2019 NL West Preview

February 21, 2019

Arizona Diamondbacks – Archie Bradley has his fingernail back (and, with it, his curveball), and so we peg the 26-year-old as the favorite in the Diamondbacks’ three-man closer competition. Also in the mix will be January signee Greg Holland and last September’s committee leader, Yoshihisa Hirano. There’s every indication that Torey Lovullo will pick one guy, so we’re not going to give the D-Backs a committee asterisk; watch this space for updates as draft day draws nearer.

Starting 2019 hierarchy: Bradley | Holland | Hirano.
Holds candidates: Holland, Hirano, Andrew Chafin.

Colorado Rockies – With Adam Ottavino and his Bambino-baffling slider off to the Bronx, the Rockies will rely on veterans like Scott Oberg, Seunghwan Oh, and Bryan Shaw to get the ball to $18 million closer Wade Davis. Mike Dunn and Jake McGee are still around too, hoping to move past their disappointing 2018 seasons and finally give Colorado a bullpen that produces in line with its high price tag.

Starting 2019 hierarchy: Davis | Oberg | Oh.
Holds candidates: Oberg, Oh, Shaw, Chris Rusin.

Los Angeles Dodgers – After (presumably) hurling Ryan Madson into Chavez Ravine, the Dodgers bullpen looks strong again in 2019. Kenley Jansen is feeling healthy and confident after heart surgery and a new, strict diet featuring absolutely no ice cream. To shore up the eighth inning, LA signed Joe Kelly, who was as dominant in the World Series as Madson wasn’t, and the team will also bring back key contributors like Pedro Baez, Scott Alexander, and Josh Fields. 

Starting 2019 hierarchy: Jansen | Kelly | Baez.
Holds candidates: Kelly, Baez, Alexander.

San Diego Padres – Kirby Yates should get the chance to build on his fantastic 2018 and start the year as the Padres’ closer. Craig Stammen should keep his eighth-inning role, with Phil Maton, Jose Castillo, Robert Stock, and newly-signed Aaron Loup also in the setup mix. Matt Strahm is another arm to watch in the late innings, but he has his eye on a rotation spot. Oh, and when Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. lead the Padres to the 2022 title, it’ll be current Sod Poodle Andres Munoz and his 103 MPH fastball striking out Aaron Judge to close out Game 6 at Petco.

Starting 2019 hierarchy: Yates | Stammen | Maton.
Holds candidates: Stammen, Maton, Castillo, Loup.

San Francisco Giants – It’s a two-man race between Will Smith and Mark Melancon, and with Smith a pending free agent (and thus an ongoing trade candidate), we’ll give the slight edge to the guy with the $19 million salary. Sam Dyson, Tony Watson, and Reyes Moronta make up the second tier of Giants relievers. Pat Venditte probably won’t be too relevant to your fantasy team, but you better believe we’re going to mention he’s a Giant now.

Starting 2019 hierarchy: Melancon | Smith | Dyson.
Holds candidates: Dyson, Watson, Moronta.

2019 AL East Preview

February 18, 2019

Baltimore Orioles — The Orioles traded away most of their key bullpen arms last year and signed nobody during free agency. This means that Mychal Givens will be back as the presumptive closer, should he have a lead to protect. Richard Bleier is back after his lat surgery. Paul Fry and Mike Wright Jr. are also back. Get excited! Givens is the only sure thing in Baltimore’s bullpen entering the spring, but we’ll keep an eye out to see if anyone else stands out in camp.

Starting 2019 hierarchy: Givens | Bleier | Fry.
Holds candidates: Bleier, Fry, Wright Jr.

Boston Red Sox — The defending champions still haven’t named a closer, and according to Alex Cora they won’t do so until Opening Day. It’s becoming more and more unlikely that the Sox re-sign Craig Kimbrel, which means the competition this spring is projected to be wide open. Among the names vying for the job are Heath Hembree, Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, and dark horse candidate Tyler Thornburg. This will be a fluid situation throughout spring training, but for now, we think that Barnes, Brasier, and Hembree are the front-runners for the job.

Starting 2019 hierarchy: Barnes | Brasier | Hembree.
Holds candidates: Brasier, Hembree, Steven Wright.

New York Yankees — The Yankees added to their already-loaded bullpen this offseason by acquiring Adam Ottavino, who essentially replaces the departed David Robertson. This gives them a multitude of options in the late innings, as Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, and ZacK Britton all return from last year’s squad. Chapman should start the season as the closer, but don’t be surprised if someone else takes over should Chapman struggle out of the gate, especially considering this could be the best bullpen ever.

Starting 2019 hierarchy: Chapman | Britton | Ottavino.
Holds candidates: Britton, Ottavino, Betances, Chad Green. 

