Bullpen Report: April 2, 2018

Now that the first series of the season are the in the books, it’s time to break out the Bullpen Report closer grid. At the conclusion of each installment, we will list the current closer, a color-coded rating for the stability of the closer situation and the two most likely closer replacements in the event of an injury or role change for the incumbent.

The initial version of the grid is practically a sea of green. Though a few closers have had their first meltdowns of the season already, none has endangered himself to the point of earning the dreaded red designation. Only three situations — the Orioles, White Sox and Cardinals — are currently coded as yellow. The first two teams entered the season with co-closers, while the Cardinals are going with a committee until newly-signed Greg Holland is ready to report to the big-league team. Holland is working with Advanced Class A Palm Beach for now, but once he is promoted, he will get the closer’s spot in the grid. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that should happen in 10 days, when Holland will be eligible to be promoted.

The Orioles’ situation is the closest to turning from yellow to red, as Brad Brach blew a save on opening day against the Twins and then pitched the eighth inning on Sunday, when Minnesota had built a seven-run lead. Four days and two appearances into the season, it might seem premature to look to Brach to lose the chance to close, and in fact, it is — hence, the yellow rating instead of red. However, manager Buck Showalter never anointed Brach as the sole closer, as he planned to give Darren O’Day save opportunities as well, even before the season began. While Showalter also cited Mychal Givens as a potential ninth-inning candidate, it appears that Brach and O’Day will initially be his primary options.

Brach’s opening day struggles could open the door for O’Day to get the next save chance. The latter’s consistent track record of posting high strikeout and soft contact rates could bode well for him to take charge of the closer’s role, at least until Zach Britton’s anticipated return in late May or early June.

Joakim Soria got the White Sox’s first save of the season in a 4-3 win against the Royals on Saturday, but that’s not a sign that manager Rick Renteria is going to turn to the 12-year veteran for every save situation. Nate Jones is still part of the closer tandem, as Renteria told the Chicago Tribune that “in different cases, you could see Jones in the ninth and Soria in the eighth.”

Despite the absence of presumed closer Mark Melancon (elbow flexor strain), the Giants’ closer situation appears stable enough to earn a green rating. Not only has Hunter Strickland emerged from the first series of the season with a pair of scoreless innings that each produced a save, but the righty has earned Bruce Bochy’s trust. The Giants’ manager did not name any other relievers when he told reporters that Strickland was going to step in for Melancon. The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly surmised that Strickland might keep the closer’s job even after Melancon is ready to return. While that remains to be seen, fantasy owners should be able to count on saves from Strickland in the coming weeks.

The Marlins and Angels also received a green rating. Both situations were fluid last season, and it may not take much for those bullpens to get downgraded to yellow. After pitching a perfect ninth inning in a tie game with the Cubs on Saturday, the Marlins’ Brad Ziegler allowed four runs in the 10th frame, absorbing the loss. Even though he has appeared in just two games so far, it’s not too early to put Kyle Barraclough and Drew Steckenrider on your watch list.

Angels closer Blake Parker has allowed a run in each of his two appearances this season, and he was removed after retiring one of four batters in Sunday’s win over the A’s. Keynan Middleton was summoned to secure the victory, and he emerged with his first save of 2018. Should Parker continue to struggle, there are several candidates to replace him, including Middleton, Cam Bedrosian, Jim Johnson and Blake Wood, who pitched the eighth inning with a four-run lead on Sunday.

Quick pitches: Seung Hwan Oh and Joe Kelly got their first saves of the season, as Roberto Osuna and Craig Kimbrel were respectively shielded from having to work a third straight day…Anthony Swarzak sustained a sore left oblique in Saturday’s game against the Cardinals. He will have an MRI on MondayYonny Chirinos‘ debut as a Rays long reliever went exceedingly well. He shut out the Red Sox over four innings on Sunday, allowing a single and a walk while hitting two batters.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
ARI Brad Boxberger Yoshihisa Hirano Archie Bradley
ATL Arodys Vizcaino A.J. Minter Jose Ramirez
BAL Brad Brach Darren O’Day Mychal Givens Zach Britton
BOS Craig Kimbrel Matt Barnes Joe Kelly
CHC Brandon Morrow Carl Edwards Jr. Pedro Strop
CWS Joakim Soria Nate Jones Juan Minaya
CIN Raisel Iglesias Jared Hughes Kevin Quackenbush David Hernandez
CLE Cody Allen Andrew Miller Zach McAllister
COL Wade Davis Jake McGee Bryan Shaw
DET Shane Greene Alex Wilson Drew VerHagen
HOU Ken Giles Chris Devenski Joe Smith
KC Kelvin Herrera Brandon Maurer Justin Grimm
LAA Blake Parker Cam Bedrosian Jim Johnson
LAD Kenley Jansen Pedro Baez Scott Alexander
MIA Brad Ziegler Kyle Barraclough Drew Steckenrider
MIL Corey Knebel Matt Albers Josh Hader
MIN Fernando Rodney Addison Reed Trevor Hildenberger
NYM Jeurys Familia A.J. Ramos Anthony Swarzak
NYY Aroldis Chapman David Robertson Dellin Betances
OAK Blake Treinen Ryan Buchter Chris Hatcher
PHI Hector Neris Luis Garcia Adam Morgan Pat Neshek
PIT Felipe Rivero George Kontos Michael Feliz
STL Dominic Leone Jordan Hicks Tyler Lyons Greg Holland
SD Brad Hand Kirby Yates Craig Stammen
SF Hunter Strickland Sam Dyson Tony Watson Mark Melancon
SEA Edwin Diaz Juan Nicasio Nick Vincent
TB Alex Colome Sergio Romo Chaz Roe
TEX Keone Kela Kevin Jepsen Alex Claudio
TOR Roberto Osuna Ryan Tepera Seung Hwan Oh
WSH Sean Doolittle Ryan Madson Brandon Kintzler

[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]





Al Melchior has been writing about Fantasy baseball and sim games since 2000, and his work has appeared at CBSSports.com, BaseballHQ, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster and FanRagSports. He has also participated in Tout Wars' mixed auction league since 2013. You can follow Al on Twitter @almelchiorbb and find more of his work at almelchior.com.

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Very reassuring two save, 5 K day from Rivero after blowing up on opening day and struggling through ST.