Joel Peralta nudges his way to the front in Los Angeles

March 26, 2015

Los Angeles Dodgers — Chris Hatcher and his Wilsonesque beard have endured some rough outings lately, pushing his spring ERA over 10. Although Hatcher is a virtual lock to make the team because he’s out of minor league options, Joel Peralta may have edged in front of him in the race to lead what appears to be a confirmed committee situation that could also include Sergio Santos, Juan Nicasio, and lefties J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez. As expected, Brandon League will join Kenley Jansen on the DL to start the season, and some in LA are looking Rafael Soriano’s way.

Updated hierarchy: Peralta* | Hatcher | Santos.
*closer-by-committee

Oakland A’s — A struggling Ryan Cook was sent to the minors on Tuesday to fix his mechanics. Eric O’Flaherty and Dan Otero will back up Tyler Clippard during Sean Doolittle’s absence, and young R.J. Alvarez is another intriguing option. Doolittle, meanwhile, is staying busy teaching his coaches about social media.

Updated hierarchy: Clippard | O’Flaherty | Otero.

Boston Red Sox — Koji Uehara, who turns 40 next week, might miss Opening Day with a hamstring strain. Edward Mujica would likely take the closer’s role until Uehara can get healthy, with Alexi Ogando moving ahead of Junichi Tazawa as a backup option.

Updated hierarchy: Uehara | Mujica | Ogando.

Tampa Bay Rays — Grant Balfour made his first appearance of the spring on Monday and expects to be ready for Opening Day. All three of Tampa’s current top relievers allowed a run in the game. Jake McGee is throwing curveballs again and should be back to closing in late April or early May.

Hierarchy remains: Balfour | Boxberger | Jepsen.

Toronto Blue Jays – As expected, Brett Cecil was officially named Toronto’s closer; Aaron Loup will set him up, with Steve Delabar and Miguel Castro behind them.

Hierarchy remains: Cecil | Loup | Delabar.

Colorado Rockies – Walt Weiss told reporters that Adam Ottavino will be the club’s top vulture save option when 42-year-old closer LaTroy Hawkins is fatigued, or watching Matlock reruns.

Updated hierarchy: Hawkins | Ottavino | Axford.

Cincinnati Reds – The eighth inning is wide open for the Reds, according to manager Bryan Price, who named no fewer than five possibilities for set-up work. We’ll leave things the way they are until the situation clears up, but one intriguing option Price didn’t mention is lefty Tony Cingrani, who may find a welcoming home in the bullpen.

Hierarchy remains: Chapman | Diaz | LeCure.

Updated MLB Closer Depth Chart

Closer 1st in line 2nd in line Updated Closer 1st in line 2nd in line Updated
BAL Britton O'Day Hunter 3/6/15 ATL Kimbrel Grilli Johnson 3/9/15
BOS Uehara Mujica Ogando 3/26/15 MIA Cishek Dunn Ramos 3/9/15
NYY Betances Miller Carpenter 3/19/15 NYM Mejia Familia Black 3/9/15
TB Balfour Boxberger Jepsen 3/26/15 PHI Papelbon Giles Diekman 3/9/15
TOR Cecil Loup Delabar 3/26/15 WAS Storen Janssen Stammen 3/9/15
.                    
CHW Robertson Petricka Putnam 3/6/15 CHC Rondon Strop Ramirez 3/8/15
CLE Allen Shaw Atchison 3/6/15 CIN Chapman Diaz LeCure 3/26/15
DET Nathan Soria Chamberlain 3/6/15 MIL Rodriguez Broxton Smith 3/8/15
KC Holland Davis Herrera 3/6/15 PIT Melancon Watson Bastardo 3/8/15
MIN Perkins Fien Duensing 3/6/15 STL Rosenthal Walden Belisle 3/8/15
    .              
HOU Gregerson Qualls Neshek 3/6/15 ARI Reed Ziegler Perez 3/8/15
LAA Street Smith Morin 3/6/15 COL Hawkins Ottavino Axford 3/26/15
OAK Clippard O'Flaherty Otero 3/26/15 LAD Peralta* Hatcher Santos 3/26/15
SEA Rodney Farquhar Medina 3/6/15 SD Benoit Quackenbush Vincent 3/8/15
TEX Feliz Scheppers Tolleson 3/6/15 SF Casilla Romo Affeldt 3/8/15

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* = closer by committee

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Chris Hatcher emerging as frontrunner for Dodgers’ closer gig

March 19, 2015

Los Angeles Dodgers – A new name has emerged in the most unsettled bullpen in the big leagues. Chris Hatcher, a former catcher (just like Kenley Jansen!) has been turning heads in camp, and some members of the media have anointed him the frontrunner for the closer job. Don Mattingly has remained quiet about bullpen roles, and we still think Joel Peralta is a very strong possibility (and his most recent outing was a good one), but beat writers tend to know best, so we’ll move him to the top of the committee for now. Another candidate to watch is former Blue Jays closer Sergio Santos. Santos wasn’t even considered a lock to make the team as recently as a few weeks ago, but a strong spring has put him in the conversation. Meanwhile, Brandon League is taking some time off due to shoulder soreness.

Updated hierarchy: *Hatcher | Peralta | Santos.
*closer-by-committee

Toronto Blue Jays – Thanks to an injury to Marcus Stroman, signs are pointing to a spot in the rotation for promising youngster Aaron Sanchez. That basically clears Brett Cecil’s path to the Opening Day closer gig.

Updated hierarchy: Cecil | Loup | Delabar.

New York Yankees – Though Joe Girardi said the closer role would be determined by a spring training competition between Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, most of the speculation was that Betances would be the guy. (Which is why we ranked him so highly on our preseason closer rankings.) We still don’t have a definitive answer, but nothing drastic has changed; Betances is still the frontrunner and likely closer for the Bombers.

Hierarchy remains: Betances | Miller | Carpenter.

Oakland A’s – Tyler Clippard has let his once-surefire gig as interim closer slip a bit, as a few tough preseason outings have brought Ryan Cook — and Eric O’Flaherty and Dan Otero — into the conversation. Sean Doolittle will start his throwing program soon, so this could just be a short-term problem for Oakland, and to be clear, we still think Clippard is the best healthy reliever to own. But the situation warrants watching in the coming weeks.

Hierarchy remains: Clippard | Cook | O’Flaherty.

Tampa Bay Rays – In the race to close games in Tampa’s sans-McGee bullpen, Grant Balfour had a few distinct advantages. He has the most experience in the role, he had expressed an interest in it, and most importantly, Kevin Cash had mentioned him as a possibility. But Balfour has missed the last few weeks of spring training following the death of his father, while Brad Boxberger has come out of the gate with three scoreless innings. With his strong start, we think Boxberger has pulled even with Balfour, and suspect the Opening Day closer will be largely determined by which player looks better over the next couple weeks.

Hierarchy remains: Balfour | Boxberger | Jepsen.