We discussed this last week, and the same rules apply: This is one of the worst times to examine bullpens because these teams are finally settling down.
Any club that doesn’t have a set closer at this point is probably no longer in contention, and that’s crystal clear when looking at the clubs in the “Closer Situations to Watch” section.
We will start there, so let’s look at some of these bad teams’ bullpens!
Closer Situations to Watch
These are bullpens we need to monitor!
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox have been woeful all season, and their bullpen is a primary reason why. Losing Liam Hendriks for the year is one thing, but trading away Kendall Graveman crippled them in the late innings. Gregory Santos has had three saves since that trade, but he’s also blown two. He’s the only worthy option in this pen.
Justin Lawrence has most of the saves over the last two months, but he’s struggled recently. J-Law has blown five saves in his previous 10 appearances, allowing eight total runs across his last three outings. Daniel Bard could get the next chance, but his 4.40 ERA and 1.63 WHIP aren’t too compelling either.
Alex Lange was removed as the closer a few weeks ago, but it seems Detroit wants to give him another chance. Jason Foley had three saves once Lange was demoted but struggled in those opportunities. That’s why Lange was brought back into the ninth, picking up two saves in his last two appearances. He has a 1.50 ERA and 11.3 K/9 rate since July 17 and should get the next chance.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals have the second-worst record in baseball, and this bullpen hasn’t helped. Scott Barlow and Aroldis Chapman were both moved at the deadline, leaving a significant void in the closer’s role. Our bet was for Carlos Hernandez to take over, and he has two saves in his last two outings. It’s a gross source of saves, but Hernandez will likely be the guclosery from here on out!
New York Mets
It’s strange to see a team like the Mets in this section, but it shows how poor they’ve been. They traded David Robertson at the deadline, and we still have no clue who the closer is in his absence. It looks like a combination of Brooks Raley, Adam Ottavino and Drew Smith, but it will be a committee for the remainder of the season.
We know that Trevor May is Oakland’s closer, but they must remain in this section because the A’s are the worst team in baseball. It’s no fault of May, though, who has 13 saves since June 7. That’s one of the highest totals in the league during that span, but he’s unlikely to get much more than that through the final two months.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals have also been a colossal disappointment, moving Jordan Hicks at the deadline. It looked like Ryan Helsley would resume his role as the closer off of the IL, but he continues to have setbacks in his rehabilitation. JoJo Romero has been the go-to closer recently, picking up his third save since July 30 on Wednesday. Giovanny Gallegos might also get some chances, and he’s the best bet for holds.
It’s strange to see a title contender in this section, but these co-closers are struggling right now. Will Smith leads the team with 22 saves, but he has a 15.19 ERA across his last six outings, blowing two saves in that stretch. Aroldis Chapman also blew a save earlier in the week, and it’s hard to get a read on who will get the next chance. Both pitchers need to be rostered everywhere, though, considering this is one of the best teams in the AL.
Closer Situations Not to Worry About
These are the teams with clear-cut bullpen plans.
The Diamondbacks have been freefalling down the standings in the second half, but they’re starting to turn things around the last week. Adding Paul Sewald at the deadline has been a major boost because this team used four different closers through the opening three months. Kevin Ginkel and Scott McGough should get some holds, but we can’t trust anyone outside of Sewald until this team starts playing more consistently.
Raisel Iglesias has 20 scoreless appearances in his last 21 outings, re-establishing himself as one of the best closers in the game. The bridge to him has been impressive, too, with A.J. Minter, Kirby Yates and Joe Jimenez all pitching well. All three relievers can be rostered in holds leagues with how amazing Atlanta has been.
This is the best bullpen in baseball. Felix Bautista is leading all relievers with a 47 percent K rate, posting some of the best peripherals in the sport. Yennier Cano has been just as dominant in the eighth inning, tied with the lead league for 27 holds. Those two need to be rostered everywhere.
Boston Red Sox
We had an interesting development Wednesday night. Kenley Jansen was pitching the ninth inning against Houston but departed after three pitches because of some unknown discomfort. If he misses time, Chris Martin is the best bet for saves. He leads the team with 21 holds, generating a 1.29 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in a superb season.
The Cubs have catapulted themselves into the playoff hunt, and Adbert Alzolay has benefited from that remarkable run. The Cubs closer has 16 saves since June 9, totaling a 2.75 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. Mark Leiter Jr. has been a solid source of holds, tallying a 2.82 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 32 percent K rate en route to 23 holds.
Alexis Diaz has been dandy in the ninth inning, leading the league with 35 saves! He also has a 34 percent K rate, but he’s the only rosterable player in this otherwise lackluster bullpen.
Emmanuel Clase has had a bizarre season. He’s one of the league leaders with 33 saves, but he also has nine blown saves. The good news is that no one is even close to stealing this job, with Trevor Stephan being the only other reliable option in this pen. He is the pitcher to roster for holds, thanks to his 2.82 ERA and 1.10 WHIP.
