betances and Jeurys Familia in their bullpen, but the job would seem to be Diaz's to lose once again.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs have not gotten much out of Craig Kimbrel in a Chicago uniform, but he's quietly strung together three excellent appearances, punctuated by a save in which he struck out all three batters he faced. It was his first save of the year. After the game, the Cubs refused to give Kimbrel anything like a vote of confidence, but with all the chances they've given him, it feels safe to assume he'll get another chance at the ninth as long as he keeps pitching well. Rowan Wick has been heading the Cubs committee with Jeremy Jeffress involved as well, but Kimbrel is one of the best closers of this generation even if he has barely even been a shell of himself as a Cub.

St. Louis Cardinals

No one really knew what to expect from the Cardinals once they returned from their forced vacation, but it looks like Andrew Miller may have emerged as the top closing option. He's already struggled through an outing though, so we may end up seeing a full-on committee in St. Louis. Giovanny Gallegos will certainly be involved, and Ryan Helsley should be back in the mix once he's able to get back on the field.

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies seemed ready to go with Jairo Diaz in their ninth innings, but he's struggled and the team decided they wouldn't be naming an outright closer, instead going with matchups. Another classic committee. Diaz will still be involved, along with Carlos Estevez and the brand new and improved Daniel Bard. Bard may be the higher upside option here, but Diaz is the safer bet, still.


Short Relief

  • Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman has struggled but is still expected to replace Zack Britton soon. That timeline may be expedited, as Britton is being evaluated for a hamstring injury and could be forced to miss time.
  • Daniel Hudson hasn't been great as the Nationals closer, while Tanner Rainey has been incredible as the Nationals setup man. If Hudson continues to struggle, a change could come sooner than expected.
  • Taylor Rogers has struggled in Minnesota, and with Sergio Romo's experience backing him up, we may start seeing Romo in the ninth inning a bit more often pretty soon.
  • Trevor Gott has really struggled, and he has his manager to thank for giving him more opportunities to struggle. The Giants bullpen should be a full blown committee pretty soon if it isn't already.


Roster Moves of the Week


Drew Pomeranz, San Diego Padres- Pomeranz has a legitimate chance to be the best closer in baseball this season, so he of course needs to be owned in absolutely every format imaginable. (Keep an eye on his shoulder though, and potentially switch this to Emilio Pagan instead.)

Craig Kimbrel, Chicago Cubs- There's still work to be done for Kimbrel to be Kimbrel again, but there were good signs this week and it's no secret that the Cubs want to get the most out of their investment. This is a speculative add for now.

Edwin Diaz, New York Mets- Diaz returns to the closer's role and if he's been dropped in your league, now might be the time to snag him back up. There's always risk with Diaz, but the potential reward is enormous.

Seth Lugo, New York Mets- This is usually a bullpen article, but I honestly think Lugo can be a very good big league starter. If he gets dropped in your league by someone thinking he's only a worthy fantasy asset out of the bullpen, pick him up and be patient as he stretches out into a starting role.



Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres- Yates won't pitch again this year, so anyone owning him in redraft formats can go ahead and let him go.

Trevor Gott, San Francisco Giants- Gott has hurt your fantasy team enough at this point, it's time to let him go.


Best of the Week

Liam Hendriks, Oakland Athletics - 3 IP, 3 SV, 4 K, 0.00 ERA

A's closer Liam Hendriks had an excellent week, saving every game he appeared in while striking out four batters and not allowing a run.

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers - 2 1/3 IP, 3 SV, 4 K, 0.00 ERA

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen matched the numbers Hendriks put up, but only needed 2 1/3 innings to do it.

Craig Kimbrel, Chicago Cubs - 3 IP, 1 SV, 7 K, 0.00 ERA

Shoutout to Kimbrel here, who used to be a fixture on the Best of the Week list. He only saved one game, but he struck out seven of the 11 batters he faced. This week could have been the turning point we've all been waiting for in Kimbrel's game.

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Week 5 MLB Closers & Bullpen Usage Report

Monitoring bullpens in 2020 will be a vital task each and every day. Because of this, we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used.

The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.


Around the American League

New York Yankees - Aroldis Chapman is back. He threw 20 pitches on Monday. Zach Britton has been one of the best closers in baseball, yet he may only have the job for another week at the most as Chapman gets his sea legs. Whenever the swap is made, Britton immediately becomes an elite holds guy.

Toronto - Rafael Dolis has pitched in two straight heading into Tuesday. Anthony Bass returned to the mound after being dinged up and only threw 14 pitches. He may need another day to rest and recover back to full health, but Bass should be back to closing in no time.

Chicago White Sox - Alex Colome hasn't pitched in a while, but all of his supporting arms may need rest. Zack Burdi, Steve Cishek, Jimmy Cordero, Ross Detwiler, Evan Marshall, and Jose Ruiz all have appeared in two of the last three days.

Cleveland - Everyone should be available Tuesday, but all of Cam Hill, James Karinchak, Dominic Leone, and Nick Wittgren pitched at least two of three days to start the week. Anyone who gets action will need another day of rest immediately following.

Minnesota - The Twins bullpen has been well worked. Sergio Romo and Taylor Rogers both pitched in two straight before a day off Monday. Trevor May and Tyler Clippard pitched in two straight now. Minnesota will have to stagger returns in order to not be without everyone at the same time.

Houston - Ryan Pressly got into two straight games before needing a day off, though he only threw 18 total pitches. The rest of the bullpen seems to be rounding into form as the Astros needed to pull a quick restart on their reliever depth. Blake Taylor, Josh James, and Brooks Raley seem like the new go-to arms in front of Pressly. Taylor has gotten into two straight games now; James and Raley both pitched in two of three. None of these guys were on the radar (James was a starter) before injuries decimated the unit. Now they are being leaned on in a major way.

Los Angeles Angels - All of Ty Buttrey, Felix Pena, and Keynan Middleton have pitched in two of the past three days. Hansel Robles also got back into the action with a scoreless outing. The team may be forced to turn back to Robles at least for one outing as the rest of the bullpen rests up.

Oakland - T.J. McFarland has taken the mound in three of the past four days. The Athletics have plenty of other options late in games, so McFarland's holds chances could be lacking this week.


Around the National League

Atlanta - Will Smith pitched in two of the past three. Shane Greene pitched in two straight before a day off. Mark Melancon already got a couple days of rest last week; now it's likely Smith's and Greene's turn for at least a day.

Washington - Tanner Rainey has looked good but has thrown in two straight games, including needing 29 pitches in the most recent outing. Daniel Hudson secured the team's closer role, and then has decidedly not looked good, getting rocked in multiple outings. He has also pitched in two straight. With Will Harris throwing 25 pitches on Monday, and Sean Doolittle sidelined, we could see a surprise save from someone like Javy Guerra. Guerra's 22.2 percent K-rate has been a career-best; as has his 5.6 percent walk rate.

Chicago Cubs - Jeremy Jeffress has gotten into two of the past three. With Jeffress needing a blow, Craig Kimbrel may very well get another save chance after two clean outings for himself.

Milwaukee - David Phelps has been moving up the responsibility ladder. He's pitched in two straight, though, before a day off. Devin Williams is moving into that third option, with two holds in the last four days. Everyone still looks up at Josh Hader, but Hader has thrown a lot of pitches recently. An appearance every other day in the span of four days saw him need 60 pitches in just two outings.

St. Louis - With the Cardinals finally back in action, Andrew Miller and Giovanny Gallegos have both been used heavily, pitching in two of three games. If both need a day off this week at the same time, it is hard to tab a replacement. Genesis Cabrera and John Gant have also both pitched in two of three days. Kwang Hyun Kim moved to starter and threw 57 pitches Monday. Expect St. Louis to stagger days off the next few days to avoid losing multiple guys. More importantly, Miller seems to be ahead of Gallegos in closer pecking order. There isn't much to read into that statistically yet. Neither guy has even thrown four total innings.

Arizona - Archie Bradley pitched in two straight before a day off. One more outing could force him to the bench again this week.

Colorado - Carlos Estevez pitched in two straight games, recorded a save, got banged up, and is a question mark. Yet the rest of the Colorado pen has been scuffling as well. Jairo Diaz now has a 2.07 WHIP; Daniel Bard has given up runs in two straight; Tyler Kinley has five walks in his last two innings, which included getting blasted for five runs last week. The starters have been amazingly good thus far, but recent bullpen outings put into question who Bud Black can count on.

Los Angeles Dodgers - Kenley Jansen pitched in three of four days, nabbing a save in each. He will get some much needed rest. Perhaps Jake McGee, well rested and pitching very well, gets a vulture save this week. He currently sports a 33.3 percent K-BB rate and has a .071 BAA. Pedro Baez has been getting eighths and will also be an option.

San Francisco - Tony Watson pitched in three of four. The same goes for Tyler Rogers and Trevor Gott. Gott will need rest but has also been rocked recently. Watson is the best bet to get a save chance this week. He has pitched as often as the other late-innings guys but threw only nine and seven pitches respectively in two of those outings.

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Closers and Saves Report - Week 4 Waiver Wire

For a season chock full of bullpen changes and injuries already, this week was a slight cool down period. In other words, this would still probably have been a bigger bullpen news week during a normal season, but for this particular season, it seemed like a much-welcomed downswing.

There were still depth chart changes, there were still injuries, and there were still saves (and blown saves of course.) The season pretty much just started (especially for the Cardinals), but the trade deadline is already coming up in about two weeks. Lots has changed in almost every bullpen, and it's a safe bet to say plenty of more changes are coming.

Stick with us here at Rotoballer and you'll always be a step ahead of everyone else in your league!

Take a look at our Closer Depth Chart, which is updated daily. Let's jump in and take a look at what's been going on in the bullpens around baseball.


Bullpen News for Week 4

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates finally got their closer back, as Keone Kela was activated off the injured list, where he'd been since before the season began due to COVID-19. Kyle Crick was meant to be the closer without Kela, but he ended up on the IL as well. Then Nick Burdi was up next, and he was exciting, but quickly got hurt as well and is now out for the season. Kela is basically the only reliable, experienced arm left in the Pirates bullpen, and he'll take over the closer's role right away. He's a prime trade candidate, though, so he may not end up staying on the Pirates for too long. Still, he could be a decent saves option short term, although the Pirates may have a hard time handing him too many leads.

Kansas City Royals

I made a bet with a Twitter user before the season started because I did not believe that Trevor Rosenthal would be any good this year. I was wrong. "Rosie" has been solid and has taken over the closer's role in KC. He's thrown nine innings, collecting four saves while allowing just one run. He's struck out 10 and walked three. Small sample size warning of course, but his SIERA sits at 3.26 so while he hasn't been 1.00 ERA good, he's been very good and should be owned in all eligible formats. Scott Barlow and Greg Holland have been working the later innings ahead of Rosenthal.

Texas Rangers

The Rangers have had pretty bad luck with pitching injuries this season, but they have gotten a pitcher back who could be a strong closer option for the rest of the season. They started the season with Jose Leclerc in the ninth, but after he got hurt, they went with Jonathan Hernandez and Edinson Volquez in the later innings. Neither guy inspired much confidence (and now Volquez is hurt and done for the year), so when former top Mets prospect Rafael Montero came off the IL, he was given a chance to close and has done well so far. He's only thrown four innings so far, but that's counted for four saves, and he's yet to allow a run. Montero is a definite injury risk, but he's in a good spot and has the stuff to be a good closer.

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies chose to give Wade Davis a second chance after his horrifying 2019 performance, but he didn't get too much time to show anything before he got hurt. With Davis on the IL now, Jairo Diaz has taken over the ninth. It's not a full-time role yet, with Carlos Estevez and Daniel Bard (yes, that same Daniel Bard) likely to mix in for save chances too. It's unclear when Davis will be ready to return, but if his replacements do well, the ninth inning may not be waiting for Davis when he gets back.


Short Relief

  • The Mariners bullpen is a mess, but Taylor Williams seems like the top choice for now. Carl Edwards Jr. landed on the IL, making things just a tiny bit clearer in Seattle, but not much. This will likely be a committee throughout the season.
  • Aroldis Chapman is on his way back, finally. He'll pitch a simulated game on Friday and should be activated soon after. Despite how well Zack Britton is doing this year, Chapman is sure to take over the ninth inning once he's ready.
  • Oliver Drake landed on the IL this week, so the Rays bullpen is back to a committee again, with Nick Anderson probably up top.
  • It's been a gradual change, but Seth Lugo has taken over in the Mets bullpen. Edwin Diaz has been much better lately, so we may see some mixing and matching, especially with Lugo requiring more time off than some other relievers.
  • Craig Kimbrel continues to be bad and Rowan Wick continues to be good enough, so another gradual change may be taking place in the Cubs bullpen.


Roster Moves of the Week


Rafael Montero, Texas Rangers- Montero is finally healthy and has fully taken over the closer's role in Texas. He's appeared in four games so far and earned a save in every single one. He should be owned in all formats.

Trevor Rosenthal, Kansas City Royals- Rosie's back! After injuries destroyed his 2019 and forced him to miss all of 2018, I honestly did not think he'd be any good this year. I was wrong, and not only is he pitching well, he's also earned the closer's role for the Royals.

Keone Kela, Pittsburgh Pirates- Kela should make his 2020 debut this weekend, and while the Pirates likely won't have many leads for him to save, he'll put up decent enough numbers to help fantasy teams and could be traded before the August 31 trade deadline.



Ian Kennedy, Kansas City Royals- I thought Ian Kennedy could repeat his success from 2019. I was wrong. Kennedy doesn't even seem to be on the radar for the ninth inning right now, with Rosenthal, Scott Barlow, and Greg Holland ahead of him at least.

Jonathan Hernandez, Texas Rangers- For a little bit, it looked like Hernandez would be the guy in Texas, but then Montero came off the IL and has been great since.

Anyone in the Pirates Bullpen Besides Kela, Pittsburgh Pirates- With Kela back and with the Pirates unlikely to win much, there are no strong fantasy options in this bullpen behind Kela.


Best of the Week

Rafael Montero, Texas Rangers- 4 IP, 4 SV, 4 K, 0.00 ERA, 0 H, 0 BB

Montero came off the IL, faced 12 batters, and got them all out this week, earning four saves. That's...that's literally the best he could have done.

Trevor Rosenthal, Kansas City Royals- 4 1/3 IP, 3 SV, 5 K, 0.00 ERA, 2 H, 3 BB

"Rosie" was given the closer's role this week and responded by saving three games and striking out as many batters as he allowed to reach base.

Alex Colome, Chicago White Sox- 3 IP, 2 SV, 4 K, 0.00 ERA, 0 H, 0 BB (1 HBP)

White Sox closer Alex Colome allowed just one base runner this week, on a hit by pitch. He struck out four and saved two ball games.

More closers with two saves this week:

Zack Britton, Liam Hendriks, Archie Bradley, Drew Pomeranz (Pomeranz was filling in for Kirby Yates, who was dealing with a back issue)

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Week 4 MLB Closers & Bullpen Usage Report

Monitoring bullpens in 2020 will be a vital task each and every day. Because of this, we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used.

The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.


Around the American League

New York Yankees - Zack Britton finally encountered a bump in the road this season. However, it came in the dreaded, non-save situation. Closers (anecdotally) always struggle when entering tie games because, supposedly, the juices aren't flowing as high as normal. Britton is not normally the Yankee closer, though. Too bad Aaron Boone didn't tell Britton before he entered that Aroldis Chapman was ready to be reinserted as closer. That way, Britton wouldn't have fallen victim to the curse of a closer in a tie game.

Incidentally, a decision on what to do with Chapman may come down as soon as Tuesday after he throws against live hitters that day.

