Welcome back to the latest edition of our Reliever Ranks series! This will bring you up-to-date bullpen depth charts every morning for the day’s games and makes for an excellent tool for those looking to stream saves or wins. This series runs seven days a week, so check in every morning to get your daily bullpen fix!
Transaction and Schedule Notes
- There were just 10 games on Thursday, but every team will be back in action on Friday.
- The Atlanta Braves placed Jesse Chavez on the 15-day IL with a left shin contusion. X-rays revealed no structural damage, so Chavez shouldn’t be out much longer than the minimum. It’s a tough blow to the bullpen because Chavez has surprisingly pitched to a 1.55 ERA with 12 holds and a 30.8% strikeout rate this year. Ben Heller was recalled from the minors in a corresponding move. Kirby Yates was added to the chart as a holds option after racking up four holds and a 3.38 ERA so far this year.
- The Pittsburgh Pirates placed Colin Holderman on the 15-day IL with right wrist inflammation. He has slowed down in June, but he still leads his team with 12 holds. Yerry De Los Santos was recalled to replace him on the roster. Angel Perdomo will enter the chart as a holds option.
- The Tampa Bay Rays activated Pete Fairbanks from the 15-day IL after he missed a few weeks with left hip inflammation. He’ll rejoin the chart as the closer. That’ll move Jason Adam into a setup role and will kick Jake Diekman out of the top four options for holds.
TOR 2 – BAL 4
SV: Félix Bautista (18)
H: Yennier Cano (15)
- The gun might’ve been a little hot in Toronto as every reliever on both sides was sitting at least half a mile harder on their heaters, but Nate Pearson’s velocity jump was substantial. The right-hander added three mph to his fastball and was sitting at 100.8 mph after averaging 98 mph for the season. He even touched 101.9 mph to notch the second-fastest recorded pitch on Thursday. The pitch is already in the 96th percentile according to PLV, so additional velocity could make it a one-of-a-kind offering. He’s been elite since being promoted from the minors, pitching to a 1.96 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP with a 28.9% K%. It’s all thanks to newfound control that has led to an impressive 5.6% BB%. He’s the number three option in Toronto, but he’s the closer of the future.
- Much has been said about both Félix Bautista and Yennier Cano this year. Bautista currently leads baseball in strikeout rate (50.8%), is third in baseball with 18 saves, owns a pristine 1.11 ERA, and threw the fastest pitch on Thursday (102 mph). Cano leads baseball with a 1.06 ERA (min. 25 IP) and 66% ground ball rate (min. 30 IP) while owning the second-most holds (15) in the league. It’s probably the most lethal one-two combo going in MLB right now. However, there are slight concerns with the latter. Cano gave up his first run on May 19th. Before that, he pitched to a 0.00 ERA (21.2 IP) with 25 strikeouts to no walks while inducing ground balls at a 73.2% rate. Since then, his ERA sits at 2.70 (13.1 IP) with just a 9/4 K/BB ratio and a sub-60% ground ball rate. Still solid numbers but not the overwhelming dominance of the first month and a half.
PHI 5 – ARI 4
SV: Craig Kimbrel (10)
- With José Alvarado returning from the IL, we’re still trying to work out who the closer will be in Philly. Alvarado got the save on Wednesday but it was Craig Kimbrel on Thursday. The Phillies could be taking it easy on the southpaw given he’s just returned from elbow troubles, but it’s worth considering that this may be a committee for the time being. Speaking of troubles, Kimbrel had them with the pitch clock. He was hit with a whopping three pitch timer violations, moving him into a tie for the most in baseball with Chris Bassitt at seven. As the year goes on, season-long fatigue can set in, even for relievers. If that becomes a hurdle for Kimbrel, pitch clock violations could become something to worry about. It’ll be Alvarado in the ninth on Friday due to Kimbrel having pitched each of the past two days.
- As Scott McGough rises up the ranks of the Arizona reliever ladder, Miguel Castro and Andrew Chafin fall down a rung. Both were unscored upon as they shared the final six outs in a losing effort, but neither has been looking like a closer recently. Coming off a 10.1-inning scoreless streak, Castro surrendered six runs in the three outings leading into this one, hiking his ERA more than a run and a half. The poor sub-12% K-BB% is finally starting to catch up to him. Chafin, however, continues to dominate, with just one earned run allowed in his last 10.2 innings (0.84 ERA). His K-BB% is over 25% for the season, so his skills remain elite. His problem is that manager Torey Lovullo has continuously deployed him as a high-leverage arm rather than a closer. Chafin has no control over that, and if it continues, he won’t have much relevance in save-only leagues.
WSN 4 – HOU 1
SV: Carl Edwards Jr. (2)
- Every time it looks like the closer role is changing hands in Washington, something like Thursday happens. Kyle Finnegan, who has been due for a role reduction for quite some time, set up in the eighth and looked dominant doing so, recording all three of his outs via the strikeout. Then came the closer of the future, Hunter Harvey, who promptly blew his save, forcing extra innings. Luckily, the offense picked him up and Carl Edwards Jr. was there to close things out in the 10th. Will we ever see Harvey completely succeed Finnegan or will we get this back-and-forth all year?