Tampa Bay Rays — When we eventually start OpenerMonkey.com, you’ll know who to thank. The Rays, who surprisingly won 90 games last year, established the trend of using openers, though not everybody was a fan. That probably included most fantasy owners, who had to be less than pleased any time Sergio Romo trotted out to the mound in the first inning and not the ninth. With Romo off to Miami, the Rays will likely turn to Jose Alvarado if there’s a save chance on opening day. Chaz Roe and Diego Castillo are also good options in high-leverage spots, though Castillo may open as well from time to time.

Starting 2019 hierarchy: Alvarado | Roe | Castillo. 
Holds candidates: Roe, Castillo, Adam Kolarek.

Toronto Blue Jays — Ken Giles, who somehow had zero blown saves last year, will be the Jays’ closer in 2019. Ryan Tepera seems to be the only other Blue Jay to have his bullpen role locked down, as David Phelps is still recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Jays also signed old friend John Axford to a minor-league deal, which means he could eventually work his way into the late-inning plans, at least until Phelps gets healthy.

Starting 2019 hierarchy: Giles | Tepera | Mayza.
Holds candidates: Tepera, Mayza, Phelps, Axford.

2019 AL Central Preview

February 18, 2019

Chicago White Sox – The White Sox traded for Alex Colome and signed Kelvin Herrera in the offseason to bolster their bullpen.  They also bring back Nate Jones and Jace Fry.  Colome is the likely closer, especially with Herrera battling a foot injury.  Fry will be the primary lefty out of the bullpen and veteran Nate Jones could start the year as the set-up man if Herrera isn’t fully healthy.

Starting 2019 hierarchy: Colome | Jones | Herrera.
Holds candidates: Jones, Herrera, Jace Fry.

Cleveland Indians – The Indians lost long time closer Cody Allen and versatile reliever Andrew Miller, but they prepared for this by acquiring Brad Hand and Adam Cimber last season.  Hand will be the Indians’ closer, while Cimber should serve as the primary set-up man.  Behind them, veterans Neil Ramirez and Oliver Perez return, but Jon Edwards is a guy to watch.  He impressed manager Terry Francona during his September call-up and is a sleeper in this year’s bullpen.

Starting 2019 hierarchy: Hand | Cimber | Edwards.
Holds candidates: Cimber, Edwards, Oliver Perez.

Detroit Tigers — Shane Greene will return this season and manager Ron Gardenhire has already said that Greene will be the closer.  Greene was serviceable last year but he finished the year with an ERA over 5.00.  Joe Jimenez had a good season last year and is younger and has more upside than Greene.  Jimenez will start the year as the set-up man but if Greene falters at all early in the season, Jimenez could take over.  

Starting 2019 hierarchy: Greene | Jimenez | Farmer.
Holds candidates: Jimenez, Farmer.

Kansas City Royals – Manager Ned Yost has not named a closer, but instead has said that he will “think more in terms of high-leverage situation.”  Unfortunately for fantasy owners, that likely means a closer-by-committee, at least to start the season.  The Royals signed Brad Boxberger, who recorded 32 saves for the Diamondbacks last season, and also still have Wily Peralta, who went 14-for-14 in save chances last season.  Lefty Tim Hill could see time in the later innings, and it’s a possibility that the Royals try to find their next Wade Davis by converting a starter such as Ian Kennedy, Jorge Lopez or Heath Fillmyer. We’ll put Boxberger at the top of the committee for now and continue to monitor the situation to see if anyone emerges as the clear closer.

Starting 2019 hierarchy: *Boxberger | Peralta | Hill.
* = closer-by-committee

Holds candidates: Peralta, Hill, Kevin McCarthy.

Minnesota Twins — There are a lot of question marks in the Twins’ bullpen.  They bring back all three members of their closer committee that finished last season: Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, and Trevor May.  They also still have former closer Addison Reed and recently went out and signed Blake Parker.  To complicate things even more, they just announced that hard-throwing righty Fernando Romero will be used as a reliever.  Oh, and the Twins are also a possibility for Craig Kimbrel. Trevor May recorded the last three saves of the season for the Twins last year and we think the towering right-hander could get a shot to continue that in 2019, but until roles become more clear, this looks like a committee again.

Starting 2019 hierarchy: *May | Parker | Hildenberger.
* = closer-by-committee
Holds candidates: Parker, Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers.

2019 AL West Preview

February 18, 2019

Houston Astros – Roberto Osuna is back for his first full season as Astros closer after an up-and-down 2018, which featured his long suspension, a surprise trade and a rough playoff performance. Still, Osuna is just 24 years old and was named by manager A.J. Hinch to be the undisputed man in the ninth. Behind Osuna is an impressive group that includes some with closing experience and/or nasty stuff: Ryan Pressly, Hector Rondon, Chris Devenski and Will Harris. Hinch has previously used Rondon in closing situations, so he would likely be the first man up should Osuna suffer an injury or falter. 

Starting 2019 hierarchy: Osuna | Rondon | Devenski.
Holds candidates: Rondon, Devenski, Pressly, Harris.

