This week’s closer news includes a couple of injuries to closers in LA and Washington, as well as a closer on the move from Minnesota. I’ll touch on these three situations first, followed by Milwaukee which has become a committee situation due to a struggling Corey Knebel. On the positive side, the Baltimore close situation is becoming clearer. As usual, I’ll end paying some respect to the three stars of the week.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Kenley Jansen was placed on the 10-Day DL last week with an irregular heartbeat. He was originally expected to miss 4-6 weeks, but the timeline has since been shortened to next Monday after a visit to the Cardiologist and a successful bullpen session for Jansen. Jansen may need off-season surgery to totally resolve the issue, but it is unclear if he will need to miss time in 2019.
The positive news on Jansen is great for the Dodgers, whose bullpen has blown saves 2 of the last 3 games, with the one non-blown save a 9th inning walk-off loss. Sean Alexander, Dylan Floro, and JT Chargois, all in the mix for saves in Jansen’s absence, played a part in this awful stretch.
The Dodgers also moved Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling to the bullpen as starters Alex Wood and Hyun-Jin Ryu make their returns from the DL this week. Stripling had a great run as a starter, posting a 3.85 ERA with 127 Ks and 40 BB in 107.2 innings. He came out of the bullpen almost exclusively in 2017 and started the 2018 season in the pen before moving to the rotation. With his experience and success, Stripling should see high leverage situations relatively quickly. The Dodgers may want to curtail Stripling’s innings a bit here down the stretch to keep him rested for the playoffs. Maeda, on the other hand, has pitched most of his three-year MLB career as a starter. With the injury history of the Dodgers’ starters, I think Maeda stays stretched out a bit more and would be the first option to make a start if needed.
Actions to take: With the news that Jansen could return Monday, he’s an obvious hold. I would avoid adding any of Alexander, Floro, or Chargois because they’ve all struggled recently and it’s not worth the risk for the 1 or 2 saves you may get the rest of the week. If Stripling was dropped after being moved to the bullpen, he’s worth an add. Should Jansen’s prognosis worsen by next week, Stripling seems like a better long-term closer option than anyone else in the Dodgers pen at this time. He’s been there before and Maeda is available to move back into the rotation if the Dodgers need a starter.
Ryan Madson was named interim closer last week after fellow interim closer Kelvin Herrera landed on the DL. Madson’s tenure was brief as he was placed on the DL with a back injury yesterday. In 2.2 innings as the team’s closer he recorded 0 saves and allowed 5 earned runs.
With Madson out, the Nationals called up Koda Glover from the minor leagues and manager Davey Martinez has announced he will be the team’s primary closer. His first two appearances resulted in a hold over 1.2 scoreless innings, however Glover failed to record a strikeout. In his third appearance he failed to record any outs at all, giving up a solo home run to Cardinals’ Paul DeJong that ended the game.
On the injury front, Herrera resumed throwing last Saturday. He is dealing with a rotator cuff impingement and the Nationals are going to bring him along slowly, so he will likely throw a few more bullpen sessions without any flare-ups before he returns to action. Sean Doolittle also resumed throwing. He’s on the DL with a stress reaction in his left foot, but is working on some mechanical adjustments that will allow him to pitch through the pain. There is still no timetable for either pitchers’ return, but they seem to be making progress.
Then there is good ole Greg Holland. He pitched 3.0 innings and allowed no earned runs in the last week, striking out 4 and walking 2. With the rest of the pen banged up he may find his way back into the ninth by default.
Actions to take: Glover is the short term add for saves, as Davey Martinez has indicated he will get that opportunity. Whether he seizes it or not we will see. Holland remains a dark horse for saves. I am hesitant to invest in this situation.
The Twins traded Fernando Rodney to the Athletics last week, opening up the closer gig. Trevor Hildenberger got the first save after Rodney was traded, and he converted it despite allowing a two-run homer in the 9th. In his last 4 appearances Hildenberger has allowed 2, 2, 3, and 2 earned runs, including a home run in each appearance. That doesn’t give me confidence in him going forward as closer.
Addison Reed is also in the mix for saves. He’s not having a great season: 4.74 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, and his K/9 from 9.0 in 2017 to 7.8 per 9, while the BB/9 is up from 1.8 to 2.7 year over year. Reed also spent some time on the DL in July and has only made 3 appearances since being activated on July 30th. At the end of the day, he’s a veteran with 125 saves on his resume. I’m willing to give him some extra time to get sorted out. If he does, he’s a good bet to close.
