Yimi Garcia and A.J. Ramos excelling; complications for Bobby Parnell

April 25, 2015

Los Angeles Dodgers — With 16 strikeouts in nine appearances, rookie Yimi Garcia has been the best pitcher in the Dodgers’ bullpen this season. On Friday night, he finally got a shot at closing — and he mowed down the Padres with two strikeouts and a foul pop. Don Mattingly isn’t ready to abandon the committee system, but Garcia will surely be a huge part of it going forward, and a strong candidate for the setup role after Kenley Jansen returns.

Updated hierarchy: *Peralta | Garcia | Baez.
*closer-by-committee

Miami Marlins — Steve Cishek earned his first save of the year, lowering his ERA to 10.38 in the process. If you’re a Cishek owner, it’s worth noting that his absence would likely create a closer triumvirate of Mike Dunn, A.J. Ramos, and Bryan Morris. We think Dunn’s recent ineffectiveness would give Ramos the inside track at this point.

Updated hierarchy: Cishek | Ramos | Dunn.

New York Mets — The Mets’ success is overshadowing their terrible luck with injuries — on Friday came news that Bobby Parnell’s minor league rehab would be shut down for a week because of forearm soreness. Parnell has been out for a year now after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Hierarchy remains: Familia | C.Torres | A.Torres.

Detroit Tigers – Al Alburquerque had his second putrid outing in three days, giving up two home runs in mop-up duty and running his ERA into double digits. He has now given up more home runs in his last three innings than in his first 80 as a major leaguer. Although his velocity is down, he says he feels fine. Bruce Rondon threw on Tuesday and Thursday, and his return can’t come soon enough for this beleaguered pen.

Hierarchy remains: Soria | Chamberlain | Alburquerque.

San Diego Padres — Kevin Quackenbush and his newly trimmed beard have been recalled from Triple-A, and he could move into the Padres’ hierarchy very quickly. On Friday night, he was used in the eighth and ninth with the Padres narrowly trailing.

Hierarchy remains: Kimbrel | Benoit | Thayer.

Tampa Bay Rays — Matt Andriese gave up his spot in the rotation to Drew Smyly today, but wound up earning a three-inning blowout save instead — and his first Closer Monkey reference. I’d take that deal. While we’re here, we should mention that Jake McGee will throw a bullpen session tomorrow and, if all goes well, will start rehab with the High-A Stone Cutters Crabs.

Hierarchy remains: *Boxberger | Jepsen | Frieri.
* closer-by-committee

Houston Astros — After Luke Gregerson blew a save in the ninth and Pat Neshek gave up two-thirds of a three-run lead in the tenth, Chad Qualls grabbed a vulture save.

Hierarchy remains: Gregerson | Qualls | Neshek.

Colorado Rockies — Adam Ottavino returned from his brief rest and earned an uneventful save on Friday night.

Hierarchy remains: Ottavino | Axford | Betancourt.

VULTURE SAVE WATCH
1. Matt Belisle, St. Louis Cardinals
— Jordan Walden (45 pitches in four days) and Trevor Rosenthal (pitched in three straight) have gotten a lot of work lately. We think Belisle is next in line.
2. Ken Giles/Luis Garcia, Philadelphia Phillies — Giles got the win in Friday night’s game in a spot that normally would have featured Jonathan Papelbon. After the game, Ryne Sandberg explained that Papelbon was sick in bed all day. If he needs a little more rest, Sandberg could call on Giles again, or Luis Garcia.
3. Kelvin Herrera, Kansas City Royals — The Royals-White Sox game was suspended going into the ninth tied at 2, and will be completed before their next game tomorrow. Two games in one day can bring the vulture.
4. Joe Smith, Los Angeles Angels — Huston Street needed 26 pitches to get Friday’s save; he threw 15 on Thursday.
5. Jumbo Diaz, Cincinnati Reds — Aroldis Chapman has pitched in three of four games. Jumbo Diaz is better-rested, and poor Tony Cingrani? He hasn’t pitched in 10 days, leading to some (more) criticism of Bryan Price.
6. Tony Watson, Pittsburgh Pirates — Mark Melancon got another 1-2-3 save on Friday, but he’s now pitched on three of four days.

