Most of this report was done on Saturday, but there was one major piece of news on Sunday:
- Aroldis Chapman was placed on the 10-day disabled list with rotator cuff inflammation. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that Chapman will rest for a minimum of two weeks, at which time his condition will be re-evaluated, and that Chapman is “probably looking at [missing] a minimum of a month if everything goes right.” Chapman has reportedly been experiencing discomfort in the shoulder since late April, and he had to be removed mid-inning in his last two outings due to ineffectiveness. In Chapman’s place, Dellin Betances will have an opportunity to prove his worth as a closer. Yankees president Randy Levine and Betances’s agent had a public spat in February over the pitcher’s arbitration hearing that determined his 2017 salary. Levine vocalized his opinion that Betances sought too much money for a non-closer. Whether or not he’s accruing saves, Betances is an elite reliever, and now he will have a chance to prove it, at least for a month. If Betances wasn’t already owned in all formats, he should be now. Meanwhile, Chapman should be held onto in all formats, because he is arguably the best reliever in baseball when healthy. The Bullpen Report will continue to provide updates on the situation as they become available.
Now for the notes from Saturday:
- Newly-minted Tigers closer Justin Wilson encountered his save opportunity in the new role on Saturday, and the hard-throwing lefty did not disappoint. He was dominant and methodical as he mowed down three Angels hitters in a row. He now features an outstanding 1.15 ERA/1.28 FIP/1.72 xFIP in 15.2 innings, largely fueled by a career-best 43.4% strikeout rate. Wilson’s zone-contact rate of 73% is by far the best of his career, 10% better than his career average and 11th best in baseball. Former Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez struggled mightily in that role this year, so Wilson should get a prolonged opportunity to close games. He is now a must-own fantasy closer in all formats, and if he continues pitching anything like he has lately, he could be one of the best in baseball.
- Joe Smith has been a revelation since joining the Blue Jays. With Joe Biagini now in Toronto’s starting rotation, Smith has assumed the set-up role, where he’s thrived. In 18 innings, Smith has a sparkling 2.00 ERA/1.83 FIP/2.22 xFIP, fueled by a 37.3% strikeout rate, 7.5% walk rate, and only one home run allowed. His 42.5% outside-the-zone swing rate easily bests his 28.6% career average, and his 73% contact rate is also much better than his 81% career average. Smith looks like a changed and improved pitcher across the board, and he’s certainly worth a look in holds leagues. He allowed two base runners and struck out one in a scoreless eighth inning on Saturday.
- Shawn Kelley (back) successfully worked through a tie ninth inning in his first appearance since a brief stint on the disabled list. He allowed two walks and notched a pair of strikeouts on 25 pitches, and he escaped the inning without allowing a run. Koda Glover (hip) also made his first appearance since being activated from the disabled list, and he pitched 1.1 scoreless innings. Kelley figures to receive the lion’s share of save opportunities moving forward, with Glover next in line, but neither has a firm grasp on the role. Kelley has been susceptible to the home run in his career, and Glover has just 29.2 career innings under his belt with an unimpressive 18.8% strikeout rate. It remains likely that the first-place Nationals will trade for a closer at some point this season.
- Matt Bush went 17 days between his first and second saves of the year, but he didn’t have to wait nearly that long for his third. Bush pitched a perfect ninth inning against the A’s on Saturday, striking out two and inducing a game-ending lineout. While his 12.2 innings are a small sample, Bush now has a 1.42 ERA/2.37 FIP/3.31 xFIP and a clear path to continued save opportunities as long as he remains successful in that role. Bush’s fastball routinely touched 99-100 mph on Saturday.
- Brandon Kintzler doesn’t get too much love on the Bullpen Report, but he notched his 10th save of the season in 11 chances on Saturday. Since joining the Twins in 2016, Kintzler has a 2.94 ERA in 70.1 innings, to go along with a 3.65 FIP and 3.70 xFIP. In his career, Kintzler boasts a respectable 3.26 ERA/3.68 FIP/3.42 xFIP in 251.1 innings. While his 17.2% career strikeout rate is underwhelming, Kintzler has found success by inducing ground balls on 58.2% of balls in play against him and limiting walks (6.2% career walk rate) and home runs (0.82 career home runs per nine innings). Former Twins closer Glen Perkins, who hasn’t pitched in a game since April 10, 2016, has been slow to progress from shoulder surgery and there currently is no timetable for his return. Kintzler, meanwhile, doesn’t fit the typical closer mold, nor is he the safest bet to maintain success moving forward, but he has been mostly consistent at the back of the Minnesota bullpen since he seized the closer’s role last year. He’s a decent second- or third-tier saves option in all formats.
- Bud Norris allowed his first home run of the year in what had been a tie game in the ninth. Despite the long ball, Norris’s peripherals (and position atop the Angels’ bullpen depth chart) remain strong, and he sports a strong 3.32 ERA/2.42 FIP/3.05 xFIP.
- Filling in for the injured Mark Melancon, Derek Law picked up his third save of the season in a scoreless ninth inning. The Giants expect Melancon to return when eligible (or shortly thereafter), so Law should not receive too many more save opportunities. It’s clear, however, that Law has surpassed Hunter Strickland on the Giants’ depth chart. Despite his status as the No. 2 man in Bruce Bochy’s bullpen, Law does not feature very enticing peripherals, so he is probably not worth owning in all but the deepest holds leagues once Melancon returns from the disabled list.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
Ben Kaspick is the founder of CoveCast, LLC, a sabermetric San Francisco Giants analysis website and podcast featured at CoveCast.net. He has written for RotoGraphs since 2016 and also contributes to SB Nation's Beyond the Box Score. Follow him on Twitter @Cove_Cast.