Tampa Bay - With Oliver Drake moving to the injured list, it is finally time to bank on Nick Anderson closing games for the Rays, right? Don't be so sure. Andrew Kittredge came in for the save Monday (and was then tabbed as the starter for Tuesday, because, Rays). He isn't the long-term closer answer, but he might be a piece of it. Tampa Bay is likely to leave Anderson in as the fireman and turn to any number of other options to close depending on the matchup. That includes Kittredge, Chaz Roe, Diego Castillo, and the newly instated Jose Alvarado.

Castillo should be a top option. He has yet to allow a run this season. Though his walk rate is up to 16.7 percent, he is inducing less than hard contact on 78 percent of balls in play. Alvarado is also very interesting. He was lights out in 2018 before losing control last season. His walk rate jumped to 18.5 percent. However, that was accompanied by being unlucky. He had a .346 BABIP against him despite giving up less hard contact (37.3 percent down to 35 percent) one season to the next. Of course, it would be a surprise to see anyone grab a stranglehold on the closer job like Drake had; even the fact that that happened remains surprising.

Detroit - Buck Farmer and his four holds were not for real, even before he hit the IL with a groin strain. With a 3.7 percent K-rate that is so low it requires a double-take, Farmer had a .174 BABIP against. It doesn't make any sense. He was allowing 43.5 percent hard contact, but thanks to one of the highest ground-ball rates in the league, had allowed zero home runs.

It was just a matter of time until his results started to go the other way. Instead, the injury opens the door for Gregory Soto to have an even larger role. Soto has been more sustainably great, with a 32.2 K-BB rate, but there is reason to worry about him as well. The luck will eventually run out on a 0.0 home-run rate, a .056 BABIP(!!), and a 100 percent left on-base percentage. For this week particularly, Soto has pitched in three of four games and will need some extra rest.

Kansas City - Greg Holland pitched in three straight before Monday's day off. He is no longer an immediate factor in save situations. That job belongs to Trevor Rosenthal, but Holland has become a large piece in the KC pen, which may be only slightly less surprising than Rosenthal doing the same.

Los Angeles Angels - Ty Buttrey pitched in two straight games, though he only threw five pitches in the front half of that back-to-back. The Angels' new closer may need a day or two this week, likely in favor of Felix Pena.

Oakland - The Oakland holds mastery of Diekman and McFarland has a new member. They are joined by Yusmeiro Petit to create the holds triumvirate. As of 8/11, only 12 players in baseball had at least four holds. This A's trio is a full 25 percent of that group.

Petit may need a day before he keeps pace. He has pitched in two straight ballgames.

Seattle - The bullpen pecking order continues to be in flux in Seattle. Taylor Williams pitched in two straight before a day off. He will likely need another day off this week. Logic would dictate Matt Magill getting a save chance sometime soon. It feels like Seattle is instead using him as a fireman, but that hasn't at all been the case. He's allowed zero runs and a single hit in six appearances, but only once has he entered a game with his team-leading by three or fewer runs.

Texas - Nick Goody is dinged up and may need a couple of days off this week. Jimmy Herget would be a possible replacement moving up the responsibility ladder, but he has pitched in two straight and will need a rest himself. Edinson Volquez and Joely Rodriguez also both pitched in back-to-back games before getting one day of rest. Texas could be scrambling if the bullpen gets taxed too much more this week.


Around the National League

New York Mets - Seth Lugo has surpassed Edwin Diaz in the pecking order. If we accept Diaz as never being his 2018 version again, he can still be seen as a useful fantasy player. He is currently striking out a career-best 48.1 percent of opposing batters and allowing just a .182 BAA despite a sky-high BABIP that has hounded him most of his career.

With that said, we haven't seen the last of Diaz closing games. Lugo pitched twice in a row before one day off. If he sees another night of action, it will mean one or two more days off before the week is out.

Philadelphia - The Phillies continue to be impressive in their ineptitude out of the pen. In case anyone thought they were getting out of their comfort zone by winning comfortably on Monday, the bullpen took care of that by allowing seven runs in the ninth. Philly's 9.87 reliever ERA is more than two full runs worse than every other team in baseball.

Los Angeles Dodgers - Middle reliever Blake Treinen has pitched in two straight, though he only needed three pitches to get through that first outing. He may see a day off or two going forward.

San Diego - Kirby Yates was too sore to pitch on Monday. This may finally be the excuse the Padres needed to indefinitely remove him from the closer's role in favor of Drew Pomeranz or the streaking Emilio Pagan.

After a very rough July start, Pagan hasn't allowed a run or a hit yet this month, and he's only walked one batter in three appearances.

San Francisco - Tyler Rogers is tied for the league lead with five holds. We assumed there would be craziness in Gabe Kapler's bullpen, but he's been pretty steady in his role distribution at the end of games between Trevor Gott, Tony Watson, and Rogers. Rogers is the most interesting case though. He is valuable in fantasy as long as he holds Kapler's trust. But maybe he shouldn't anymore. He's had three terrible outings, and those five holds are sunk down by three losses and a blown save.

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Josh James Should Close for the Astros

The pitching woes in Houston continue to stack upon one another. Consider it bad luck, karma for cheating, or whatever you want, the fact of the matter is that this pitching staff is dealing with a litany of issues and cannot afford to make more mistakes throughout the rest of this shortened season. The Astros need to fix their closer situation expeditiously.

With Roberto Osuna (forearm) out for the foreseeable future with the possibility of Tommy John and incumbent set-up man/closer-en-waiting, Ryan Pressly, dealing with a nagging elbow injury, the Houston bullpen is left with major question marks on the back-end.

Enter Josh James, who could (should) be closing for the Astros in 2020.


Better in the Bullpen?

The 27-year old fireballer is one of the top "prospects" in the Astros organization and had the chance to start twice thus far in 2020. Unfortunately, those starts left owners clutching for their ratios as James's walk issues reared its head in full force and relegated him from the bullpen after a total of six innings pitched. Typically, when a pitcher's walk rate is higher than his strikeout rate, that's a bad sign.

However, there is a silver lining for those who have held on in redraft, along with his dynasty owners. James realistically profiles better as a reliever long term and it would behoove him and the organization to shift that role as soon as possible to not further the damage done to the team or his development. James's "stuff" is not the problem so much so as forcing him to utilize it multiple times throughout a batting order.

Where James can really shine going forward is in a current Seth Lugo/early Josh Hader-esque role in which he is a fireman/closer who comes in to either get two innings worth of outs earlier in close games or closing on other occasions.

In 2019, when primarily deployed as a reliever, despite posting a walk rate that had him bottom-sixth percentile in the MLB, James was top-first percentile in expected batting average, top-second in expected slugging and top-tenth in expected weighted on-base average. James has not been anywhere near as effective with his arsenal in 2020 but that may be due to his new role as starter.

Also, it is important to note that thus far, James's average fastball velocity has been down by nearly two miles per hour and it is likely due to having to throw more pitches per game and not dish out in the high-90's as he did the last two seasons where his velocity sat around 97.1 vs this season at 95.6. It also could be a slow start related to COVID and a lack of summer camp/bullpen prep but that should improve regardless as we get deeper into the season and James is asked to throw fewer innings/pitches per game.


Houston's Bullpen "Depth"

Pressly's elbow was deemed "healthy" enough to return to game action after a stint on the IL to start the season but it seems that he is either rusty or dealing with lingering issues. His most recent outing was a clean inning with a strikeout, leading to the sole caveat of this piece being his health. If Pressly's elbow is back to normal-ish going forward, this could become a moot point as he'll keep the role. Obviously, there are concerns though.

Other options in the Houston bullpen include but are not limited to Cy Sneed, Andrew Scrubb, Blake Taylor, and Enoli Paredes. Sneed and Scrubb are run-of-the-mill relievers without strikeout potential at the moment or at any point throughout their respective minor league careers. Taylor is very impressive. He's given up no runs throughout his first 8.2IP and has struck out ten and walked just three. If he was not literally the only left-hander in Houston's bullpen, he would probably be the favorite to take over. However, with matchups so important to continue playing, regardless of the new three-batter rule, it is doubtful we see Taylor take on a full-time closer role but he could sneak a few saves here and there.

Promising young right-hander Bryan Abreu was recently optioned to the team's alternate site after walking seven batters in 3 1/3 innings. Enoli Paredes looked sharp in extra innings against Oakland the other day, but he is still a largely-unknown entity.

Josh James seems to be the logical answer at closer. Sure, there remains the possibility that Houston trades for someone of Ryan Pressly's elbow magically returns to 100 percent but both are unlikely due to varying reasons. While in a normal season a trade would be the clear answer, this shortened season leaves a lot to be desired given that teams are still partially un-sure if the season will even fully play out. If you trade for a reliever, lose a year of control and regain your in-house options next season, what was the point? That's just bad asset management depending on what you give up.

James is not likely to pitch in high-leverage innings from the jump given his poor outings thus far but the possibility remains that after a few shut-down innings over the next week or two with an improved pitch command, he can get relied on to close games.

James is about to be free across most leagues due to his disastrous start and demotion. Take advantage of this opportunity in redraft and even dynasty where you can buy-low. There is a place for Josh James in this league, just because it might not be as a starter does not mean that he cannot still be a valuable fantasy asset.

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Closers and Saves Report - Week 3 Waiver Wire

Before this 60-game season started, we all knew every little thing would matter more. We knew that every game was, essentially, 2.7 times as important as a regular game in a 162-game season. We knew managers would have much shorter leashes on their underperforming players, and perhaps much quicker promotions for the quick starters.

But we had no idea things would move THIS fast. Every day seems like a week's worth of bullpen news. It seems like almost every bullpen is volatile, or at best, questionable. Every day, there are fewer and fewer solid, one-man closer type bullpens. Even some of the closers were used to seeing dominate are looking very hittable this year.

It makes sense to use a committee in a season like this one, and many teams look like they're heading in that direction. That, combined with injuries and poor performance, will make for quite an annoying season for fantasy owners outside of those lucky few who drafted the closers who are actually keeping their jobs. Stick with Rotoballer's Closer Depth Chart (linked below) and our weekly Closers and Saves Report (hi! hello! how are you?) to keep as much on top of this wild season as possible.

Take a look at our Closer Depth Chart, which is updated daily. Let's jump in and take a look at what's been going on in the bullpens around baseball.


Bullpen News for Week 3

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates bullpen was a mess right before the season started, with Keone Kela and Kyle Crick not quite ready to get the season going. Nick Burdi jumped in and showed his nice upside for a while, but now he's done for the season with elbow issues. Kela is on his way back from COVID-related issues, and the Pirates have already confirmed that he'll close as soon as he's back on the mound. The Pirates might not even have a save chance until then, so it's not the bullpen to target for saves even for streamers. Unfortunately, Burdi can be dropped in all redraft formats.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals surprised everyone by naming Korean free agent signing Kwang-Hyun Kim as their closer. He was not even known to be in the running, but injuries and delayed Summer Camp starts caused them to scramble for a ninth inning option. Kim did well enough in the ninth, but his services are now needed in the starting rotation. As Kim was originally signed to be a member of the rotation anyway, he'll now work his way from there. That leaves an open space in the ninth inning, which for now will be filled by a committee. Some comments from manager Mike Schildt made it seem like fireballer Ryan Helsley may be the top option, but Giovanny Gallegos figures to find himself on the mound with a lead now and then as well. Either guy would be a worthwhile fantasy closer if handed the full time job, so keep an eye on how the Cardinals close out their games once they're back on the field.

New York Yankees

Aroldis Chapman is reportedly through with his bout of COVID-19 and on his way back to the mound. He has been cleared to throw again, but manager Aaron Boone has repeatedly said that he doesn't want to rush his closer back. With Zach Britton performing well in the Yankees closer role, there's no need for Chapman to rush through his progressions. Still, he is fully expected to resume the closer's role before too long.

Los Angeles Angels

The Angels will be moving on from having Hansel Robles handle save situations on his own. Despite a solid season last year, Robles was off to a putrid start in 2020, and the Angels will work with a committee approach, at least for now. Ty Buttrey got the first post-Robles save chance and converted it just fine. He's the most likely option for saves, but Hoby Milner and Felix Pena will likely join in as well.

Colorado Rockies

Rockies closer Wade Davis pretty much started the year on the hot seat. He didn't take too long to lose his job, although it was due to injury this season. Davis is on the IL with a shoulder strain. The Rockies haven't named a closer in his place, but Jairo Diaz and Carlos Estevez figure to benefit the most from the new Colorado bullpen hierarchy. Either would be worth an add if they took the job for themselves, but it will be hard to predict which reliever will be next up for now.



Short Relief


Roster Moves of the Week


Cole Sulser, Baltimore Orioles- Sulser has seemingly taken over the ninth inning on a somewhat surprising Orioles team (at least until they faced the juggernaut Marlins). He can strike guys out and should be a help to any mixed league roster.

Keone Kela, Pittsburgh Pirates- You might have to wait a few days to see Kela pitch if you add him, but he's guaranteed the ninth inning in Pittsburgh and should put up decent ratio stats as well.

Ryan Helsley or Giovanny Gallegos, St. Louis Cardinals- One of these two guys will likely emerge from the current committee to take over the ninth inning. Gallegos has a bit more experience, but Helsley has more upside. Take your pick.

Carlos Estevez or Jairo Diaz, Colorado Rockies- Again, it's a take your pick add here, whichever guy you think will emerge from the committee as the closer is certainly worth a roster spot.

Ty Buttrey, Los Angeles Angels- Buttrey struggled to start the year, but so did Hansel Robles ahead of him. Buttrey looks like the leader of the committee and should come out on top of the Angels hierarchy.



Nick Burdi, Pittsburgh Pirates- Just featured on the "adds" last week, now it's Bye Bye Burdi, as his season is over due to arm troubles.

Hansel Robles, Los Angeles Angels- Robles has lost his job and doesn't really even seem to be in striking distance now. It could be a while until he sees another ninth inning opportunity.


Best of the Week

Liam Hendriks, Oakland A's- 4 IP, 3 SV, 6 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP

A's closer Liam Hendriks had a great week, saving three games while allowing just two hits and no runs, striking out a half dozen along the way.

Zach Britton, New York Yankees- 3 IP, 3 SV, 2 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP

Yankees closer (for now) Zach Britton did not allow anyone to reach base all week. He saved three games and struck out two.

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers- 3 IP, 3 SV, 4 K, 3.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen didn't put up the sparking ERAs and WHIPs of the other two members of this list, but he rounds out the three-saves-this-week club with a solid enough performance, thanks in part to an excellent throw from left field by Chris Taylor.


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Week 3 MLB Closers & Bullpen Usage Report

As this weird, altered season progresses, the imbalance in the schedule becomes a bigger and bigger issue. Some teams have already played double-figure games, while others have played just a single series.

This imbalance is obviously troublesome for the standings with the playoffs not all that far off in the grand scheme. It is also annoying for fantasy owners who are trying to compete either head-to-head in a given week or in roto scoring. Yet there's nothing to be done.

These games cannot be played when it is unsafe to do so. We have to roll with it. Unlike any year previously, it may be safe to move on from certain players who haven't necessarily been bad; they've just been endlessly unavailable because of canceled games.


Monitoring Bullpens in 2020

Bullpen usage will be something to monitor each and every day, so we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed, and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used. The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.


Around the League

Baltimore - Cole Sulser is the guy. We thought there was a committee in Baltimore to start the year. Maybe that would've been the case if Hunter Harvey were healthy. But even with a healthy Mychal Givens pitching well, every save chance has gone to Sulser. He's blown one already; he doesn't have great strikeout stuff; he's the guy nonetheless.

This week, look for Miguel Castro to get some rest. He had pitched in back-to-back games before an off day Monday.

