With so many cloudy bullpen situations entering the season, this first week has given us some clarity on a few situations and even more confusion on others. Here is the bullpen report this week and what to expect for the upcoming week.
Sorted out closer situations
Daniel Bard (46%)*, Anthony Bender (52%)*, Tanner Rainey (14%)*, and Jorge Lopez (6%)* all appear to have secured the closer role in their respective bullpens. Bard has received the Rockies’ first three conventional save opportunities, Bender has received the Marlins’ first three save opportunities, Rainey has picked up the two save opportunities for the Nationals and Lopez has had two save opportunities for the Orioles to this point. Since they are locked into roles, at least for now, they should be rostered in any league where saves are a necessity.
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Still fluid situations
Chris Woodward had stated during spring training the Rangers did not want to go to Joe Barlow as the closer to begin the season, but to this point, it appears as though Barlow is still being thought of as the closer. In Barlow’s two appearances he pitched the ninth inning of a six-run game against Toronto and then in the top of the ninth in a tie game against Colorado. These usually are spots a team would get their closer into the game for, and the other pitchers competing for saves (Matt Bush and Greg Holland) have served mostly setup roles.
The Red Sox, Mariners, and Twins have been less straightforward so far. Matt Barnes has not pitched in a save opportunity to this point in the season while dealing with back, velocity, and mechanical problems. Jake Diekman and Hansel Robles each have one save and have been relied upon for high leverage work but neither has stood out to the point of being the closer. Drew Steckenrider and Diego Castillo have saves for the Mariners while Paul Sewald pitched the ninth inning of a 5-1 victory on Thursday. Their bullpen will likely remain a mess for saves throughout the season. The one save opportunity the Twins have had was blown by Tyler Duffey. Jorge Alcala was placed on the injured list and Emilio Pagan has struggled badly the past couple of seasons, leaving the door open for Jhoan Duran to potentially get saves down the road. For now, we’ll need more information before making any moves in this bullpen.
David Robertson had the Cubs’ first two saves on the season, but Mychal Givens picked up the save in the Cubs’ win in Colorado on Thursday. Robertson’s cutter velocity is as good as it’s been in his career and he has been effective to this point in the season, but his age and injury history casts doubt over whether he can close for a full season. Mychal Givens is still worth a look as a speculative save source.
While Tony Santillan earned the first save of the season for the Reds, he is taking over Tejay Antone’s role as the middle innings fireman and is not a favorite for saves. Art Warren earned the next save but then was used in the seventh inning of a tie game on Tuesday against the Guardians. The impending return of Lucas Sims further clouds the situation, but Warren has shown the skills of an elite reliever and is likely David Bell’s most trusted reliever right now.
The Giants’ bullpen usage has been a mess so far. Camilo Doval received and blew the first save opportunity of the Giants’ season. Jake McGee has not seen a save opportunity and hasn’t pitched since April 9th. Tyler Rogers also hasn’t seen a save opportunity, but Dominic Leone came away with the save on April 10th with Doval and McGee likely unavailable. Doval earned the save on Thursday after loading the bases in a one-run game, so he might be Kapler’s preferred closing option right now but this is a situation that can change at any moment.
Setup men and holds sources
Dylan Coleman has been impressive to start the season, striking out five in 3 1/3 innings without being scored upon. Josh Staumont’s early struggles and general inconsistency could lead to Coleman seeing more high leverage work and hold opportunities
Ryan Helsley looks healthy and has sat at almost 100 MPH in his first two appearances. If he can maintain this stuff, he’s clearly the second-best reliever to Giovanny Gallegos in the Cardinals’ bullpen and could be one of the better holds sources in MLB.
Hector Neris has been great to start the season and seems to have overtaken Ryne Stanek as Ryan Pressly’s primary setup man. Neris also offers saves upside if Pressly’s diminished velocity hurts his performance.