If Baltimore isn’t the best pen, Houston is. Ryan Pressly has been dominant as this team’s closer, while Hector Neris and Bryan Abreu have been the bridge to him. Those are two of the league leaders in holds and can be rostered universally behind their elite peripherals.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Evan Phillips doesn’t get a ton of saves, but his 2.49 ERA and 0.81 WHIP make him one of the best options in fantasy. Brusdar Graterol is also a worthy RP option, amassing a 1.53 ERA and 1.06 WHIP on his way to 16 holds and six saves. LA uses Phillips in high-leverage situations, so Graterol can be a sneaky source of saves if that becomes a regular thing.
Los Angeles Angels
Carlos Estevez allowed 14 runs in a two-week span at the beginning of the month but is still the team’s closer. He leads the club with 26 saves and has four scoreless appearances in his last five outings since that rough patch. Matt Moore has dominated as the southpaw specialist, sporting a 1.58 ERA and 0.90 WHIP.
Miami added Robertson at the deadline, but he’s struggled since joining the Marlins. He will get all the saves, though, with Tanner Scott looking like the best option for holds. Scott has a 1.55 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 13.3 K/9 rate since May 14, picking up 20 holds in that span.
Outside of a few duds, Devin Williams has been one of the best closers in baseball. The sneaky fantasy option in this bullpen is Joel Payamps, who has provided a 1.00 ERA, 0.63 WHIP, and 10.7 K/9 rate since June 13. Payamps needs to be rostered in every holds league out there!
Jhoan Duran is back to dominating the ninth inning, but it’s a battle getting to him. Griffin Jax leads the team with 19 holds but doesn’t move the needle from a fantasy perspective. Caleb Thielbar has been sneaky as a lefty specialist, accruing a 2.04 ERA and 0.91 WHIP across 17 innings since his return from the IL.
New York Yankees
Clay Holmes is one of the Yankees’ only bright spots in an otherwise dark season. He has a 2.87 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. This team has only won one game over the last two weeks, so don’t look for anybody to get many holds from here on out.
Craig Kimbrel just blew a save on Wednesday, but that’s a rare occurrence in what’s been a bounceback season. This team also has Jose Alvarado back, who should join Seranthony Dominguez and Gregory Soto in the late innings.
David Bednar continues to dominate in the ninth inning, but this pitiful Pittsburgh team rarely gets him saves. He’s still one of the best closers, but he’s the only reliever worth rostering on this terrible team.
San Diego Padres
People aren’t talking about Josh Hader enough. He leads the league ERA, sitting with a 0.82 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. That’s the stud we know and love, but Scott Barlow hasn’t done much since being acquired from Kansas City. Steven Wilson is the most intriguing option for holds, accumulating a 3.31 ERA and 1.12 WHIP en route to 21 holds.
San Francisco Giants
It’s wild to have a closer blow four straight saves and still hold his job. That’s what Camilo Doval is doing right now, ranked second in the league with 34 saves. We still expect him to get the next chance, but if he blows another one, don’t be surprised to see Doval get a break. If that happens, Tyler Rogers is the best option behind his 2.69 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.
The Mariners moved Sewald at the deadline, moving Andres Munoz into the closer’s role. He has the stuff to dominate in that role, but he’s struggled since the trade. He’ll likely remain the closer, but Justin Topa and Matt Brash are also capable in front of him. With how the Mariners are rolling, all of these pitchers are worth watching!
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
This bullpen is easy. Jordan Romano is one of the league leaders with 31 saves, while Erik Swanson is tied for the league lead with 27 holds. Adding Hicks was a nice boost too, and it looks like he’ll close if Romano goes back on the IL.
Kyle Finnegan has quietly been one of the best relievers over the last two months. He lost the closer’s gig early in the year but recaptured it when Hunter Harvey landed on the IL. Since then, Finnegan has 11 saves, thanks to his 1.13 ERA and 0.69 WHIP.
My Saves/Holds Rankings
Relievers on the Rise
We rarely recommend starters, but Cole Ragans is one of the most intriguing RP-eligible players out there right now. Since becoming a regular starter on Aug. 2, Ragans has a 2.12 ERA and 13.3 K/9 rate. That strikeout stuff makes him a worthy pickup in any league, and he’s a sneaky addition for your RP slot.
Alex Lange (DET)
It’s funny that we have Lange in this spot because we had Foley in this section last week. That’s what happens when you’re talking about sub-par teams. However, it looks like Detroit is turning on its decision to switch to Foley. They said Lange was being removed as the team’s closer, but he’s picked up the two most recent saves and has the nastiest stuff in this pen.
Potential Closers on the IL
Edwin Diaz (knee) – 60-Day IL. Out for the season
Liam Hendriks (arm) – 60-Day IL. Hendricks underwent Tommy John surgery and will be out for the year.
Ryan Helsley (elbow) – 15-Day IL. Helsley has suffered numerous setbacks in his recovery from an arm issue, and it feels like he will be shut down for the season any day if this persists.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy baseball, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Baseball Tools as you navigate your season. From our Lineup Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – which allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy baseball season.
Joel Bartilotta is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Joel, check out his archive.