New York Yankees - Aroldis Chapman's return is on the horizon. Zack Britton remains an elite closer until that day comes. The Yankees may need to turn to Adam Ottavino at least once this week, though, as Britton pitched in two straight before the rainout Tuesday. Ottavino will obviously be a bigger holds target regardless with the news that Tommy Kahnle will miss the rest of the season.

Tampa Bay - It may be time for Nick Anderson owners to abandon ship if they were relying on him for saves and nothing more. Anderson is not the closer that we all thought he would be. He may be the next Josh Hader, but Hader from 2017 or 2018. That's a guy who rarely is saved for the save because he is more valuable pitching in key spots earlier in the game.

Cleveland - Brad Hand has been really bad, but he remains the closer. The danger of the 60-game season: how long do the Indians wait for him to get on track?

Minnesota - Taylor Rogers is the main closer here, though he may not collect as many save opportunities as some of his peers. The Twins utilize a bit more flexibility in their bullpen than other teams. Rogers will likely offer up another save chance to a teammate this week as well. He's pitched in three games in four days, although he only threw five pitches in one of those outings.

Houston - The Astros are running out of options. The banged-up Ryan Pressly is now the guy, though one can't feel great about him as a key fantasy closer.

Los Angeles Angels - Hansel Robles has been really bad, but he remains the closer. The danger of the 60-game season: how long do the Angels wait for him to get on track?

Oakland - Jake Diekman is a holds king, but don't forget about teammate T.J. McFarland. McFarland has recorded a hold in three straight appearances and has only allowed one base runner all season.

Miami - The Marlins bullpen is well-rested!

New York Mets - We still aren't sure who Luis Rojas will turn to for the next save chance. One name not to discount in holds leagues is Justin Wilson. Yes, he has a 8.10 ERA, but he leads the league in holds for a reason. That ERA was bloated by one bad outing. He's only allowed two base runners in his other four outings combined.

Chicago Cubs - Craig Kimbrel is still holding onto the closer job by a thread. Potential usurper Rowan Wick didn't look good last time out and has also pitched in three of the past four days but he does have two saves now.

Cincinnati - Raisel Iglesias has pitched in three of the past four days. Each subsequent outing in his young season seems better than the last after that rocky start, but he should need some time off this week regardless.

Pittsburgh - Nick Burdi needed 20 pitches to record one out on Monday. The Pirates have been careful with him thus far, so look for someone else to be involved in a save situation. Although that someone else likely won't be Richard Rodriguez, who has pitched in two straight heading into Tuesday.

Colorado - With Wade Davis sidelined, Jairo Diaz becomes the head of a closer committee, followed by Carlos Estevez. This week could be touch and go though. Diaz has pitched in two straight and three of four. Estevez has also pitched in two straight, as has Tyler Kinley. Daniel Bard anyone? It's been nine years since Bard last recorded a save in the majors.

San Diego - Kirby Yates has been really bad, but he remains the closer. The danger of the 60-game season: how long do the Padres wait for him to get on track?

(Oh, they already turned to Drew Pomeranz you say? I can't use this bit anymore?)

Emilio Pagan has been really bad, but he remains the setup man. The danger of the 60-game season: how long do the Padres wait for him to get on track?

(Now don't you feel dumb?)

San Francisco - Shaun Anderson, perhaps not quite in the mix for saves, although one never knows with Gabe Kapler, has pitched in three of the last four days. He leads the league in appearances to this point, so Kapler may be hard-pressed to turn elsewhere in the middle innings of a close game.

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Closers and Saves Report - Week 2 Waiver Wire

Hey. Hey...Umm, there's baseball! It's pretty much already a mess and who knows how long this season will actually last, but for now? Baseball. We have it. And that's great. Summer's favorite sport is back on our TVs and in stadiums near us that we aren't allowed to go to. But: still baseball. Fantasy leagues are in full swing (pour one out for leagues that drafted before everything changed).

This season, it seems like bullpens will be MUCH more important on the field, and therefore in fantasy baseball as well. With only 60 games all season and expanded rosters at least part of the way, managers will be way more likely to give their starters a quick hook. We've already seen what at least seems like a disproportionate amount of starters being lifted in the third and fourth innings. Fantasy managers in quality start leagues are probably shaking their heads and wishing they'd just gone with Wins (just kidding, pitcher wins is the second worst stat in sports- after QB wins in football).

So, with bullpens being more important, that means Rotoballer's weekly Closers and Saves Report will be even more of a vital resource for fantasy baseball players everywhere. This series will publish every Friday morning and will recap what happened in the week that passed and also look ahead at the week to come.

Take a look at our Closer Depth Chart, which is updated daily. Let's jump in and take a look at what's been going on in the bullpens around baseball.


Bullpen News for Week 2

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates bullpen has already been quite the journey this young season. Expected closer Keone Kela still hasn't reported to the team due to COVID-19, and his primary replacement, Kyle Crick, has joined him on the injured list with a shoulder strain. Exciting rookie Nick Burdi is next in line and has looked excellent already this season, but manager Derek Shelton clarified that he would be careful with Burdi and could limit his innings or appearances. Burdi is still the arm to own in the Pittsburgh bullpen, but Richard Rodriguez and Michael Feliz are likely to spend some time on the mound in ninth innings going forward as well.

Texas Rangers

Rangers closer Jose Leclerc was skipped over for a save chance due to shoulder tightness, but the extent of his injury ended up being much worse than just tightness. Leclerc is dealing with the same injury as his teammate, Corey Kluber. They both have a Grade 2 strain of the teres major muscle in their shoulders and won't be able to even throw for four weeks. Nick Goody got a save in his place, but it was more due to game circumstances. With Leclerc set to miss most of the season, the Rangers will likely turn to Jonathan Hernandez or Edinson Volquez.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals expected Jordan Hicks to be back in their closer's role at some point this season. They expected Giovanny Gallegos to keep the mound warm for him in the meantime. Then...everything changed. Hicks opted out of the season due to concerns with COVID-19, and Gallegos was late to report to Summer Camp because of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. When Carlos Martinez, another candidate for the closer's role, earned a starting rotation spot instead, Cardinals manager Mike Schildt made a decision that no one expected: he made Kwang-Hyun Kim the full-time closer. Kim does not have the kind of swing-and-miss stuff you expect from a closer, but he seems to have the team committed to his role, and any full-time closer is worth a spot on most fantasy rosters.

San Francisco Giants

The Giants bullpen was always expected to be unpredictable and frustrating for fantasy players. Heading into the season, the pitcher with the most saves in his career that would wear a Giants uniform was Tony Watson, with 30. Thirty saves. In his entire career. To lead the team. Combine that with new manager Gabe Kapler's creative bullpen usage end up with Trevor Gott looking like the early favorite for ninth inning work. It's early, things can and will change, and Kapler's gonna Kapler, but for now, Gott looks like he may actually be worth a roster spot in deeper formats.

Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles bullpen was never expected to be much of a strength, but fantasy players were excited to see the one real bright spot in the Birds' bullpen, Hunter Harvey. Mychal Givens was expected to get some save chances to start things off, but Harvey wasn't thought to be too far behind. Instead, Harvey finds himself on the injured list with elbow soreness, and Givens remains atop the Orioles bullpen committee.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays were another team not fully expected to have strictly defined roles in their bullpen. Nick Anderson was the fantasy favorite because of his gaudy strikeout numbers and his role to end last season, but as expected, the Rays have not done things according to other people's plans. Oliver Drake looked like he was ascending to the ninth inning after earning saves in two games in a row, but he followed that up with a blown save in another outing. He's still tentatively atop the Rays committee, but Anderson and Jose Alvarado are waiting for their turns as well.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays had one of the more solid bullpens heading into the season, with Ken Giles set fast in the ninth inning. That didn't last too long, as Giles is now on the injured list dealing with a forearm strain. It's unclear just how long he'll be out, but it's not often that "forearm strain" ends up as a short trip to the IL. In his place, the Blue Jays will likely try a committee at least until a hot hand appears. Anthony Bass, Rafael Dolis, and Jordan Romano will all work the late innings for Toronto (but never in Toronto, thanks 2020!). Bass is slightly ahead right now and would be the best choice for any managers desperate for saves.

Seattle Mariners

Much like the Giants bullpen mentioned above, the Mariners bullpen was always expected to be a mess. Many thought Matt Magill would be the favorite for saves given the role he played near the end of last season, but he appeared in the fifth inning on Sunday for his first appearance of the season. Taylor Williams earned a tough save with three strikeouts of very good hitters, but it looks like Dan Altavilla is the head of this committee, at least for now. The Mariners bullpen may end up being a lot like what we expected the Giants bullpen to be.



Short Relief

  • Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman is reportedly "doing well" but still hasn't been able to rejoin the team. He's been dealing with a case of COVID-19 since Summer Camp. Zach Britton will work the ninth until Chapman can return.
  • Cleveland closer Brad Hand struggled at the end of last season and seems to be struggling again this year. He's still the closer in Cleveland, but it's worth keeping an eye on. Nick Wittgren and James Karinchak would be next in line, with Karinchak earning the save on Thursday night.
  • Ian Kennedy was strong as a closer for the Royals last year, as he basically reinvented his career. He remains atop the Royals committee this year, but he might have some challenges from fellow veteran righties Trevor Rosenthal and Greg Holland, both of whom have earned saves before Kennedy this season.
  • Mets closer Edwin Diaz has continued to struggle a bit, and it's easy to assume his role is in jeopardy. He's still the head of the Mets bullpen, but Seth Lugo, Dellin Betances and Jeurys Familia are looming.
  • Craig Kimbrel hasn't looked good, and Jeremy Jeffress has the veteran bullpen guy energy managers like David Ross (presumably) crave, so keep an eye on the Cubs bullpen.
  • Padres closer Kirby Yates gave up eight earned runs all of last season. Eight! He's already allowed two this year, but the early blip is likely nothing to worry about.
  • Sean Doolittle isn't off to a great start for the defending champion Washington Nationals. He's still the closer, but Daniel Hudson is breathing down his neck.


Roster Moves of the Week


Nick Burdi, Pittsburgh Pirates- Burdi was already a decent fantasy asset due to his high-strikeout potential, but now that he's found himself in the closer's role, he's a must-own in pretty much all formats.

Oliver Drake, Tampa Bay Rays- As mentioned above, Drake may not have a super tight hold on the ninth inning in Tampa, but he's the one to own for now.

Jeremy Jeffress, Chicago Cubs- If Kimbrel keeps struggling, Jeffress will be next man up.

Nick Wittgren, Cleveland Indians- Similar to the Cubs situation, if Hand keeps struggling, Wittgren goes next.

Trevor Gott, San Francisco Giants- He might be the closest the Giants come to a closer this season.

Anthony Bass, Toronto Blue Jays- Bass seems like he'll take Giles' spot for as long as he's out.



There are no immediate drops this week, but it will all come down to roster space. If you have an IL spot available for guys like Chapman and Giles, use it, because if they make it back onto the mound, they will be giving you significant production.


Best of the Week

This section will usually be, as the title says, a place to highlight the best relievers of the week. Since this is our first regular Closers and Saves report of the season, however, we'll go all the way back to Opening Day this time.

Joe Jimenez, Detroit Tigers- 4 IP, 4 SV, 2 K, 2.25 ERA, 0.75 WHIP

Tigers closer Joe Jimenez leads the league in saves, with four (no one else even has three as of the writing of this article.) He hasn't been fooling many hitters, as his two strikeouts show, but he's been able to do his job and lock down wins for Detroit.

Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks- 2 2/3 IP, 1 SV, 5 K, 3.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP

Bradley hasn't been great, as he's already blown a save, but he is tied for the lead among one-save relievers with five strikeouts, and he's only gotten eight outs total.

Seth Lugo, New York Mets- 4 1/3 IP, 1 SV, 5 K, 2.08 ERA, 0.46 WHIP

Even better numbers overall for Mets reliever Seth Lugo, who also has five strikeouts and one save, but he's not expected to be the full time closer in Queens, at least not yet.

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Week 2 Bullpen Usage Report for Fantasy Baseball

Less than a week into the 2020 Major League Baseball season, the future is uncertain. Bullpens are normally the most unreliable and volatile aspect of the sport. This year, the outside world has told baseball to hold its beer and showed it what unreliable and volatile really meant.

As we see the Miami Marlins sit an entire week thanks to a slew of positive virus tests, each and every day become an unknown, almost like bullpen usage in more enjoyable times. We will continue to follow the sport we love as long as it remains viable this year. Who knows when more postponements or a permanent stoppage of play will come. Until then, we make the most of it!

Making the most of a bullpen report is about finding the usage trends that indicate something of value. Perhaps nothing of value will come with trying to analyze Gabe Kapler's trends, but we'll try anyway.


Monitoring Bullpens in 2020

Bullpen usage will be something to monitor each and every day, so we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed, and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used. The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.


The Cloudiest Bullpens

New York Mets - Edwin Diaz went 1-for-1 in save opportunities to start the year. He blew his next one and sat on the bench when the third went to Seth Lugo. In that first Diaz save, Lugo pitched good sixth and seventh innings in front of Justin Wilson's eighth. Diaz walked one but secured the 1-0 win. The very next day, Diaz churned through the first two batters of the heart of the Braves order before giving the lead back on a Marcell Ozuna opposite-field home run.

In totality, Diaz has looked pretty good in his appearances, but apparently not good enough to get in Monday's game. It may have been misleading though. Lugo came into the eighth to get Jeurys Familia out of a jam. That wasn't a spot where Diaz would be expected when the Mets have Lugo to turn to. Thus, it may have been a case of manager Luis Rojas leaving in the guy who was feeling good. If my hunch is correct, Diaz would get the next save chance.

Seattle - The Mariners had a tough ask with starting this truncated year with a four-game set against Houston and no scheduled day off until August 13. In that series, only one game saw Seattle with a lead late. It ended up winning, but nothing cleared up our picture of this group. Supposed closer Matt Magill pitched the fifth; supposed alternate Dan Altavilla pitched the seventh; new committee member Taylor Williams pitched the ninth for the save, yet he allowed two base runners and was the only one of the relievers to allow a run.

Atlanta - Mark Melancon has yet to pitch this season as he deals with back issues. He remains day-to-day; as does Will Smith, who has been cleared to return and just needs to build up his stamina. In addition, we saw Luke Jackson pitch multiple late innings in grabbing the bullpen's lone win this season. We also can't discount the presences of Shane Greene, Chris Martin, and Darren O'Day. Because of uncertain health and a bevy of comparable options, it's cloudy in Atlanta.


The Shakiest Bullpens

Chicago Cubs - It will soon be too late to jump off the Craig Kimbrel bandwagon. It will have careened off course, picking up speed as it ricochets. The closer on the Hall of Fame path may be gone for good. It was only one appearance, but I don't know how anyone can have the smallest shred of confidence in Kimbrel at this point. Kimbrel recorded one out (and a hold!) as he gave up two runs on four walks and a HBP in the ninth Monday. According to CBS, Cincinnati batters didn't swing at a single breaking ball Kimbrel threw. His track record buys him more time as the Chicago closer, which may not be a good thing for the Cubs.

Pittsburgh - We're just running out of arms here. Keone Kela remains out. Middle reliever Clay Holmes is out. And now fill-in closer Kyle Crick is sidelined as well. Richard Rodriguez has allowed two runs and a home run in two innings. Michael Feliz has given up four runs in 1.2 innings. The only one of the potential closers to start the season unscathed has been Nick Burdi. It all falls now to the 27-year-old with 11 career innings pitched.


Saves up for Grabs

Chicago Cubs - Kimbrel threw a load of pitches in his awful outing Monday. If he gets into Tuesday night's game as well, he will surely get the day off Wednesday, likely in favor of either of the righties: Jeremy Jeffress or Rowan Wick. (Jeffress pitched in back-to-back games heading into Tuesday.)

