Welcome back to the newest 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
- All 30 MLB teams play today. It’s another half-day on Monday with 16 of 30 teams expected to be in action. The teams who don’t get a scheduled day off are: LAA, CHW, KCR, STL, ARI, MIA, MIN, BAL, NYY, TOR, ATL, NYM, SEA, HOU, TBR, and OAK.
- Archie Bradley hit the IL with an abdominal strain which gives the Angels just slightly less depth temporarily
- Jake Brentz was placed on the Il by the Royals with a flexor strain. He had apparently been feeling soreness in his arm for a while and that could be a factor that led to his poor start to the season.
- With Mark Melancon unavailable (likely COVID related), Arizona turned to Noé Ramirez in the 8th and Ian Kennedy in the ninth for the second straight game. This time, however, the bats didn’t extend the lead and Kennedy earned his first save of the season. Kennedy isn’t a recommended add for a couple of reasons. First, Melancon could be back within a couple of days. It hasn’t been reported yet whether he tested positive or whether he just had a close contact. Second, Kennedy’s skills have always been kind of borderline as far as closers go, but his first ten innings of work this year have been extremely unimpressive. Eight strikeouts, but six walks and a swinging strike rate of just 7%. He may get another save before Melancon comes back, but he has just as good of a chance to blow a save.
- Génesis Cabrera and Jake Woodford worked to keep the game within arm’s reach for the Cardinals. The former remains one of the top holds options on the team.
- Ryne Stanek worked a very quick, seven-pitch 8th inning retiring the heart of the Blue Jays order. Yes, it looks like a committee with Ryan Pressly out, but Stanek is still throwing 99. I’m intrigued. I expect him to be really good for holds the rest of the way.
- Jordan Romano earned his tenth save by making quick work of the Astros in the 9th. He threw nine pitches, all strikes, and retired the side in order. His peripheral numbers and 20% swinging strike rate speak for themselves. The only thing we have to worry about now is overuse.
- Four more rough innings for the Nats bullpen as they allowed four runs, three earned. I wouldn’t touch any of the guys thrown out there on Saturday. Help us, Cole Henry. You’re our only hope.
- Only the league’s (arguably) top bullpen could throw out guys like John Brebbia in the 8th inning of a well-in-hand game and follow it up with a guy who was forced into action unexpectedly due to COVID making the rounds through the pen and have it go this well. Mauricio Llovera was casually dominating AAA before being called up and he has a chance to be yet another Phillies castaway reliever who finds new life elsewhere.
- The Angels bullpen was sent scrambling yesterday after Noah Syndergaard was unexpectedly scratched and the team found themselves needing to get a lot of guys a day off. They did so by bulking Jaime Barria for three innings after their starter and avoiding their top arms. It worked pretty well, but isn’t something we should expect to regularly happen.
- Liam Hendriks got his first bit of action since last Sunday where he took the loss and was later revealed to have been dealing with back problems. It’s been a rough start to the season for Hendriks and, while this inning went well in terms of end results, it was a bit of a mixed bag. The good: 46% CSW on thirteen heaters thrown. If he can get strikes with his fastball early in counts, it sets up his secondaries beautifully. The bad: Out of the seven offspeed pitches he threw, six went for balls. He’s still not convincing hitters to offer at his offspeed stuff. The ugly: There was some LOUD contact in those three outs. He was very lucky to get out of the inning with just one walk allowed.
- Speaking of top-tier closers who have had a rough start to the year, Emmanuel Clase earned his fourth save of the year working around a hit to preserve the lead in the ninth. It’s possible Clase’s cutter is a bit straighter this year which is leading to a bit more contact. It’s also possible that he just had a bit of bad luck in his early appearances. Still, he has some work to do to begin returning positive value considering his draft day cost.
- Dany Jiménez was called upon to preserve a tie game in the top of the ninth and fell victim to a bit of bad luck and a bit of bad fielding eventually allowing two unearned runs and taking the loss. The Oscar Mercado ground ball could have been a double play had it not been deflected by Jiménez, but it also should have been fielded for one out at least. However, the double by Richie Palacios was no fluke, so Jiménez can’t be completely absolved. Lou Trivino is reportedly ready to begin a rehab assignment to Jiménez’s time as closer may be coming to an end, but he’s performed well enough for Trivino to have a short leash if he won’t already be sharing the role.
