Joe Barlow has picked up where he left off last season and the sample size is large enough now to where it might be fair to wonder if he is one of the most underrated relievers in baseball. Through his first 42.1 MLB innings, Barlow has a 1.49 ERA, .83 WHIP, and 25.8% K rate to go with 18 saves. A 4.26 xFIP suggests this start to his career has been more luck than skill-based (see his .150 BABIP and high hard-hit rates) but he keeps chugging along, getting outs and converting saves.
As I mentioned last week with him, I love the pitch changes he has made this year which should lead to more swings and misses and I would say that his high hard-hit numbers are a bit of an outlier from earlier in the season (and also something closers are typically prone to). Keep riding the Barlow wave for now, and while there will inevitably be a storm at some point, I think the skillset should allow for him to make it out the other side with his job still intact.
- Edwin Díaz is showing why I had him as my number one closer heading into last season, as the stuff is clearly there for him to be on the same level as Josh Hader and he’s finally showing it this season with some tweaks to his pitch usage (shocking, I know). After being 61%/38% FB/SL the past two seasons, Díaz has gone with a more balanced approach this year with a 53%/47% SL/FB usage, which has really kept hitters off balance. As long as this usage stays and his walk rate doesn’t spike, Díaz should be in line to finish as a top 2-4 closer in baseball this season and get a nice payday this fall.
- The start of the season has been a grind for Liam Hendriks who currently sports a 4.41 ERA and 1.35 WHIP but I believe better days are ahead as he is still missing bats at an elite rate (38.5% Whiff). He’s been giving up some hard contact (may I suggest lowering your fastball usage?) but also has a .378 BABIP which is the 15th highest amongst all qualified relievers. He was dominant in last night’s save and while it was only 12 pitches, he did only throw 50% fastballs. Now may be the last time to buy low if you can.
- It appears that we can finally close the book on Chris Stratton as co-closer in Pittsburgh, as David Bednar looks on his way to making his first All-Star appearance this year. It’s the Pirates so saves will be hit or miss on a week to week basis, but Bednar’s stuff is in an elite tier so while he may not be a difference-maker for you in the saves column, he’ll still help with strikeouts while not killing your ratios.
- After featuring Daniel Bard last week, it only made sense for him to allow five runs over his past 2.1 innings (preemptive apologies to those rostering Joe Barlow out there). Bard is going to have some issues at times, it comes with being the Rockies closer, but I wouldn’t be too concerned yet about his job being in danger.
- Jhoan Duran still looks like the favorite for saves in Minnesota but it may be more of a committee than we had hoped for. Emilio Pagán and Tyler Duffey each picked up saves over the past week with Duran not being available, but the fact they converted relatively smoothly could open this thing up to being a three-way committee a la Seattle.
- Scott Barlow has been working as the Royals’ sole closer for a few weeks now as Josh Staumont seems to have faded out of the picture, unless last night’s outing by Barlow were to change things (it shouldn’t). Barlow has also changed his pitch usage this season, essentially swapping his fastball and curveball as he now is throwing his slider/curveball combo 76% of the time compared to 66% last season.
- Hansel Robles converted his second save of the season last night and it looks like he will be the Red Sox closer for now. I don’t trust that it will/can last (.175 BABIP, 57.1% HardHit, 6.9% K-BB%) so I wouldn’t rush out to add him in daily 12 team head to head type leagues, but for those desperate for saves in roto leagues, I guess he is worth a look for now.
- Mark Melancon’s time as an MLB closer appears to be coming to an end, and while I have been a bit hard on him for a while now, he has had a tremendous career. Melancon ranks 4th in saves from 2011-2021 behind only Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen, and Aroldis Chapman; pretty elite company. It’s not certain but I’d imagine Ian Kennedy will get the Diamondbacks’ next save chance, but I don’t have much faith in him moving forward either. It’s looking like a bullpen to shy away from for the time being.
|1.||Ryan Helsley||STL||May never be “the” closer, but worth the add in most leagues|
|2.||Emilio Pagán||MIN||could be on the short side of a committee with Duran|
|3.||Ian Kennedy||ARZ||Melancon looks cooked right now, Kennedy next up?|
|4.||Josh Staumont||KC||Has faded out of the picture here lately|
|5.||Anthony Bass||MIA||Has been Marlins most consistent reliever so far|
|6.||Matt Strahm||BOS||Not sure who else this team can turn to for save opps|
|7.||Drew Steckenrider/Diego Castillo||SEA||Full-blown committee here?|
|8.||Lou Trivino||OAK||Shaky return may have pushed him down depth chart|
|9.||Michael Fulmer||DET||Soto has been rocky but Fulmer has as well lately…|
|10.||Rafael Montero||HOU||Next in line should anything happen to Pressly|
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)