The weeks following the trade deadline are always fascinating because we have plenty of closer developments every year. That’s what we’ve seen this season, and there are surely some saves on your waiver wire! There’s a ton to discuss, so let’s get into it!
Closer Situations to Watch
These are bullpens we need to monitor!
Chicago White Sox
With Pierce Johnson getting traded at the deadline, this is between Justin Lawrence and Daniel Bard. One of them has almost all of the save chances since then, and we’ll talk about him in the final section.
Alex Lange picked up 17 saves through the opening months but has been horrible recently. The right-hander has a 7.40 ERA and 2.03 WHIP since June 4. Jason Foley has been fantastic all year, and he’ll also be in the rising relievers section.
Kansas City Royals
This situation is ugly. Scott Barlow and Aroldis Chapman dominated this pen all year, but both guys were moved at the deadline. Taylor Clarke picked up the first save but is now on the IL. Everyone assumed Carlos Hernandez was next in line, but he’s been featured in the seventh inning multiple times and was destroyed once in the ninth. We expect Hernandez to get the next chance, but we wouldn’t roster anyone from this bullpen.
New York Mets
The Mets moved David Robertson at the deadline, leaving this bullpen to Brooks Raley and Adam Ottavino. Raley looks like the preferred option for saves, picking up two saves over the last two weeks. He’s also leading the team with 19 holds and should get the bulk of the saves moving forward, despite Ottavino being pulled in the most recent save opportunity. Phil Bickford picked that one up, so who knows?
It feels like nobody wants to roster Trevor May, but he’s locked this job down. He’s got all the saves over the last two months and should be rostered universally. Nobody wants to pick up the A’s closer, but we’ll talk more about him later on!
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals traded Jordan Hicks at the deadline, paving the way for Giovanny Gallegos to take this job. He did get one save since that trade, but Ryan Helsley should be back in the coming days. Helsley has been the closer for the last two years and will likely resume his role as the closer once he returns. Gallegos is still a good option for holds, though.
Closer Situations Not to Worry About
These are the teams with clear-cut bullpen plans.
Arizona has been one of the worst teams in baseball over the last month, so they went out and got a closer. Paul Sewald was acquired from Seattle, but blew his first save with his new team! He has a long leash and will remain the closer for the rest of the season while Scott McGough picks up the holds.
Raisel Iglesias is up to 22 saves this year and is back to being one of the best closers in baseball. They did lose Nick Anderson to an injury, but Joe Jimenez, Kirby Yates, and AJ Minter should be just fine in the backend of this pen.
The Orioles have the best pen in baseball. Felix Bautista has the best K rate in MLB while posting an ERA and WHIP below 1.00. Yennier Cano hasn’t been too shabby in the eighth inning, leading the league with 26 holds. These are two of the best relievers in fantasy right now.
Boston Red Sox
Kenley Jansen is up to 24 saves, getting his ERA below 3.00. The bridge to Jansen has been excellent all year, with John Schreiber, Josh Winckowski, and Chris Martin all pitching well. Martin has a 1.49 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 19 holds, looking like the best option in holds leagues.
The Cubs have been one of the best teams over the last month, and Adbert Alzolay is a significant reason why. Chicago’s closer has 13 saves since May 30, tallying a 2.54 ERA and 0.95 WHIP on the year. Mark Leiter is an intriguing option in holds leagues, totaling a 2.94 ERA and 0.94 WHIP en route to 21 holds.
Alexis Diaz is up to 33 saves, thanks to his 2.34 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 35 percent K rate. He’s the only guy in this bullpen who is fantasy relevant, though.
Emmanuel Clase has 29 saves but has blown eight already this year. However, his job is not in jeopardy because there’s no one else in this pen. Trevor Stephan leads the club with 16 holds, but it would take more blown saves for Clase to surrender this closers gig.
This bullpen has been incredible, and the roles are set. Ryan Pressly has the ninth-inning locked down while Hector Neris and Bryan Abreu bridge the gap to Pressly. They also added Kendall Graveman at the deadline, making this one of the best bullpens in baseball.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Evan Phillips has just 16 saves, but he’s been one of the best relievers in MLB. The right-hander has a 1.89 ERA and 0.79 WHIP since April 11! Brusdar Graterol picks up some sparing saves when LA wants to ride Phillips against the dangerous part of the lineup in the early innings, but he’s not getting as many holds as we’d like.
Los Angeles Angels
Carlos Estevez didn’t blow a save until last week, but he’s been shelled in his two most recent outings. Over his last five fixtures, Estevez has surrendered 14 runs while posting a 3.38 WHIP! That’s terrifying, but we still expect Carlos to remain the closer for now. Dominic Leone and Matt Moore would likely be next in line if the struggles continue.
