James Karinchak is having a ridiculous season, or at least he was up until Cleveland decided to move him into the closer role. Over the past two weeks, Karinchak has an 11.81 ERA and 2.81 WHIP to go with an 8/5 K/BB ratio. So have teams figured him out or is he just not meant for the closer role? It may be a bit of both, but the best answer is that he is human and just going through a rough patch right now. His fastball command has been sketchy as of late, and while he’ll never be known as a great command/control guy, he’s typically better than this. In April, Karinchak only walked two batters over 10.2 innings. He’s now walked 12 over his past 15 innings while also allowing ten hits, three of which were home runs. The underlying skills haven’t changed, his velocity is still the same and I think this phase will pass and we’ll get back to the dominant April version of Karinchak in short order. Just stick with him for now.
- The Rays are always changing their bullpen roles on a day-to-day basis, but I feel like J.P. Feyereisen is a pretty safe bet to be at the top of their closer depth chart right now, and for good reason. While he’s not overpowering, Feyereisen’s slider and changeup get him a ton of whiffs, as he is one of only a handful of qualified pitchers with a Whiff rate over 40% still. Since returning from his IL stint, Diego Castillo has just one save in six appearances, while Pete Fairbanks has one save all year, with Feyereisen picking up three saves since Castillo and Fairbanks last recorded a save.
- Lucas Sims finally seems to be settling into the closer role in Cincinnati, as it took the Reds almost two months to find some stability in the role. Tejay Antone will still be a factor, and I trust him more than Sims at the moment, but don’t let Sims bloated ERA turn you off. He’s pitched much better than that 5.14 ERA suggests, and could wind up being a difference-maker for fantasy managers over the final two-thirds of the season.
- Richard Rodríguez and Ian Kennedy are the two closers with the best odds of being traded first, and while the Rangers haven’t given Kennedy any save opportunities in the past three weeks or so, I’m still comfortable that he will succeed in any role in he finds himself in later on this season. As for Rodríguez, I also believe he will make for a quality setup man for a contending team, but I’d love to see more whiffs out of him, which we’ve seen in the not too distant past (36% Whiff rate in 2020). His current 22.3 Whiff rate is in large part due to the fact that he’s throwing his fastball 90% of the time, and while he’s been successful with it, I still feel like his slider usage should be closer to last years 28% than this years 10%. But with a 1.60 ERA and .60 WHIP, why change anything at the moment?
- Yimi García has now had back-to-back poor outings, but he was excellent overall in May, not allowing a run until his ninth and final appearance for the month. His first time pitching in June, his most recent appearance, was by far his worst of the season but I’m not quite ready to panic yet. He continues to allow hard contact at an alarming rate, but where he pitches most of his games, it may not matter all that much.
- Brad Hand has put together an effective string of outings and actually leads the league in saves over the past three weeks but he still feels like a ticking time bomb as he simply can not get miss bats at a high level anymore (22% Whiff rate, 7.5% SwStr rate) and his command isn’t good enough to be an elite finesse pitcher (.363 xwOBA, 5.48 xERA). For now, soak up as many saves as he will get you but beware of the impending doom and consider selling if there are any takers.
- Paul Fry looks like the favorite for saves in Baltimore and has put together a nice career year for himself in 2021. With a 37.6% K rate and .243 xwOBA, Fry is the most logical option to finish off games for the Orioles, as he also doesn’t carry an 18+ BB rate like fellow lefty Tanner Scott. Cole Sulser has also pitched very well out of the pen this season, and while he may see some more high leverage work, I’m not sure he’s a threat to Fry for the time being.
- Daniel Bard has been over the past month, and probably someone I have been sleeping on as his age and the Coors factor scares me a bit. Over the past month, Bard has a .75 ERA, .917 WHIP, and 19/3 K/BB ratio but unfortunately only has three saves as the Rockies continue to struggle. Our own Alexander Chase had a great thread on Twitter yesterday explaining how Bard could really be a great trade deadline acquisition if he can escape Colorado. Let’s hope he gets shipped off to a contender where he can help set up a closer in a normal ballpark.
- Liam Hendriks was the only reliever to notch three or more SV+HLD’s this past week, as he actually finished with four saves. There’s not much else to say about Hendriks who has been fantastic in his first season with the White Sox and proven worthy of his early-round draft status.
|PITCHER||TIER||INJURY (EST. RETURN)|
|Nick Anderson||1/2||Elbow (July/August)|
|Trevor Rosenthal||2/3||Shoulder (July/August)|
|Drew Pomeranz||2/3||Lat (late June)|
|Zack Britton||3/4||Elbow (next week?)|
|Julian Merryweather||3/4||Oblique (late June)|
|Michael Kopech||3/4||Hamstring (late June)|
|Corey Knebel||4/5||Triceps (July)|
|Jordan Hicks||4/5||Elbow (August)|
|Josh Staumont||4/5||Knee (June)|
|J.B. Wendelken||5/6||Oblique (late June)|
|Ryan Borucki||6||Forearm (late June)|
|Pedro Báez||6||Shoulder (July)|
Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)