We’re in the final two months of the season, and this is always one of the most challenging times to talk about bullpens. We say that because this is when these teams want to solidify the backend. That means we have fewer changes than at any point all year, but there have still been some massive developments among the crappy teams. Look for the contenders to ride their studs in the late innings but the bad teams to continue switching things around. With that in mind, let’s look at those questionable squads!
Closer Situations to Watch
These are bullpens we need to monitor!
Chicago White Sox
Gregory Santos appears to be the closer, but Wednesday’s meltdown doesn’t exactly make us feel confident. Santos picked up the two most recent saves for the White Sox but surrendered three runs and a blown save on Wednesday. We have to assume he’ll hold this job though, because Kendall Graveman was traded and Liam Hendriks is out for the year.
Justin Lawrence has been excellent as this team’s closer recently, but he was also shelled earlier in the week. He allowed four runs with a three-run lead, marking his fourth blown save in his last eight appearances. He’s also got 10 saves since June 1 but is losing his grip on this role. Look for him to get the next chance, but don’t be surprised if Daniel Bard gets the next opportunity.
Here we are with another new closer getting blown up this week! Jason Foley converted his first save chance as the newly appointed closer but allowed three runs on Wednesday. The good news is that he came in with a four-run lead, so he technically got the job done. Eeek! However, look for Foley to keep the job because Alex Lange has been removed from that role behind his 7.06 ERA and 1.98 WHIP since June 4.
Kansas City Royals
This is the worst closer situation in baseball. Scott Barlow and Aroldis Chapman were both moved, leaving this team with no designated closer. We figured it would be Carlos Hernandez, but he has a 13.50 ERA and 2.57 WHIP since August 1. We believe he’ll get the next chance, but this team might struggle to reach 15 wins for the remainder of the season.
New York Mets
It’s wild that New York is in this section, but they’ve been surprising us all year. David Robertson was traded at the deadline because of some horrible play, and we have no clue who the closer is since then. Brooks Raley and Adam Ottavino have both had chances and it looks like a true committee. You can speculate on either, but this team seems like a waste of time and energy!
Trevor May has been terrific for a month but melted down over the weekend. He allowed five runs in a nasty appearance but converted 12 saves over the previous month. That’s one of the highest totals in the league, and May will be a sneaky source of saves for the remainder of the season.
St. Louis Cardinals
With Jordan Hicks getting traded, we figured Ryan Helsley would recapture this role off of the IL. He suffered a setback during rehab though, and there’s no reason for St. Louis to rush him back. Giovanny Gallegos was our bet to steal this job, but JoJo Romero has the two most recent saves. Those two will likely split it from here on out, but you’d have to bet on Romero to get the next chance.
Closer Situations Not to Worry About
These are the teams with clear-cut bullpen plans.
This team has gone through more closers than any other team, forcing management to acquire Paul Sewald at the deadline. Unfortunately, this team hasn’t had many chances since acquiring him, posting one of the worst records over the last two months. He’ll get all the chances from here on out, but we can’t trust anyone else with how swiftly this team is sliding.
Raisel Iglesias has been superb recently, picking up 17 scoreless appearances in his last 18 outings. He’s also got 12 saves in that span, and the rest of this pen has been lights-out in front of him. Joe Jimenez, AJ Minter, and Kirby Yates have all been fantastic, but knowing which one to trust for holds is tough. They’re all excellent options with how dominant this team is.
This team’s bullpen is absurd. Felix Bautista has the best stats of any reliever in the league and is at the top of our rankings. Yennier Cano has been incredible in the eighth inning, tied with Erik Swanson for the league lead in holds. They’ll remain like this for the remainder of the season.
Boston Red Sox
Kenley Jansen has been rolling after a slow start to the season, picking up 16 saves since June 6. The rest of this pen has been sneaky good too, with Chris Martin looking like the best option for holds. He’s got a 1.34 ERA and 1.02 WHIP en route to a team-high 21 holds.
Chicago has been cruising for a month now, and it’s been massive for Adbert Alzolay‘s fantasy value. The Cubs closer has 12 saves since July 5, and his season-long WHIP is below 1.00. Mark Leiter has been a sneaky addition for holds, picking up 21 of them behind a 2.81 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and 11.8 K/9 rate.
Alexis Diaz is the only reliever worth rostering in this pen, but he’s one of the best in baseball. The righty is one of the league leaders with 33 saves, totaling a 2.39 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 12.5 K/9 rate.
Emmanuel Clase led the league in saves last year and will likely lead the league in blown saves this year. He’s up to nine after picking up two over the last two weeks, but Clase still has 32 saves. Trevor Stephan is the only guy they’d consider if they moved Clase out of the closer’s role, registering a team-high 20 holds.
This bullpen is boring to write about, but that’s the best sign of an elite pen. Ryan Pressly has been one of the best closers, while Bryan Abreu and Hector Neris have been two of the best setup men. Both of those guys need to be rostered in every holds league, combining for 44 holds!