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 Grilli Johnson Avilan 4/12/15
BOS Uehara Mujica Tazawa 4/18/15 MIA Cishek Ramos Dunn 4/25/15
NYY *Miller Betances Carpenter 4/18/15 NYM Familia C.Torres A.Torres 4/25/15
TB *Boxberger Jepsen Frieri 4/25/15 PHI Papelbon Giles Garcia 4/22/15
TOR *Castro Osuna Cecil 4/24/15 WAS Storen Treinen Barrett 4/12/15
.                    
CHW Robertson Duke Jennings 4/15/15 CHC Rondon Strop Jackson 4/23/15
CLE Allen Shaw Hagadone 4/21/15 CIN Chapman Diaz Cingrani 4/14/15
DET Soria Chamberlain Alburquerque 4/25/15 MIL Rodriguez Broxton Smith 3/8/15
KC Davis Herrera Frasor 4/24/15 PIT Melancon Watson Hughes 4/24/15
MIN Perkins Fien Thompson 4/18/15 STL Rosenthal Walden Belisle 4/18/15
    .              
HOU Gregerson Qualls Neshek 4/25/15 ARI Reed Marshall Ziegler 4/8/15
LAA Street Smith Morin 3/6/15 COL Ottavino Axford Betancourt 4/25/15
OAK Clippard O'Flaherty Otero 4/19/15 LAD *Peralta Garcia Baez 4/25/15
SEA Rodney Farquhar Medina 4/15/15 SD Kimbrel Benoit Thayer 4/25/15
TEX Feliz Tolleson Scheppers 4/24/15 SF Casilla Romo Affeldt 3/8/15

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* = closer by committee

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Weekly Hot Seat Update: April 24, 2015

This week, we’ll spotlight the Pirates and check in on the four committees on our depth chart.

Pittsburgh Pirates

We’ve already written a lot about Mark Melancon’s velocity. Now, we’ll look at the arms behind him. But before we dive in, let’s state one thing up front so the rest of this section doesn’t get misconstrued: Tony Watson is the handcuff. He’s the guy you want. But for two reasons, we’re still going to spend a little time talking about the Pirates.

-Lefthandedness: Watson wouldn’t be the first set-up man who gets passed over just because he happens to be a lefty. But he’s got a few things going for him, chief among them that he’s faced a greater percent of righthanded batters every year since 2012 — this year, 29 of the 33 hitters that he’s retired have been righthanded. This makes him the farthest thing from a LOOGY this side of Aroldis Chapman. Also in Watson’s favor is that he’s not the only lefty in the bullpen — the Pirates can also look to Antonio Bastardo if they want to play matchups.

-Clint Hurdle: In 2012, Jason Grilli was one of the best set-up men in baseball. Pitching the 8th inning ahead of Joel Hanrahan, he put up 90 strikeouts in 58.2 innings, a 2.91 ERA, and 32 holds. And every time Hanrahan needed a night off, Grilli would still pitch the 8th inning and Juan Cruz would get the save opportunity. So Clint Hurdle has pulled the “I like my 8th inning guy to stay in the 8th inning no matter what” thing before. Fortunately, he’s already looked to Watson on nights when Melancon is unavailable.

If either of these factors does end up trumping Watson’s handcuff status, there are two guys who could potentially benefits. Jared Hughes had been the most effective reliever in the Pittsburgh bullpen until Wednesday, when he gave up 2 runs without recording an out. The wild card is Arquimedes Caminero, who throws 101 mph and has 11 strikeouts in 8.2 innings so far.

