It’s still March and the season has yet to start but that doesn’t mean the closer carousel isn’t in full swing. From here on out, as teams whittle down their major league rosters and we get more information on bullpen usage, we will be updating the BR regularly.
• Red Sox closer Koji Uehara has been on the shelf with a hamstring injury lately and it acted up again in a bullpen session Monday. While Uehara’s injury isn’t major, he’s still 39 years old without a clean medical bill. Uehara won’t be out for too long but it’s important to note Uehara said “I don’t know when I’ll be back […] It’s a day-to-day process. I have to do what I have to do to get ready.” In Uehara’s place, expect Edward Mujica to take over the ninth with a little Junichi Tazawa thrown in. Mujica should now be owned in all leagues, even shallow ones. He can’t be relied upon for particularly strong ratio help or strikeouts, but saves are saves and Mujica will be tallying them in the first month of the season.
• For those of you worried about Aroldis Chapman leaving his appearance early today, he is OK and “could pitch as soon as tomorrow.” Continue to treat Aroldis Chapman as the best closer on the board. However, if you are feeling particularly sneaky, send a trade offer to his owner mentioning his injury and hope he gets worried an accepts.
• The Astros made some (small) headlines improving their bullpen this offseason bringing in Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek. Chad Qualls was solid as closer last season, but Gregerson is the better reliever to say nothing of the success that Neshek had last year as well. Until now a committee of sorts was in the works but the Astros officially named Gregerson the closer today. A.J. Hinch said “we’ll sort out the other roles as we go” but it’s safe to assume behind Gregerson will be Qualls and Neshek. This situation was a bit up in the air previously, but with Hinch anointing Gregerson as the closer, his job is actually relatively safe. A lot can change with one bad week at the start of the season, but if there is another speculative save add on the wire, a la Mujica, feel free to drop Chad Qualls for him.
• Dellin Betances averaged 96.6 mph on his fastball last season. That velocity combined with his killer breaking ball enabled him to have a fantastic season (1.64FIP; 135 strikeouts and 24 walks). Unfortunately, part of that equation has eluded him this spring as his velocity has yet to return to 2014 levels. This certainly could be a concern but Brian Cashman helped spell that issue saying (via Chad Jennings): “He’s actually averaging a mile (per hour) higher at this time this spring than last spring. If it’s apples to apples, then he’s right where he was last year. Obviously his performance in the spring is different than the arm strength, but the arm strength is not the issue. Just want to make sure everybody knows that.”
So, Betances’ velocity isn’t a concern but his performance stil is. Completely writing off Betances would of course be foolish but the Yankees have yet to name a closer, and in fact have loosely mentioned a two-headed closer in the past. If Betances is going to get consistent saves he will have to show improvement as Andrew Miller is fully capable of handling the ninth inning himself. If you draft or own Betances, Miller is a necessary handcuff considering he will surely provide positive value for team in addition to the saves insurance.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
When he's not focusing on every team's bullpen situation, Ben can be found blogging at Ben's Baseball Bias and on Twitter @BensBias