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.

Trevor May, Hansel Robles pick up saves

September 29, 2018

New York Mets — We alerted you yesterday that Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, the top two arms in the Mets bullpen, will not pitch this weekend. That leaves the door open for an Anthony Swarzak save chance or two. Grab him and/or Jerry Blevins if you’re still scrapping for saves.

Updated hierarchy: Swarzak | Blevins | Rhame.

Minnesota Twins – Holding a one-run lead, the Twins used Taylor Rogers in the 8th and Trevor May to get the last two outs of the first game in a doubleheader. May struck out both batters he faced to earn his second career save. This is also May’s second save in a row for the Twins, as normal closer Trevor Hildenberger hasn’t pitched since giving up four runs this past Wednesday. We told you Wednesday that Paul Molitor said he was going to try different guys in different roles this week, and he looks like he’s keeping that promise.

Hierarchy remains: *Hildenberger | Rogers | May.
* = closer-by-committee

Los Angeles Angels — After watching their eight-run lead whittled down to three, the Angels turned to Hansel Robles to close out Friday’s win. Robles has saves in consecutive appearances, while Jim Johnson picked up the other save for the Angels this week. This is certainly a committee, but it is curious to see Blake Parker in a set up role after being effective as a closer earlier in the season. That having been said, Parker is well rested, having not pitched in the last three days, so expect him to get some work this weekend.

Hierarchy remains: *Parker | Robles | Johnson.
* = closer-by-committee

1. AJ Minter – Both Arodys Vizcaino and Chad Sobotka threw over 20 pitches last night, and with the Braves out of the playoff picture they may not push any pitcher. Minter hasn’t pitched since Wednesday.
2. Steven Wright – Boston has already locked up the best record in the AL and may choose to let closer Craig Kimbrel rest this weekend, especially because the Yankees have nothing to play for as well and they can no longer stick it to their rivals. .
3. Jared Hughes – Raisel Iglesias threw 21 pitches last night, and with the Reds out of the playoffs, they will likely keep a close eye on their closer.
4. Hector Rondon – Roberto Osuna threw 20 pitches last night, and the Astros may rest him heading into the playoffs.

1. Seung Hwan Oh – Wade Davis and Adam Ottavino have both pitched in back-to-back games, but it is all hands on deck with the Rockies fighting to secure the NL West. If they lock up the division today, expect them to rest these guys, leaving Oh as the best rested option.
2. Corey Knebel – Today would be back-to-back for Jeremy Jeffress and Josh Hader.
3. Fernando Rodney/Jeurys Familia – The Athletics have locked in their playoff position, so they may be resting their top arms this weekend.
4. Craig Stammen/Matt Strahm – Today would be back-to-back and three of four for Kirby Yates
5. Jose Alvarado/Chaz Roe – Same for Sergio Romo.
6. Tyler Clippard – And both Ken Giles and Ryan Tepera.

Jesse Chavez picks up fourth save for good, but volatile, Cubs bullpen

September 28, 2018

Chicago Cubs — Fan favorite Jesse Chavez picked up his fourth save in a Cubs uniform, allowing just a hit in an inning of work and dropping his Cubs ERA to 1.25. Nasty. Any one of Steve Cishek, Justin Wilson, CJ Edwards, Chavez, or Jorge de la Rosa could net a save this weekend, as the Cubs still hope to clinch the division. Meanwhile, Pedro Strop kind of pitched a bullpen session, which “encouraged” his pitching coach. Strop said last week he hoped to pitch before the end of the season, but that remains to be seen.

Updated hierarchy: *Cishek | Wilson | Chavez.
* = closer-by-committee

Milwaukee Brewers — The Brewers have their playoff spot, but wouldn’t a division title be nice? Jeremy Jeffress pitched Wednesday but otherwise is ready to pitch this weekend. Josh Hader pitched two of three earlier this week but should be all systems go through Sunday.

Hierarchy remains: Jeffress | Hader | Knebel.

Colorado Rockies — The Rockies, Dodgers, and Cardinals are fighting for two available playoff spots (well, the Cardinals have a shot at only one of them, as either the Cubs or Brewers will win the NL Central). Expect the next three games to be pseudo-playoff games, featuring the team’s best bullpen arms. So a rested Wade Davis, who nabbed a save Thursday night, may be used plenty this weekend for the Rockies.

Hierarchy remains: Davis | Ottavino | Oh. 

Los Angeles Dodgers — See above. Kenley Jansen hasn’t pitched in four days and is putting off heart surgery for a chance at a World Series ring. He’s ready to go.

Hierarchy remains: Jansen | Maeda | Alexander.

St. Louis Cardinals — See above. Carlos Martinez threw 39 pitches over 2.0 innings on Wednesday, but he was well-rested before that and should be used in tight spots this weekend. The Cardinals, two games behind the Rockies and one behind the Dodgers, likely need to win all three — and still get help — to get in.

Hierarchy remains: Martinez | Hicks | Hudson.

1. Dellin Betances — Is Aroldis Chapman ready? If not, Betances is there.

1. Seth Lugo — Entering Friday, Robert Gsellman has pitched in two of three, throwing 45 pitches.
2. Kevin McCarthy — Wily Peralta has pitched in two of three and three of five.