David Bednar has gotten off to a fantastic start, currently tied for the league lead in saves with 8 while also boasting 29.5% K-BB and 23.3% SwStr rates. This Pirates bullpen may actually be sneaky good, and if the surprise starts from the rotation can hold up, we may be looking at a potential 40 save season from Bednar.
There are some big “if’s” in there though, and I wouldn’t count on the Pirates continue this run of stellar play, but crazier things have happened. This may also put the organization in a predicament, as they may be entering a window where Bednar’s trade value is at it’s peak, but if the team continues to win, would they still consider moving him?
- José Alvarado is looking more and more like the Phillies de facto closer, with Craig Kimbrel pitching more like the next in line option and not a part of some committee. On Sunday, Alvarado’s usage was a bit curious as he came in to pitch the 8th with the team up 4 runs, but nevertheless, Alvarado is the clear reliever to roster here.
- A.J. Puk continues to impress as the Marlins closer, and is one of my favorite secondary closer options at the moment. The Marlins may not provide a ton of save chances, but Puk should be a great bet for ratios and K’s regardless.
- Evan Phillips is slated to return to the Dodgers bullpen today, and with Brusdar Graterol going on paternity leave himself, should get a couple of the days in the closer role solo. Graterol filled in for Phillips this past weekend and picked up a two inning save, and while Phillips has been fine this season and done nothing to lose the job, it’s important to remember that Graterol was the teams first choice, and the guy they wanted in the role to begin with.
- Daniel Bard has returned from the IL after dealing with some anxiety to begin the year, and while it’s great to see him back, he still isn’t exactly himself as his fastball velocity remains down by nearly 3 MPH from last year. He’s still likely to get the Rockies next save chance, but if isn’t able to get that velo back I have concerns about how long he’ll be able to last in that role.
- Two relievers who have struggled and probably only have a month or so left on this list, A.J. Minter and Reynaldo López both continue to move down. Minter struggled against the Astros this past weekend, and with Raisel Iglesias already throwing live, it seems like his return could happen at some point in May now. Liam Hendriks has a rehab plan put together as well and could return in early June if everything goes well.
- The Cubs bullpen remains murky as both Michael Fulmer and Brad Boxberger pitched poorly this weekend. There’s enough talented arms here (especially after the callup of Jeremiah Estrada) for the team to move on from both in the closer role, and I’d love to see Brandon Hughes get a shot at reclaiming the closer role, if they don’t feel comfortable handing over the reigns to Estrada yet that is.
|1.||Aroldis Chapman||KC||Velo is all the way back and if it sticks, could work his way into the role.|
|2.||Will Smith||TEX||Could he be in a matchup-based timeshare with Leclerc?|
|3.||José Quijada||LAA||Certainly in the mix for saves, especially with Estévez remaining shaky.|
|4.||Adam Ottavino||NYM||Even in timeshare, becomes valuable mixed league reliever.|
|5.||Brusdar Graterol||LAD||Filled in for Phillips this past week and could wind up back in a committee.|
|6.||Craig Kimbrel||PHI||Not who he used to be, but still factoring into the saves mix.|
|7.||Giovanny Gallegos||STL||Should still cut into Helsley’s save totals, as long as he is healthy.|
|8.||Brandon Hughes||CHC||Has been great so far this season while other closer options have not.|
|9.||Kendall Graveman||CWS||May wind up in a timeshare with Reynaldo before Hendriks returns.|
|10.||Jason Adam||TB||Could be option 1B in Tampa, so worth a spot in deeper leagues.|
And if you want more daily reliever updates, please check out our Reliever Ranks series
Bryan Abreu got two saves over the weekend while Pressly got more rest then usual. Seems worth flagging for those prospecting for saves.
Dodger fan here and I’d like to offer my two cents on the Phillips/Graterol closer situation.
One of the biggest knocks on Graterol is that he’s great against righties but noticeably more hittable vs. LHP. His OPS splits for his entire time in a Dodger uniform break down like this:
2020: .408 vs. RHP, .905 vs. LHB
2021: .596 vs. RHB, .968 vs. LHB
2022: .468 vs. RHB, .760 vs. LHB (some progress, it seems)
2023: .591 vs. RHB, .833 vs. LHB
When I think back to how Roberts has often preferred to use Graterol in the playoffs, it’s often been consistent with those splits (with Graterol being viewed as a trustworthy option against the righty-heavy portions of lineups). Phillips was so good last year because he lacks any real platoon split (.413 vs. RHP and .449 vs. LHB) and although I can’t fairly say he’s a locked-in closer, I do think he has the far greater claim to the role than Brusdar (who is viewed by Dodger fans as being too hittable, too susceptible to lefties, and too lackluster at missing bats (though there does seem to be some progress with that so far this season).
Roberts seems to view Phillips as a Blake Treinen fireman type deployed in the 7th/8th against the toughest parts of the lineup. I’d respectfully dispute that Graterol is a preferred option ahead of Phillips. I feel like Roberts still isn’t 100 percent committed to Graterol, which explains why he got the ball in the 9th even before Phillips went on paternity leave. Graterol still has work to do to truly last as a closer option IMO.
As an Oriole fan, keep an eye out on Cano. Numbers are small, but he’s been light’s out. A slightly shorter version of Bautista, with the same nasty arsenal of breaking balls.