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Committee Considerations

Jhoan Duran staked his claim to the Twins’ closer committee after picking up two saves this past week. Emilio Pagan’s last two appearances have been more flexible, being used in the eighth inning and working a multi-inning outing. It’s unlikely the Twins will confine Duran to a strict closer role, and Pagan still appears to be a key member of their late-inning mix, but Duran earning two saves this week shows that he is a legit option for the ninth inning under the right circumstances.

Matt Barnes seemed to be working his way back into the Red Sox closer role after pitching a clean ninth last Saturday for his second save. The next save opportunity did not go to Matt Barnes, however. Hansel Robles was on to complete a five-out save on Sunday but gave up a home run to Eugenio Suarez in the ninth to blow the lead. Since then the Red Sox have not had a save opportunity, but Matt Barnes has pitched twice in blowout situations. He’s recorded four outs while walking six batters and giving up two runs, so it remains far from clear who the Red Sox preferred closing option is.

After picking up the save on Sunday, Art Warren found himself pitching in the eighth inning on Wednesday with veteran Huter Strickland taking the ninth inning and earning the save despite allowing a run. Both pitchers have an ERA north of five but Strickland’s walk rate (17.4%) and ground ball rate (37.7%) make him untenable. If Warren can come close to the dominance he flashed last season he could take hold of the closer role. Still, it’s likely a long shot and the Reds’ bullpen is not worth taking speculative fliers on in standard-sized leagues.

Giovanny Gallegos and Ryan Helsley split the Cardinals’ two saves this past week while also both being used in high leverage non-save situations. Gallegos is still likely the top option, but with two great relievers pitching as well as Gallegos and Helsley have been it gives St. Louis some room to be flexible in using either in high leverage situations. Gallegos should get around 60%-70% of Cardinals’ saves rest of the season.

The only save that came from the Rays this week was Colin Poche. Despite how well J.P. Feyereisen, Jalen Beeks, Jason Adam, and Brooks Raley have pitched, it was Ryan Thompson who was given the chance to blow the save on Sunday against Baltimore, and Poche who came close to blowing the save on Wednesday. With Andrew Kittredge out with injury, the ninth inning in Tampa should be a true committee through the entire bullpen. Raley has seen the most opportunities of the healthy arms but Feyereisen, Adam, Thompson, and Poche also appear to be legitimate options to close out games.

Tanner Rainey picked up the save Wednesday against the Dodgers but reverted to pitching in the eighth on Thursday against the Rockies. He faced the middle third of the Rockies’ batting lineup, so he still appears to be Washington’s most trusted reliever. His usage on Thursday did indicate he isn’t in a strict closer role. Combining this with how infrequently the Nationals have presented him with save opportunities certainly limits his upside. He still has value as a low-end closer.

Shaky performances

Kenley Jansen has allowed at least one earned run in his past three appearances, including two blown saves. Considering his track record and stellar peripherals, there is no reason to be concerned over Jansen in the long run.

Stray Saves

With Josh Hader missing time this week on the family medical emergency list, Devin Williams filled in admirably with two clean saves on Tuesday and Wednesday. Milwaukee welcomed back Hader on Thursday and he immediately saved a victory against the Cardinals. Williams is the clear handcuff to Hader.

Andrew Chafin picked up an extra-inning save for the Tigers on Tuesday. Gregory Soto still looks like the top option for Detroit.

Robert Suarez picked up his first save of the season last Friday with incumbent closer Taylor Rogers unavailable. Given Rogers’ dominance and usage, Suarez won’t see many more save chances moving forward.

Will Smith also picked up the save last Friday with Kenley Jansen unavailable. Smith is the clear backup closer to Jansen but shouldn’t be valued as anything more than that.

On Tuesday, Robert Gsellman closed out the last three innings of the Cubs’ blowout win in Cincinnati to earn his first save of the season. Clearly, this performance and Gsellman do not warrant any fantasy consideration.

Injury Updates

Joe Barlow was deemed unavailable on May 18th with a blister-related issue, but he has come back and pitched back-to-back games this past Wednesday and Thursday. He didn’t show any signs of the injury and should be considered good to go for fantasy.

Aroldis Chapman went on the injured list on Tuesday with achilles tendinitis. Even before the Yankees revealed his injury, Chapman looked like he was losing a grip on the closer role. His subpar performance combined with Clay Holmes’ dominance began raising questions, and the Yankees had even put Holmes in some save chances with Chapman healthy. Now with Chapman out for at least two weeks and the bevy of other injuries the Yankees’ bullpen is dealing with (chiefly Chad Green and Jonathan Loaisiga) Holmes is the clear lead option for saves in New York in the short-term and has a chance to take over the role long-term. If he’s still available in your league he should be added.

Emerging Relievers

Enyel De Los Santos has not typically been used in high leverage moments, but he has given the Guardians quality innings while flashing interesting traits. He’s throwing his fastball a mile per hour faster than last season while striking out nearly 37% of the batters he’s faced. He’s also shrunk his changeup usage, which seems to have helped him with garnering whiffs. Without much of a concrete role De Los Santos lacks fantasy utility, but he’s pitching well and worth noting.

Alex Lange has found some consistency after an up and down rookie season. He’s currently posting 1.56 ERA, 2.18 xERA, 32.4% K%, 60.5% ground ball rate, and 2.35 SIERA. His combination of strikeouts and ground balls bodes well for continued success and he could emerge as a late-inning option if Michael Fulmer and Gregory Soto continue to have uneven outings.

A.J. Minter was once looked at as the Braves’ closer of the future but has battled poor command, a lack of consistency, and injuries at points in his major league career. This season he seems to be putting everything together as a dominant setup man. His 1.37 ERA, 1.75 xERA, 38.2% K%, and 1.76 SIERA are all among the best in baseball and he’s been racking up holds for Atlanta already. Given Kenley Janse and Will Smith’s veteran presence, Minter likely won’t be a closer this season but his dominant performance and status as a top setup man should make him useful in a number of leagues.

Keegan Akin and Eli Morgan have each found success as long relievers out of the bullpen after struggling to get consistent results as starters. Morgan has a 2.70 ERA and 33.3% strikeout rate while seeing a slight uptick in his velocity in shorter stints. Akin only has a 25.5% strikeout rate but also has a 54.8% ground ball rate to back up his 1.23 ERA. He also has seen his fastball velocity go up by around one mile per hour in a bullpen role. Their impressive performances in two or three-inning appearances may warrant their teams giving them another opportunity to start, but they have fantasy utility as long relievers in deeper leagues as is.

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