Without a doubt, the biggest surprise of the young season in the world of relief pitchers has been Julian Merryweather of the Blue Jays. Up until last night’s game, I’ll admit there was still some skepticism as to if he was really the team’s closer, but with Jordan Romano working the seventh and Merryweather the ninth and tenth, I think it’s save to say he is. For now, at least. He wasn’t as sharp last night, which is all the more impressive considering he allowed just one hit and a walk over two innings while striking out a pair. The great pitchers in this league still find a way to be effective even when they don’t have their best stuff, and Merryweather did just that last night. Merryweather sits at 7 Ks over 4 innings while having a .50 WHIP and has yet to allow an earned run. He could be this year’s breakout reliever.
- What a great start to the season it’s been for Craig Kimbrel, who has now worked 4.2 innings on the year without allowing a baserunner while striking out 9. Sure it’s been the Pirates three times and a Brewers offense stuck in mud, but the early results are encouraging nonetheless. His command has been fantastic, as he has been able to locate his fastball at the top of the strike zone and on the edges, staying out of the middle of the plate. As long as he is getting ahead and staying ahead of hitters, he’ll have a spot near the top of this list.
- Kimbrel’s former teammate Matt Barnes is also looking great to begin the year, although he has yet to earn a save as the team has yet to have a save opportunity arise. Barnes has been establishing his fastball early in counts, throwing it for strikes at the top of the zone while using his curveball less often, but effectively. It’s early, but Barnes looks poised to prove 2020 was a fluke and get back to his 2019 ways.
- A few relievers fell slightly due to concerns over role, including but not limited to Blake Treinen, Taylor Rogers, Codi Heuer, and Evan Marshall. Treinen is still in a good spot in LA, but he may lose out on some holds to Corey Knebel and/or Victor Gonzalez. Rogers now has Hansel Robles as well as Tyler Duffey to contend with, but again, it’s not a huge concern. The White Sox bullpen is loaded with talent, as we know, but I’m getting the sense only Aaron Bummer and Liam Hendriks will see consistent high leverage work late in games. Heuer and Marshall will mix in but are more secondary setup options for a team that also has Garrett Crochet and Michael Kopech in its bullpen.
- Chris Martin left Sunday’s game with some tingling in his fingers, and has yet to pitch since. At this point, the team doesn’t expect him to land on the IL and he may be available to pitch this weekend. The Braves desperately need to get Martin back, as he is the only trustworthy right-hander in that bullpen at Brian Snitker’s disposal. Hopefully he gets back this weekend and is throwing the ball like he did last season and this spring.
- Daniel Bard has been a bright spot for the Rockies bullpen this year, with the veteran closer already picking up two saves. Bard’s fastball is actually up a tick this year, and has been getting whiffs on his slider at a 50% rate. Bard’s slider had a 32.3% whiff rate last season. but if he can get that up into the high 40-50% range, all of a sudden Bard’s strikeout upside would put him in that top 25 discussion.
- Tanner Scott falls slightly this week after losing out on the closer role to Cesar Valdez. Scott will still factor into the holds mix, but how much upside will that bring on an Orioles team that despite its current record, likely won’t be winning a ton of games.
- Missing a big chunk of the spring certainly hasn’t helped Rafael Dolis to start the season and working after Ryan Borucki last night is not a great sign. He’s definitely behind Merryweather and Romano in the Jays pecking order, and perhaps his walk rate has taken him out of high leverage work completely for the time being.
- I got a little too excited about Enoli Paredes entering the year, believing in his stuff and that he’d be able to overcome some of the issues that plagued him last year. He also was the Astros’ top setup option! Unfortunately for now, the command issues are still prevalent and he’s probably at risk to lose out on a high leverage role if things don’t turn around soon. He’s still not far off from breaking through, but there are much safer options out there. As I am writing this, Paredes left the game with what looks like an injury. Hopefully it’s nothing serious.
- Despite the obnoxious way that game ended yesterday, it was still a situation that could have been avoided had Anthony Bass not blown his second save of the season. Don Mattingly gave Bass a vote of confidence after the game and said he’d stick with him in the closer role, but he’s still probably a blown save or two away from losing his grip on the role. For what it’s worth, I’m not totally out on Bass yet and think he’ll be fine as long as he can start getting ahead of hitters. His slider is still a great pitch.
- Greg Holland has also had some issues at the end of games for the Royals, who it appears have no set roles in their bullpen this season. I’m not entirely sure what is going on in this bullpen but I do know that if Holland isn’t the team’s closer, I’d rather chase more exciting options in SV+HLD leagues.
- Four relievers were able to garner three saves or holds this past week; Mark Melancon, Alex Reyes, Pete Fairbanks, and Stefan Crichton. Crichton is an interesting one of note, as he may find himself closing out games with Joakim Soria on the IL and Chris Devenski to the injured list.
EDIT: Brad Hand was added to the list as he returns to the Nationals active roster today.
EDIT 4/10: Removed Chris Martin
|PITCHER||TIER||INJURY (EST. RETURN)|
|Nick Anderson||1/2||Elbow (All-Star break)|
|Trevor Rosenthal||2/3||Shoulder (July at earliest)|
|Seth Lugo||3/4||Elbow (May)|
|Pete Fairbanks||4||Rotator Cuff (???)|
|Zack Britton||4/5||Elbow (June)|
|Jonathan Hernandez||4/5||Elbow (June)|
|Chris Martin||5||Shoulder (late April)|
|Felix Pena||6/7||Hamstring (mid-April)|
|Pedro Baez||7/8||COVID (early May)|
|Will Harris||7/8||Arm (April)|
|Brusdar Graterol||8||COVID (April)|
|Pierce Johnson||8/9||Groin (mid-April)|
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)