2017 NL West Preview

March 1, 2017

Arizona Diamondbacks — With swole shoulders and an ever-crooked hat, the Fernando Rodney Experience moves on to its fifth team since 2015. The 40-year-old Rodney was signed to a one-year deal, suggesting that the Diamondbacks hope to deal Rodney like the Padres did last June, turning the closer’s uber-fluky .210 BABIP and 1306(!!!) ERA+ into a pitching prospect. But if Arizona gets the version of Rodney that stunk up Miami with a 1.80 WHIP last summer, they’ll turn to Randall Delgado, Enrique Burgos, or Jake Barrett. Barrett’s recent shoulder stiffness puts him at the back of the pack now, but we think he actually has the best stuff of the three.

Updated hierarchy: Rodney | Delgado | Burgos.
Holds candidates: Delgado, Burgos, Barrett.

Colorado Rockies — None of this newfangled bullpen fluidity for Bud Black: the Colorado manager is a traditionalist who likes his beer cold, his TV loud, and his closers strictly identified, “dog.” Although that article suggests that Black wants Greg Holland to return to his past ninth-inning greatness, the former Royal has yet to appear in a spring training game, continuing rehab from his 2015 Tommy John surgery. Based on that uncertainty, we’ll give the tentative edge to Adam Ottavino, whose new two-seam fastball looked good in a small sample size last season. Jake McGee and Mike Dunn are likely to fill late-inning roles, with old friends Jason Motte, Chad Qualls, and Carlos Estevez also hanging around (at least for now).

Starting 2017 hierarchy: Ottavino | Holland | McGee.
Holds candidates: Holland, McGee, Mike Dunn.

Los Angeles Dodgers — Kenley Jansen turned down a massive offer from the Washington Nationals to re-sign with the Dodgers this offseason. LA also picked up longtime Giant (but longer-time Dodger fan) Sergio Romo to handle the eighth inning. The seventh inning is up in the air: Pedro Baez has a bone bruise on his pitching hand, leaving a battle among lefties Adam Liberatore, Grant Dayton, and Luis Avilan. Chris Hatcher and Josh Fields are the best remaining righties.

Starting 2017 hierarchy: Jansen | Romo | Liberatore.
Holds candidates: Romo, Liberatore, Dayton, Avilan.

San Diego Padres — This is Brandon Maurer’s job to lose, but if Carter Capps is healthy, lose it he should. Capps has a new (probably still illegal) two-hop delivery following Tommy John surgery, and his upside is far higher than the rather pedestrian Maurer. Ryan Buchter and Brad Hand were extremely solid lefties last year and may be called on in the eighth if Capps isn’t quite ready by Opening Day.

Starting 2017 hierarchy: Maurer | Capps | Buchter.
Holds candidates: Buchter, Hand, Kevin Quackenbush.

San Francisco Giants — Mark Melancon’s enormous offseason deal might pay dividends this season, but is likely to wind up as an expensive albatross as he ages. Hunter Strickland will back him up, with Derek Law and Will Smith (currently suffering from elbow inflammation) also late-inning options.

Starting 2017 hierarchy: Melancon | Strickland | Law.
Holds candidates: Strickland, Law, Smith, Josh Osich, Cory Gearrin.

2017 NL Central Preview

March 1, 2017

Chicago Cubs — The World Series champions replaced one All-Star closer with another, signing Wade Davis to replace Aroldis Chapman. Davis has been one of the best relievers in the league recently, and should see a lot of save chances for an excellent Cubs team. Hector Rondon will likely be the first option if Davis struggles or gets hurt. Rondon closed most of last year, but struggled late in the season. Although Rondon seems to have Joe Maddon’s confidence, the Cubs are spoiled for choice. Newly acquired Koji Uehara and returning setup man Pedro Strop will push Rondon for vulture saves, but perhaps the most intriguing option is C.J. Edwards. With a high-90s fastball and impressive stats in his brief career, Edwards could emerge as a viable late-inning option — but he will have to work hard to crack the stacked Cubs bullpen.

Starting 2017 hierarchy: Davis | Rondon | Strop.
Holds candidates: Uehara, Edwards, Strop, Justin Grimm.

Cincinnati Reds — The worst bullpen in MLB never did find a consistent closer last year, and Bryan Price has already announced that they’ll start out in a committee. Price also wants to use his relievers for multiple innings at a time in a reboot of an older strategy. If you’re up for a gamble, though, Raisel Iglesias is your best bet. Iglesias finished 2016 as the de facto closer and filled that role in his Cuban career as well. Another option is top offseason signee Drew Storen, who has stated openly that he wants the job. Converted starter Michael Lorenzen will also serve in the committee, while Tony Cingrani could see action based on matchups, but is a stronger candidate for LOOGY holds.

Starting 2017 hierarchy: *Iglesias | Storen | Lorenzen.
* = closer-by-committee
Holds candidates: Storen, Lorenzen, Cingrani, Blake Wood.

Milwaukee Brewers — The Brewers traded the bulk of their bullpen at the deadline last year, and brought in Neftali Feliz to fill the void this year. Since Milwaukee appears to be rebuilding, Feliz could be a prime trade target if the team struggles out of the gate. Corey Knebel was lined up for the job before Feliz was signed, and will serve as the primary setup man. Veteran Carlos Torres should take the seventh inning. The 34-year-old was versatile last year, and could be the most stable part of the Brewer bullpen.

Starting 2017 hierarchy: Feliz | Knebel | Torres.
Holds candidates: Knebel, Torres, Michael Blazek.

Pittsburgh Pirates — Tony Watson will close again in Pittsburgh, although he’ll make $400,000 less than he hoped after losing an arbitration hearing. Behind him will be Daniel Hudson and Felipe Rivero, both solid options to fill in if Watson needs a day off. Clint Hurdle tends to stick with particular roles for his relievers so, barring injury or a trade, you can expect stability for the Pirates bullpen — making Watson a bit more valuable than his stats might suggest.

Starting 2017 hierarchy: Watson | Hudson | Rivero.
Holds candidates: Hudson, Rivero, Antonio Bastardo, Jared Hughes.

St. Louis Cardinals — “Final Boss” Seung Hwan Oh has made the closing role his own, taking the job and running with it after he deposed the ineffective and injujured Trevor Rosenthal. Rosenthal is young and still has lights-out stuff, but may get a shot in the rotation. If he does, it will leave Kevin Siegrist competing with newcomer Brett Cecil for the setup role. Siegrist has been a reliable source of holds, and will probably take the eighth inning out of the gate — but he has also struggled with shoulder tightness early this spring. Cecil signed a four-year deal, so the Cardinals see him as a valuable asset going forward. Jonathan Broxton is also in the mix, but will have to regain his form before truly becoming a factor.

Starting 2017 hierarchy: Oh | Siegrist | Cecil.
Holds candidates: Siegrist, Cecil, Broxton, Matt Bowman.