- When he’s on, Jhoan Duran is one of the most electrifying pitchers in the game. He cruised through two clean innings on just 20 pitches, striking out three and hitting 102 mph on the gun twice. Even though it was the 6th and 7th innings, Duran still earned his third hold of the year. If his swinging strike rate stays north of 20%, the Twins will have to eventually use him more consistently in the late innings if they want to win.
- A rare rough day for the Rays pen as they allowed ten hits and six runs (four earned) in four innings of work. New acquisition from the Padres Javy Guerra had the roughest go of it and allowed four earned runs while recording just two outs. He won’t be seeing high-leverage innings very often as they’re spoiled for choice in that regard. Guerra is very much a work-in-progress right now.
- Paul Sewald got his first work after a brief IL stint and looked ready to retake his HLR role for the Mariners. The bullpen remains and will likely continue to remain without a clear 9th inning option, so paying close attention to usage will be key. Diego Castillo has worked two out of three days while Sewald is just working his way back from an injury. Andrés Muñoz now will have four days’ rest before Sunday’s game, so I’d consider him the top option for a save opportunity in Seattle on Sunday.
- That makes four saves in five days for Anthony Bender who appears to have a firm hold on the job in Miami for now despite a couple early season struggles. The question now is, can he hold onto it? He has not been able to deceive hitters nearly as much as he did last year and that has sent his strikeout rate plummeting. He should get a few more punchouts as the year goes along, but the 29% rate he put up last year is almost certainly not happening again. This, to me, looks like a guy who will end up with a K% of 19-21% and an ERA in the low 4s. I don’t know if that’s a guy that holds on to a closer job all year. Dylan Floro completed his third rehab assignment in AAA and he reportedly maxed out around 93 mph. It’s early and we have very little information, but that’s not good either.
- Taylor Rogers was unavailable after recording saves in three straight games, so the Dads turned to Steven Wilson and Luis García to record the final seven outs against the Pirates. It didn’t go according to plan. After going into the bottom of the 8th with a 5-2 lead, San Diego lost 7-6 in ten innings on a Bryan Reynolds rope to first that was ruled an error, but looked pretty clean to me. Both of these guys deserve some slack as they were pitching out of position in this one without Rogers. Both should continue to be good sources of holds going forward.
- The Pirates deployed David Bednar in the 8th yet again to the continued chagrin of fantasy managers everywhere. He allowed a bomb to Manny Machado giving him his first earned run of the year. Chris Stratton came on in the 9th and stayed for the 10th which allowed him to pick up the win. The ERA doesn’t quite show it yet, but Stratton has been pretty good for the Buccos so far this year. With Bednar locked in as the HLR, it’s likely Stratton gets the slight majority of save chances for the time being.
- Both Hansel Robles and Jake Diekman had worked three out of four days going into Saturday’s matchup. What were the Red Sox going to do if they found themselves in yet another close game? Trot out Matt Barnes of course. Well, he’s still only throwing 94 mph and people still aren’t fooled by his curve (seven swings, five balls in play on Saturday). I simply don’t trust him right now. Even if he’s given the job, if he keeps pitching like this, he’ll lose it quickly.
- Baltimore has themselves a legitimate closer. Jorge López worked two scoreless innings to earn the win, his second of the year to go along with his four saves. López is, naturally, throwing harder as a reliever, but he’s also throwing more strikes. The walks that plagued him as a starter are now more than made up for by the increase in strikeouts he’s generated. I see him as a top-15 closer the rest of the way. This isn’t a flash in the pan.
- It was Spencer Strider day again on Saturday and it was wonderful. He logged the final eleven outs of the game for the Braves to spell their bullpen and he did so on just 33 pitches. He allowed no hits and just one walk with five punchouts and a CSW of 48%. Be still my heart.
- The Rangers needed four outs after Dane Dunning gave them seven and two-thirds wonderful innings. They turned to Dennis Santana for his third hold of the season for one of those outs. Finally, they turned to Joe Barlow for the save opportunity in the ninth, which he converted for his first save of the season. To borrow some of Nick’s parlance, Barlow was seen as sort of a Toby of closers coming into the year, but he’s shaping up to be more of a Cherry Bomb. His swing and miss stuff is back and he has a really impressive 9:1 K:BB ratio thus far. However, he’s also allowing a lot of hard contact including four barrels and two home runs. He works up in the zone quite often and this is just the risk you take sometimes. Balls like Marcell Ozuna’s flyball for the final out of the game yesterday might start leaving the yard in June/July and that would cause some headaches for fantasy managers.