Los Angeles Angels –The Angels spent much of 2018 with the most confusing bullpen in baseball. Nine men picked up saves, led by Blake Parker (14) and Keynan Middleton (6). In January, LA signed longtime Indians closer Cody Allen on a one-year deal. He will close games to begin the year for the Angels, and he’s coming off his worst career season (4.70 ERA, 1.358 WHIP), so he should be motivated to make much more money in next year’s offseason (if that’s even a possibility given this market…). Either way, Allen will lead a crop of young and talented arms, led by Ty Buttrey, Hansel Robles, Justin Anderson, and Middleton, who is expected back by the midseason (Tommy John surgery) and will likely be a future closer somewhere given his stuff and makeup. 

Starting 2019 hierarchy: Allen | Robles | Buttrey.
Holds candidates: Robles, Buttrey, Anderson, Bedrosian.

Oakland A’s –Never known to have a fully stable ninth-inning situation, it appears Oakland will begin 2019 in a new way, sporting one of the top closers in baseball, Blake Treinen. Treinen will cost a pretty penny on draft day, but the hype may be warranted (0.78 ERA, 0.834 WHIP, 38 saves in 2018). 2018 may not have been an outlier — while his ERA and WHIP will likely rise some, he has been pretty consistent throughout his career. His rough start in 2017 led to his exodus in Washington, but otherwise, he has sported ERAs south of 3.00 in each full season except 2015 & 2017 (both ERAs those years were under 4.00, though). The A’s lost Jeurys Familia in free agency, but joining Treinen at the back end will be the newly signed Joakim Soria and Fernando Rodney, who will be back for his age-42 season. 

Starting 2019 hierarchy: Treinen | Soria | Rodney.
Holds candidates: Soria, Rodney, Trivino.

Seattle Mariners – After Edwin Diaz led all of baseball with 57 saves, he was traded as Seattle decided to join a growing trend in baseball: hitting the reset button before a long rebuild. The M’s have amassed a collection of bullpen arms, including a few with prior closing experience.  Newly signed Hunter Strickland has the most closing experience, and if he can keep his temper in check, he figures to be the best bet for saves to begin the year, with fellow newcomer Anthony Swarzak following close behind. Cory Gearrin, Shawn Armstrong and Chasen Bradford may also factor in at some point in the late innings, as could a resurgent Dan Altavilla.

Starting 2019 hierarchy:  Strickland | Swarzak | Armstrong.
Holds candidates: Swarzak, Armstrong, Gearrin, Bradford.

Texas Rangers – Jose Leclerc emerged in 2018 and turned in a dominant season (1.56 ERA, 0.85 WHIP). The 25-year-old will continue to hold the reins as the team’s closer. Behind Leclerc is a collection of familiar names, including Chris Martin, Jesse Chavez (who returns after he was traded to the Cubs last season) and some new names like Shawn Kelley and Zach McAllister. It’s not a strong cast, but the Rangers don’t necessarily have designs on supplanting the A’s and Astros in the AL West. 

Starting 2019 hierarchy: LeClerc | Martin | Chavez.
Holds candidates: Martin, Chavez, McAllister.

Seranthony Dominguez finishing strong with save

September 30, 2018

Philadelphia Phillies — Seranthony Dominguez pitched a scoreless 9th for his 15th save of the season.  The rookie right-hander had an up and down season but is finishing strong with five straight scoreless appearances and will likely be in the mix for saves in 2019 for the Phillies.

Updated hierarchy: *Dominguez | Neris | Neshek.
* = closer-by-committee

New York Yankees – The Yankees were up five heading into the bottom of the 9th inning, but after Jonathan Holder gave up a two-run homer and allowed another baserunner to reach, the Yankees called on closer Aroldis Chapman.  Chapman struck out two, with a walk sandwiched in between, to record his first save since returning from the DL.

Hierarchy remains: Chapman | Betances | Robertson. 

Houston Astros – The Astros swept their doubleheader with the Orioles yesterday, and they rested closer Roberto Osuna in both games in an effort to get everyone innings before their days off.  Hector Rondon picked up his 15th save of the season in game 1 while Ryan Pressly picked up his 2nd save of the season in game 2.

Hierarchy remains: Osuna | Rondon | McHugh.

Arizona Diamondbacks – Yoshihisa Hirano picked up the save with a perfect inning on Saturday.  Hirano has had a successful first season in MLB finishing with an ERA under 2.5, over 30 holds and 3 saves down the stretch.

Hierarchy remains: *Hirano | Ziegler | Bradley.
* = closer-by-committee

Seattle Mariners – Edwin Diaz continued his incredible season on Saturday.  He recorded his 57th save of the season, which ties him for second most in MLB history.  He also has 124 strikeouts versus only 17 walks and an ERA under 2.00.

Hierarchy remains: Diaz | Colome | Vincent.

1. Dellin Betances – Aroldis Chapman picked up a save yesterday and the Yankees may choose to rest him on Sunday.
2. Jose Alvarado – Sergio Romo has pitched in two straight and three of four.
3. Trevor Bauer – Bauer will pitch out of the bullpen on Sunday and could potentially pick up a 3 inning save.