The other two names worth knowing in the Twins pen are Taylor Rogers and Trevor May. Rogers, a lefty, has a 10.2 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 this season along with a 3.70 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. Pretty solid, and his last month is even better, with a 2.61 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, and 16 Ks to 5 BBs in 10.1 innings. He’s got 3 holds, so he’s been used in in high leverage situations and had success. May only has 4.2 innings pitched in 2018, however he has 7 Ks and 0 BB in the small sample. He had a K rate of 12.7 in 42.2 innings in 2017, so the strikeouts are legit, however he had a 3.6 BB/9 in 2017 as well – certainly manageable but not dominant. The walks and the 1.48 HR/9, were contributing factors to May’s 5.27 ERA in 2017.
Actions to take: Reed is my first choice add for saves here. He’s had a down year so far, but he’s experienced in the 9th and if he puts a couple good outings together, he seems like an obvious choice considering Hildenberger has allowed 4 HR and 9 ER in his last 4 outings. I simply can’t invest in a reliever who has given up a homer his last 4 times out. Rodgers is my second choice for an add, but I think being the best lefty in the pen means he will see middle inning action if the match-ups are there for him. May is a guy to monitor but I need to see more from him before he enters the closer conversation.
Corey Knebel is getting a refrain from closing for now as he’s posted a 7.24 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, and allowed 2 home runs over the last 30 days. The strikeouts are still there, as he recorded 17 in his last 13.2 innings, so he likely just needs to clear his mind and get his confidence back before he closes games again. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning yesterday with 2 Ks, so perhaps Knebel is already on his way back.
In the meantime, the Brewers will use Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress to close out games. Hader’s continued his dominating season into the second half. He’s got 19 Ks to 4 BB in his last 12 innings, along with a 1.50 ERA and 0.75 WHIP. That is right in line with his full season ERA of 1.54 and WHIP of 0.81, along with 104 Ks in 58.1 innings. Jeffress is no slouch either. In fact, he’s having a career year with a 10.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9, along with a 1.29 ERA and 1.01 WHIP.
Action to take: Hader is the premier reliever in the MLB. He should have been owned in your league for months. If he’s not, shame on you. Jeffress is also worth an add here though. While Hader should see more save chances, he will still see some high leverage middle relief innings as needed and Jeffress is likely to close out those games. Knebel is a hold. I think the Brewers will look to get his confidence up and then return him to the 9th inning. I would let him figure it out in my lineup because of the Ks he can accumulate, but stash him on your bench if you feel otherwise.
Mychal Givens has 3 saves in his last 4 appearances. He’s had a couple nice stretches this season, as well as some poor stretches. He seems to be the guy in Baltimore though as no other reliever has recorded a save in the last month.
Actions to take: Givens is worth an add if you’re desperate for saves. He’s had his ups and downs, but his role looks stable. I’d rather invest here than in the current committee situations going on for the Dodgers or Nationals.
St. Louis Cardinals
Closer Bud Norris is dealing with hip soreness. He may be out a couple days to rest up, and a DL stint is not out of the question. Jordan Hicks is set to close if Norris misses any significant time. Hicks has a 7.2 K/9 on the season, which seems low for a guy who throws over 100 mph, but he’s had a solid year overall with a 2.93 ERA and 1.14 ERA.
Actions to take: Hold Norris for now, as he will close if healthy. Consider stashing Hicks as a handcuff for the time being until we hear an update on Norris hip.
Three Stars of the Week
Edwin Diaz, SEA – Diaz picked up 4 saves in a row in the Mariners’ 4 game sweep of the Astros last weekend. He allowed 1 run, but struck out 9 in 4.0 innings.
Fernando Rodney, OAK – Rodney pitched 3.0 innings picking up 4 Ks, 0 BBs, 1 SV, 1 HLD, and 1 W. He won’t see many saves the rest of the way in Oakland but should be a good source of holds.
Kirby Yates, SD – Yates struck out 8 and walked none in 3.0 innings. He recorded 1 save and 1 win.
That’s all for this week. Drop a comment below if you like, and I’ll be back next week with another Bullpen Briefing.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday August 12th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #132 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Kevin Bzdek. Kevin is a writer and editor with majorleaguefantasysports.com. His articles publish every Friday morning and his focus is on bullpens.
Major League Fantasy Football Radio Show: Join host Corey D Roberts live August 16th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #89 of Major League Fantasy Football Radio. Call in number is 323-870-4395 press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will take a close look at some possible ADP steals in our drafts this season.
My guest this week is Andy Macuga. He is the former Head Football and Baseball Coach for Borrego Springs H.S. out in the San Diego area. Andy is also a 6 year veteran of Major League Fantasy Sports leagues and a frequent radio guest.