It’s been a fun season following these bullpens, but this will be my final article of the year. It’s been eye-opening to follow these pens so closely, and I hope you guys learned as much as I did. Knowing potential closers and following these pens is one of the most underrated facets in fantasy baseball, and I hope some of you picked up some gems along the way.
I want to thank all of you for reading, and we’ll be back for more next season!
Fantasy Baseball Saves + Holds Rankings & Targets
Closer Situations to Watch
These are bullpens we need to monitor!
Chicago White Sox
Chicago has been sliding all season, so they moved Kendall Graveman at the trade deadline. Liam Hendriks also had Tommy John surgery, so it looks like Gregory Santos will get the bulk of the saves for the remainder of the season. He’s only worth rostering in deep leagues if you’re desperate.
Justin Lawrence has been getting all the save chances, but he’s blown plenty, too. J-Law has 10 saves since June 1 but has also blown six saves in that span. We have to assume he’ll still get the next chance, but it’s not like Colorado closers have been a reliable fantasy option in the past.
Alex Lange was removed as the closer a few weeks ago, but he’s regained that role. He’s got the last two saves for the Tigers, totaling a 1.29 earned run average (ERA) since July 17. He has the best stuff in this pen, and Detroit wants him to be the closer of the future.
Kansas City Royals
Kansas City has been one of the worst teams in baseball, and their bullpen hasn’t been much help. They parted ways with Aroldis Chapman and Scott Barlow, leaving this closer situation in flux. Carlos Hernandez has been pitching the ninth inning since the deadline, collecting two saves and two blown saves over his last five outings. He should get the next chance, but we wouldn’t advise rostering him.
It’s sad that Miami is even in this section because they traded for David Robertson at the trade deadline. He was supposed to close down games for this team, but he has three blown saves this month. Tanner Scott has been the best reliever in this pen all season, and we’ll talk about him later.
New York Mets
This is the only team where I have to throw my hands up and say I have no idea who the closer is. It’s bizarre for that to be the case, but it shows you how much of a disaster it’s been for the Mets. Brooks Raley, Adam Ottavino and Drew Smith will likely split saves over the final six weeks. Edwin Diaz is also throwing some bullpen sessions, and he might get some saves in the final weeks.
St. Louis Cardinals
Jordan Hicks was traded at the deadline, and we thought Ryan Helsley would resume his role as the closer. He’s been stuck on the injured list (IL), but there’s some thought he could be back this weekend. JoJo Romero has done a fantastic job filling in, and we’ll talk about him later.
Will Smith was superb through the opening three months, but recent struggles have this pen in flux. Aroldis Chapman has the most recent save, but he’s also got two blown saves and a loss over the last two weeks. Aroldis looks like the guy in the future, but seeing these two split saves from here on out wouldn’t be surprising.
Closer Situations Not to Worry About
These are the teams with clear-cut bullpen plans heading into the 2023 season.
Arizona has been freefalling down the standings in the second half, so they acquired Paul Sewald at the deadline. He’s up to 28 saves and has turned around a rough start with his new team. Kevin Ginkel is an interesting option in holds leagues, posting walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP) well below 1.00.
Raisel Iglesias has been unstoppable recently, picking up scoreless appearances in 24 of his last 25 outings. The bridge to him has also been dominant, with Aj Minter, Joe Jimenez and Kirby Yates flexing the seventh and eighth innings. With how dominant Atlanta has been, all of those guys can be rostered.
Man, Felix Bautista has been atop my rankings all year, and I felt like crying when he landed on the IL. The good news is that Baltimore has an admirable fill-in, with Yennier Cano looking like an elite closer option. If he’s somehow sitting on your waiver wire, go pick him up.
Boston Red Sox
Kenley Jansen had an injury scare before our last article, but he looks fine. He’ll close every game for the BoSox, but the rest of this pen is sneaky. Chris Martin is one of the best options in holds leagues, amassing a 1.25 ERA and 1.04 WHIP en route to 22 holds.
The Cubs have been incredible since the All-Star break, and it’s led to a breakout for Adbert Alzolay. He’s got the most saves in baseball since then, accruing 18 saves since July 4. Mark Leiter has been remarkable in holds leagues, picking up 25 of them thanks to his absurd 33 percent strikeout (K) rate.
Alexis Diaz is one of the league leaders with 35 saves while generating a 33% K rate. He’s one of the best closers in the game, but we don’t trust anyone else in this lackluster bullpen.
Emmanuel Clase is leading the league in blown saves, but he’s also the leader in saves. He’s got 10 over the last month, rebounding after a rough stretch. He also led the league in saves last year and remains one of the most dominant relievers in the sport.
