2022 NL Central Preview

March 24, 2022

Chicago Cubs – The Cubs finished last year with Rowan Wick in the closers role. He was serviceable, but not great, converting 5 saves while blowing 3. In the off season the Cubs added a pair of former closers in Mychal Givens and David Robertson, and this has all the hallmarks of a committee to start the year. We think that Robertson has the highest ceiling of the Cubs options, but they will likely give Wick a chance to prove himself first. Overall, there isn’t much to distinguish the top arms from each other, and this bullpen is better left for the waiver wire. 

Starting 2022 hierarchy: *Wick | Robertson | Givens.
* = closer-by-committee
Holds candidates: Robertson | Givens

Cincinnati Reds – The Reds sold off the core of a team that was a playoff contender for much of 2021, and that includes major parts of their bullpen. Amir Garrett and Mychal Givens are gone, while Lucas Sims won’t be ready for the start of the season. Sims is probably worth taking a chance on, as he was one of the best options the Reds had last year. Until he is ready to come back the Reds will go with a committee to start the year, including some combination of the recently-signed Hunter Strickland, Art Warren, Luis Cessa, and Justin Wilson. Of those options, Strickland and Wilson have closing experience, though it was Warren who put together the best 2021, and who definitely has the potential to be a full time 9th inning option. Another name to watch is Dauri Moreta, who has dominated hitters on his way to the majors, and looked very good as a September call up. If he breaks camp with the team he may quickly find himself on the hierarchy. 

Starting 2022 hierarchy: *Strickland | Warren | Cessa.
* = closer-by-committee
Holds candidates: Warren | Cessa | Hoffman.

Milwaukee Brewers – In a world where every other team leans into committees you can always count on the Brewers to be a stable bullpen presence. If Josh Hader isn’t the best closer in the league he is close to it, and will likely be drafted early in every format. Devin Williams was great in 2021 until punching a wall cost him the post season. He is back and is apparently mixing in a cutter to his arsenal as well. Rounding out the hierarchy is Brad Boxberger, who was a reliable source of holds last year. There isn’t much more to say about Milwaukee, they are as predictable as any team you will find. 

Starting 2022 hierarchy: Hader | Williams | Boxberger.
Holds candidates: Williams | Boxberger.

Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates lost 100 games last year, and there’s no reason to think they can’t do it again! The bullpen was…not the worst part of the team, but it’s hard to lock up saves if you don’t win games. This Pirates bring back both David Bednar and Chris Stratton, who were both solid closing options for them down the stretch, where they split save chances pretty evenly. Joining them will be Heath Hembree, who struggled last year, and will probably be out of the 9th inning picture to start. Lefty Sam Howard will be in the mix for holds as well, but if you’re chasing holds there are much better places to look. Of the options Pittsburgh has, Bednar is the most intriguing, and will probably be the 1A to Stratton’s 1B in this two headed committee, but volume of chances is a major concern for the perpetually rebuilding Pirates.

Starting 2022 hierarchy: *Bednar | Stratton | Hembree.
* = closer-by-committee
Holds candidates: Stratton | Hembree | Howard.

St. Louis Cardinals – With Alex Reyes starting the year on the IL, the Cardinals looked ready to roll with Giovanny Gallegos as the primary closing option to kick off 2022; however, comments from Oliver Marmol hint that this may be a committee to start the year. Gallegos is the top choice and should emerge as the clear closer while Reyes is out if they do choose to go with one guy. An intriguing name to watch is Jordan Hicks, who was supposed to be stretched out as a starter, but seems ready to open as bullpen option. Genesis Cabrera, Ryan Helsley, and newly acquired Nick Wittgren are also in the mix for the late innings, but probably won’t challenge for saves early on. While we think Gallegos is the top choice for the Cardinals, he loses some value due to Marmol’s comments and the possible return of Reyes or emergence of Hicks. 

Starting 2022 hierarchy: *Gallegos | Cabrera | Hicks
* = closer-by-committee
Holds options: Cabrera | Hicks | Helsley.