Quick takes on the committees:

Dodgers: Joel Peralta probably could’ve kicked his asterisk if he’d managed to lock down a 4-out save yesterday. Instead, he walked the first two hitters he faced and didn’t have enough to return for the 9th inning. He’s still the best guy to own until Kenley Jansen comes up, though the about-to-be-called-up Sergio Santos might be one to watch. Yimi Garcia is also having quite a season, and his save on Friday night could be a sign of big things to come.

Yankees: Despite all the turmoil that faced Dellin Betances in the early going, he’s still got a 0.00 ERA. And since starting the year with 6 walks in 3.1 innings, Betances has looked a lot more like his former self, posting 9 strikeouts and only 1 walk and 2 hits in his past 6 innings. Betances’s resurgence is probably why Joe Girardi stubbornly refuses to declare that Andrew Miller is the full-time stopper. Despite Miller’s early-season brilliance, Betances’s rally means the lefty is probably on a short leash.

Rays: The Rays know that Brad Boxberger is far and away their best reliever. They’re just using him the way sabermetricians have been urging for years — against the strongest portion of the other team’s lineup. So look for other relievers in Tampa to get a save opportunity every other week or so, with Kevin Jepsen being the best non-Boxberger reliever to own.

Blue Jays: Despite a powerful arsenal, Miguel Castro hasn’t been generating a ton of strikeouts, managing just 7 Ks (and 4 BBs) in 9.1 innings so far. Roberto Osuna is the one with the better ratios thus far (10 Ks, 3 BBs in 9.2 innings), while Brett Cecil continues to lurk with the “experience” trump card in his back pocket. Still hard to predict what’s going to happen here, though Castro obviously remains the guy with the leg up. (Though if the Jays stay in contention, their closer at the end of the season might be more the equine type.)

Other Hot Seat notes: Fernando Rodney has put up three scoreless innings since getting wrecked in back to back games earlier this month. Just as encouraging, his control seems to have returned, as he’s posted 5 Ks and 0 BBs in that span, compared with 1 K and 4 BBs in his first four outings… Cody Allen rebounded nicely the day after his meltdown on April 20. He’s probably bought himself at least a couple more blown saves before the Indians look elsewhere… Tyler Clippard’s ratios are alarming (2 Ks and 5 BBs in 6 innings), but he’s only allowed one run so far and no one else in the A’s bullpen has looked particularly sharp… Neftali Feliz still hasn’t pitched since his 47-pitch outing on April 19, but he’d probably need to blow another save before his seat gets hot.

Joe Nathan out for year; Mark Melancon picks up save despite continued low velocity

April 24, 2015

Detroit Tigers – Former closer Joe Nathan, the active leader in saves and the second-oldest player in the AL, is out for the season with a torn UCL in his pitching elbow. Nathan suffered the injury on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo on Wednesday morning. Although Nathan will require a second Tommy John surgery, he insists that he will return to pitch another day. Joakim Soria, with 5 saves in 5 chances this season, should be secure in the closer role from this point forward. Ian Krol, meanwhile, got sent to the minors to work on his delivery, which will likely lead to more holds opportunities for Al Alburquerque.

Updated hierarchy: Soria | Chamberlain | Alburquerque.

Colorado Rockies — John Axford, back from dealing with his son’s snake bite, earned his second save of the season on Thursday, shutting down the Padres in the 9th. After the game, regular closer Adam Ottavino said that he had asked for the day off due to “usual pitcher soreness.” All indications are that Ottavino is fine and will remain the closer moving forward, but Axford will play an important role as well. In other news, former closer LaTroy Hawkins has been placed on the DL with tendinitis in his biceps. This is Hawkins’s final season in what has been a $47 million career; his next appearance in one of our updates may be as part of a front office.

Updated hierarchy: Ottavino | Axford | Betancourt.