AJ Puk was well on his way to losing this job, and the David Robertson acquisition closed that door. We haven’t seen Robertson get many chances for this struggling Miami team, but he’ll get all the saves from here on out. Tanner Scott is an intriguing option in holds leagues, amassing a 1.72 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 12.6 K/9 rate over the last month.
Devin Williams has been an elite closer for years and remains as such. Getting to him has been an issue, especially since Andrew Chafin got blown up in his most recent outing. They acquired Chafin to clean up the late innings, but Joel Payamps has been the only reliable option in this pen outside of Williams. Payamps has a 0.78 ERA, 0.61 WHIP, and 10.2 K/9 rate since June 9.
Jhoan Duran has been elite throughout his career, but he’s hit a speed bump recently. The righty has allowed five runs across his last four appearances, but he definitely has a stranglehold on this gig. Griffin Jax has been solid as the eighth-inning guy, generating a 2.66 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 16 holds!
New York Yankees
Clay Holmes has been one of the best relievers in baseball, collecting a 0.80 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 11.0 K/9 rate since May 5. Tommy Kahnle and Michael King have been good on the backend as well, but neither guy has more than 10 holds. Holmes is the only guy worth rostering.
Craig Kimbrel has reestablished himself as one of the best closers in the game, compiling a 1.50 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 12.3 K/9 rate, and 16 saves since May 8. Gregory Soto and Seranthony Dominguez have struggled in front of him, but these guys should be a good source for holds with the way Philly is rolling.
David Bednar just blew a save on Tuesday, but that’s a rare sight. This stud still has a 1.54 ERA and 1.01 WHIP, picking up 23 saves. Colin Holderman does lead the team with 16 holds, but almost all of those came in the first two months of the year. Regardless, this team is too bad to trust anyone other than Bednar.
San Diego Padres
Josh Hader stuck with San Diego after the deadline and remains one of the best closers around. They traded for Scott Barlow from Kansas City to shore up this pen, but he allowed eight runs in two appearances against the Dodgers last week. Ouch! Steven Wilson has been a great holds option though, accumulating a 2.45 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 21 holds.
San Francisco Giants
We love bullpens that have solidified roles, and this is one of those. Camilo Doval leads the league with 33 saves, while Taylor Rogers and Trevor Rogers have been impeccable as the bridge to Doval. Tyler is up to 24 holds, but both of these guys have ERAs between 2.54 and 2.56 while posting WHIPs sitting exactly at 1.09. That’s truly weird since these two are twins – spooky! Go look at the career averages for Marcus and Markieff Morris too. This twin stuff is bizarre!
Seattle sent Paul Sewald to the D’Backs, but they might be better off! Andres Munoz has been one of the best relievers since his call-up, and he’s the closer for this team now. Matt Brash and Justin Topa should get all the holds as we advance.
Tampa Bay Rays
Everyone thought Aroldis Chapman and Will Smith would split all the saves once Chapman was acquired, but Smith has all but one since then. He’s the guy, but AC is an enticing option in holds leagues. Chapman has a 44 percent K rate while picking up four holds in his last four appearances.
Toronto Blue Jays
Jordan Romano has been on the IL for nearly two weeks, but he’s expected back before our next article. Erik Swanson, Yimi Garcia, and Jordan Hicks have all gotten opportunities in Romano’s absence, but all of those guys will return to complimentary roles once Romano returns. Swanson has been sensational, tied in the league lead with 26 holds.
We finally moved this pen. Kyle Finnegan has been ferocious over the last two months, totaling a 0.74 ERA and 0.66 WHIP since June 10. He’s also up to 17 saves and should keep this role whenever Hunter Harvey is able to return.
My Saves/Holds Rankings
Relievers on the Rise
Gregory Santos (CWS)
We haven’t seen Chicago get many saves, but we have to assume Santos is the guy with Hendriks on the IL and Graveman in Houston. Santos had the first save before landing on the bereavement list and got another one on Wednesday!
Justin Lawrence (COL)
Lawrence is still available in over 70 percent of leagues on Yahoo! He’s got 10 saves since June 10 and has clearly usurped Daniel Bard as the ninth-inning guy in this pen.
Trevor May (OAK)
Nobody wants Oakland’s closer, but May has been solid for over a month now. May has a 2.11 ERA since May 26, picking up 11 saves in that span. It looks ugly, but May is still available in way too many leagues.
Jason Foley (DET)
Alex Lange has been removed from the closer’s role, and we have to assume Foley is next in line. This guy has a 2.20 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, looking like the best pitcher in this bullpen.
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 is finishing up a rehab assignment and could be back with the Cardinals this weekend. Look for him to resume his role as the closer after the Jordan Hicks trade.
Hunter Harvey (elbow) (15-Day IL) Harvey is dealing with arm fatigue but could return soon.
Jordan Romano (back) (15-Day IL) Romano has been rehabbing his back issue and could be back by our next article!
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Joel Bartilotta is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Joel, check out his archive.