Houston - Robert Osuna has pitched twice already this season, with a third appearance possible for Tuesday night. If that happens, there's no way he then throws in four of five days. Of course, both Ryan Pressly and Chris Devenski suffered injuries on Monday. It is anyone's guess who would garner a save opportunity in that spot; it may even go to the newly signed Fernando Rodney.

Colorado - Wade Davis has gotten the job done thus far this season. If he gets into Tuesday's game, though, he may be due a day off. That would give him three appearances in four days. The rest of the Colorado bullpen has yet to allow a run, so all of Carlos Estevez, Jairo Diaz, and Daniel Bard are good vulture options.

Toronto - New Blue Jay closer Anthony Bass already has three appearances in 2020, including back-to-back heading into Tuesday night's game. They may need him again, in which case there's no way he sees action Wednesday. However, the Toronto bullpen has been leaned on heavily the entire first week, with both Rafael Dolis and Jordan Romano up to three appearances apiece. Whoever is able to get some rest on Tuesday would be the option in a Wednesday save.

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Closer Conundrum: What Does Managing Like It's The Playoffs Mean?

"In a 60-game season, managers will approach every game like it's the playoffs."

We've heard that refrain over and over again as we prepare for the 2020 fantasy baseball season. In fact, I think I've written that sentence, or something similar, close to ten times already. But that statement brings up a natural follow-up question: How do managers manage in the playoffs? 

In order to answer that, I looked back through every game in the 2019 postseason to see if I could pinpoint some managerial tendencies that we could act on in this shortened season. Specifically, I wanted to see what "managing like it's the playoffs" means in terms of how teams use their closer. I'll set up each section with a fact that I discovered and then explain how that should impact your fantasy approach. Let's see if we can figure this out together.


A team's saves leader got 12 of the 14 total postseason saves

Now, this stat is slightly skewed because the Washington Nationals used both Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson as their "closer" for much of the final months of the season; however, that means we knew to treat them as one "tandem closer." (I'll talk more about that later). As a result, it was fairly easy to predict which pitchers would get saves for teams in the playoffs as it was the same pitchers who had gotten the saves for them during the entire season, even if that team used multiple relievers to close games through the longer regular season.

In the case of both saves that were recorded by non-closers, the team's closer had been in the game earlier and blew the save, leaving a save opportunity for somebody who was not the natural closer. So, if you wanted to look at it another way, a team's saves leader was used in every single opportunity where a save was on the line.


A saves leader was used 85% in the 9th or a save situation

The pitchers who led their team in saves were used 41 times in the playoffs, and 35 of those times were in the 9th inning or save situations that began in the 8th inning. Nine of those times, a team's saves leader was used in the 9th inning despite it not being a save situation or even a tie game. While that may not seem significant, it seems to imply that, even if a team is losing, the manager is more inclined to save his most trusted (or best) reliever for the 9th inning.

This is important because I've been reading a lot of speculation that a manager might decide to use his best reliever or most trusted reliever early in games when the team is ahead and thus leave a save situation for another pitcher. However, there is nothing in last year's playoffs that would indicate this is how a manager chooses to manage in a must-win situation.

In fact, last year's playoffs would seem to imply the opposite. Based on specific usage, it would seem that Dave Roberts isn't going to use Kenley Jansen to stop a rally in the 7th and save a potential save situation for Pedro Baez or Blake Treinen. If it's the 8th inning, it's more likely than Jansen would be brought in but that would likely also lead to him being used for the 9th as well to close the game.

As a result, I don't think we have to worry about closers losing save opportunities to teammates unless they are already on shaky ground (Edwin Diaz), have a natural tandem option to pair with them, or have a limited track record of success and begin to struggled (i.e. if Brandon Workman has a rough first two weeks, the Red Sox would likely go to Matt Barnes).


Saves leaders are used earlier when their team loses

Of the six times that a team's saves leader was used before the 9th inning (or a save situation that began in the 8th), five of those times the pitcher's team was losing and would go on to lose. In these instances, a manager turned to his best high-leverage reliever to stop a rally earlier in the game (often the 7th but twice in the 6th). However, since the team went on to lose 83% of the time, that early usage didn't cost the pitcher a save.

In the one instance that a saves leader was used earlier and his team went on to win, there was not a save situation later in the game, so the early usage did not cost the pitcher a save opportunity. Meaning, not once in the playoffs was a closer used earlier in the game to stop a rally, thus removing him from save consideration later in the game.

As a result, this seems to indicate added fantasy value for the 2020 season since a saves leader could be used for more innings than he would have been in a normal season had he just been held back for save opportunities.


Saves leaders are often used for more than one inning

Of the times when a team's save leader was brought on in the 8th inning, 75% of the time it was during a save situation that was extended into the 9th inning. When I say extended into the 9th inning, I don't mean that he pitcher went on to close the game in the 9th; I simply mean that this was a clear intention. Sometimes the pitcher blew the save or his offense went on to score a bunch of runs and the pitcher was removed from the game. However, what this suggests is that managers will not limit their saves leader to just one inning if they see a situation that requires their best high-leverage pitcher.

This is important because many of these teams used multiple players to close games in the regular season; however, they seem to favor one main arm in the playoffs, even if that meant multiple innings. The Astros used Roberto Osuna for a few outs in the 8th multiple times in the playoffs despite having a strong bullpen, and the Rays, who used more pitchers to close games in the regular season than any other team, used Emilio Pagan twice in the 8th inning and attempted to have him pitch into the 9th. He simply blew both of those opportunities.


Tandem closers become more firmly entrenched

Admittedly, this section is focused on one team since the Washington Nationals were the only team in the 2019 postseason that really featured a clear left-right tandem to close out games. What is clear, based on last year's playoffs, is that those roles became even more firmly entrenched when every game mattered. In seven games, one of either Daniel Hudson or Sean Doolittle was used prior to the 9th inning, and three of those times they were brought in in the 7th inning for at least a few outs. Obviously, in either case, it was because of the handedness of the batters scheduled to hit.

What this says to me is that teams that have a natural left-right closer tandem could be harder to predict saves for this season. That's potentially bad news for Taylor Rogers with Trevor May and Tyler Duffey in town. It could also mean problems for Josh Hader if Corey Knebel proves that he's healthy or Alex Colome if the White Sox want to use Aaron Bummer against a lefty-heavy section of the order. Other natural tandems could be Ryan Helsley and Andrew Miller, Nick Anderson and Jose Alvarado, Will Smith and Mark Melancon, Tony Watson and Tyler Rogers, Brad Hand and James Karinchak, and Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino (until Chapman returns).

This cuts closer committees down to two people, as I suggested in an earlier article, but does ensure that each pitcher should be used often, which provides a good opportunity for innings and ratios. However, it does cut into the potential ceiling for closers like Taylor Rogers and Nick Anderson, who have been going early in drafts.


Closing tandems may favor right-handed pitchers

This one is even more speculative, but at the end of the 2019 postseason, Hudson finished with four saves and Doolittle had two. This seems to be a natural conclusion when understanding that there are more right-handed hitters in lineups, which would mean the 9th inning is statistically more likely to feature right-handed batters, and thus a manager is statistically more likely to save his right-handed closer in order to face them.

Now, I'm not suggesting you go out and draft Trevor May over Taylor Rodgers, but I do think this could be important when looking at pitchers like Mark Melancon, who is going after Jose Leclerc and un-reported Keone Kela, and only going 15 picks ahead of teammate Will Smith despite a potential platoon advantage on a team many think will be one of the best in baseball. Similarly, Sean Doolittle is currently being drafted 162 and Daniel Hudson is going 243 despite Hudson receiving twice as many saves in the playoffs last year.



Looking back at last year's playoffs has made me believe, even more, that the value of clear-cut closing options is even higher this year than in a normal season. A pitcher who has the clear trust of his manager and no obvious opposite-handed tandem in his bullpen becomes even more valuable for their likely reliability. This means I would prioritize coming out of a draft with at least one of Roberto Osuna, Ken Giles, Kenley Jansen, Hector Neris, Liam Hendricks, Raisel Iglesias, and Hansel Robles. Kirby Yates has a natural tandem partner in Drew Pomeranz and could be traded, but I still think he could be included in the above list, and Edwin Diaz's name could be added too if he starts the season looking like the 2018 version of himself since the Mets don't have a natural left-handed tandem partner for him.

Once you get beyond the above list, there are reliability concerns for most other relievers in terms of saves. Obviously, Josh Hader and Taylor Rogers could still provide you tremendous value in ratios, K/9, and wins if they have to split closing duties, but from a pure saves perspective, they do come with some risk.

This also means that unquestioned closers on mediocre teams, like Joe Jimenez and Ian Kennedy, may provide more value, again from a strictly save perspective, than a potential committee closer on a better team, like Ryan Helsley or Mark Melancon.

Personally, I am trying to get one of the reliable guys from the aforementioned list and then waiting and taking relievers who will be part of a committee or help with my ratios and maybe chip in a few saves here or there. However, I think it would be a mistake to de-value saves as a category all together since it seems that we can identify a few players who should give us a clear advantage over our competition.

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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.


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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Mariano's Saves+Holds Rankings - Fantasy Baseball Relief Pitchers

To any reader who thinks they don't have a voice here at RotoBaller, let it be known that this article came from a simple Reddit comment about how those seeking Saves+Holds reliever ranks were often overlooked. Poof, and here we are. Allow me, Nick Mariano, 2018's most accurate draft expert and sharer of names with the best reliever of all-time, to supercharge your bullpen.

While the closer's role is important, some managers are moving their best arm into a flexible role while shuffling who gets the ninth. Saves+Holds leagues help fantasy leagues reward the best arms regardless of the inning, though it still favors closers in a vacuum. Alongside the short-season craziness with expanded rosters (mostly for bullpen arms), all pitchers must face a minimum of three batters per appearance or pitch to the end of the half-inning. While Rob Manfred has ID'd short RP appearances as a scourge, one-batter relief appearances reached a 13-year low in 2019 per SI's Tom Verducci. That same article says, "The proposed rule would eliminate one mid-inning pitching change every three or four games." Don't overreact.

Reminder: A hold is recorded when a relief pitcher enters with a lead of three runs or less, or with the tying run on-deck, at the plate, or on base, and maintains that lead while recording at least one out. Read on and you'll see where I rank each player, what tier they're in, and their "Team Rank" (spot in their team's bullpen hierarchy via me, but committees can muddy those).


Updated Saves+Holds Relief Pitcher Ranks - Mixed Leagues

In case you missed it, our very own "Big Pick Nick" Mariano was named the #1 overall most accurate industry expert ranker for the 2018 season.

Rank Tier Player Team Team Rank
1 1 Josh Hader MIL 1
2 1 Kirby Yates SD 1
3 1 Nick Anderson TB 1
4 1 Roberto Osuna HOU 1
5 1 Ryan Pressly HOU 2
6 1 Taylor Rogers MIN 1
7 2 Liam Hendriks OAK 1
8 2 Brad Hand CLE 1
9 2 Ken Giles TOR 1
10 2 Kenley Jansen LAD 1
11 2 Emilio Pagan SD 2
12 2 Seth Lugo NYM 2
13 2 Aroldis Chapman NYY 1
14 3 Edwin Diaz NYM 1
15 3 Craig Kimbrel CHC 1
16 3 Raisel Iglesias CIN 1
17 3 Hector Neris PHI 1
18 3 Adam Ottavino NYY 3
19 3 Brandon Workman BOS 1
20 3 Hansel Robles LAA 1
21 3 Tommy Kahnle NYY 4
22 3 Giovanny Gallegos STL 2
23 3 Jose Leclerc TEX 1
24 3 Matt Barnes BOS 2
25 3 Tyler Duffey MIN 4
26 3 Dellin Betances NYM 3
27 3 Zach Britton NYY 2
28 3 Sean Doolittle WAS 1
29 4 Will Harris WAS 3
30 4 Sergio Romo MIN 2
31 4 Archie Bradley ARI 1
32 4 Drew Pomeranz SD 4
33 4 Aaron Bummer CWS 2
34 4 Alex Colome CWS 1
35 4 Pedro Baez LAD 2
36 4 Ryan Helsley STL 1
37 4 Yusmeiro Petit OAK 2
38 4 Ty Buttrey LAA 2
39 4 Will Smith ATL 2
40 4 Keone Kela PIT 1
41 5 Austin Adams SEA 1
42 5 Mark Melancon ATL 1
43 5 James Karinchak CLE 3
44 5 Ian Kennedy KC 1
45 5 Diego Castillo TB 3
46 5 Michael Lorenzen CIN 2
47 5 Joe Jimenez DET 1
48 5 Rafael Montero TEX 2
49 5 Jose Alvarado TB 2
50 5 Andrew Miller STL 3
51 5 Scott Oberg COL 1
52 5 Trevor May MIN 3
53 5 Daniel Hudson WAS 2
54 6 Corey Knebel MIL 4
55 6 Colin Poche TB 5
56 6 Kevin Ginkel ARI 2
57 6 Amir Garrett CIN 3
58 6 Scott Barlow KC 3
59 6 Rowan Wick CHC 2
60 6 Nick Wittgren CLE 2
61 6 Bryan Abreu HOU 3
62 7 Robert Stephenson CIN 4
63 7 Luke Jackson ATL 4
64 7 Keynan Middleton LAA 3
65 7 Blake Treinen LAD 3
66 7 Mychal Givens BAL 1
67 7 Wade Davis COL 2
68 7 Joakim Soria OAK 3
69 7 John Gant STL 4
70 7 Adam Morgan PHI 3
71 7 Yoshihisa Hirano SEA 3
72 8 Chris Martin ATL 5
73 8 Oliver Drake TB 6
74 8 Nick Pivetta PHI 2
75 8 Craig Stammen SD 3
76 8 Andrew Chafin ARI 3
77 8 Chaz Roe TB 4
78 8 Hunter Harvey BAL 2
79 8 Tony Watson SF 1
80 8 Matt Magill SEA 2
81 8 Trevor Rosenthal KC 2
82 8 Brandon Kintzler MIA 1
83 8 Shane Greene ATL 3
84 8 Joe Kelly LAD 4
85 9 Tyler Rogers SF 2
86 9 Chad Green NYY 5
87 9 Tyler Clippard MIN 5
88 9 Oliver Perez CLE 5
89 9 Cam Bedrosian LAA 4
90 9 Marcus Walden BOS 4
91 9 Adam Kolarek LAD 5
92 10 Nick Burdi PIT 5
93 10 Tanner Rainey WAS 4
94 10 Trevor Gott SF 3
95 10 Freddy Peralta MIL 3
96 10 Richard Rodriguez PIT 2
97 10 Justin Wilson NYM 5
98 10 Darwinzon Hernandez BOS 5
99 10 Corbin Burnes MIL 5
100 10 Brett Martin TEX 3
101 10 Anthony Bass TOR 2
102 10 Trey Wingenter SD 5
103 10 Yimi Garcia MIA 2
104 10 Kyle Crick PIT 3
105 10 Brent Suter MIL 2
106 11 Ryne Stanek MIA 3
107 11 Wander Suero WAS 5
108 11 Jake Diekman OAK 4
109 11 Josh Taylor BOS 3
110 11 Jairo Diaz COL 3
111 11 Carlos Estevez COL 4
112 11 Matt Strahm SD 6
113 11 Pedro Strop CIN 5
114 12 Steve Cishek CWS 3
115 12 Justin Anderson LAA 5
116 12 Lou Trivino OAK 5
117 12 Buck Farmer DET 2
118 12 Heath Hembree BOS 6
119 12 Cody Allen TEX 6
120 12 Junior Guerra ARI 6
121 12 Junior Fernandez STL 5
122 12 Jeremy Jeffress CHC 4
123 12 Jesse Chavez TEX 4
124 12 Shawn Armstrong BAL 4
125 13 Richard Bleier BAL 3
126 13 Kyle Ryan CHC 3
127 13 Roenis Elias WAS 6
128 13 Jordan Hicks STL 6
129 13 Joe Smith HOU 4
130 13 Peter Fairbanks TB 8
131 13 Hector Rondon ARI 4
132 13 Clarke Schmidt NYY 6
133 13 Rafael Dolis TOR 4
134 13 Michael King NYY 7
135 13 Ryan Brasier BOS 7
136 13 Nick Goody TEX 5
137 13 Shun Yamaguchi TOR 3
138 13 Tim Hill KC 5
139 13 Jordan Romano TOR 6
140 14 Greg Holland KC 4
141 14 Erik Swanson SEA 4
142 14 Adam Cimber CLE 4
143 14 Jose Alvarez PHI 4
144 14 Evan Marshall CWS 4
145 14 Yoan Lopez ARI 5
146 14 Sam Gaviglio TOR 5
147 14 Chris Devenski HOU 5
148 14 Brad Brach NYM 4
149 14 Tommy Hunter PHI 5
150 14 Darren O'Day ATL 6
151 14 Miguel Castro BAL 5
152 14 Carl Edwards Jr. SEA 5
153 15 Jimmy Cordero CWS 7
154 15 Jake McGee COL 5
155 15 David Phelps MIL 6
156 15 Brad Boxberger MIA 4
157 15 Michael Feliz PIT 4
158 15 Andrew Kittredge TB 7
159 15 Jace Fry CWS 5
160 15 Jeurys Familia NYM 4
161 15 Kelvin Herrera CWS 6
162 15 Jose Cisnero DET 3
163 15 Sam Conrood SF 5
164 15 Gregory Soto DET 5
165 15 Bryan Garcia DET 4

Tier One

Josh Hader was electric in 2018, and many metrics improved in 2019 but were overshadowed by an issue with homers. His swinging-strike rate soared, from 19% to 22.7%, which yielded a 47.8% strikeout rate -- over six percentage points higher than the next-best qualified RP, Nick Anderson. His 43 Saves + Holds tally led the Majors and this format means you can get away from his being left-handed or used in “fireman” late-inning situations outside of the ninth. It sounds like Milwaukee wants to avoid lots of back-to-back nights of work, but we’ll see what that looks like when the season begins and wins are on the line. Especially if Corey Knebel isn’t available on Opening Day.

