Bullpen Report: July 5, 2017

One day shy of the two-month mark for his stay on the DL, Zach Britton was activated by the Orioles on Wednesday. Buck Showalter wasted no time in getting Britton into a game, calling on him to pitch the seventh inning with a 4-0 deficit to the Brewers. To no one’s surprise, Showalter informed Britton that he plans on returning him to the closer’s role, but he would try to ease him back with a low-leverage situation in his first appearance off the DL.

Wednesday’s appearance certainly qualified, though Britton did not exactly ace this lower-stress situation. His velocity was down a tick, as he averaged 95.1 mph on his 16 two-seamers. Britton needed 19 pitches to get through the inning, throwing just eight strikes, a wild pitch and allowing a Hernan Perez single and an Eric Thames walk.

This lone inning should not make us question whether Britton will go back to closing games, but it could mean that he needs a little more time before being thrust back in the ninth inning. Brad Brach owners should keep him rostered just a little longer, and Britton owners may need to be patient in waiting for his next save.

Bud Norris was given a similarly gentle landing back in the Angels’ bullpen, pitching the seventh inning of Sunday’s contest against the Mariners, with his team down a pair of runs. With just that one post-DL appearance under his belt, Norris was given a save opportunity on Wednesday, with the Angels clinging to a 2-1 lead over the Twins, heading into the bottom of the ninth. He tossed a perfect frame with two strikeouts. With an 11.7 K/9 ratio and a pitcher-friendly home venue that can compensate for a low soft contact rate (14.8 percent entering Wednesday), Norris should be a reliable mixed league closer going forward.

Just when Keone Kela finally had an opportunity to show what he could do as a closer, with Jeff Banister eschewing Matt Bush for a committee, his sore shoulder earned him a spot on the 10-day disabled list. He will be eligible to  return on July 14 — the first day of games after the All-Star break. Should Kela be ready to rejoin the Rangers then, that would leave Banister with just a three-game series against the Angels this weekend to make do with Bush, Jose Leclerc and Alex Claudio to take care of save situations.

While Claudio doesn’t get much attention due to a lack of strikeouts (16.1 percent rate entering Wednesday), FIP, xFIP and SIERA all agree that he has been the best of the quartet in Banister’s committee. Profiling as a left-handed Brad Ziegler, Claudio boasts a 70.2 percent ground ball rate and has thrown 66.4 percent of his pitches for strikes.

While he may be the most effective reliever of the four, for fantasy purposes, it’s better to target Kela, who owns a healthy 35.3 percent strikeout rate to go with a 29.7 soft contact rate on flyballs, or Leclerc, who has serious control issues (59.2 percent strikes thrown) but trails only Craig Kimbrel in swinging strike rate with a 19.7 percent mark (minimum 2o innings). If both Kela and Leclerc are spoken for in your leagues, it couldn’t hurt to put a claim on Claudio. There probably won’t be much competition, and there is at least an outside chance he could emerge as the Rangers’ closer in the second half.

Luke Weaver was recalled by the Cardinals on Monday, and he appears to be settling in as a middle reliever. In two appearances against the Marlins, Weaver has pitched three scoreless innings, allowing three hits and a walk with two strikeouts. He has already thrown 54 pitches, but only two of them have been whiffs. If he piles up innings, Weaver could have some strikeout potential, but he is most likely going to have to start inducing some swinging strikes to have some deep-league value.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
ARI Fernando Rodney Archie Bradley Jorge De La Rosa JJ Hoover
ATL Jim Johnson Arodys Vizcaino Jose Ramirez
BAL Brad Brach Zach Britton Mychal Givens
BOS Craig Kimbrel Matt Barnes Joe Kelly Carson Smith
CHC Wade Davis Koji Uehara Carl Edwards Jr.
CWS David Robertson Tommy Kahnle Anthony Swarzak Nate Jones
CIN Raisel Iglesias Michael Lorenzen Drew Storen
CLE Andrew Miller Cody Allen Bryan Shaw
COL Greg Holland Adam Ottavino Jake McGee
DET Justin Wilson Alex Wilson Shane Greene
HOU Ken Giles Will Harris Michael Feliz
KC Kelvin Herrera Joakim Soria Mike Minor
LAA Bud Norris Cam Bedrosian Keynan Middleton
LAD Kenley Jansen Pedro Baez Luis Avilan Josh Fields
MIA A.J. Ramos David Phelps Kyle Barraclough
MIL Corey Knebel Jacob Barnes Carlos Torres
MIN Brandon Kintzler Taylor Rogers Matt Belisle Glen Perkins
NYM Addison Reed Jerry Blevins Paul Sewald Jeurys Familia
NYY Aroldis Chapman Dellin Betances Tyler Clippard
OAK Santiago Casilla Sean Doolittle Ryan Madson
PHI Hector Neris Pat Neshek Luis Garcia
PIT Felipe Rivero Juan Nicasio Daniel Hudson
STL Trevor Rosenthal Seung Hwan Oh Matt Bowman
SD Brandon Maurer Brad Hand Ryan Buchter Carter Capps
SF Sam Dyson Hunter Strickland George Kontos Mark Melancon
SEA Edwin Diaz Nick Vincent James Pazos
TB Alex Colome Tommy Hunter Chase Whitley Brad Boxberger
TEX Matt Bush Jose Leclerc Alex Claudio Keone Kela
TOR Roberto Osuna Ryan Tepera Danny Barnes Joe Smith
WSH Enny Romero Matt Albers Blake Treinen Koda Glover

[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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Jackie T.
Jackie T.

Can somebody look into Dellin Betances? What’s wrong with him? This is a horrible year for a guy drafted specifically for his ratios. The walk rate has doubled!


First pitch strike down nearly 10%, batters are chasing less with O-swing down 8%, and a product of both of those is, as you yourself pointed out, that the walk rate has shot up. All other numbers including velo are basically the same as last year.

Jackie T.
Jackie T.

Is he hurt, or is this a blip and we can expect his usual self going forward? That’s the big question.

Baseball Randy
Baseball Randy

Appears he’s struggling with his command.