This might be the most important article we do all season. We have more bullpen developments in the first week than any other, and this is the time to capitalize on these unexpected decisions. I was shocked to see some players get saves, but it’ll be interesting to see how all of these pens play out.
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Saves + Holds League Guide (2023 Fantasy Baseball)
We have a ton to discuss, so let’s kick things off with the murky bullpens!
Closer Situations to Watch
These are bullpens we need to monitor!
Arizona Diamondbacks (AVOID)
We saw Scott McGough get the first save for this team, and he looks like the guy going forward. He had 38 saves in Japan last year and doesn’t have much behind him with Joe Mantiply and Mark Melancon on the IL. We also saw him blow one in epic fashion on Monday, so try to avoid this pen if you can. With that in mind, Drew Jameson picked up a two-inning save on Tuesday and has some of the best stuff in this pen.
Rasiel Iglesias had this job locked up, but he’s on the IL. That means A.J. Minter and Joe Jimenez are excellent fill-ins until he returns. Minter is the best option, posting a 1.93 ERA and 0.91 WHIP last year. Both guys should be in for a ton of holds and saves going forward.
Chicago Cubs (AVOID)
This is another situation we want to stay away from. Michael Fulmer got the first save in the opener, so he’s worth a shot if you’re desperate for saves. Brad Boxberger might get some chances, but he’s a journeyman and not a worthy add in holds leagues.
Chicago White Sox
Liam Hendriks is one of the best closers in baseball, but his cancer diagnosis has everybody wondering who’s up next. Kendall Graveman and Reynaldo Lopez have been great at times and are speculative pick-ups for saves and holds until Hendriks is ready to return. Lopez got the first save for the White Sox in their opener, and Graveman has really struggled.
Alex Lange had one of the best strikeout rates in baseball last year and should be the closer. Shoulds don’t pay bills, though, and with how bad the Tigers are, we must keep them in this section. With that said, Lange is a dominant hold/saves guy, posting a 30 percent K rate last year.
Los Angeles Angels
Carlos Estevez has been rumored as the closer, but he’s been getting blown up in Colorado for years. We’ll give him a chance but keep an eye on Ryan Tepera and Jimmy Herget as potential saves/holds candidates. Estevez pitched the ninth with a four-run lead on Monday and struck out the side in the game prior, so he looks like the guy!
Los Angeles Dodgers
This is the most intriguing situation in fantasy baseball. Being a closer for one of the best teams is a godsend, but nobody knows who will close games for LA. Evan Phillips is expected to be in a fireman role, with Brusdar Graterol and Daniel Hudson candidates as well. All of these guys are speculative adds until we have a better idea of what to expect, but all of them are elite options in holds leagues for this potential 100-win team. Phillips got the team’s first save on Tuesday.
Miami Marlins (AVOID)
A.J. Puk is the best reliever in Miami, and we saw him grab the first save. He was a worthy add in holds leagues and needs to be universally owned if he gets the next save chance.
Jhoan Duran got the first save for this club and could be in for a monster year if that continues. Griffin Jax also got the eighth inning, and he’s a sneaky holds candidate if that continues. Jorge Lopez randomly got a save as well, and it’s tough to gauge how this pen will play out.
New York Mets
The Edwin Diaz injury sucks. He was the unanimous top closer, but David Robertson and Adam Ottavino will fill-in in his absence. We’ll bet on Robertson since he had 20 saves last year and picked up the first one of the year.
Oakland Athletics (AVOID)
This is one of the worst teams, and you should avoid their bullpen altogether. Trevor May is one of their highest-paid players on this team, though, and is a worthy add if you’re in a pinch for saves. With that said, Danny Jimenez got the first save, so who knows?
This might be the deepest bullpen in baseball, but nobody knows who will save games. My money is on Craig Kimbrel, but Gregory Soto, Jose Alvarado, and Seranthony Dominguez are all in play. They can all be rostered, because of their exceptional rates. We need a larger sample size!
Tampa Bay Rays
I rarely draft Tampa relievers because this team always does the unexpected. Pete Fairbanks is supposed to be the closer, but this team always goes committee. Jason Adam had a 1.56 ERA and 0.76 WHIP last season and is one of the best holds options in baseball behind him.