With Felix Bautista getting injured, Houston now has the best bullpen in baseball. Ryan Pressly has been a horse in the ninth, but the late-inning guys have been equally as impressive. Bryan Abreu, Hector Neris and Kendall Graveman have been locking down games in the late innings, and all three can be rostered in holds leagues.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Evan Phillips has finally established himself as the closer in the last few months. He’s up to 21 saves now and is one of the league leaders with a 0.80 WHIP. Brusdar Graterol has also been a sneaky option, accumulating a 1.46 ERA and 1.06 WHIP en route to 17 holds and six saves.
Los Angeles Angels
Carlos Estevez looked like he would lose this job when he allowed a million runs a few weeks ago, but he’s steadied the ship since then. He’s got five saves in his last seven appearances, but LA is starting to tank. Matt Moore leads the team in holds, but he was just placed on waivers with the Angels falling down the standings.
The Brewers have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, and that’s scary when looking at the late innings. Devin Williams has been dominant as the closer, while Joel Payambs has been phenomenal in the eighth inning. Payambs has a 1.75 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and 11.5 K.9 rate since the end of April.
Jhoan Duran has only allowed one run over the last three weeks and will get all the saves for this surging team. Griffin Jax leads the team in holds, but the rest of this pen has struggled outside Duran.
New York Yankees
Clay Holmes has been a bright spot in a dark season for the Yanks, but he’s had his struggles recently, too. He’s got a 15.19 ERA over his last six outings and could lose this job if he doesn’t pitch better. With that said, we don’t know who will take over because Michael King is being inserted into the starting rotation.
We finally moved Oakland into this section because of Trevor May. He’s been one of the best closers in the second half of the season, picking up 15 saves since June 7. That’s one of the highest totals in the league, but it obviously comes with some risk. This is the worst team in baseball, and May might not get many chances as we advance.
Craig Kimbrel was the best closer in baseball at the trade deadline, but there are some leaks in the ship. He’s allowed nine runs over his last 11 outings, taking three losses in that span. There are some good options to take over if the struggles continue, with Seranthony Dominguez, Jose Alvarado and Gregory Soto all getting holds.
David Bednar is one of the best closers in baseball, but he’s the only fantasy-relevant player in this bullpen. That’s been the case for years, with Bednar posting a 2.17 ERA and 1.11 WHIP on his way to 28 saves.
San Diego Padres
Josh Hader just blew a save on Wednesday, but he’s returned to the stud we saw in Milwaukee. Despite San Diego’s struggles, Hader had a 0.78 ERA and 1.00 WHIP before that rare dud. Steven Wilson, Scott Barlow and Nick Martinez have been the bridge, but none of those are intriguing options.
San Francisco Giants
Camilo Doval is second in baseball with 35 saves, and he would be at the top of the mountain if he didn’t blow four in a row before our last article. He had a long leash of trust, allowing Doval to pick up the last two saves in his two most recent appearances. Don’t overlook Tyler Rogers in holds leagues, recording 27 of them so far this season.
Moving Paul Sewald looked strange, but it’s not so bizarre when you see who’s next in line. Andres Munoz is one of the most dominant relievers in baseball, and he’ll get all the saves from here on out. Matt Brash and Justin Topa should get all the holds.
Toronto Blue Jays
We love structured bullpens, and this might be the most defined bullpen in baseball. Jordan Romano is one of the league leaders with 31 saves, while Erik Swanson is second with 28 holds. Jordan Hicks was a lovely addition at the deadline, and he’ll help in the late innings as well.
Kyle Finnegan is rolling right now. The righty has the last 14 saves for this team, generating a 1.59 ERA and 0.85 WHIP since June 11. He stole this job from Hunter Harvey, who should be a great option for holds in the eighth inning.
My Saves/Holds Rankings
|1.||Felix Bautista (IL)||BAL|
Relievers on the Rise
Jojo Romero (STL)
It sounds like Ryan Helsley could return this weekend, but we expect Romero to get the bulk of the saves. Helsley has been out for months, while Jojo has had three saves over the last month and a 2.92 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and 11.7 K/9 rate since July 8.
Tanner Scott (MIA)
The Robertson trade has been a disaster for the Marlins, and Scott will take over closing duties for now. It’s no surprise when looking at Scott’s sensational averages, sporting a 1.17 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 11.7 K/9 rate since June 26.
Potential Closers on the IL
Edwin Diaz (knee) — (60-Day IL) Resumed throwing but might not feature until the final weeks.
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 on a rehab assignment right now and could be back this weekend. It’s unclear what sort of role he’ll be returning to, though.
Felix Bautista (elbow) — (15-Day IL) It’s sad that the top player in my rankings landed on the IL with a UCL issue, and we really don’t know what the next step is. He could be back soon or miss the remainder of the season. Keep an eye on this situation.
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Joel Bartilotta is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Joel, check out his archive.