There are plenty of great comeback stories a week into the season, with a handful of those names rising on our list. However, it’s Jose Alvarado who excites me the most, as not only is the lefty averaging over 99 MPH with his sinker, but he’s also only walked one hitter over 3 innings of work. Yes, it’s early, but as long as Alvarado isn’t allowing free baserunners, he will be one of the best relievers in the game. Again, it’s early, but a 16.4% SwStr and 36.4% CSW are not crazy expectations for someone with Alvarado’s stuff.
- Emilio Pagan may have lost out on the closer but it looks as if he may be the Padres primary setup guy in front of Mark Melancon. Drew Pomeranz has been pitching in high leverage situations as well, but Jayce Tingler seems willing to use Pomeranz more erratically than Pagan, who has only pitched in either the 7th or 8th inning of games with the Padres tied or leading. Pagan still isn’t manufacturing a ton of whiffs, but I won’t argue with the early results.
- He may be Cleveland’s closer or he may be part of a 3-man committee, but as things stand now, I’m not ready to call Nick Wittgren the closer, or a must-roster player. I still get the feeling Emmanuel Clase will wind up with the bulk of the save chances, but he worked the 8th inning on Wednesday, so he could face the middle of the Royals lineup later this week. He may be switching lists next week, but for now, he’s the 3rd wheel in a committee.
- Corey Knebel has his fastball back, with the former Brewers closer averaging 96.5 MPH on his fastball this season. The only two seasons where Knebel’s fastball averaged 96+ MPH were in 2017 and 2018, by far the best seasons of his career. It looks like the Dodgers struck gold again this year with their annual RP free-agent lottery ticket (last year with Blake Treinen), with Knebel already moving himself into a setup role.
- Speaking of former closers surprising out of the gate, Hansel Robles is off to a hot start with the Twins and seemingly has himself a setup role already. Just like with Knebel, Robles has seen an uptick in velocity this season (although it was on par with 2020 yesterday) but more importantly has made his changeup his featured pitch. His slider has never been very effective, but the fastball/changeup combo makes Robles a late-inning weapon.
- Did I say speaking of former closers surprising out of the gate? We can’t just forget about Sean Doolittle then, who, just like Knebel and Robles, has seen his fastball velocity climb back to 2018/2019 territory, leading to an early 22% SwStr rate. He looks locked into that secondary setup role behind Lucas Sims and Amir Garrett, but if Garrett’s struggles continue, he could find himself back in a closing role.
- It’s discouraging that we’ve only seen Josh Staumont in one game and it wasn’t in a high-leverage situation. Instead, the Royals have had Jesse Hahn and Wade Davis close out games, while Scott Barlow and Greg Holland have also gotten work. I’m not sure if Mike Matheny is concerned about Staumont’s health or walk rate or something else, but either way, it’s concerning.