Los Angeles Dodgers — LA continues to have the most volatile closing situation in the league. On Thursday, after Chris Hatcher and Joel Peralta had already pitched, Pedro Baez got the chance at his first career save, but promptly coughed up the one-run lead, allowing a leadoff single and a game-tying triple. Although Baez managed to strand that runner on third, the Dodgers went on to lose 3-2 against the Giants. The Baez move, which puzzled the great Vin Scully, shows how wide-open things are now in the Dodgers’ ninth. The uncertainty should end soon, with Kenley Jansen scheduled to begin a rehab assignment next week.

Hierarchy remains: *Peralta | Hatcher | Baez.
*closer-by-committee

New York Yankees — Andrew Miller picked up his AL-leading sixth save Wednesday; Miller, who has not allowed a run, has 15 strikeouts in 7 games this season. Joe Girardi hasn’t confirmed that Miller is the full-time closer, but we’re sure enough to remove the committee asterisk. Dellin Betances, meanwhile, has overcome his early control issues and allowed only one walk in his last five appearances. He’ll be the guy should Miller falter or get hurt.

Hierarchy remains: Miller | Betances | Carpenter.

Kansas City Royals — On Saturday, injured closer Greg Holland will be evaluated by team doctors, who will decide when he can begin a throwing program. Holland has not thrown a baseball since feeling discomfort in his pectoral muscle, but said he “feels a lot better.” He’s eligible to return from the DL on May 3, but it will take longer if his evaluation goes poorly. Wade Davis has done a fine job filling in for Holland, and he picked up the save Thursday night after a wild night in Chicago, where a bench-clearing brawl led to five ejections.

Hierarchy remains: Davis | Herrera | Frasor.

Pittsburgh Pirates — With his velocity still down, embattled Pirates closer Mark Melancon managed to shut down the Cubs 1-2-3 in the ninth inning Thursday, finishing with a strikeout of über-prospect Addison Russell. Melancon’s cut fastball hovered in the 85-90 mph range, down from the low-to-mid-90s range he reached for most of last season. Melancon remains Pittsburgh’s primary closer, but his seat ought to be feeling very warm

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Watson | Hughes.

Texas Rangers — Rangers manager Jeff Bannister will use Tanner Scheppers in lower-leverage situations for the time being after some rough outings. Bannister likes the righty’s stuff, so don’t be surprised to see Scheppers return to the eighth-inning role soon.

Updated hierarchy: Feliz | Tolleson | Scheppers.

Toronto Blue Jays – Liam Hendricks was ineffective in a 7-2 game, creating a save situation for Blue Jays committee head Miguel Castro. Castro made things even more interesting by giving up a three-run homer, but escaped with a fly out and a strikeout to end it. This poor outing notwithstanding, Castro remains the most likely closer on any given day.

Hierarchy remains: *Castro | Osuna | Cecil.
*closer-by-committee

VULTURE SAVE WATCH
1. Roberto Osuna/Brett Cecil, Toronto Blue Jays — Castro has pitched in two straight games and leads a committee, so Osuna or Cecil could see a chance Friday.
2. Chris Hatcher/Paco Rodriguez, Los Angeles Dodgers — It’s a closer-by-committee system until Jansen returns. It could be Hatcher’s turn on Friday, or they could turn to Rodriguez, one of the few relievers who didn’t pitch for the Dodgers last night.
3. Ernesto Frieri, Tampa Bay Rays — Manager Kevin Cash has made it clear that he’ll use his best reliever, Brad Boxberger, in the most important moments of a game, sometimes earlier than the ninth inning. This is a wise move for the Rays, but a headache for fantasy owners. Kevin Jepsen has pitched in two straight, so keep an eye on Frieri.
4. Jordan Walden, St. Louis Cardinals — Trevor Rosenthal has pitched in two straight games and could be in line for a night off Friday.
5. Jonathan Broxton, Milwaukee Brewers — Save opportunities are few and far between for the bad Brewers, but closer Francisco Rodriguez has pitched in two straight games (and on three days out of four). Look for Broxton to fill in if K-Rod needs a breather.