You never know how relievers will fare in a new city after getting a big contract, but Liam Hendriks has not disappointed this year. You couldn’t ask for more from Hendriks in his first season with the White Sox, who leads the AL in saves while also tied with Raisel Iglesias for most strikeouts by a closer with 65 on the year so far (James Karinchak doesn’t count). Hendriks also leads all relievers in K-BB (39.4%) and SIERA (1.60). You don’t often see 32-year-olds gain 1.4 mph on their fastball from the previous season, but somehow Hendriks is supporting a career-high 97.4 mph fastball average, while his slider is up two mph and has a career-high 55% whiff rate on the year. I was against drafting Hendriks or Josh Hader early in drafts this season, but I was clearly wrong about that as the pair continue to be in a tier of their own.
- It’s about time Will Smith moves back up a tier, as the lefty closer has been fairly dominant over the past two months. Over that time span, he has an ERA of 2.61 and WHIP of 0.82 while striking out 27 and walking just four over 20.2 innings of work. He still has his bad days, but he seems to be over his early-season command issues and is one of the more safe closer options for the rest of the season.
- Edwin Díaz is once again driving Mets fans crazy, and to be fair to their cause, he really has not looked right since the MLB started talking about potential sticky stuff suspensions. His RPMs are down and he’s had issues with walks. Over the past month, Diaz has an ERA of 8.44 and a WHIP of 1.88 while now blowing three straight save opportunities. Like Chapman, I think this is just a severe rough patch, one that both closers can recover from, but you have to wonder just how well these guys will be able to command the zone without the sticky stuff.
- Lou Trivino may not have great strikeout numbers (10.3% K-BB) or xStats (4.51 xFIP), but he is a locked-in closer on a potential playoff team, so he belongs in the top half of this list. There’s likely regression coming, but might as well ride this hot streak while it lasts. Trivino has allowed just two earned runs since May 5, but does have a very pedestrian 22/13 K/BB rate over those 28.2 innings of work.
- Kendall Graveman may be losing out on save chances to Paul Sewald, which, despite how well Graveman has pitched this season, is still probably the right move. Graveman hasn’t been quite the same since returning from the COVID IL a month ago, with his velocity down a tick, which has diminished his strikeout ability. Whether that’s from the effects of COVID itself, the new sticky stuff rules, or something else, it’s clear he isn’t the same guy we saw in April and May.
- After making his first All-Star team, Taylor Rogers returned from the break where his struggles against the Tigers continued. In fact, Rogers has allowed two or more runs six times this season, with five of those coming against the Tigers, Royals, and Rangers offenses. Despite having trouble with bad offenses, Rogers is still going to be one of the more popular trade targets at the deadline, and it would not be a surprise if the Twins move him now even with one year left of team control.
- Joakim Soria and the Diamondbacks are finally getting into the save mix, with Soria’s five saves this month tied with only Heath Hembree and Ryan Pressly for the league lead. Over this eight-inning span, Soria has an impressive 12/1 K/BB rate and has allowed just three runs (all in the same outing). It’s good timing for an Arizona team looking to sell off pieces at the deadline, as this recent string of success should help boost Soria’s trade value.
|1.||Anthony Bender||Miami||The job should be Bender’s once García is moved, if not before then|
|2.||Paul Sewald||Seattle||Graveman’s been good, but Sewald could push him in the second half|
|3.||Gregory Soto||Detroit||Lefty in the Tigers’ committee. Could see more chances with Fulmer out|
|4.||Pete Fairbanks||Tampa Bay||Stealing save chances from Castillo after the All-Star break …|
|5.||Emmanuel Clase||Cleveland||Blew another save, likely losing ground to Karinchak for chances|
|6.||Hansel Robles||Minnesota||In a timeshare with Rogers, but not worth the risk and likely to be traded|
|7.||Hector Neris||Philadelphia||Picked up a save Sunday, could he get back into the closer mix?|
|8.||Jake Diekman||Oakland||Fading out of the closer picture, but I still don’t fully trust Trivino either|
|9.||David Bednar||Pittsburgh||Unclear who will take over for Rodríguez, but Bednar presents most upside|
|10.||Tyler Rogers||San Francisco||McGee seems to be running away with the closer role, but Rogers has been OK|
Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)