He did this while trimming his walk rate to 6.9% from 9.8% and his .232 BABIP was close to the career .228 mark, but homers don’t factor into that. His 21.4% HR/FB rate and 1.78 HR/9 did all it could to inflate his 2.62 ERA. Strikeouts and homers, the 2019 way. Still, his 1.78 SIERA made him the only qualified RP with a mark south of 2.00 and I’m here for his being the first off the board.

I won’t begrudge anyone for going with Yates over Hader, as his 41 SV+HLD barely trailed Hader while his 1.19 ERA was far cleaner. Still, we know the surface stats for a reliever are highly volatile. Yates’ 2.05 SIERA was second to Hader’s rate, while his 41.6% strikeout rate was third-best, just behind Nick Anderson. Speaking of...

I cannot dance around Anderson anymore. He was simply lights out after joining the Rays. 2019 was his first MLB season, and Anderson was inconsistent in Miami, throwing more breaking balls instead of ripping into hitters with his elite heat. Then he was traded to Tampa Bay at the deadline and proceeded to log a whopping 41/2 K/BB rate and 2.11 ERA (1.03 SIERA!) across 21 ⅓ IP. Tampa may get “cute” with when they deploy their relievers, but they’re still an above-average team in the top-heavy East for this short season and should have many leads to protect.

Hendriks’ stock gets more comfortable with Treinen going to LAD. His average fastball velocity went from 94-95 MPH to 96.5 MPH, his curveball rose from 82 MPH to 84 MPH and the rate at which he threw it soared, from 1.8% in ‘18 to 7.8%. The added heat helped, as hitters pulled a career-low 26.5% of batted balls off of him, which eased the damage done by the 49.5% fly-ball rate.

The other non-closer worthy of the elite Tier One label is Ryan Pressly, who put up stats nearly identical to teammate Roberto Osuna. His 72 strikeouts in 54 ⅓ IP offer a better K/9 than Osuna’s 73 K’s in 65 frames, while also putting up a top-10 SV+HLD total for 2019 (34) with a beautiful 2.32 ERA/0.91 WHIP. Houston may be mired in scandal, but the Pressly-Osuna bridge at their endgame should remain steady. Honestly, if someone wanted Pressly over Osuna here then I wouldn’t fight it.

Rogers’ argument for Tier One comes via the incredible 2.61 ERA/1.03 WHIP, 90 K’s, and 40 SV+HLD in 69 IP last season. The Twins are in a fantastic spot in the top-heavy AL Central and Minnesota’s defense only got better with the addition of Josh Donaldson. That’s only if hitters are fortunate enough to put bat on ball, as Rogers’ 2018 28.9% strikeout rate jumped to 32.4% as he posted a 50.6% groundball rate and 4% walk rate. Getting to first base is tough sledding there.


Tier Two

There are some huge beneficiaries from the SV+HLD format, with less value tied up in needing to retain permanent closer status. Emilio Pagan stepped up for the Rays after Jose Alvarado and Diego Castillo were injured or inconsistent down the stretch, but now he retains that value in San Diego as their setup man. This also clears some work for TB arms, but Pagan is a fine first bullpen arm to tap.

Meanwhile, Jansen had to miss a few games at altitude due to a heart condition, but his overall 3.71 ERA/1.06 WHIP and 80 K’s in 63 frames remained strong. He’s always been a fly-ball pitcher and as such, 2018’s and 2019’s “higher” (for him) ERAs with a low WHIP add up with homers and fly outs. The last two seasons have also seen him post mortal 6% walk rates after that incredible 2.7% clip in ‘17 -- just small things worth noting. He remains a top-10 option, but he’s no longer in the upper echelon. There's enhanced risk as he just reported to camp on July 12 after testing positive for the virus, but early reports indicate he'll be ready by July 23.

Seth Lugo is far more stable than Edwin Diaz, but could see earlier work as a multi-inning horse. Last season, Lugo turned in 80 innings with 27 SV+HLDs, 104 strikeouts, and pristine ratios. When the Mets had six starters, I felt better about Lugo working late. With Noah Syndergaard out and Michael Wacha needed in the rotation, it’s possible the Mets need Lugo and Robert Gsellman to step up earlier if Walker Lockett, Paul Sewald, Corey Oswalt, and other “longer” arms with lesser abilities aren’t working. And then news broke on the other side of the city...

No Chapman to open the season, and that ominous "foreseeable future" bit, obviously knocks the flamethrower's stock. While Britton steps up in the hierarchy, his SV+HLD prospects aren't altered much. This is about weighing risk and upside with the pinstriped southpaw, and my assessment has him ahead of other (different) risks that kick off the third tier. His ceiling is still that of the game's best reliever, but everyone's recovery is unique and news must be monitored closely.


Tier Three

The Mets will have to decide on how to best use Edwin Diaz given his loss of command in ‘19 and Dellin Betances coming off a lost season. Diaz has the raw ability to be the game’s best reliever, which floats his rank, but the floor is low. I had more concerns about Betances coming off a lost 2019 when a full season was on the table, but a shortened campaign sees his stock rise as a premier strikeout arm.

Giovanny Gallegos is dealing with COVID early on and may not be game-ready by season’s start, but until we receive clarity on those effects we can simply analyze his performance heading into 2020. That is, how he posted a 2.31 ERA and 0.84 WHIP over 74 IP in 2019, but didn’t see consistent late-game work early on. The SV+HLD format shields you from the shadow that is Jordan Hicks’ recovery and Andrew Miller’s role as a late-game lefty with closing experience, as well as recent comments from GM John Mozeliak giving Ryan Helsley a vote of confidence for the ninth innng.

Iglesias inspires many as a steady name, as you will recall his 37 SV+HLDs were seventh-best in the game last year. So, why isn’t he higher? Well, the 12 losses hurt, but underneath the surface you’ll see how the 3.22 SIERA is consistent with his 3.31 career mark and the 31.9% strikeout rate was a career-best alongside a slight drop in walks (8.6% to 7.5%.) His HR/9 has been 1.50 and 1.61 in the past two seasons, but it was ramped up by allowing more fly balls in ‘19. After surrendering an average 35.2% fly-ball rate in ‘18, he was crushed by a 43.9% mark in ‘19. Soft contact went up, but so did hard contact. Welcome to modern-day baseball, land of the extremes.

The SV+HLD format really helps most of the Red Sox relievers retain a high floor as well, with Workman boasting the greatest skill set on the surface. Most are aware of him after a brilliant 2019 where he recorded 10 wins, 16 saves and 15 holds with a 1.88 ERA/1.10 WHIP. Critical to that was his leading the league with just one barrel allowed across the whole season, which means we need to prepare for regression. Matt Barnes is also in this group, as his 110 strikeouts in 64 ⅓ IP was outstanding but the walks and subsequent 1.42 WHIP were tough to absorb.

I’ll cheat and talk about Tiers 3-5 for a second, as Washington is another bullpen with several reliable arms on a team likely to deliver Ws. With Sean Doolittle’s left-handed and eased usage giving way to plenty of late work for the righties in Daniel Hudson and Will Harris. Whether it’s a matchup decision or Davey Martinez is trying not to overwork Doolittle, Hudson is almost guaranteed to work those late frames on defending World Series champs that should vie for another division title while Harris likely sets them both up.

Now, Doolittle has sounded unsure of playing and has the aforementioned workload ceiling. His 5.8% walk rate was his worst in four years, same with his 66.9% first-strike rate and 12.1% swinging-strike rate. But the workload management could solve that. Meanwhile, Hudson posted one of his best years with a 2.47 ERA/1.14 WHIP, though his 4.21 SIERA and 5.08 xFIP were his worst marks since being a rookie in ‘09. Harris enjoyed some lucky peripherals (.245 BABIP vs. career .288) but a 3.18 SIERA and 3.04 xFIP for Houston gives him a leg up over Hudson to me.


Tier Four

While one could argue that Zack Britton belongs higher, the poor strikeout rate stands out more in today’s world. While that sinker yielded amazing ratios for the Yankees and fantasy owners alike, a reliever that isn’t getting dedicated late work better give you plus whiffs to make it worth your while. You can’t rely on the holds racking up here this early in drafts, and I’m wary of ratios being the main reason to draft a reliever this early. At least his repertoire is good at mitigating dangerous fly balls. He may earn a few more SV+HLD opportunities than Tommy Kahnle, but the southpaw’s lower K% suppresses the value when banking on “ratio relief” is more volatile.

Yusmeiro Petit has been a beast over the past three seasons, posting ERA’s of 3.00 or less while tossing 83-93 innings with a collective WHIP below 1.00. His 19.8% K-BB% blends with Oakland’s pitcher-friendly park to yield BABIPs around .230 as an Athletic. You’ll find lesser K’s (71 in 83 IP last year) but in this case, his ratios appear safer on a year-to-year basis and Oakland is a great spot for churning Hold opportunities.

You’ll find both Alex Colome and Aaron Bummer here too, as I expect the White Sox to improve their lot. The issue here is both are finesse rather than flamethrower, like Petit, offering less than a strikeout per inning in exchange for plus ratios. The flipside of these guys are the Jose Leclerc and Matt Barnes types with stronger K’s, but higher ratio risk. The increased reliability of K’s keeps those names in the third tier rather than here, but you get the point.

If I knew Drew Pomeranz was going to stay in the late innings all year long and not be drafted into opener duties then I’d have him higher, especially after he turned in a 1.88 ERA/0.85 WHIP with 50 K’s in just 28 ⅔ IP of relief for Milwaukee last season. I wish he was still throwing to Yasmani Grandal, but Buster Posey and spacious San Francisco will do just fine.

Will Smith is out with COVID and we’re unsure about his game shape to open the season, but he’d be in my second tier if the southpaw was healthy. Plus ratios, big K’s, and the lefty component to the late frames for a strong Atlanta team that works with a shakier arm in Mark Melancon. Many other arms in that ‘pen will appear here, as they’ll help bridge the starters to Smith in pursuit of wins.

Another premier setup man pops here, with Ty Buttrey bringing in around 30 SV+HLD over the year with plus strikeouts and average ratios. The raw SV+HLD volume is what buoys his value behind Hansel Robles in a subpar bullpen.


Tier Five

Here is where you start to find players with some greater fleas, but presumed late roles and/or big upside. You’ll find higher WHIPs on the whole, younger players with less certain roles, and a couple injury risks.

Melancon, Ian Kennedy, and Joe Jimenez are a mixed bag, posting WHIPs of 1.30 or higher last season, but not banking on low-ratio guys to replicate their efforts swings both ways. Jimenez has the highest ceiling as Detroit’s “arm of the future” but the Tigers may not have many leads to close.

I want to believe in Joe Jimenez over the long term, but the 3.14 SIERA in 2018 was tied to a 4.31 ERA and his 3.41 SIERA last season hid behind a 4.37 ERA. At some point, the results have to be there. After a rough July 17 outing, Jimenez posted a 2.55 ERA with 31 strikeouts to seven walks over 24 ⅔ IP. Of the seven runs allowed, five of them came on solo homers. He didn’t issue a walk over his final eight appearances of the season, so there are hints of greatness, but we must keep our heads on straight.

Andrew Miller had a 4.45 ERA/1.32 WHIP. Miller had poor ratios in 2018 as well (4.24 ERA/1.38 WHIP) but maintained hope in the 3.51 FIP/3.29 SIERA. With similar surface stats in ‘19, his FIP ballooned to 5.19 while the 3.87 SIERA wasn’t as dramatic. Be careful, but the opportunities for SV+HLDs will be there as long as he’s healthy, and he’s been cleared as of early July.

I'd have Rafael Montero higher in Texas if he was ready to start the season, but a family emergency kept him from camp early on and so he's likely unavailable for a little at the starting gun. Still, his 34/5 K/BB ratio makes him the second-best arm in that 'pen, and one that's a little more consistent than Leclerc. The new pitcher-friendly park may have big returns here too, as he pitched to a 1.62 ERA in 16 2/3 IP on the road, posting an elite 21/2 K/BB ratio. It's a smaller sample size and might just be noise, but there's hope for more here.

Here comes the upside speculation, as I can’t get away from the Nick Anderson potential that lives in James Karinchak. Perhaps the Indians don’t use him in enough Hold opportunities to excite you, but he could top 35 strikeouts in just 20 innings. 

He’s fetching several headlines, but you may get Seattle’s Austin Adams for cheaper with better results. He hurt his knee last season and is only now reported as 100%, but people haven’t reassessed him on this new timeline. The Mariners don’t have a closer, Matt Magill and Yoshihisa Hirano aren’t huge threats, but the SV+HLD format largely protects you from Scott Servais’ role decisions regardless. Adams had a whopping 51 strikeouts in just 31 innings last season, posting a 2.78 SIERA and 2.50 xFIP with a 41.1% strikeout rate that ranked fourth in the Majors (min. 30 IP). That mark trailed only Hader, Nick Anderson, and Kirby Yates. Yeah.


Tier Six

The risk profile grows here, but you can find a lot of K’s in Scott Barlow, Colin Poche and Amir Garrett, who had an unwieldy 1.43 WHIP last season, but the 3.21 ERA had him mitigating the potential damage while logging 22 holds. Poche offers a similar profile with lesser strikeout upside and perhaps greater bullpen volume, but throwing his fastball around 85% of the time makes him prone to the longball as a result. Hence the gorgeous 1.04 WHIP but 4.70 ERA. Barlow may turn in the most innings with the most strikeouts, but the Royals won’t win many games and his 11.9% walk rate from last season (1.44 WHIP) is tough to stomach.