- Corey Knebel logged a four-out save for his fourth of the season working around a hit and a walk. Jeurys Familia and Seranthony Domínguez logged holds. Knebel isn’t conosistently sitting 96+ like he did with the Dodgers last year, but he’s still getting results. He may have more workload concerns than the average reliever, so that may cause him to lose some save opportunities down the road, but he’s the clear top arm for Philadelphia when he’s healthy and available.
- The only hold handed out for the Mets went to Trevor May in the 6th inning. They tried to go Adam Ottavino in the 7th, but that unfortunately didn’t go well. My guess is that it would have been Seth Lugo in the 8th. Out of the three, May, when he’s right, is probably the best holds option, but he’s struggled to begin the year. The strikeouts are way down and deception numbers like z-contact % and o-swing % are trending in the wrong direction. He’s a vet and his new changeup is working well, though, so I feel like he’ll figure out how to get those swings and misses back and get ahead in the count more to regain his expected level of success.
- Miguel Castro –> Clay Holmes –> Aroldis Chapman for the final three innings against the Royals yesterday with the former two earning holds and the latter earning his fifth save of the season. Chapman averaged 95.5 mph on the six fastballs that he threw. It feels like his offspeed stuff was about that fast just a couple years ago. With the drop in velocity, we’ve seen a corresponding drop in K-rate, but, unfortunately, we’ve not seen a drop in walk rate. His K-BB% sits at just 14.7% which would be his lowest in a decade. That gap between strikeouts and walks really tells you how big your margin of error is. Guys with marks consistently over 30% have really wide margins of error for things like defensive lapses, missed calls, or simply misplaced pitches. Chapman’s margin of error has been rapidly shrinking over the past couple years and he’s not been able to do anything to stop it in the early going this year. We saw him blow up mid-season in 2021 and he’s done nothing to reduce the chances of that happening at some point again this year.
- Nothing super interesting from the Royals here as they followed their starters with two bulk guys to get the back end of their bullpen a break. Neither one have much fantasy relevance for now.
- Scott Effross is a guy who’s done nothing but perform in the situations the Cubs give him in his short major-league career. I’d love to see what he’s got in higher-leverage situations and, if he keeps pitching like this, he’ll get his chance soon enough.
- Some more control problems for Jake Cousins who needed 30 pitches to get three outs to close out the game. He’s now issued multiple walks in two out of his last three appearances. I’m not sure if anything is particularly wrong with Cousins. I just think this is who he is as a pitcher at this point in his career. He’ll rack up lots of Ks, but also rack up some walks. There will be outings where he just doesn’t have his control and sometimes he’ll get through it, like today, but sometimes he won’t.
- Nine balls and six strikes for Art Warren who just didn’t have it on Saturday as he allowed three earned runs, recording just one out, and being tagged with the loss. That’s six walks and six strikeouts for Warren on the year who hasn’t looked anything like the guy we saw last year. Lucas Sims also got some work in this one and I’m going to chalk up the big dips in FB velocity and CU spin to the lack of leverage. In his third appearance, though, the continued lack of swinging strikes and strikeouts is starting to be something to take note of.
- Tyler Kinley worked more magic for his fourth hold and Daniel Bard closed out the ninth with ease for his sixth save. For once, the Rockies have a legitimately good 1-2 punch at the back of their bullpen. I’m excited to see more of Kinley and would consider him in holds leagues.
- More domination from Michael Fulmer who needed just eight pitches to record five outs and earn his third hold of the year. He might not have 40+ K% upside, but he is able to manipulate contact to get outs in ways he wants to get outs and is waiting in the wings in case Gregory Soto falters. Soto did work a clean inning in a non-save situation. It was his first clean, 1-2-3 inning of the year in his seventh appearance.
- A rare hiccup for the Dodgers’ pen as Evan Phillips gave up three runs and took the loss. We also saw some more work from Reyes Moronta and, while he’s definitely a bit different than he was in 2019, he still looks like a guy who could be a valuable member of this pen for the full season if he stays healthy.
Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)
Why is it called reliever ranks when they aren’t ranked?