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.