Last week was relatively quiet in major-league bullpens, especially when compared to the frantic activity we had seen earlier this month. While there were no true closer changes last week, some very interesting stories are unfolding around the league, and prudent Fantasy owners should keep a close eye on these situations, as they could form the basis for some hierarchy changes down the road.
A former closer landed on the DL, which solidified his replacement’s standing, while a member of a closer-by-committee also landed on the shelf. Both may again be in the late-innings conversation when they return, but for now they are out of the picture.
Chasing saves often involves diligent (some would say “obsessive”) use of your league’s waiver wire; one of the season’s first prime pickups is scuffling a bit, while his understudy is throwing a lot of zeroes. Is it time for another change? Oh, the suspense.
While they’re not yet in line for saves, a couple of familiar names from that famous bullpen soap opera Days of Closers Past have re-emerged with their respective teams’ disabled lists, and both are looking to reclaim a high-leverage role.
Following bullpens around the league is truly a daily pursuit, so be sure to check out – and bookmark — our Bullpen Depth Charts, which are updated as news breaks… which means pretty much daily.
Neftali Feliz was placed on the 15-day disabled list May 25 with an abscess under his right arm. Feliz had been scuffling badly prior to going on the DL, and had lost the closer’s job in Texas. Keep an eye on Feliz when he returns, as he could again be in the mix for saves if he shows signs of regaining his old form.
Enrique Burgos was placed on the 15-day disabled list May 26 with shoulder tendinitis. Burgos has walked eight batters in 13.2 innings this season, but he has also fanned 25 hitters. Arizona’s closer situation is far from settled, and Burgos’ big-time strikeout pitch could place him in line for save chances when he returns from the DL – assuming he can harness his command, of course.
Shawn Tolleson has solidified his hold on the ninth inning in Arlington, allowing no runs and just two hits on his way to saving six straight games. Tolleson has fanned six batters and walked just one during that time, and he looks to have locked down the ninth inning for the Rangers for the time being.
Burgos’ DL stint has given the de facto closer’s job to Brad Ziegler, but the veteran submariner has been rather shaky of late, surrendering three runs (two earned) and three hits in his last 1.2 innings of work. Ziegler is not a power pitcher, and his deceptive style would not seem to be a good fit for the ninth inning. Addison Reed, meanwhile, has logged three straight scoreless appearances, and he could be on his way to another shot at the closer’s gig.
Reliever on the Rocks
Fernando Rodney seems to be a regular visitor to this column, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. The Archer of CrookedHat owns a 9.00 ERA in May, and opponents are batting robust .333 against him this month. Rodney has allowed runs in six of his last eight appearances, and one wonders how long the Mariners will wait for their closer to turn things around.
Jason Grilli was one of the darlings of the early-season waiver wire, but opponents are batting .314 against him this month, and his grip on the closer’s job in Atlanta could be loosening a bit. There has been no talk of a closer change yet, but this is absolutely a situation to keep your eye on.
Brad Boxberger was all but unhittable until this week, but the Rays’ closer has seen his ERA jump from 1.10 to 2.95 after surrendering four earned runs and four hits in his last two appearances. Boxberger has been terrific this season, but if he doesn’t turn things around quickly, the Rays could hand the ninth inning to someone else – possibly former closer Jake McGee.
Relievers on the Rise
Seattle’s Carson Smith has allowed just two earned runs and nine hits through his first 21 innings, while striking out 24 batters and walking just five. Opponents are batting just .127 against him, and his microscopic 0.86 ERA and 0.67 WHIP speak to just how dominant he has been in the first two months of the season. The 25-year-old owns a 2.55 ERA and 11.2 K/9 in his minor league career, so that swing-and-miss stuff he has displayed in Seattle does not appear to be an illusion. If the Mariners finally tire of Fernando Rodney’s inconsistency in the ninth inning, Smith’s would likely be the first name they call. If you have the roster space, Smith is a worthwhile add.
While Jason Grilli has scuffled a bit lately, Jim Johnson has just kept rolling along. Johnson owns a 2.25 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in May, and he has fanned 22 batters in 23.1 innings of work this year. The veteran had fallen on hard times of late, but remember that he saved 101 games for Baltimore between 2012 and 2013.
Casey Janssen was activated from the disabled list May 22, and he could be in the late-innings mix for Washington in a very short time. Janssen saved 81 games for Toronto between 2012 and 2014, so he’s no stranger to high-leverage situations.
Keep an eye on…
The Arizona bullpen is a bit of a mess, but help could be on the way in the form of David Hernandez, who is currently on a rehab assignment as he attempts to come back from Tommy John surgery. Hernandez posted 15 saves and 48 holds for the D-Backs in 2011-12; his presence would be welcome in what has been a very unsettled situation.
Former A’s closer Sean Doolittle made his 2015 debut on May 27, and the results were a bit mixed. On the one hand, Doolittle tossed a scoreless inning and struck out two batters; on the other hand, his velocity was only 90.52 MPH – as opposed to the 95.26 he averaged in 2014 – per BrooksBaseball.net . Doolittle was placed back on the disabled list May 30 with a left shoulder strain; continue to monitor his status.
Following bullpens around the league is truly a daily pursuit, so be sure to check out – and bookmark — our Bullpen Depth Charts, which are updated as news breaks.
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