While everyone’s looking at Karinchak, folks may let Nick Wittgren and his 2.81 ERA/1.10 WHIP with a strikeout per inning slide. And then Bryan Abreu could be a starter or reliever for Houston, but 13 K’s with one earned run in 8 ⅔ IP during his age-22 cup of coffee offers upside either way. His spot on the Astros means he’ll have a good shot at either wins or SV+HLDs.


Tier Seven

Keynan Middleton is another forgotten arm who missed time due to injuries, but should step into the late innings unless his command is ruined. Speaking of ruined command, Blake Treinen has a lot to prove but his upside on the Dodgers in this format is easily top-50. Ditto, Wade Davis.

Luke Jackson had a roller-coaster season, but 106 K’s in 72 ⅔ IP with a 2.80 SIERA and 2.52 xFIP is incredible. With 10 strikeouts and three walks over five scoreless innings in the Grapefruit League before play was suspended in March, the promise remains. Whether he, Shane Greene, and Chris Martin can get consistent Holds work is another story, but his upside is easily the highest of that trio. 

I’d rather not rely on Joe Kelly rebounding when you can just buy into Pedro Baez or Blake Treinen instead, with Treinen’s rebound ceiling higher than Kelly’s. But the Dodgers bullpen use is typically structured and Kelly shouldn’t fall far down the totem pole. Kyle Crick’s control left him entirely through 2019, but he’s still at least a top-three arm in that rebuilding ‘pen with plus strikeout ability. The same goes for Lou Trivino.

Crick could emerge should the rebuilding Pirates deal Keone Kela. Crick has reported no setbacks in recovery from tendon repair surgery on his right index finger, an injury suffered during a fight with Felipe Vazquez. Shocking that someone would fight Vazquez, I know. Crick’s command left him in ‘19, with an awful 15.5% walk rate and 1.84 HR/9 mark, but he’d posted a 2.39 ERA/1.13 WHIP in ‘18. Just keep an eye out on his spring command.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Tyler Clippard returns the most value here after the 2.38 ERA/0.87 WHIP from last year, but life may be difficult beyond Rogers, Romo, and May in the ‘pen. I’d rather have Tyler Duffey, who had 23 more strikeouts in just one additional inning last season and won’t grab anyone’s attention by name.


Tier Eight

Here’s where you have to start making roster-dependent decisions and truly split between taking skills and roles. Several players are the closer or setup men on lesser teams here, such as Tony Watson and Brandon Kintzler. While the entire risk profile must be weighed, the two arms I’ll likely have rostered the most are Trevor Rosenthal and Hunter Harvey.

Dayton Moore, the Royals GM, said Rosenthal was one of the team’s best relievers in camp and the competition is minimal. His 2019 was atrocious, but 2018 saw him rack up 76 whiffs in 47 ⅔ IP thanks to an incredible 15.9% swinging-strike rate. He's reunited with Mike Matheny, who knows just how good an "on" Rosenthal can be.

Another bullpen in flux saw Orioles manager Brandon Hyde talk up Harvey as a high-leverage arm, an option to close, who anchored the bullpen. The 25-year-old only yielded one run while striking out 11 across 6 ⅓ IP, though a .200 BABIP helps anyone. Don’t expect the world, but don’t be shocked at all if he outperforms Mychal Givens with double-digit SV+HLDs.


Tier Nine

Now the arms whose skills outweigh their opportunity are more frequent, with Chad Green embodying this as the Yankees’ usual opener. Perhaps he piggyback-starts his way to an Aaron Small-like campaign and a handful of wins. Kolarek and Perez are both lefties on teams expected to win a lot, but we’ll see how they and their managers handle the new reliever rules.

Poor Tyler Rogers is stuck in San Francisco while his twin brother, Taylor, thrives in Minnesota, but the righty has seemingly earned a share of the ninth for Gabe Kapler alongside Tony Watson. A 1.02 ERA/0.85 WHIP with a mere 4.3% walk rate and huge 69.4% groundball rate can do that, but he’s lucky to log a K per inning. Hope for double-digit SV+HLDs with plus ratios on a bad Giants squad.


Tier 10

A trio of Brew Crew arms reside here, and while Brent Suter may offer some reliable holds and low ratios, it’s Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes who are magnets for fantasy owners. They may both operate out of the ‘pen to start if Eric Lauer takes the fifth rotation slot, with gigantic strikeout potential. Peralta (30.1% K rate in ‘19) and Burnes (29.8%) can bring the heat if you can stomach a likely negative in the WHIP department. Once again, Peralta had a 1.14 WHIP and Burnes carried a 1.00 WHIP in limited MLB work two years ago, so don’t be too skittish of floors. But their work as pseudo-starters may not yield many hold opportunities.

Another high-strikeout target lies in Darwinzon Hernandez, where you have to hope his command improves enough to be trusted with hold-worthy innings. Tanner Rainey offers incredible K upside (74 in 48 ⅓ IP last season) but you know you’re soaking in a 1.50 WHIP and lower-leverage innings with recent signings on the team.  And keep an eye on Nick Burdi, who could become Pittsburgh’s closer if Keone Kela starts hot and the Pirates can get some future pieces for him. Burdi’s biceps injury tanked most of 2019, but 17 K’s in 8 ⅔ IP tells you how his stuff can play in today’s swing-happy game.


Tiers 11-15

Here are those project relievers who have multiple things to work on and/or don’t offer much upside for SV+HLD seekers. I think Matt Strahm is mighty talented but figure he’s not a late-game arm, instead serving as either an opener or a piggyback. Perhaps Jairo Diaz and Carlos Estevez can carve out enough late work in Colorado to be relevant, but you need the Rockies to win as well as dance around Coors.

The Cody Allen reclamation project in Texas may yield a star, but he didn’t have the same rebound show in camp that Trevor Rosenthal displayed. Youngsters such as Boston’s Josh Taylor or St. Louis’ Junior Fernandez have some intrigue in deep leagues, with Taylor likely closer to the holds conversation.

If your league has several IL slots this season then I’m okay stashing Jordan Hicks a little earlier, but I don’t love waiting on any pitcher that isn’t available due to an arm/shoulder injury at the jump. Roster spots are precious, and missing out on the early bullpen shuffle is tougher to come back from without a marathon to run.

I know recent buzz has surfaced around the Yankees with Clarke Schmidt (and Michael King, to an extent) but while they may see some work in this sprint season, the odds they significantly help in the SV+HLD category are slim. The Yanks have so many veteran arms that getting to the valuable frames is a steep climb. The ceiling is likely the Chad Green role, but if you must speculate this far down then targeting Yankees is a solid first step.

Some of the better names that I think could quickly rise are Houston’s Joe Smith, Seattle’s Erik Swanson (if he stays in the ‘pen) and Carl Edwards Jr. (if he can regain his pre-injury form), and Philadelphia’s Tommy Hunter (should no complications from Covid arise). Darren O’Day is within a loaded Atlanta bullpen, but may earn some holds if they don’t swiftly stretch out starters.

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Closers and Saves Report: Summer Camp Edition

In a normal year, we'd be talking about the upcoming trade deadline and how this team needs that player but that team needs this player but then that guy got hurt. During a normal baseball season, we'd be discussing the All-Star Game and how this player definitely didn't deserve a spot and that player was certainly robbed of his and that Home Run Derby was wild and can you believe that guy won the All-Star Game MVP?

But... it's 2020, so it's definitely not a normal year. It's 2020 so we're not having a normal baseball season. We're getting 60 games, maybe. We're getting designated hitters everywhere, and lots of teams aren't playing lots of other teams they usually do. Rosters will be expanded for the start of the season, then made smaller and smaller... Likely the position that will be the most different (besides the National League DH) will be the pitcher. With extra arms in every bullpen and lots of games to play in little time, the trend of starting pitchers throwing fewer and fewer innings will continue and likely spike this season. Guys like Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander will be ready to throw 1,000 pitches every day, but most teams will limit their starters to maybe 5-6 innings, especially the first few times through the rotation.

Effective innings from relievers will be one of the keys for winning teams in 2020. That statement holds true in real baseball, but maybe even more so in fantasy baseball. Closers have been key members of fantasy teams for years, and setup men have grown their importance over the past few seasons with the spread of holds being counted in many leagues. Keep an eye on our Rotoballer Closers and Saves Fantasy Baseball Depth Charts leading up to and throughout this shortened season to get a leg up in your league! Even though divisions won't really be a thing this season, we can still divide teams by where they usually would be, right? Let's take a quick look at the bullpens in each division and highlight any recent or expected changes.


AL East

Three of the American League East teams should have pretty straightforward bullpens in the sure-to-be-strange 2020 season. The Yankees will have Aroldis Chapman closing things out, with Zach Britton, Adam Ottavino, and Tommy Kahnle helping to get leads to the ninth inning. The Yankees should be one of the best teams in baseball and will have plenty of leads for Chapman to save this year. He's one of the safest bets at closer in fantasy and has the upside to lead the league in saves.

The best reliever on the Red Sox is likely Matt Barnes, but he'll work in a setup/fireman role ahead of closer Brandon Workman. Workman himself has a good bit of upside and should end up with plenty of saves as long as he can hold off Barnes in his ninth-inning role. Barnes has the strikeout upside to be one of the better bets in leagues that count holds.

Up in Toronto, the Blue Jays will have Ken Giles wrapping up games with Anthony Bass and Sam Gaviglio trying to get leads into the ninth. Giles routinely performs better on the mound than people seem to expect, making him a bargain in some fantasy leagues where he remains underappreciated.

Then we get to the two AL East bullpens that will probably give fantasy owners (and the real team's managers) headaches all season long. The Orioles look like they'll start the year with Mychal Givens at closer, but Hunter Harvey could be knocking on the ninth inning door starting on Day 1. Harvey is the better pitcher with very high upside, and would take over for Givens if Givens struggles or if he is ultimately traded before the modified trade deadline. While Givens hasn't been great in the closer's role, he's a solid relief pitcher that would certainly help out a contending team, so the Orioles won't have a hard time finding a trade partner if they choose to move him. Harvey should be owned in holds leagues and should have a close eye kept on him in standard formats, even though the Orioles probably won't have many hold or save opportunities.

Finally, we have the Tampa Bay Rays and their always interesting bullpen. Nick Anderson is the early favorite for saves, but Diego Castillo, Colin Poche, and Jose Alvarado will all likely be seen in the ninth inning as well. Rays manager Kevin Cash doesn't tend to like to pigeonhole his relievers, so he's even less likely to have a specifically-named closer in a season like this one. Anderson's seeming top spot in the hierarchy along with his strikeout upside make him the best fantasy asset in this bullpen, but his real value will be in SVHD leagues over standard formats.


AL Central

The American League Central is the only division in baseball where all five teams are listed as Solid in our Depth Charts. Everything in every bullpen is always subject to change though, and that's never been more true than in 2020 (where, I suppose, we can say that everything everywhere is always subject to change.) The Tigers will have Joe Jimenez at the end of their pen, with Buck Farmer and a few other arms trying to get those leads to him. The Tigers might not have a ton of save chances, but Jimenez should be solid enough and could be a decent bargain closer.

The White Sox will stick with Alex Colome in the ninth inning, with Aaron Bummer and Steve Cishek working the earlier innings along with Kelvin Herrera and Jace Fry. Colome doesn't strike a bunch of guys out, but he does get saves so he could be a decent fantasy option if you can pair him with a higher-strikeout guy in your bullpen.

Cleveland enters the season with Brad Hand holding down the ninth inning. He had a very mercurial 2019 season, looking unhittable at times but like a guy setting up a batting tee at other times. If the good Brad Hand shows up, he'll be able to keep the ninth inning all year and should be one of the best closers in baseball. If not, rookie James Karinchak is waiting for a chance to show what he can do in a save situation. Karinchak put up some of the most ridiculous strikeout numbers you'll ever see in his minor league career and is worth picking up right now in deeper leagues and holds formats. Oliver Perez and Nick Wittgren round out the back end of the Cleveland pen.

Over in Kansas City, Ian Kennedy will try to build on his renaissance 2019 season that saw him go from "Wait, Ian Kennedy is still in the league?" to a 30-save season and his lowest ERA since 2011. Trevor Rosenthal is back with manager Mike Matheny, but his health and effectiveness both remain huge question marks after a disastrous 2019. Speaking of disastrous 2019s, Greg Holland and his 6+ walks per nine innings will be in the Royals bullpen as well.

Rounding out the AL Central, the Twins will feature Taylor Rogers in their ninth innings, set up by a combination of Sergio Romo, Tyler Duffey, and Trevor May. This should be one of the more solid bullpens in the league, headlined by Rogers who will be an excellent fantasy asset in all formats.


AL West

The American League West has a few more question marks than the AL Central, but possibly a lot more upside as well. Starting off with the solid teams, the Los Angeles Angels will have Hansel Robles closing things out in the ninth inning. Ty Buttrey will return as a fireman of sorts, getting the key innings before the ninth and serving as the handcuff for Robles. Cam Bedrosian and the returning-from-TJ Keynan Middleton will all be in the mix for the later innings as well. With Joe Maddon's creative managing at the helm for 2020, things could look a bit different in the Angels bullpen, but at least so far, it seems like things will be similar to how they were last season.

The Athletics got a pretty bad year from Blake Treinen last season, but that led to an excellent year from Liam Hendriks. Hendriks saved 25 games and put up a statistics-backed 1.80 ERA. He should be one of the better closers in baseball and won't have a problem holding off the rest of the A's bullpen, made up of veterans Joakim Soria, Jake Diekman, and Yusmeiro Petit.

The Astros will bring Roberto Osuna back for the ninth, and he should be one of the safer closer bets in baseball, with some upside as well. He'll have plenty of leads to save, and strong arms like Ryan Pressly, Chris Devenski, and Joe Smith bridging games to him.

Now to the not-so-solid bullpens in the AL West, starting with the Rangers. The Rangers do have a clear front runner for saves in Jose Leclerc, but there's been some buzz that Texas may use him in a fireman role this year. That will maintain or maybe even improve his value in SV+HLD leagues, but could limit it some in standard leagues. The rest of the Rangers bullpen will feature Rafael Montero, Jesse Chavez, and Cody Allen. Allen hasn't been as good as he used to be lately, but managers love "experience" and Allen does have 153 saves throughout his career. This could end up as a full committee, with Leclerc pitching whatever late inning is expected to be the toughest, then whoever is left picking up the save opportunity in the ninth.

Over in Seattle, the Mariners bullpen looks like it could be a full committee as well, except this one doesn't really have a clear favorite or fireman. For now, Austin Adams seems to be atop the list, but Matt Magill, Yoshihisa Hirano, Brandon Brennan, and Carl Edwards Jr. should all work somewhere in the later third of games. Unless a full-time closer is announced at some point, the entire Mariners bullpen might be best avoided for most fantasy formats.


NL East

Quite the opposite of the AL Central, the National League East doesn't really have any completely solid bullpens at this point. Three of the pens are listed as Solid but the closer's hold in each of those still just seems more tenuous than in some others. Let's start with the at least somewhat solid bullpens, taking a look at the Marlins first. Based on experience and comments made by team manager Don Mattingly, it's a safe bet to say that Brandon Kintzler will be on the mound in the ninth inning when the Marlins have a lead. Kintzler certainly isn't the prototypical closer with a relatively low strikeout rate, but he's been able to get guys out and Mattingly certainly values his veteran experience. Ryne Stanek, Yimi Garcia, Drew Steckenrider, Adam Conley, and Jose Urena will likely mix and match for the earlier innings to send leads over to Kintzler in the ninth. The dark horse in the Marlins pen is Brad Boxberger, but he'll have to prove he's worthy of significant innings before just being handed them.

