We are now less than a week away from opening day and relievers are dropping like flies. First, it was Jose Leclerc who will miss considerable time with elbow soreness. Then we found out that Kirby Yates needed Tommy John surgery. Last but certainly not least, we learned yesterday that Nick Anderson has a partially torn UCL and will be out at least until the All-Star break. Three big names all out in what has been a bloodbath of a week on the injury front in general (Eloy Jimenez sigh).
Most, if not everyone in “red” this week (-) are down because of either A.) injury or velo down, B.) other spring issues or C.) too many mouths to feed in their bullpen (CWS, SD, etc.). With three closers going down this past week, I think it’s safe to be a little more conservative with pitchers dealing with spring training arm issues (Drew Pomeranz, Tanner Rainey, etc.), especially after the Nick Anderson news. A lot of these guys will try to pitch through some elbow or shoulder pain but at the end of the day, they either need surgery or a prolonged rest/rehab stint.
- I feel obligated to bump Devin Williams down, not because he isn’t the most talented reliever in baseball, but I truly question his ability to hold up through an entire season. He’s only made two spring appearances as the team is trying to play it safe with his shoulder fatigue, and has only 131.2 professional innings under his belt since 2016 (average of about 33 IP a year).
- Will Smith has been great this spring for the Braves (5 IP, 10/0 K/BB ratio, 1 H allowed), and looks like the Giants version of Smith we know and love. He dealt with Covid early on in the 2020 season and was never quite the same afterward, but he is just one year removed from being one the best relievers and most coveted free agents in baseball.
- With Yates out for the year, the Jays will likely turn to Jordan Romano and Rafael Dolis to help finish off games this season. Despite a worrying walk rate, I really love Dolis’s arsenal and believe he could be one of the better closers in the game. However, I do like Romano better, and I’m also curious as to why Dolis hasn’t pitched in a game since March 13th. I’ve searched everywhere for some sort of answer to this and come up empty. It’s mildly concerning he hasn’t appeared in a game in almost two weeks but the team hasn’t announced any injury news with him and Charlie Montoya mentioned him as Yates potential replacement. Perhaps it’s a Ryan Pressly situation?
- It pains me to drop Codi Heuer so much but this bullpen is just so incredibly deep, it’s fair to question just how much he will be able to contribute in holds (or saves). Teams typically can support two, sometimes three relievers for holds value, and I think it’s fair to say Aaron Bummer and Evan Marshall will be the top two setup options here. Who that potential third option will be is up in the air, but I’d imagine it could be a rotating door or Heuer, Garrett Crochet, Michael Kopech, and Matt Foster. Heuer has 14 K’s over 8.2 spring innings so far this March.
- As far as who will be the secondary setup option in Cleveland, I still get the sense that Phil Maton will likely get more holds opportunities than Emmanuel Clase. Both have pitched fairly well this spring and Clase should still figure into some high-leverage work. Both have considerably more upside than Nick Wittgren but we know how much Terry loves his veterans.
3/27: updated list following the Oberg and Matt Barnes news