- The big guns were used to keep the game close but they couldn’t come through. Ryan Pressly pitched in a scoreless ballgame in the ninth but proceeded to give up a go-ahead homer to Keibert Ruiz. He avoided a loss when the opposing closer blew a save, but it wasn’t his best showing. Pressly has now surrendered eight runs (four earned) in his last seven innings and will need to bear down as we get into the dog days of the summer. Bryan Abreu will be considered the closer on Friday as both Pressly and Hector Neris have pitched on consecutive days.
CLE 8 – SDP 6
SV: Emmanuel Clase (21)
- We shouldn’t let Eli Morgan’s ascension go unnoticed. The right-hander was great in the first half of 2022 but fell off a little in the second. All in all, he still posted a 3.38 ERA (66.2 IP) with an impressive 23% K-BB%. The underlying metrics aren’t as rosy this year for Morgan, but he’s repeating his first-half success nonetheless. He’s sporting a 1.91 ERA (28.1 IP) and is set to rack up additional holds with James Karinchak in the minors. It’s all thanks to a nasty changeup that has recorded a 93rd percentile PLUS% (CSW + fouls + BIP outs). He’s bound to regress, but not enough to remove him from relevancy in SV+HLD and points leagues.
- How is Tom Cosgrove doing what he’s doing? He currently owns the best ERA (0.53) and WHIP (0.53 WHIP) in baseball (>16 IP) despite being a 27-year-old soft-tossing lefty with no previous MLB experience. Obviously, luck has played a major role, but his slider has been the key to his success. The pitch reaches the plate 25 mph slower than his heater and exhibits exceptional horizontal movement. It catches hitters off balance, as it’s racked up a 37.1% CSW thanks to an outsized amount of called strikes. He also has terrific control, walking just 3.4% of the batters he’s faced. He’ll have to keep this up to become a holds candidate in San Diego, but what he’s done thus far has been impressive.
CWS 4 – LAD 5
- The White Sox arm barn was unable to maintain the lead handed to it by Dylan Cease. It was mostly Reynaldo López’s fault, as he surrendered the lead on a grand slam while attempting to finish off Cease’s sixth frame. The rest of the bullpen was actually great, holding the mighty Dodgers scoreless from the seventh through the 10th, but they were unable to hold them off any longer after that. Garrett Crochet gave up a walk-off single to Freddie Freeman after two walks loaded the bases. This relief corps has a lot of names and a ton of talent, but without Liam Hendriks anchoring them, they may struggle to find their identity. Kendall Graveman pitched for the second day in a row, so Keynan Middleton, one of the few arms not to appear on Thursday, should be the go-to guy on Friday.
- Evan Phillips looked great in his pair of innings on Thursday. He failed to allow a hit while striking out four batters. While he hasn’t been as successful as last year, he’s still been terrific with a 2.36 ERA and a 31.7% strikeout rate. That being said, he’s been disappointing in fantasy terms. His last save came over a month ago (5/12) and the competition in LA will only grow as Daniel Hudson is getting set to return and Brusdar Graterol maintains a sub-2.00 ERA. Phillips’ pair of innings may prevent him from pitching on Friday.
The Best of the Rest…
- The Rays have gone against the precedent they’ve set in recent years and have stuck with a defined closer in 2023. While the name in that role has alternated between Pete Fairbanks and Jason Adam due to injuries, one or the other has been called upon in save situations the majority of the time. With Fairbanks’ return from the IL today, Adam pitched the eighth for his seventh hold and Fairbanks closed out the ninth for his sixth save.
- It’s been an unfortunate month for Alex Lange. He had a trio of appearances during which he surrendered seven runs. He’s turned it around with back-to-back scoreless outings, but through the halfway point in the month, he has yet to record a save. He was set up for the save on Thursday prior to his offense tacking on three insurance runs in the top half of the ninth. This is all coming off winning the AL Reliever of the Month Award in May.
- We witnessed a rare save of the three-inning variety from Michael Tonkin. It allowed the Braves to utilize just two pitchers in the game and give the rest of the arm barn a rest. Tonkin tossed 3.1 scoreless frames, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out six. He induced 11 whiffs, seven of which came on his slider. The breaker racked up 39% CSW while his sinker went for 55% CSW thanks to eight called strikes.
- Carlos Estévez was unable to close out the win as he lost all sense of control walking all three of the batters he faced. Luckily, Jacob Webb was able to escape the jam and clean up the mess with minimal damage to record his first save of the year and just the fourth of his career. It was an off night for Estévez who has been lights out all year.
Bullpen Depth Charts
Also, if you’re looking for a detailed list or ranking of RPs, check out Rick Graham’s weekly pieces:
(Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)