The Phillies bullpen was looking like a pretty standard solid bullpen, but expected closer Hector Neris is currently on the injured list after testing positive for COVID-19. He's expected to be okay and ready to go by Opening Day, but that's not a sure thing quite yet. Adam Morgan would step into the ninth if Neris misses time, with Jose Alvarez and Anthony Swarzak working the bridge before him.

The other somewhat-solid NL East bullpen is in Washington. The Nationals will reportedly start the year with lefty Sean Doolittle in a classic closer's role. Daniel Hudson should get some save chances here and there and will be breathing down Doolittle's neck if he struggles. Roenis Elias, Will Harris, and Tanner Rainey round out what should be a pretty good late-game bullpen for the defending champs.

In the less-solid side of the NL East, the Mets bullpen has some huge names and powerful arms, but maybe no defined roles. In a recent quote, new Mets manager Luis Rojas refused to commit to Edwin Diaz as his full-time closer. Diaz still seems the most likely to hold it down as long as he pitches well, but Seth Lugo, Dellin Betances, and Jeurys Familia have all been shutdown relievers at times and could take the ninth inning if Rojas goes with a hot hand committee approach. Fantasy managers in holds leagues can take the risk on Betances or Diaz and could be significantly rewarded if they reach their upside.

The Braves bullpen seems solid based on what the team is saying, but talent often speaks louder than words. Mark Melancon will open the season as the team's closer, and he ultimately was the most effective in the role last year while the Braves bullpen generally struggled to hold leads. Newly-signed Will Smith seems the most likely candidate to ultimately take over the ninth inning, but the Braves could just choose to keep him in a fireman role while Melancon settles into the ninth. Shane Green, Luke Jackson, and Chris Martin round out what should be, on paper at least, one of the strongest bullpens in the National League.


NL Central

Almost like their matching division in the AL, the National League Central only has one questionable bullpen and four pretty solid ones. Let's start with the questionable one, the one in St. Louis. The Cardinals will probably have Jordan Hicks back from his Tommy John Surgery at some point this season, but he won't be ready to start out the season and won't likely be able to pitch in back-to-back games for a while. Giovanny Gallegos was expected to slide into the ninth, but he still hasn't joined the team at Summer Camp and could end up being a bit behind. When asked about the closer's role, manager Mike Shildt mentioned Ryan Helsley first, but then went on to mention Gallegos and Carlos Martinez. Martinez fared well enough in the closer's role for most of last season, but the team is trying to stretch him back out to be in the starting rotation.

The Cubs bullpen is solid in name, but that all depends on which version of Craig Kimbrel shows up in 2020. Kimbrel was mostly terrible in 2019, but there were reasons to believe those struggles were short term. If he's even two-thirds of the Kimbrel we know, the Cubs bullpen will be fine. Rowan Wick will be the key setup man and Kimbrel's handcuff, and Jeremy Jeffress will provide solid late-game innings as well.

The Reds bullpen is also expected to be solid, with Raisel Iglesias featured in the ninth. Swiss-Army-Knife Michael Lorenzen, Amir Garrett, and Pedro Strop should all toss significant innings in 2020, and any of them could slide into the ninth if Iglesias struggles. The Reds' pen could be surprisingly good in 2020.

Despite a quiet step back in 2019, Josh Hader is still Josh Hader and will likely be the first reliever drafted in many fantasy leagues. He should be able to hold it down for the Brewers and will be backed up by Corey Knebel (once he's fully healthy), Brent Suter, and David Phelps.

The Pirates bullpen is solid to start the season, but expected to be at least somewhat in flux throughout. Keone Kela starts the year as closer, but he is not expected to last in Pittsburgh past the trade deadline. For now, Kyle Crick looks like he's next in line, with Michael Feliz and Nick Burdi waiting in the wings. Burdi has the most upside in the group and could take over the ninth if/when Kela is moved, as long as he's pitching well.


NL West

The National League West is an interesting division, bullpen-wise. There are four rather solid bullpens, then the bullpen that I think is the least solid of all. Let's start with that one. The San Francisco Giants will be managed by Gabe Kapler, so we already know their bullpen usage will be...creative. The big issue by the Bay is: there are no closers on the roster. Veteran Tony Watson leads the team in career saves with 30. He's the favorite to lead the Giants in saves in 2020, but he may "lead" the team with a single-digit number after the 60-game season. Joining him in the bullpen will be Tyler Rogers, Trevor Gott, and Jarlin Garcia. Shaun Anderson is expected to fight for a rotation spot, but he could be a factor in the bullpen too if he ends up there. Any of the listed guys could end up with a handful of saves and could have portions of the season where they are fantasy-relevant, but it's hard to recommend any reliever in a Giants uniform as a fantasy target.

The Dodgers have Kenley Jansen returning to anchor their pen in 2020. While he hasn't been the elite closer he used to be for the past two seasons, he's still been more than solid and should have no problem holding down the closer's role for a team sure to win plenty of games. He's a decent bet to lead the league in saves if he can stay on the field. Blake Treinen, Pedro Baez, and Joe Kelly will throw important innings in Los Angeles as well.

Another guy who could lead the league in saves is Kirby Yates of the Padres. Yates had an amazing season in 2019 and emerged as one of the best closers in baseball. He's my bet to take over for Josh Hader as the best reliever in baseball. Helping set up for Yates will be Emilio Pagan and Drew Pomeranz in what could surprise many and be the best bullpen in baseball. Any of those three Padres mentioned are excellent holds league targets. The last two NL West bullpens are a little less solidified than the two Southern California ones, but they're still solid in their own rights.

The Diamondbacks will send Archie Bradley to the mound to save their leads, and even though he only has 22 saves in his career, 18 of them were last season and he's proven to be a consistent bullpen arm in the desert for a while now.

Finally, the Rockies will put their trust back in Wade Davis, at least to start out. Davis was horrific last season, pitching to an 8.65 ERA and walking almost as many batters as he struck out. The Rockies think he can sort things out though, and they've announced him as the team's closer. Scott Oberg, Jairo Diaz, and Carlos Estevez will all be working the innings before Davis, and Oberg is the clear handcuff and would take over the ninth if Davis even hints at a performance like 2019's.

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How To Draft Saves In A Shortened Season

Now that Major League Baseball and the MLBPA have finally come to an agreement and locked in a plan for the upcoming season, the RotoBaller staff is churning out content to try and get you ready for the 2020 fantasy baseball season. A lot of us have questions about how the shortened season, new league rules, and new division-focused schedule will impact fantasy leagues. There are frankly too many questions to focus on in one article, so we'll take it one topic at a time. For today, let's discuss how we're approaching closers and saves in the 2020 baseball season.

For the last two years, Alex Fast from PitcherList has made the argument that we're drafting saves wrong. The overall number of saves is dropping, and more relievers are getting saves, so it's harder to pinpoint exactly who will get saves. As a result, he concludes, we're drafting save assets too high in fantasy leagues. However, this year may be different.

While I think his piece is a tremendous read and great for planning for the 2021 season, I'm going to respectfully pivot a little bit from that in regards to the shortened 2020 season. In this article, I'll walk you through a few details we know about the new season and explain how those impact my thinking in regards to drafting for saves. Then, I'll tell you the strategy that I will personally be using in my fantasy drafts this year. Hopefully, by explaining the thinking that leads up to the decision, you can find some interesting takeaways or even solidify your own approach, even if it differs from mine.


Things We Know About the 2020 Season

1. Relievers Will Be More Ready Than Most

While games begin on July 24th, it's safe to say that relief pitchers will be perhaps the closest to the ever-alluring "mid-season form." Most pitchers have been throwing during the quarantine, and they really don't need anything to stay on their throwing regiment other than one other person who can catch a bullpen. Additionally, relievers require less ramp-up time than starting pitchers because they throw fewer pitches.

While throwing a baseball for any amount of time is taxing on your arm, relievers have always been able to bounce back quicker because they throw fewer pitches. They may also not need as many rest days as hitters who may have been working out but will still need to adjust to the toll of nine-inning games day after day.

All of which means that relievers may be the readiest to go out of the gate and can be treated by their managers as if it was the middle of the season.


2. Every Game Matters = Use Your Best Arms

With only 60 games on the schedule, every single game matters to a team's hopes of making the playoffs. One losing streak could cost a team five or more games in the standings and end their postseason hopes. As a result, I expect managers to be managing every game as if it has those kinds of stakes. If you're in a close game in the ninth inning and you need to win to make the playoffs, are you going to try and play the matchup - especially now that whatever reliever you bring in needs to face three batters - or are you going to turn to your best arm for three outs?

To me, the answer is obviously that you turn to your best arm. If you bring in a lefty specialist to face two lefties and one of those gets pinch hit for, you now have a lefty in for one left-handed batter and two right-handed ones while your best reliever sits in the bullpen. I can't imagine it would sit well with the Phillies if Adam Morgan comes in to face lefties instead of Hector Neris, and he blows the save.

In my opinion, managers are not likely to screw around with untested pitchers at the end of games and are going to rely on their best arms to seal the deal.


3. Rosters Aren't Being Expanded As We Thought

At one point in time, we thought that rosters could be upwards of 40 or 50 players, which would have given managers incredible bullpen flexibility. Now we know that rosters will actually be whittled down to 26 after just a few weeks. That means bullpens will be operating at relatively the same size, which restricts wide-sweeping strategy changes.

It may be likely that managers use those bullpen arms more often as openers or in the fifth and sixth innings to help manage the innings of starters or prevent a big inning. However, that would mean that teams would need to have less of a revolving door at the end of games in order to free up the other relievers for such versatility.

For example, if the Giants use Drew Pomeranz's multi-inning ability to open some games or come in to relieve a shaky starter before the game gets out of hand, then it's far less likely he's also able to be held back to close out many games. I think this is going to be true for a lot of multi-inning relievers this year, who will likely be valuable pieces on your roster for ratios and wins, but unlikely to also be used regularly for saves. That could give extra security to guys like Edwin Diaz or Raisel Iglesias if Seth Lugo and Michael Lorenzen are used in more versatile roles. It might also be a reason the Diamondbacks turn away from Archie Bradley as their closer. Just thinking out loud here.


4. Schedule Has Less Variance This Year

With teams playing 40 games against their own division and 20 games against their geographic rivals in interleague play, there is much less variance in the schedule. This means we have a better idea than most years about which teams will likely be seeing the most save opportunities. Now, nothing is certain. Injuries or poor performance could derail a team's season in a hurry. However, the talent level of each team hasn't changed much from where it was in March before Spring Training was shut down.

For example, we knew the Red Sox were going to struggle a little bit without Chris Sale and Mookie Betts. They were unlikely to be the title contender they've been in recent years. Now we also know that their games will be almost entirely composed of matchups against the Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays, and Orioles. Plus, they'll get additional games against the Phillies, Nationals, and Mets. The only teams on there I feel comfortable that the Red Sox are better than (and I say this as a Red Sox fan) are the Orioles and Mets. This makes me less inclined to want to take a chance on Brandon Workman since his overall number of save chances is likely to be lower than, say Alex Colome, who not only gets the Royals and Tigers in his own division but the Pirates and Reds in interleague competition.


5. Teams Don't Have Time To Try New Things

With only a 60-game season, managers will have less time to evaluate the season-specific performances of their players, try guys out in different roles, and mix-and-match to find the best fit. I believe that managers will naturally play to what they consider to be their strengths. If an organization or manager likes to use multiple closers, they'll likely do that now. If a manager or organization sticks with one closer, they'll be more inclined to do that now.

What that means is that organizations like the Blue Jays, Pirates, Mets, White Sox, Tigers, Indians, Cubs, Reds are more likely to stick with their guy. In contrast, organizations like the Rays, Twins, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Giants, and Phillies (now under Girardi) are more likely to keep their committee approach.


6. Reliever Committees Will Shrink

OK, so this one isn't a fact, but I wanted to end on this because I think it might be the point where I stray the most from common fantasy belief and the area where you can capitalize the most on the competition.

In that great article by Alex Fast, the threshold for team's reliance on multiple pitchers at the end of the game was if they didn't have a closer with more than 70% of the team's saves. A pitcher getting 70% of saves is still a clear suggestion that the manager trusts him.

So here is where I think you'll see the biggest difference this year: those near-70% save guys from year's past will get more saves at the expense of the relievers at the small end of the committee. 

For example, last year the Rays had 11 pitchers get saves. However, only three of those 11 pitchers had more than three saves. It's clear that the Rays trusted three relievers - Emilio Pagan, Diego Castillo, and Jose Alvarado - considerably more than the rest of their bullpen. In a 60 game season, I don't believe you'll see the Rays turn to Peter Fairbanks, Colin Poche, Oliver Drake, and the others to close out games much. That means 11 saves are being redistributed to the most reliable arms. If that becomes two to five extra saves for a specific reliever in this short season, that could be a crucial difference in the standings.

If you look at the graphic below, also from Fast's article, you'll see that the teams that used the largest committees last year still had two preferred options for saves. The only teams with more than two closers getting over five saves were the Rays, Cubs (who signed Kimbrel mid-way through the year), and the Cardinals (who lost Jordan Hicks mid-way through the year).

What this means is that I think you're going to see every team tighten up their closer committee, if they had one to begin with, to two or three main arms. That means fewer chances to take saves away from Craig Kimbrel, Taylor Rogers, Aroldis Chapman, etc.

It also means that, at the end of drafts, it might be a good idea to take advantage of some of the Closer Committee stigmas on some of these relievers and draft guys like Mark Melancon, Will Smith, Giovanny Gallegos, Andrew Miller, Corey Knebel, and others and assume that the smaller committees will give them a higher percentage of their team's save chances than they would have gotten in a normal season.

Sidenote: Knebel may be sneaky valuable this year if the Brewers decide to use Josh Hader in the highest leverage moment of any game, regardless of inning. They did this before last year and perhaps would go back to that strategy now that Knebel is healthy again. 


So What Does That Mean For Strategy?

1. Perennially strong closers are safer this year than in year's past. 

I use the word "perenially" here because I think it's a crucial distinction. If a pitcher has proven for a few years that they are a reliable end-of-game option, then I imagine the trust he's built up will cause a team to go back to him with games on the line. This is especially true since, as I mentioned before, each game is crucial and other relievers won't have the time to build up the trust of their manager for these crucial situations.

On the other hand, with each game being so crucial, closers without a track record of success will be far more likely to lose their job after a bad stretch. However, and this is important, I can only see this happening if a team has a clear back-up option. For example, Ian Kennedy doesn't have a long track record of success. If he struggles for a stretch, the Royals could look to another option. But who would that be? Scott Barlow? Will they be the next team to bank on a Greg Holland resurgence? As a result, I'd imagine Kennedy gets a little more of a rope than, say, Gallegos since the Cardinals have ample options with experience behind him.

Some consistent closers that I would feel confident in drafting are:

  • Kirby Yates, Roberto Osuna, Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, Hector Neris, Raisel Iglesias, Ken Giles, Alex Colome, Will Smith, and Edwin Diaz (if I speak it into the world it will exist. He will be safe.)
  • I will also add Brad Hand to this, even though I was confident he would lose his job this year. With a short season and the options behind him having so little MLB experience, I think it will be less likely.
  • Josh Hader will also absolutely remain valuable all year, but his save totals may drop for the reason I mentioned earlier - punished by his own unique skillset.


2. After you grab a perennial strong closer, wait...and wait... and wait.

I want to make clear that I'm not suggesting waiting because I think teams will be actively trying to spread out saves. As I said above, I believe the opposite is true. However, with only 60 total games, the number of saves that will separate the middle of the leaderboard should be negligible. I believe there will be some clear separation at the top, but you're going to also see a lot of closers with somewhere between 6-10 saves because they're either on mediocre teams, in committees, or pitched inconsistently enough to lose their job for a stretch.