Los Angeles Dodgers
Evan Phillips is up to 17 saves, thanks to his 2.60 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. He’s also been thrown into high-leverage situations earlier in games, allowing Brusdar Graterol to record five saves and 15 holds. Graterol’s K rate has plummeted, but his 1.59 ERA and 1.06 WHIP are hard to argue with.
Los Angeles Angels
Carlos Estevez was hanging on by a hair when he allowed 14 runs across five appearances a few weeks back, but he’s been fine since then. He’s converted his last three saves since that ugly stretch and reestablished himself as the go-to guy. We also saw Matt Moore return from the IL, and he’s a great option in holds leagues. The southpaw specialist has a 1.66 ERA and 0.89 WHIP across 38 innings, picking up 18 holds.
David Robertson was acquired at the trade deadline and will get all the saves from here on out. Tanner Scott has been quietly dominant in the eighth inning, sporting a 2.73 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 36 percent K rate. That’s led to 23 holds, and he’s the only other player we’d trust in this pen.
Devin Williams has only allowed a run a few times all year and is still one of the best closers in the sport. The rest of this pen has been a struggle, but Joel Payamps has been phenomenal. The righty has a 0.69 ERA and 0.65 WHIP since the middle of June, recording 13 holds in that sensational stretch.
Jhoan Duran hasn’t had many spotless appearances recently, amassing a 6.14 ERA and 1.64 WHIP since July 2. It’s weird to see such a dominant arm pitch so poorly, but he has 10 saves in that span. No one is stealing this job from Duran, especially with how poor the rest of this bullpen has been.
New York Yankees
Clay Holmes barely allowed a run over the last two months but had one of the meltdowns of the season on Sunday. He allowed five runs in a non-save situation, raising his ERA from 2.01 to 2.80. It’s a blip on an otherwise clean radar and he should get the next chance no matter what. Michael King and Tommy Kahnle are the two best relievers in this bullpen, but holds have been rare for this team for whatever reason.
Craig Kimbrel has been one of the best closers for a decade and has returned to that this season. Losing Jose Alvarado to an injury was frustrating, but having Seranthony Dominguez and Gregory Soto in the late innings isn’t too shabby. Look for Soto to be the team leader in holds from here on out.
David Bednar has a 1.99 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, picking up 25 saves. He’s one of the best relievers in baseball but won’t get many opportunities for one of the worst teams. Colin Holderman has 19 holds, but almost all of those were in the opening two months.
San Diego Padres
Josh Hader has his ERA and WHIP below 1.00, reestablishing himself as one of the best closers in the game. Scott Barlow was brought in to lock down the eighth inning, but he’s got a 10.95 ERA and 2.27 WHIP over the last month. Steven Wilson is the best option in this pen, providing a team-high 21 holds.
San Francisco Giants
This is another boring bullpen, but that’s always a good thing. Camilo Doval is one of the league leaders with 33 saves, while the Rogers brothers bridge the gap for him. Tyler Rogers has been the better option of the two, amassing 24 holds.
Paul Sewald was sent packing at the deadline, which allowed Andres Munoz to gain the closer’s role. He’s struggled a bit, but he’s still one of the most talented arms in the league. Matt Brash and Justin Topa are interesting options in the late innings to get to Munoz, and they should get all the holds for the remainder of the season.
Tampa Bay Rays
Pete Fairbanks has 15 saves across just 27.2 innings, blowing just one save all year. Jason Adam has been outstanding in front of him, tallying 11 saves and 10 holds. These two need to be rostered universally!
Everyone thought Aroldis Chapman would steal this job, but Will Smith has held it. Smith has 22 saves on the year, picking up seven of them since that trade. Chapman has an absurd 46 percent K rate but will likely remain in the eighth inning.
Toronto Blue Jays
Jordan Romano is back off the IL! He got a save in his first game back, with Jordan Hicks pitching the eighth inning. Hicks should join Erik Swanson for all the holds, with Swanson leading the league for the majority of the year. All of these guys can be rostered!
Hunter Harvey just came off the IL, but Kyle Finnegan will keep the job. He’s got Washington’s last seven saves, sporting a 0.66 ERA and 0.62 WHIP since June 11. As long as he’s doing that, Finnegan will keep this role!
My Saves/Holds Rankings
Relievers on the Rise
Gregory Santos (CWS)
Santos blew an ugly one on Wednesday, but he should remain the closer. He’s the only option left with Graveman and Hendriks both out of the picture! Santos still has three saves in his last six appearances despite that Wednesday meltdown, maintaining a 2.53 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.
Jason Foley (DET)
We had both of these guys in here last week, but they’re still widely available in most fantasy formats. Foley has taken the job from Alex Lange, picking up the Tigers’ most recent save. He had an ugly showing on Wednesday but still got the job done and should keep this job behind his 2.09 ERA and 1.12 WHIP.
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 just suffered a setback, and it’s unclear when he’ll be ready to return.
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Joel Bartilotta is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Joel, check out his archive.