We had to move Texas into this section. We thought Jose Leclerc was the guy, but Will Smith got the first save on Sunday. Both guys are worthy options in saves and holds leagues until we see more. Smith has experience with Bruce Bochy, so, we’re betting on him keeping the job.
Washington Nationals (AVOID)
This is the worst team in baseball. Kyle Finnegan could be the closer, but who cares. He allowed five runs on Tuesday, anyway.
Closer Situations Not to Worry About
These are the teams with clear-cut bullpen plans heading into the 2023 season.
Boston Red Sox
Alexis Diaz has taken over this job, and we don’t trust anyone behind him.
Ryan Pressly is the closer for one of the best bullpens in baseball. Bryan Abreu and Rafael Montero are great relievers, too, and could be in line for a ton of holds. Pressly was dealing with arm fatigue, allowing Montero to record a save over the weekend. Monitor his status!
Kansas City Royals
Scott Barlow had a 2.18 ERA en route to 24 saves last season and should be the closer. Aroldis Chapman was an expensive signing, though, and he could give Barlow a run for saves. Chapman is a great speculative add in all leagues after he struck out the side in his debut and has two scoreless appearances.
New York Yankees
Clay Holmes broke out last season with 20 saves and a 1.02 WHIP. Look for him to take all the saves unless he starts slow.
David Bednar is one of the best relievers in baseball but will only get limited saves for one of the worst teams in MLB. He’s an elite option in SVs/HLDs leagues but don’t trust anyone else in this bullpen.
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants
Camilio Doval is the presumed closer with 27 saves last year, but Taylor Rogers is plenty capable behind him. Rogers is a sneaky option in holds formats.
This is the best bullpen in baseball. Andres Munoz might be the best reliever in the sport, but Paul Sewald is expected to take the bulk of saves. Both guys are must-own fantasy players in all formats. With that said, Munoz got the save in the season opener and could move to the top of my rankings if that continues.
St. Louis Cardinals
Ryan Helsley has some of the nastiest stuff and should remain the Cards closer. With that said, Giovanny Gallegos has been successful in that role in the past and is an elite option in holds leagues. Helsley struggled in his debut but look for him to get the next chance anyway.
Toronto Blue Jays
Jordan Romano is one of the best relievers and has a stranglehold on this closer gig. Eric Swanson is a solid holds guy behind his 1.68 ERA and 0.91 WHIP from last year.
My Saves/Holds Rankings
On the Border (Holds Candidates)
Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Jose Alvarado, Trevor Stephan, Daniel Hudson, Erik Swanson, Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, Kyle Finnegan, Adam Ottavino, Liam Hendriks, Joe Jimenez, Robert Suarez, Gregory Soto, Matt Bush, Dylan Floro, AJ Puk, Jimmy Herget, Ryan Tepera, Bryan Abreu, Scott McGough, Michael Fulmer, Drey Jameson, and James Karinchak.
Relievers on the Rise
Michael Fulmer (CHC)
Fulmer got the Cubs first save, and he’s the best option in this nightmarish pen.
Reynaldo Lopez (CWS)
Lopez got the first save for the ChiSox, and he’s an intriguing option as long as Hendriks remains out.
Will Smith (TEX)
Smith made his Rangers debut on Sunday night and recorded the teams first save. It was shocking to see Jose LeClerc sitting since he hadn’t pitched since Thursday, but it’s a situation we need to watch. Smith has at least 34 saves in two of the last three years and shouldn’t be overlooked.
AJ Puk (MIA)
Puk had a 3.12 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in a breakout year last year and looks like the top candidate for saves in Miami. His 76 strikeouts across 66 innings were impressive too, and he could be a sneaky add if the save chances keep flowing in.
Potential Closers on the IL
Rasiel Iglesias (shoulder) – 15-Day IL. Hasn’t resumed throwing yet.
Liam Hendriks (Hodkgin’s Lymphoma) – Return unknown, but there’s optimism he could be back within a month or so.
Edwin Diaz (knee) – Out for the season
Daniel Bard (anxiety) – 15-Day IL. It’s tough to know what to expect here, but Bard has been throwing some bullpen sessions.
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Joel Bartilotta is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Joel, check out his archive.