I'd much rather pass on the volatility of Nick Anderson, Wade Davis, or Archie Bradley to draft other positions at that spot and then roster guys like Seth Lugo, Joe Jimenez, Corey Knebel, Jose Alvarado, and Daniel Hudson who may not wind up with many saves but will cost me much less draft capital.


3. Don't Spend As Much Time Speculating on Saves

With a shorter season, there is less time for players to earn their way into roles. We may see the impact of that more at the back-end of a bullpen than anywhere else. It will take a few good weeks for a pitcher to come out of nowhere and earn his manager's trust at the end of games if he didn't have it at the start of a season. Those weeks are crucial in such a short fantasy season, so if you're rostering a pitcher only in hopes that he eventually takes over a closer's job, you're likely wasting a roster spot.

If a player is not a team's closer or part of a committee at the start of the season, I won't be drafting him. I'd rather use that roster spot on a middle reliever who I know will pitch well and help my ratios than hope I luck into saves while rostering a pitcher that could just as easily get blown up and kill my ratios. I can always use my FAAB when a closer change becomes apparent if that seems to be the best course of action for my team at the time.

This goes double for pitchers on bad teams. I'm not going to wait around for Sam Tuivalala to maybe take over the Mariners' closer job or Scott Oberg to possibly beat out Wade Davis again. If those guys aren't pitching consistent innings that help my ratios, they are of no use to my fantasy team in a short season.

You'll likely have a lot of reliever turnover on your teams as you try to locate the guys getting the most consistent, highest leverage innings, and that's OK. Just don't hold onto mediocrity in hopes of a few saves.


4. Don't Shy Away From Committee Closers on Good Teams

If we accept my earlier points that managers are more likely to consistently turn to their best arms to close out games, and we feel a sense of security in knowing who those players are, then it follows that closers who share a job on a good team are likely to see more opportunities than closers who are atop the depth chart on a bad team.

For example, many people believe Sean Doolittle could find himself in a committee since he is a left-handed pitcher in a deep bullpen. However, he pitches for a strong team that could win 40+ games. If he is one of the primary closing options on a team that figures to see more save opportunities than average, I'd rather take him than a player like Jose Leclerc or Joe Jimenez who have inconsistent track records and are on teams that are liable to see fewer opportunities overall.

If Doolittle were to remain in the committee, he'd likely see a near similar amount of save opportunities as Leclerc. However, if Doolittle pitches well or Leclerc struggles, the difference in opportunities could be tremendous, while I would find it hard to imagine Doolittle flat out losing his job.

So, to summarize, my strategy will be to identify a reliable closer on a solid team and get him to lead my bullpen. I'll then try to add two options that are clearly entrenched in the backend of a team's bullpen, even if they're in a committee (preferably on good teams, of course). Lastly, I'd round out my bullpen with ratio-aiding relievers that should be used consistently in any role out of the bullpen. I think this setup gives me a good chance to remain in the mix to win saves, with the upside to win the category if one of my committee options hits, and also gives me the safest floor to avoid a bullpen that will crush my ratios in a short season.

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Relief Pitchers Set to Break Out in 2020

We continue to wait on a start date for the 2020 MLB season. The extra time we have allows us to dig deeper into the player pool, looking for breakout players. We have seen the relief pitching position evolve over recent seasons, allowing for more and more draftable players. In this article, we will take a look at three late-round relief pitchers to target in your fantasy drafts. 

Last season, there was only one closer that saved over 40 games (Kirby Yates). Despite that, there were still some top-end closers as 11 posted 30 or more saves; there were 22 relievers with at least 20 saves; 37 relievers had at least 10 saves, and 52 relievers with at least five saves.

Seeing all the saves that can be had later in drafts is a great thing as it allows for some different draft strategies. You can go with our own, JB Branson’s Bullpen Method as one way to draft. You can even just load up on some “closers in waiting” later in drafts, especially in best-ball or draft champions formats. With a shortened season, there is a great chance we will see a lot of extra bullpen use. Not to mention the new minimum batter rule that may result in more save situations. There are so many ways to attack relief pitchers, so let’s take a look at three late-round targets that have major breakout potential.


Hunter Harvey, Baltimore Orioles (ADP 278)

The Orioles enter the 2020 season with a crowded back-end of their bullpen. According to Roster Resource, they will deploy a three-headed committee. Mychal Givens is likely the reliever that many will target as the O’s closer, as he has some previous experience closing games. Givens is solid and all, but the real target should be the 25-year-old Harvey.

Harvey is one of the Orioles’ top pitching prospects. He had his first taste of big-league action at the end of the 2019 season and was outstanding. It was a small sample of only 6.1 innings, but it resulted in a solid 1.42 ERA with a 42.3% K rate.

His short success in the bigs was encouraging after an up-and-down season between Double-A and Triple-A. His time in Triple-A was his first transition to a being full-time reliever and that continued with the Orioles.

Sure, the numbers with the Orioles are outstanding and likely not sustainable, but there is still reason for optimism. First, let’s look at his pitch mix:

Being a former starter, Harvey has three pitches that he likes to utilize. That can be optimal for a closer, as most closers tend to dominate with just two main pitches.

Harvey throws his fastball almost 70% of the time, while he throws his changeup and curveball each 15-16% of the time. When looking at the effectiveness of those pitches, there are some things that really stand out: His fastball averaged over 98 mph and carried a batting average against of only .118, with a 42% K rate and a 44.4% ground ball rate.

While the fastball was dominant, the changeup was just average. But the curveball was literally unhittable. The curve was only thrown 20 times, but had a 100% K rate and was never touched. If Harvey can continue to dominate with a hard fastball and a filthy curveball, then watch out.

Lastly, let’s look at the quality of contact that Harvey allowed. The stats show he was barreled over 9.1% of the time, but when looking at the xStats, his deserved barrels were only 2.6%; that’s quite a difference. A ground ball rate of 54.5% will play really well in Camden Yards, a park in which the ball flies out of easily.

These stats were a very small sample. We do however know the pedigree Harvey has and his talent may be ready to breakout. Being drafted at pick 278 in NFBC Draft Champions since March 15 is quite a value for a reliever that could take over the Orioles' closing role.


Yoshihisa Hirano, Seattle Mariners (ADP 381)

Similar to the Orioles, the Mariners have a potential closer battle on their hands. Many are targeting Matt Magill as the Mariners' closer, but the value lies in Hirano.

Hirano was signed by the Mariners in the offseason and will look to finally become the closer many thought he would be when the D-backs signed him from Japan in 2018. 

Hirano was a lights-out closer in Japan, collecting 143 saves over 272.1 innings from 2013-17. Over that stretch, he also had a 2.64 ERA and averaged over a strikeout per inning. He never settled into the closer’s role in the U.S. and was usually used as a late-inning fireman or setup man.

Over his two seasons with the D-backs, he posted four saves over his 137 appearances. His numbers dipped as well with a 3.47 ERA and a 4.11 xFIP. 

The biggest challenge for Hirano is properly utilizing his pitch mix. The stats say Hirano uses three pitches, but in reality, it's only two. He uses his fastball 48% of the time, his splitter 51.7% and his slider 0.3% of the time. I reached out to a few D-backs beat reporters about his slider usage and there was no clear reason for abandoning the pitch, besides possible lack of confidence.

When we dig into his pitch mix some more we can see the fastball and splitter success. Last season, his splitter was the major strikeout pitch with a whiff rate of almost 40% and a near 33% K rate. The splitter gets groundballs over 57% of the time and has a batting average against of only .203.

While the splitter was great, the fastball was up and down. The fastball had a strikeout rate of only 18.4% and a batting average against of .310. It hovers around 91 mph, so when it catches too much of the plate, it will get hit hard.

Hirano has the stuff to be a closer. The Mariners are a team in need of some leadership in the back end of their bullpen, which would be a perfect fit for Hirano. He was brought in on a one-year deal and they may want to showcase the right-hander as a closer to possibly trade later in the season. Going at pick 381 in NFBC DC allows for some major upside and saves. 


Tyler Rogers, San Francisco Giants (ADP 654)

Rogers, the brother of Twins closer Taylor Rogers, will get his time in 2020 to save games for the Giants. Rogers has shown the ability to close out games throughout the Giants' farm system, so the ability to finish games has already been established.

He made his MLB debut in 2019, throwing 17.2 innings. Over those innings, he had a ridiculous 1.02 ERA with a 2.87 xFIP. 

The thing many will mention and get attracted to regarding Rogers is his crazy sidearm delivery.

The delivery and a filthy sinker help Rogers get a ton of groundballs and keep him quite deceptive. He had a 70% groundball rate and a 22.5% K rate with the Giants. The delivery and the pitch mix has led to some serious success throughout Rogers career. He uses his sinker 58% of the time, while he uses his curveball 32.9% and his fastball 9%. He’s essentially a two-pitch pitcher, and it works with that delivery. 

His sinker allows a batting average against of .257 and a wild ground ball rate of 77.8%. Getting groundballs at rates like that will allow for a few extra hits, for a higher average than most. The sinker can allow a few extra hits when the xwOBAcon against is only .250 and a 0% barrel against.

The curveball has been just as good and is used as Rogers’s strikeout pitch. The curve has a CSW of 40% and a batting average against of .083. 

Rogers gave up 0 barrels last season, which is vital in this era of the home run. He will get a solid shot to close some games with the Giants as new manager Gabe Kapler likes to play matchups quite a bit. The new minimum batter rule will also allow Rogers to get some save chances in a platoon with Tony Watson. Rogers is free in drafts and can rack up some saves, or at worst, get you some great ratios if you are building a Franken-Ace a la JB's Bullpen Method!

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Bullpen Busts Due to Bounce Back in 2020

The amount of information available to fantasy baseball managers is almost overwhelming, and it continues to grow each season. Every year, there is a new statistic that pops up showing that Player A should've done this or Player B was unlucky in that. As a group, we are always trying to find where the value is, and one area that is often overlooked is the bounce-back candidate in the bullpen.

There is always a considerable turnover at the top of the reliever rankings in fantasy baseball, and if you fail us, your draft stock for the following season will more than likely plummet. The most recent example is Edwin Diaz. We will write about him more in this article, but at this time last year, he was going as a top-50 pick. Everyone knew it was too high, and then he busted bigger than any reliever in recent memory. But it's just one bad season. Why can't he bounce back and return tremendous value on his 2020 draft pick as a top-120 pick? Well, he can!

Today, I am going to identify Diaz and a couple of other candidates that you can draft to your roster this year and reap a high return on investment for the 2020 fantasy baseball season.


Edwin Diaz, New York Mets

2020 NFBC ADP: 120.4

2020 Projections: 67.0 IP, 109 K, 26 SV, 3.21 ERA, 1.16 WHIP

Edwin Diaz was nothing short of spectacular in 2018 with the Seattle Mariners and, as a result, was the top closer in baseball with the advanced statistics to back it up. Then he was traded to the New York Mets before the 2019 season and wilted under the brights lights of the big apple.

Year IP Saves K ERA WHIP
2018 73.1 57 124 1.96 0.79
2019 58 26 99 5.59 1.38

Diaz's performance and fantasy value dropped like he fell from the top of the Empire State Building. He was eventually removed from the closer's role in September as the Mets battled for a playoff berth and was one of the biggest busts of the season. There had to be an explanation for this.

Sure, baseball players are human beings and a new city can disrupt a pitcher's flow, but after digging around in Diaz's Statcast profile, I think I've found the culprit of his troubles. His incredible slider was just not as dominant last season. Here are the results and expected results from his slider over the past four seasons.

2016 0.141 0.118 0.176 0.148 0.168 0.149
2017 0.144 0.128 0.231 0.191 0.196 0.179
2018 0.129 0.116 0.234 0.185 0.190 0.168
2019 0.297 0.223 0.622 0.403 0.387 0.272

One of those years is not like the other, and it's the 2019 season. The recently-turned 26-year-old had great results with the slider in three of his four major-league seasons but was getting dinged heavily for one lousy season. With a mechanical fix and a few evenings in the tape room, it's not hard to believe that the Puerto Rican can find his form again in 2020.

As a fantasy community, we tend to give a lot of leeway to players with a good track record that have one down year, but that does not seem to be the case with Diaz. His ADP of 120.4 means that you can grab him at the back end of the 10th round in 12-team drafts as your RP1. The upside of this pick is that you draft the No. 1 closer in fantasy baseball with the cost of a top-10 reliever, and the downside is that you guess wrong on a reliever's bounce back and cut him a month into the season and pick up the next hot arm in the league. The low-risk, high-reward picks are where owners can reap significant profits in fantasy baseball and steer them towards a championship in 2020.


Mark Melancon, Atlanta Braves

2020 NFBC ADP: 225.2

2020 Projections: 66.0 IP, 65 K, 22 SV, 3.65 ERA, 1.31 WHIP

Mark Melancon seemingly came out of nowhere in 2019 to close 11 games for the Atlanta Braves after his trade from San Francisco but has seemingly been forgotten in 2020 drafts. I understand that the Braves went out and made a splash by acquiring Will Smith this offseason, but manager Brian Snitker has already come out and said that Melancon will be the man he gives the ball to close out games to start this season.

Melancon fell from grace after two injury-plagued seasons in the Bay Area, but fantasy managers shouldn't give up on him just yet. After his trade to the Braves last year, the three-time All-Star admitted that 2019 was the first time he had felt healthy since he signed that massive contract with the Giants. If we take his 2014-2016 seasons along with the 2019 season and compare it to 2017 and 2018, it's easy to see that Melancon's results were affected by the forearm injury.

Seasons K% BB% ERA WHIP
2014-2016, 2019 23.5 4.85 2.32 0.998
2017-2018 19.7 6.57 3.78 1.522

If we take the reliever from the four seasons in the first row, we have a player that posted a sub-3.00 FIP in all four seasons and finished in the top-25th percentile in terms of xwOBA and xSLG, while being in the top one percent of baseball with a 2.0 percent barrel rate in 2019. And all of this is coming at the low price of a pick outside the top-200.

I'm willing to give Melancon a pass for his two injury-hampered seasons on the West Coast and confidently draft him as a rock-solid RP2 for my fantasy teams this season. He has the ceiling of a low-end RP1 as well because the Atlanta Braves have aspirations of playing in the World Series and a Vegas over/under win total of 90.5. This may not return Melancon to his league-leading ways from his Pittsburgh days, but it will not be a surprise to see his name near the top of the saves leaderboard by the end of the season.


Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies

2020 NFBC ADP: 322.5

2020 Projections: 63.0 IP, 66 K, 22 SV, 4.26 ERA, 1.40 WHIP

Having Wade Davis in this column may seem absurd after his disastrous 2019, but the chances of him performing better in 2020 are massive. I mean, how much worse can it get for the 34-year old?

Although he had some shaky moments and a few massive blow-ups in his first season in Colorado, he still led the league with 43 saves, and the Rockies made the playoffs. However, 2019 was a very different story.

2018 65.1 43 78 4.13 1.06 3.65
2019 42.2 15 42 8.65 1.88 5.56

All of this negativity would make you think that Davis is not worth a draft pick this season, and I wouldn't blame you. However, it seems that Rockies manager Bud Black has other ideas for his bullpen and believes in a bounce-back for his closer.

"In a perfect world, Wade is our closer and Scotty pitches in front of him in some capacity. That's based on Wade's great track record. That's our best scenario." - Bud Black, Rockies Manager

That may seem wild, but if Davis is getting the role in a shortened season and gets off to a hot start he will return tremendous value compared to his current ADP.

There are only 30 closer jobs in the league, and Davis has one of them. The scarcity of saves makes him worth drafting in roto leagues, especially. If you have done your due diligence and built a solid rotation and bullpen that can absorb his higher-than-we-would-like ratios, the addition of Davis can add some much-needed counting numbers in the saves and strikeout categories to your 2020 fantasy baseball roster.

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